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Archive for the ‘Knitting’ Category

Oh dear, this has been a very neglected blog of late. I’ve not been feeling brilliant, and I find that whenever I feel a bit down, my words are the first thing to go – I try and write, but it all just comes out very stilted and I give up. I’m still not quite right, but I’m feeling a bit better, and I managed to take some photos today which don’t make me look dreadful (as most of the last lot did), so I’ll start trying to catch up on what I’ve been knitting.

Starting with the most recent and working back (because that’s the most logical way to work, obviously), here’s a little shawl in the beautiful Kidsilk Stripe from Rowan.

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I’ve been lusting after this colourway (twilight) for ages, and I finally cracked and treated myself to a ball a couple of months ago. This very simple pattern – mostly stocking stitch with an easy lace edging – seemed perfect for showing off the amazing colours in the yarn (the colours haven’t come out brilliantly in the photos, the stripe above the lime green is actually a beautiful purple, and the stipe which looks purple is more muted. But you get the idea).

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The Kidsilk Stripe seems expensive at £18 per ball, but it’s a 50g ball (compared to 25g for regular Kidsilk Haze), and this shawl only took one ball. So pricy but not extortionate. Unfortunately I have a yearning to make a cardigan or jumper out of this colourway, which is going to take at least three balls. Hmm, better start saving up!

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Next up is a huuuuugggge shawl, in a merino/possum mix yarn, and Noro Silk Garden. I bought the possum a few years ago, from the Knittery in Australia when they were closing down, and I’ve been waiting for the perfect project for it ever since. Similarly three balls of Silk Garden in a long discontinued colourway have been sitting in my stash, and this was the perfect opportunity to put them together.

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The pattern is Sonia’s Shawl, and it calls for equal amounts of yarn. I had 640m (in four skeins) of one, and 300m of the other, so I used the first skein of the possum at the top of the shawl, then striped the silk garden with the next two skeins, and used the last skein and a bit to do a garter stitch border.

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To say I’m happy with this would be something of an understatement – it’s one of my favourite things of everything I’ve knitted. It’s going to live on my sofa in the winter, and keep either my shoulders or my legs warm, and if it gets really cold it’ll go over my coat as a lovely snuggly furry layer :)

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And it’s why I love Noro so much – you can do an incredibly simple pattern and the wonderful colours make it look absolutely stunning.

(Pause for a slight interruption – this is another reason it’s sometimes hard to blog –

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Someone thinks that the space between the laptop and my face is her space. Thankfully she never stays very long!)

And back to the knitting. Continuing the shawl theme, when I saw the Leftie pattern I couldn’t resist starting one pretty much straight away.

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The pattern’s written to use up leftovers, using a different yarn for each leaf (hence the name Leftie), but the thought of all those ends to sew in had me running away screaming, so I had to come up with a plan b. Which was to use handspun yarn, and it worked perfectly! This was a skein I’d spun a couple of years ago, and then gone off as all the colours seemed to merge together in the skein. Thankfully when I started knitting they sorted themselves out again – and because the leaves are done with short rows all at once, you’re only using a short length of the yarn and the colours came out fairly clear. If that makes sense!

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This is the whole thing once it was done – you start at the small end and the rows get longer, then you stop once you lose the will to live. Which was after 30 leaves in my case. The pattern’s written for fingering weight, but I used DK, largely because I bought a huge amount of cheap wool/alpaca mix from Kemps a while ago, and wanted to use it up. Well, make a start, anyway.

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And this is the shawl in action – it’s very cosy!

Last up on today’s photo session was a shawl I finished a while ago, but failed to photograph in any sort of flattering fashion. I had better luck today, thankfully!

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The knitting world went mad last year when Kate Middleton was photographed just after her wedding wearing a shawl with a frilled edge.

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There are now lots of patterns for similar shawls on Ravelry, but none of them seemed quite what I wanted until I saw Atlantic Storm. It’s a very plain shawl – Kate’s was patterned in the body, but I thought that would be too much with this DK weight yarn, so I wanted to stick to stocking stitch.

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It’s a shallow triangle, increasing at the ends of three rows out of every four, then stitches are picked up along the top and then a couple of rows of increases worked until there were – wait for it – over 1800 stitches for the edging. Which is all in 1×1 rib. Thankfully I was watching tennis at the time, so I needed mindless knitting. I just slogged away at it until I’d done 19 rows, then thought about casting off. I knew I didn’t want to do a standard cast off, which always looks odd on rib to me, and the only other one I could find in most places was a sewn tubular one. Which is fine for the edges of garments where you have under 100 stitches, but the thought of doing 1800 stitches filled me with dread, not to mention how many ends I’d have to sew in.

So I did some more searching on Ravelry forums, and came up with a link to Techknitter’s fake tubular bind off. Which is a bit more fiddly than a regular one, but gives a lovely edge.

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It’s not a stretchy cast off, so I’m not sure how useful it’d be for garments, but it was perfect for this. The section in the middle of the photo above is actually the right side, but I decided that I liked the reverse better, so I cast off the other way round the circle. And about five hours (!) later I was finally done.

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The yarn’s Rowan Cashcotton DK, which is lovely and soft. The 18% angora content does mean that it will spend the next five years shedding over everything it comes in contact with, but hey, soft!

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Why do cats always stand on knitting the minute you put it on the floor?

And I think that’s enough for tonight! There is more to come, but I think that’s plenty for one post. I’ll try not to leave the next one so long, honest…

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Kusha-esque

I’m always fascinated by the Habu Textiles stand when I see it at knitting shows, and their yarn with a very thin stainless steel core had intrigued me for ages before I bought a cone of it at the Ally Pally show, back in 2010. There was a pattern with it, for a scarf, but I only did a few rows before I decided that it was just too thin to enjoy working with it on its own, plus I didn’t like the fabric it was producing.

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I looked on Ravelry, and found that there was another pattern for a similar scarf, but worked with another strand, of merino. So I pulled it out, and at the Harrogate show later that year, I bought the required merino, and another cone of the wool and stainless steel. Then put it all in a cupboard and forgot all about it. Which isn’t like me at all, obviously.

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But then a couple of months ago there was a thread on one of the Ravelry forums about the stainless steel yarn, and it prompted me to pull it out and have another go with it. The pattern most people use is Kusha Kusha, which starts with a decrease section with both yarns held together, then carries on with both yarns for a while before switching to just the stainless steel one and decreasing needle size. All of which sounded a bit unnecessary to me, so I used both yarns all the way, and increased at the end to match the beginning.

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The fabric was still a bit coarse (someone at Knit Night said it looked like chain mail, which almost put me off the whole thing!) but the pattern said to felt it slightly when you were done. I really should have done a swatch and felted that, if only to reassure myself, but whilst I’m a firm believer in swatches for garments, I pretty much always just wing it with everything else, so I didn’t.

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When I started this I envisaged it as a reasonably long term simple project, that I could take along to Knit Night or do in front of the tv, but once I’d started I somehow couldn’t stop, and it was finished in no time. Not knowing how much it would shrink when felted, I guessed at a bit taller than me (very scientific!) and this is what it looked like when I cast off.

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And this is it after felting! I did it by hand, with a bowl of water as hot as I could get it from the tap, and a bowl of cold. I’d dip it in the hot (with rubber gloves), then into the cold where I’d rub it about a bit, then repeated that a few times till the edges started to felt. To dry it I laid it out flat, then pulled the edges into soft points all the way along.

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And this is the finished product! It’s rather different from anything else I’ve made, but I do like it. The stainless steel in the yarn is fun, in that you can shape it a bit – if you crease it it stays creased, and it has a bit of body to it.

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The felting process has softened up the fabric considerably too – it looks much less like chain mail now!

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One problem I did have was with knitting from cones – I mostly knit on the sofa, with my ball of yarn to my right, between me and the back of the sofa (and my legs up on the sofa in front of me), but that didn’t work with cones, they just kept rolling around and I was afraid of snapping the yarn if I pulled. So I used an old pair of straight needles and a basket to rig up a sort of lazy kate for cones (they were about half an inch too big for the kate I use for plying when spinning!)

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I’ve been in a bit of a lull, craft-wise, for the last few weeks – I became strangely addicted to making crochet throws and couldn’t summon up the energy to do anything more challenging than go round and round the outside of a square.

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But my second one is now finished, and I’m not starting any more for a while!

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This one’s in RYC Luxury Cotton dk (long discontinued, unfortunately). I had two balls of blue left over from a cardigan, and the other ten balls came from Kemps in their great Rowan bargain bags a couple of years ago. Whoever put them together chose the colours well, and they’ve made a lovely throw. There were five balls of the pink, and two of each of the others apart from the dark blue, and I thought I’d worked out a stripe sequence to use them evenly, but I failed miserably and had two and a half balls of pink left at the end. So I used them to do a border – four rows of triples with one chain between, then a row of doubles round the edge to finish it off. I’m pleased with it, and it’s used some yarn up. It’s a bit of a drop in the ocean, but I suppose it’s a start!

My next project is a very old WIP – I started this Coraline cardigan nearly two years ago, I know I knitted the body up to the armholes during Wimbledon that year. Then it was abandoned until last April, when I did the sleeves, and the yoke up to the start of the smocking, when it languished again. This time I’m going to finish it!

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But the smocking was nearly the project’s downfall – the pattern says to slip the first knit stitch onto a cable needle and hold at the front, slip the next four purl stitches onto the right needle, slip the next knit stitch onto the cable needle, slip the purl stitches back to the left needle, wrap the two knit stitches on the cable needle with the working yarn, knit the first one, purl the four purl stitches, then knit the other knit stitch from the cable needle. Which makes sense if it is rather long winded, but I hate cable needles at the best of times, and having one dangling at the front of my work with one stitch on it was just horrible. I did about six wraps, then turned to Ravelry for an alternative. Thankfully it didn’t let me down, and I found Interknitty’s very helpful notes, which basically say to wrap the first knit stitch before working it, purl the next four, pick up the wrap, knit the next stitch, then slip the wrap over it. Which is tricky in the multi-stranded Bamboo Soft yarn I’m using, but much easier than messing about with a cable needle!

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The wraps round the smocked stitches are stretching out a bit more than some others I’ve seen, but I think it’s because the bamboo yarn is very slippy and isn’t gripping the stitches. It’ll do! I just want it finished now, and I’m not too far off. I’m doing another repeat (six rows) of the smocking pattern as my row gauge is off, but I’m nearly there, thank goodness.

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And now for something completely different! I bought two cones of Habu merino/stainless steel yarn (in lilac) and one of the merino (in grey) at the Knitting and Stitching Show a year or two ago, and seeing a reference to stainless steel yarns on Ravelry prompted me to get it out and have a go at using it. I’m sort of following the Kusha Kusha scarf pattern, but I’m not going to change to a single yarn for the second half, I’ll just keep going in the two held together and see how long it turns out.

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It’s looking quite wiry and open at the moment, but you hand felt the finished scarf, and apparently it makes it more fabric-like. I really should have done a swatch first to see how it works, but I’m living dangerously on this one!

So those are the projects I’m taking to Anglesey with me this week, with maybe a sock as well (there’s a couple of half-finished ones lurking in my WIP box). I’ll let you know how I got on when I get home!

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One of my work colleagues is a keen knitter who is trying to get to grips with lace knitting. She’s done a Forest Canopy shawl, and has been trying to branch out by doing an Annis shawl, but she’s been struggling, and I’ve been trying to help and advise her (mostly by telling her to use stitch markers between every repeat and count a lot…) So I’ve been looking at the pattern a lot, and last Saturday I, being in need of a restful couple of days, sat myself down in the conservatory in the sunshine and cast on 363 stitches.

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The shawl’s knitted from the bottom up, you do the 18 rows of the lace pattern, decreasing on rows 15 and 17, then start the short row stocking stitch section – so you go from very long rows, to slightly shorter ones, to very short ones, then they get longer again, which is a novel way of knitting a shawl, but it makes a lovely crescent shape!

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By Sunday night I was a fair way through the stocking stitch section, and a session in front of the TV on Monday evening finished it off, leaving me with this messy looking object. But the magic of blocking worked again.

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I didn’t pin the top edge at all, I just let it settle into a curve as I blocked out the points. It’s not easy blocking a crescent, and it’s not completely even, but you can’t tell when it’s on!

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And the finished result! It’s very ethereal – the yarn is KnitPicks Alpaca Cloud laceweight, which is 100% baby alpaca, and I only used about 30g of the 50g skein, or about 240m, using 5mm needles. It didn’t block as wide as the pattern said, but it’s big enough.

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The nupps in the lace were something of a challenge – I though about replacing them with beads, but I’ve done nupps before, on my seasilk Swallowtail, and they were fine then, so I stuck with them. But they were harder in the alpaca! I did them as loose as I could on the knit row, but the p7tog wasn’t exactly fun. I tried slipping the first six loops, purling the last one and passing the other six over, but it looked a bit messy, so I struggled on. I may have to investigate the crochet method next time.

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This gives a better idea of the colour, it’s a petroly blue shade.

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Modelled at Knit Night by my lovely friend Nadine.

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Two knitted FOs to share tonight, the first is the socks I spun the yarn for a couple of weeks ago –

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The fibre is BFL, hand-dyed by the lovely Fiona at Grace and Jacob in York. I spun it as a fine single then chain plied it to get about 220m of fingering weight yarn.

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I split the fibre down its length, but I obviously didn’t get it quite even – the stripes on the second sock (on the right above) are much wider than on the first! I did break the yarn on the foot of the second sock so that I managed another peachy stripe before the toe, which made the stripes a bit narrower on the top of the foot.

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I cast on 60 stitches on 2.75mm needles, and did a short row heel over 32 stitches. The leg measures 5”, and I used about 200m of yarn for a foot size UK4.5. I’m very pleased with both the yarn and the socks, they’re lovely and soft and should be very cosy next winter. Or next week if the weather forecast is to be believed, they’re now muttering about the possibility of snow, which doesn’t seem possible after the warmth of the last week, but it is only the end of March I suppose!

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Next up is a cardigan which didn’t make it to the blog whilst it was in progress, largely because it’s a pattern I’ve done before and I didn’t think of anything to say that I didn’t say the first time round. It’s Peasy, and I used Rowan Felted Tweed. I’ve worn my grey one lots, it’s a really useful little cardi to slip on over things, so I thought I’d do a cheery red one too.

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Only a headless modelled shot, I’m afraid – I’d just got in from work, and it showed on my face! But it is nice to be able to photograph things during the week again. I love summer time and light nights.

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The cardigan’s worked top-down, with a pretty vine lace pattern at the yoke, then it’s plain stocking stitch all the way, with only a tiny bit of shaping. The bands are garter stitch picked up up the fronts and round the neck, and I used the little flower shell buttons again, largely because I have lots of them and they go with everything. Well, most things.

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The skirt was a charity shop bargain in Grassington – I got this Wallis one and a flowery sequined Phase Eight one for under £9 the two. I may give up on sewing if I can find skirts for those prices and alter them if necessary. Speaking of which, I found this M&S one in a different charity shop a couple of weeks ago.

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It’s not easy to see from this photo, but it’s got eight panels, with eight triangular sections let in to make it flare out, starting about eight inches below the waist. Now I don’t know about you, but that’s a style which just makes my stomach stick out in the straight section before the skirt flares from underneath the bulge, which really isn’t an attractive look. I nearly put it back, but then I pulled it up and turned about four inches over at the top, and was inspired to buy it and alter it.

I took off the facing at the waist, undid the side seams and took out the zip, cut four inches off the top, tapered the side seams so the facing fitted back on, put the zip back in,  sewed up the side seams and put the facing back on. Which was a little fiddly, but, apart from the unpicking, no more so than sewing from scratch, and before long I had this.

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Which is a lot more flattering, and is also the length I’m preferring at the moment, just below my knee. The fabric’s a lovely linen/viscose mix, of the sort I can’t seem to find anywhere, and it was a bargain £8. I think alterations are the way to go.

Oh, and one last thing – a couple of years ago I started making flowery granny squares for a blanket, but all that stopping and starting and sewing in of ends meant that I quickly got fed up and shoved it all in a box. Until last week, when I had the bright idea of using 25 of the 30 I’d done as the centre of a blanket, then just doing rows of different colours round the edge. Which is what I’ve done.

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It’s a lot less tedious! I’m going to keep going until I either run out of yarn or of the will to live, whichever comes first…

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Blackberries!

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I’ve finished my cape at last! What started as a nice easy antidote to the tediousness of the moss stitch and cables of the chunky jacket rapidly turned into an even worse task when I hit the ‘raspberry stitch’ edging – it’s a variant of trinity stitch, and was tedious beyond belief.

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It ate yarn too – the body of the cape (without front edgings or collar) took three 100g balls of yarn, the lower border alone took a ball and a half of yarn, and the front borders and collar took another ball, taking me to five and a half balls in total, or 50g more than the pattern specified (I didn’t use the recommended yarn, but the yardages were the same). It could be that my row gauge was off, but since one wasn’t given in the pattern (!) I can’t really say.

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But at last it was finished (although my hands are still recovering from all that increasing three stitches from one then purling three together). It doesn’t look as flattering on me as it does on the model in the book, but I’m reasonably pleased with it, and it’s used up some stash yarn (Rowan Scottish Tweed Aran, from the Great Kemps Haul of a couple of years ago), which has to be a good thing.

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It’ll be a useful thing to put round my shoulders on chilly evenings, I think. I’m not quite sure about the raglan shaping, I think I should have changed to increasing every four rows earlier – there’s a bit of excess fabric at the increase lines. I wasn’t particularly impressed with the pattern or the book it came from (Nature’s Wrapture by Sheryl Thies), I’ve only skimmed it, but this was the only pattern which appealed to me, and some of the instructions seemed sloppy. Apart from the missing row gauge issue, the only measurements given for this pattern were the length and the bottom circumference, leaving you to guess whether to do the the sm/med or l/xl size. Also the buttonhole is written to be worked on the row before you cast off, which didn’t seem as though it would give enough support for the weight of the cape to me, so I did it a couple of rows earlier, then sewed round the edges to reinforce it.

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The pattern is called Raspberries, but the purple looks more like blackberries to me, so that’s what I’ve called it. Talking of which, the back of my garden has once more been taken over by wild brambles.

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I’ve made a start at chopping them down, I just need to finish off, have a big bonfire to get rid of them all, then put some weedkiller down to try and get rid of the blasted things. I say this every year, but somehow by the time I get round to it, the whole area’s waist high in growth again. I’m not one of nature’s gardeners. Thankfully the rest of the garden’s a bit better behaved, and does things like present me with these every spring, with no effort at all on my part.

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There are huge swathes of snowdrops all over the place, and the occasional clump of crocuses.

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Spring is on its way!

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A bit of the other

So, I’ve knitted a jacket and done some spinning, but what else have I been up to? Well, for a start I attended the annual Yarn Yard gathering, which they very conveniently hold at the Bar Convent, here in York, so I just need to hop on a bus each morning to join them. Sadly I had to work on the Friday (we had an Away Day, which slightly bizarrely was held at a Buddhist Centre, so I had the odd experience of spending the day at two different religious centres without any religion being involved) but I joined up with them at five o’clock, so I didn’t miss too much.

I somehow didn’t manage to take any photos at all of the actual event, but much fun was had – apart from the Saturday afternoon event there’s nothing actually organised, just lots of sitting around and knitting and/or spinning, with chat that becomes more risqué in direct proportion to the lateness of the hour and the amount of alcohol consumed. We decided that the Marine in the Radio Times photo definitely wasn’t showing us his finger!

Food played a big part in the weekend as usual, there were fish and chips (with scraps for those who can’t get them in less civilised parts of the country), and Indian food with giant naan breads on Saturday night. It was good to meet up with old friends and make new ones – I particularly enjoyed meeting the Glasgow contingent, who were great fun!

As mentioned, the main event of the weekend is the Saturday afternoon yarn swap/gathering. Everyone brings something to swap, it’s all piled on tables, people wander round and eyeball things they like the look of until they’ve decided on a favourite, then at the signal try and grab it. It was more civilised than it sounds! I wasn’t going to get much, nothing really grabbed me, but somehow I ended up with a bag full after all…

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This was my haul – mostly fibre, with some yarn and a couple of books.

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My first choice was a set of batts from FeltStudio – unfortunately they had a lot of very tinsel-like sparkle in them, but it comes off quite easily, the ones at the top have been desparkled, and look much better!

In knitting news, I felt the need for something simple after the traumas of the moss stitch jacket, so I cast on for the only pattern that grabbed me from the Nature’s Wrapture book I got from the yarn swap – Raspberries.

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I found six balls of Rowan Scottish Tweed Aran in my stash (part of the great Kemps haul from a couple of years ago) and cast on. The body is simple – it’s done top down, with raglan increases, but you don’t split for the arms, just keep knitting straight. Unfortunately I think I tried to cram too many stitches on my KnitPro cables, and I managed to break two of them – the cables came out of the metal holders. Now I need to find some glue to mend them. I thought of superglue, but I think it might set before I could get the cables properly in, they take a bit of twisting to get in. I’ll ask at our local DIY shop unless anyone has any bright ideas – do let me know if you do!

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So anyway, the body was nice and quick, but then I hit the edging, which is in a variation of trinity stitch, on the right side rows you have to do a k1,ktbl,k1 all into the same stitch, then on the wrong side row you’ve got a p3tog to get the stitch count down again, which doesn’t make for speedy knitting! It’s taking well over half an hour to do two rows, and using about 10g per two rows – I think it might be just as well I’ve got an extra ball of yarn! There’s still the front bands and the collar to do.

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It’s not very easy to photograph the purple yarn, but the stitch makes little bobbly bumps. There’s a tiny red fleck in the yarn which is pretty.

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I missed the end of the Yarn Yard weekend due to general exhaustion, but I gathered from Twitter that there had been talk of bargain sock yarn from Kemps, and eventually I gave in and had a look – they’ve got Regia College yarn for £4 per 150g ball, it’s a DK weight yarn, so knits up quickly. Somehow seven balls have found their way to my house. I can’t think how it happened.

Oh, and it snowed. The cats were nearly as fed up as I was about this.

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It does look pretty, but my drive is long and steep, and if I want to have even a chance of getting the car back up it, I have to clear it every time it snows. The novelty soon wears off! Thank goodness it seems to have warmed up now.

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Right, I think that’s me more or less caught up. Phew!

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