Saturday, 30 May 2015

Finished object file: Bella Shawl

Bella Shawl: off the needles, blocked and ends woven in.
Last week I posted about the commissioned knit that I have been working on. The friend who I have been knitting this Bella Shawl for has been so gracious and patient; never putting pressure on me to quickly finish the project. Well it is with great joy that I have got the project off the needles, blocked, ends weaved in and ready to go to its lovely recipient.

An asymmetrical beauty.
I really enjoyed knitting this project because it was simple enough to memorise but the eyelet lace and asymmetrical direction of the shawl gave it a little bit more to keep my interest. It was something I could take bundle it up and take it around witnh me as a project on the go  and since I memorised the pattern I didn't need to look up the pattern whenever I was out and about.

I purchased 5 skeins of Louisa Harding Grace Hand dyed DK and that gave me approximately 500 metres of yarn to make a medium sized shawl. I made sure to use up as much yarn as possible since my friend was  paying for the skeins and I didn't want to have a substantial amount remaining. I knit 12 squares of eyelet lace on the left hand side of the shawl and added an extra garter ridge on the end of the right hand eyelet panel and this left me with only a few metres of yarn remaining.

The simple yet elegant eyelet lace edge.
The Louisa Harding yarn is a delightfully squishy and shiny single ply yarn. It is a beautiful variegated yarn of pinks and reds of berry tones. There is a little bit of colour variation between the skeins which the yarn label clearly warns about. It is recommended that skeins be alternated every couple of rows during knitting. I initially tried doing this and ended up starting the shawl three times. The first time I cast on I began alternating the skeins at a RS row but because the eyelet fringe is cast off after a set of 7 eyelets it meant that I would have to cut the yarn that I was alternating after each square. So, I frogged it and decided to try alternating the skeins at a WS row and that meant that I was carrying the yarn up the neck edge. I was doing this knit about 10 cms of the piece and decided I didn't like the look of the edge with this yarn being carried up while I was alternating between 2 skeins. So, third time I cast on I decided to just knit each skein up before changing to the next one. The variation is not too obvious in my humble opinion.

The merino silk blend was lovely to work with; it was smooth on the needles and not splitty at all which I was a bit afraid of since it is a singly ply yarn. The silk content gives the piece a beautiful drape and the merino in it helps it hold its shape. The yarn also held up well after frogging it 3 times but I did need to do it carefully otherwise it would snag and stick. Overall I think it is a lovely yarn base and the colours are delicious but it is a yarn that needs some care if frogging.

I am pleased with the results of this Bella Shawl and I am happy with the workmanship for this commission. I actually knit this without mistakes, not meaning I didn't make any because I did, but I did carefully back knit and fix anything that was wrong since I was making this on commission.

All ready to go.
So, there it is a Bella Shawl for a bella friend.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Yarn is the new Black

A sweater lot of Canopy Worsted intended for a Maeve Shrug.
This post has been brewing in my mind for a while and it all started when my husband commented that he noticed that according to our budget I was spending money on clothes but he curiously wasn't seeing any new wardrobe items. Just by way of explanation, we try to be very careful with our household expenses and so I have an annual amount that is budgeted for clothes and I record my spending so that we can keep track of everything. Here is where my husband noticed that I was recording my spending but he wasn't seeing any new clothes and it puzzled him a little. So, I explained to him, "Oh, I've been buying clothes but they are all still in skein form." and that "Yarn is the new black."

Fellow knitters will understand exactly what I mean; I have been buying the materials for projects that I intend to make into clothes for myself. This is part of my desire to shift away from store bought items and to have more handmade garments in my wardrobe. I have my heart set on knitting a couple of sweaters for myself before the year is out as well a range of accessories to keep me rugged up this winter. When I look at my Ravelry queue I have so many projects that I want to knit and I have been steadily acquiring the yarn for those projects. 

Unfortunately I have noticed that my stash has been growing but my wardrobe has not. I suffer from the problem of being surrounded by so many beautiful yarns and fabulous projects but not enough time to turn them into finished objects. A lot of dreaming and stashing seems to be going on. However, on the plus side I have been able to avoid shopping for clothes because I really want to make things for myself.

I picked up this Shilasdair yarn back at Easter and hope to cast on for the Fairchild pullover before winter is over.
There has been a challenge throughout May called 'Me Made May'. I don't know a lot about it yet but I think it is something set up by Zoe on her 'So, Zo...What do you know?' blog where makers and crafters are encouraged to wear and love their handmade, refashioned or upcycled wardrobes. The challenge allows everyone to set their own personal parameters such as to wear one self made item a day or if your daily wardrobe is a uniform then to wear self made garments on the weekend. I have not signed up for the challenge this year but my instagram feed has featured many photos of lovely self made outfits from some of the people and bloggers that I follow throughout May. It has been quite inspiring to see these lovely items worn with love and pride. 

This challenge resonates with me because I want to have more handmade items to wear from my wardrobe. Already, the few things that I do have I love wearing even if they are not 100% perfect, like my super slouchy Rosebud hat that makes me look like one of the seven dwarfs from Disney's Snow White. When I make for my kids I proudly put them in their knits almost daily, not because I want to show off my skills but because I love those items and seeing them worn makes me happy.

My new personal challenge is to make those two sweaters for myself and to add more 'me made' to my wardrobe. Then maybe next year I can be a participant in the 'Me Made May' challenge.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

On my needles now: Comissioned Bella Shawl

Winding up the last skein of Louisa Harding Grace Hand dyed yarn for K's Bella Shawl.
 I was commissioned by a church friend to knit a Bella Shawl designed by Annie Baker of JumperCables Knitting about a month ago and though this friend has very kindly given me no pressure to finish the project within a certain amount of time I now pledge that I will not work on anything else until I have finished this knit.

The pattern was one that I had caught my eye a while back. I liked the simplicity of the eyelet lace but the asymmetrical design made it a bit more interesting. It has been a really easy to memorise pattern so this has generally been the project that has come along with me to the children's lessons. I can work on it while also dividing my attention to keep an eye on the little ones when necessary. It is also easy to read where I left off in the pattern because the eyelet lace on the left panel has been grouped in blocks of 7. I would just have to count how many eyelets I had done to work out where I was up to in the pattern.

The yarn that I have been knitting with is from Louisa Harding and it's the hand painted DK/ 8ply weight merino/ silk blend. The colourway is a beautiful variegated blend of pinks and reds. It is a single ply yarn with a merino lovely softness and silky sheen. A simply stunning yarn.

Lovely pinks and reds variegated throughout the shawl.
I'm onto the last skein of yarn so I'm on the home stretch. My aim is to use up as much of the purchased yarn as possible. Since the yarn has been paid for by my friend I want to make sure she gets the full yardage in her shawl. I now need to work out exactly how much more knitting of the left eyelet panel I should do before moving on to the large right hand panel to finish the shawl. My plan is to knit a sample of the right hand panel with the last skein of yarn and then weigh the piece. This way I will work out how many grams of yarn I need to reserve for that panel of knitting. I will then pick up where I left off on the main shawl and knit until I have the required grams of yarn needed to knit the large eyelet panel. It might seem like a long round about approach but I'm not sure of any other way to do it. If you have a better more efficient way of doing it please do share your tips with me.

I've cast on 155sts on the right to knit my test panel.
I hope to have this project off the needles by the week's end and blocking over the weekend. It'll be ready just in time for winter and I hope my dear friend will enjoy wrapping herself up in the Bella shawl. I'll make sure to write up any notable project notes on my Ravelry page as well as cover the shawl in a 'Finished object file' when I'm done knitting it.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Finished object file: Rosebud Hat | The Fibre Co. Road to China

Hi ho hi ho it's a super slouchy hat for me.
Today I finished knitting Jared Flood's Rosebud hat. I mentioned in the post covering patterns that I was stalking, that I have had this pattern queued for at least a year now after it caught my eye. I was drawn to the striking cable panel set within garter stitch and the perfect level of slouchiness in the design. I consider Jared Flood a bit of a genius in knitwear design and anything that comes out of his brand, Brooklyn Tweed is phenomenal. Though this hat is a pretty easy knit it does not lack any of the fine Brooklyn Tweed blueprint.

Originally I had planned to knit this with some Quince & Co. Owl Tweet but I ended up using that yarn for other projects. So, I bought some Dark Amethyst coloured Road to China made by The Fiber Company because I wanted some really luxe yarn for a personal project. This yarn is an aran weight alpaca/ silk/ camel/ cashmere blend and it is the softest thing to touch. 

The Road to China is a thicker yarn than the BT Shelter for which the hat was designed for and I had a tricky time swatching with it. I tried the suggested 5 mm at first and was getting 4 stitches for 1 inch when the pattern's stated gauge is 4.5 stitches for 1 inch. I know it seems like such a small difference but it all adds up when you start knitting the whole hat. When the number of stitches is fewer than the suggested gauge it'll mean the measurements will be larger than the pattern's design. So, I knit another swatch with 4.5 mm needles and came up short again. I then tried 4 mm needles and hit the stitch gauge but not the row gauge. By this time you can imagine I was getting a bit frustrated and I just wanted to get onto the hat because I really wanted to wear it.

In the end I did a very 'naughty knitter' thing and knit the hat with 4.5 mm needles even though I didn't achieve gauge with these needles in my swatch. I didn't go with the 4 mm needles because I felt a bit absurd knitting aran weight yarn on such small needles and I wasn't sure if I should knit the rib band on 3 mm needles or just go down two sizes as the pattern suggests to 3.5 mm. In my eagerness to get into the knitting I knit the band on 3.75 mm needles and then switched to 4.5 mm for the main body of the hat.

I used up almost all of the three skeins of yarn that I had purchased from the online store, Zigo Zago which means that my hat used about 40 yards more yarn than what the pattern suggests and this is the result of the larger size that it became. I am happy that I have merely 3 metres of yarn left so I don't have to deal with remnants.  This yarn has actually been discontinued by The Fiber Company and to my knowledge Zigo Zago is the only Australian stockist to still have some. The US distributors, Kelbourne Woolens are selling off their mill ends on their website and they will ship to Australia but you need to email them to get a shipping quote. I want to work with the Road to China blend again but may try the lighter sport weight and lace weight lines.

As a knit it was easy but the exquisite cable pattern kept it interesting. It was nice to be able to pick this project up as a break from the more mindless knits that I am currently working on.

The result is satisfactory in my humble opinion. It's super slouchy and some might consider it too big but I actually think it looks like the hats that the seven dwarfs were drawn wearing in the Disney version of Snow White. It is also so warm and I know it will be perfect this winter when we go to the snow.

You can take a look at my project page for this hat on Ravelry here.

To be honest, if I knit this hat again I will use a lighter weight yarn and definitely match gauge. After all, you really only need one super slouchy seven dwarfs hat in your wardrobe.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Finished object file: Colour Block Cabled Cowl

The pink with a touch of dark grey is quite a nice colour block combo.
I've had quite a few projects on the go lately and this quick little chunky knit is my latest finished object. Completed in a day it is a great kid sized cowl to make for last minute gift giving.

The pattern is shared for free by Ashley from the 'A Crafty House' blog. She has it typed up on a post . Ashley has an adult version of this cowl on the blog too but I was looking for a quick knit for the birthday of one of my son's kinder friends and this chunky knit was perfect. I really liked the chance to try the crochet provisional cast on and the simple cabling in the pattern was easily memorised.

The super easy cable pattern gives the cowl just the right amount of texture for it's simplicity.
I used some left over Drops Eskimo yarn but ran out near then end so I finished it with some dark grey Debbie Bliss Como. The Eskimo yarn is a 100% wool but it isn't the softest stuff that I've felt and I have a few concerns about it being worn so close to the skin of a sensitive part of the body like the neck. I would have loved to have made it all in the Como because it is a soft merino/ cashmere blend but  I decided to risk it and use the Eskimo because I thought the pink would be more appealing for this little girl.

Because it's for his little friend I roped Sir S into modelling it.
We'll be gifting this next weekend when we attend this child's 5th birthday party. I hope she likes it and won't find it too scratchy against the neck.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Re-evaluating handmade gifting

Some of the gifts that I've made this year
Sometime last year I decided to challenge myself to give handmade gifts rather than buy commercial mass produced items. I also wanted to personally make all the gifts so that I had an excuse to do lots of knitting. So I have been regularly busy with projects for new babies and for friends and family since the middle of last year. 

Well now that knitting has become more than just a hobby but a lifestyle to me I don't need excuses to knit; I knit everyday at any spare moment I can get. This results in loads of projects that I want to do and I'm also allowing myself more 'me' projects lately because I believe you need to treat yourself in order to continue to love what you are doing.

This leads me to today's reflection that I need to realistically reevaluate my commitment to handmade gifting. If I hand knit things for every baby born and for all the birthdays I am going to have very little time to work on those beautiful sweaters and shawls that I have been longing to knit. When I put it that way it sounds really selfish, but it's not just the desire to make for self that leads me to reevaluate, it is also the pressure of time. I do feel a little bit of stress when I am working to a deadline and often stay up late trying to finish off projects. I also feel a little sore in the hands lately and I think that is telling me I need to take some rest days from the needles - not that I can make myself stick to it.

I think I need to take another look at my make list and strike off a few of the projects I have hoped to make. So far, I haven't stuck to it very well this year. I have made loads of extra things for others and on top of that I have decided I wanted to make a couple of jumpers for myself. I think I will still aim to make things for my family but I need to cut myself some slack when it comes to friends and their babies and kids. I can already think of other ways to still give a handmade/ homemade gift to friends. A meal for the family for those early days of adjustment after the birth of a new bub is an example of another way to give without buying mass produced items. Supporting independent makers and buying their wares is another thing that I can do.

There will be a time when my kids are at school and I've got a wardrobe full of hand knits and I will start making baby items and other things for gifting again. Just right now I will allow myself to take it easy and find other ways of blessing those around me.

How do you manage your gifting? Do you make more than you buy or vice versa?

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Knitting in public unashamedly

Working on my Mother's Day present for my mum at Hardrock Climbing Gym in Nunawading.
Here's another one of my confessions; I knit in public all the time and do it unashamedly. I am the kind of person who takes my knitting everywhere I go because life with kids means that I don't get much knitting time during the day so I will try to fit it in whenever I get the opportunity. That means that I often knit in the car if Hubby is driving, I knit at swimming lessons, I knit on the train if the kids are not being too rowdy, I knit while supervising bath time, I knit just about anywhere I can. Even, today I took the opportunity to bang out a couple of rows at the climbing gym while I waited for my husband to arrive. Admittedly I arrived shortly after it opened so it was totally empty but really, I wouldn't have been perturbed at all if I had an audience.

I am used to an audience. I have a weekly routine where I arrive about 45 minutes early at one of Miss L's activities and I pull out my knitting while she has a little snack before her class. This class is held at a church so some of the church members volunteer to set up some coffee and tea and to have conversations with the waiting parents. I like to sit down at the big communal table, pull out my knitting and join in the chat. Every week the others around the table will ask me what I'm working on and have a feel of my yarn or admire my projects. I like how the knitting has opened up opportunities to converse with the other parents and because that relationship has been initiated sometimes the conversations will lead to deeper faith issues.

I think there are only a few places where I will withhold from knitting. The main one being during church. I am tempted to knit during the service because it is one of the few blocks of time where I am child free because the kids are in Sunday Club. However, I will not do it out because I want my heart and mind to be fully focused on praising God and learning from his Word during that time. I also refrain from knitting during my bible study group because I'm devoted to being fully present so that I can learn from the Bible and to respectfully encourage and pray for my friends.

Some of the more unusual places that I recall knitting in have been: at the zoo while the kids were engaged by the new lion enclosure, while waiting in line to get into the cinema during the film festival and at St. Paul's Cathedral while waiting for M's ordination service to begin.

Where do you publicly knit? Do you feel funny doing it? Have opportunities for conversations arisen from your public knitting experiences? I'd love to hear your thoughts too.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

What to knit Wednesday: Mother's Day gifts

On my Mother's Day wishlist are some Elske socks. The beautiful card in the background is designed by my friend Irene at Missy Minzy and is available for purchase on her Etsy store.
It's Mother's Day on Sunday in Australia and for this week's 'What to knit Wednesday' I thought I could list some hand knit gift ideas. These are items that I would like to receive or I would likely make for my own mother. As my little ones' fine motor skills are not quite developed enough to handle yarn and needles yet I will just have to hope that future Mother's Days will be filled with these gifts.

When looking for something to quickly knit up for my mum I found this little pattern through Ravelry. Sam has posted the pattern on her blog for free and she has linked to it from the Ravelry pattern page. There are dozens of slipper patterns on Ravelry but I chose this one because Sam used one skein of Quince & Co.'s Owl to make her sample and I just happen to have one skein of Quince & Co.'s Owl Tweet that I would like to stash bust.

The pattern is fairly easy, so far the only thing I have found fiddly was the picking up of stitches after the heel turn. From what I can see, once you're past that bit it's smooth sailing. I hope to have them done by Sunday but if not, my mum actually has her birthday next Tuesday so I allow myself a couple of days extra knitting time.

2. Elske by Merrian Holland.
From the Spring 2015 issue of Pom Pom Quarterly, I would love to receive these adorable socks one day. They would mean so much to me if there were lovingly knitted by one of my dear children. As you can see, I like to dream big. I'm not even at the skill level to knit these gorgeous socks yet and I yet I'm hoping that one day my offspring will be making these for me.

 3. A set of hand knit dishcloths.
This is probably a much more achievable project for little ones. There are many patterns out there specifically for dishcloths/ washcloths, a quick Ravelry search turns up thousands of them. I'm not fussy and would be quite pleased if my darlings worked together and made a couple of knitted squares of any stitch to give to me.

4. Pirra Necklace by Ambah.
I remember once having a conversation with another mum who believed that Mother's Day gifts should always be a jewellery gift. For the fibre loving mother jewellery is still possible. This simple necklace by Ambah is modern and stylish. It's the kind of design that I see a lot of at emerging designers and makers markets these days. The bonus is instead of cold hard metal against the skin, it'll be soft luscious yarn. I don't mind precious gems and metals but I think my yarn obsession leads me to choose soft squishy yarn over metal.

This is not a knitting pattern but a knitting notion; just in case my kids don't end up picking up the needles and loving knitting like I do. Mums deserve a bit of spoiling and this cute little wooden acorn stitch marker case fits the bill in my humble opinion. It is the sort of cute thing that I'd love to have but the practical part of me stops myself from buying because I have perfectly fine stitch markers already. Available from Amirisu's etsy store it's a nice gift that will cost under $30 AUD including postage.

I hope all you mummy knitters out there have a wonderful Mother's Day filled with love and cuddles. What is your perfect Mother's Day gift knitting related or otherwise?