Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Sock Yarn Test. . .

I love testing new yarns, so when The Knitting Goddess posted that she had dyed a new base called Britsilk and was looking for feedback, I was very eager to give it a go.  Britsilk is made up of 40% Blue-Faced Leicester, 20% Wensleydale, 20% Alpaca ad 20% silk.  All the wool is British and it's spun and processed in the UK and then dyed by Joy.  She sent me a mini-skein of this bright rainbow colourway - very smooth and soft to the touch.

This blend is very similar to her Britsock range where the breed percentage is the same but instead of the silk, there is 20% nylon. While I would never use pure silk for socks, I am interested in non-nylon substitutes for typical sock yarn ( if you are too, check out Mrs M's Curiosity Cabinet blog and podcast here as Meg's embarked on a much more extensive experiment with non-nylon yarns) and so was curious to see how these would work for socks.  I didn't have enough for a full sock, but since holes first tend to appear around the toes, I knit this little toe cap.  It's a lovely yarn to knit with - runs very smoothly through your fingers and this photo doesn't really do justice to the  intense colour and shine of it. 

For my first test, I wore it inside another sock for a week and went about my daily life which involved several walks into work ( about three miles each).  At the end of the week, there was some agitation of the fibres where they had rubbed against each other, but no distinctive pills and more importantly no holes. On the left is the top part and the right, the sole, which has felted slightly.

Next, I tested it in my hiking boots, tucking it inside on the last two walks I did with my rambling group.  In total that was about 25 miles over two separate days, occasionally over some rough terrain and definitely in hot conditions.  My feet were certainly sweating and this toe cap got a good workout.  I then popped it into the washer and dryer. Here's how the top and sole looked when it came out. 

And the inside - as expected this has felted quite a bit, but again, no discernible signs of pilling on the outside and no holes at all.  I'm pretty impressed.

In conclusion, while most knitters I suspect will use this yarn for shawls and garments that need the lovely drape and luxury that silk brings, I do think it could also be used for socks as it seems to be as strong as any yarn with nylon in it.  It certainly felt wonderful on my foot and given the testing I've put it through, I think it's a credit to the wool fibres in this yarn that have given it the strength and stability that a sock needs.   One word of caution though - I made the silly mistake of not hand-washing this sample first before chucking it in the washer. As with many hand-dyed yarns, the dye can bleed on that first washing, so I've foolishly ruined three grey t-shirts.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

A Circular Walk in the Yorkshire Dales . .

Last Sunday we went on a lovely 14 mile circular walk from Grassington. Shall we just feast our eyes on the lovely green that is the Yorkshire Dales?

Hard to believe now, but this whole area was a hub of activity in the 19th century due to lead ore mining. You have to be careful not to stray from the paths as there are still mine shafts hidden beneath the turf.

A few ruins remain.

And the first bit of heather was out.

We returned via the Dales Way path which is just gorgeous.

It forms a great, green backdrop to photo this new hat I knit for the Liverpud.  I was test knitting for Blacker Yarns and the pattern for the Atoll hat will be out shortly.  It uses two strands of lace weight in a simple broken rib pattern.

Lots of wild flowers out too.

And back to Grassington where there are many lovely pubs and shops.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Along the Anglesey Coastal Path. . .

It's been two years since we did this walk on the north-western edge of Anglesey, near Holyhead, but last weekend, our rambling group tackled another ten miles of the coastal path on the south side of the island.

We started inland in the village of Maltreath and headed through fields and meadows towards the sea.

Here's the first glimpse of the coast and the moment we all started to feel like school kids on a summer holiday.

There are some gorgeous beaches along this coastline - sandy, enclosed and quite sheltered.  This is the beach near Aberffraw.  A good place to stop for lunch although I always feel quite conspicuous in my hiking gear among the sunbathers and hardy swimmers.

I brought along my summer beach knitting since the colours seemed so appropriate.

We then joined the Anglesey Coastal path which winds its way west and north.  We couldn't have asked for better weather - a really perfect summer's day and lovely coastal breezes.

Ahead is the medieval St. Cwyfan's Church, known as the Church in the Sea, built in the 12th century.  It's located on a tiny tidal island, but there is a rocky causeway connecting it to the mainland and it is still used for services.

As we approached the end of the walk in Rhosneigr, you can just see the top of Holyhead Mountain in the far distance.

And another lovely beach.

Can't have a day by the sea without ice cream.

 I think there are more stunning bits of coastline and on the whole, I preferred our first Anglesey walk, but this one was pleasant enough - good company, sunshine, and walking over the sand gave a decent work out for different leg muscles.

Friday, 14 July 2017

One, Two, Three, Cast-on!. . . .

My resolve is holding firm against my insatiable need to cast-on ALL THE THINGS.  I vowed to finish 3 WIPs for every new cast-on and so far, this seems to be working. In my last post, I showed you my completed Vatsland Jumper (No. 1).  I then finished this fun Talmadge Cloche, (No. 2) designed by Romi Hill, which was July's project for  A Year of Techniques.   I didn't think I'd enjoy knitting a lace hat as much as I did, but the pattern is lovely.  It was knit top down using a pinhole cast-on and then a knitted seed stitch border was added.

Keeping with a lace theme, I also finished my Waterlily, (No. 3) designed by Meghan Fernandes and featured in Pom Pom Quarterly.   I used only two skeins of Juniper Moon Farm Zooey DK which is a cotton/linen blend. I really like the fit but was quite exasperated with the lace top. Had to do a bit of fiddling with the pattern and then folding over and sewing down bits of the back edge as it gaped quite a bit. It still gapes, but it's not nearly as bad as before.  I think I will get quite a lot of use out of this top over the summer.

So three projects off the needles and now the fun part.  I think I've found the perfect project for this
gradient yarn from Canadian dyer,  The Blue Brick.  I picked up two skeins at Yarns Untangled, the last time I was in Toronto - the colourway is called Ocean Fortress.  After knitting several neutral-coloured items, it's fun to contemplate that bright blue on my needles.  I'm not sure it's going to work out yet, so will hold off posting until I get a little further along.

Now, what other teeny, tiny wips do I have hanging around. . . . there are tons of new patterns vying for my attention right now.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

A Tale of Two Sweaters. . .

There are sweaters and then there are sweaters.  Last Sunday I had a rare day at home all to myself with no distractions, so used the opportunity to crack  on and finish the body of my Next Year in Lerwick.

I have really challenged myself with this pattern, beautifully designed by Tori Seierstad, both in trying to use up my stash and in making a few alterations.  I didn't plan all the colours in advance -a  few of them were dictated by what I had on hand, but I think they've worked out.  Now that the body is finished, it looks completely different to what I had initially envisioned in my head, but that's not a bad thing.  I always knew I wanted to use the Daughter of a Shepherd hebridean 4ply as the main background colour with bits of Jamieson & Smith 2ply jumper weight for the contrast colours.  I have a cone of FC65 which is the dark turquoise, and I initially thought it would be the main contrast colour.  But as I worked through each band of motifs, I was using lighter shades of turquoise, on the outsides, building up to the dark in the middle. Now I see that it probably should have been the other way around as there are far more rows of the lighter shades.

I'm not unhappy with the results - just bemused that I got it so wrong, but when you are in the midst of knitting it, sometimes it's hard to see the big picture. I do admire knitters who will swatch with all their colours, or at least use pencil crayons and graph paper to work out all the shading and gradients. I am not one of those knitters, as I'm usually too impatient to get going but I've definitely learned a lot from this project.

My other big alteration was to the neckline, which in the pattern is more of a boatneck, but which I've converted to a smaller scoop neck.  Since this is knit top-down, I used the beginnings of the First Fair Isle jumper that I knit earlier this year and then fudged a bit of the stitch count to get to the same number as the Lerwick pattern when it came to starting the colourwork.

I also omitted the waist shaping so again, had to play with some of the motif numbers with varying success; the sides of this sweater aren't really consistent, but I keep my arms down most of the time, so hopefully it won't be too noticeable.  The dark hebridean yarn is a wee bit thinner than the J & S so I may rip out the hem and redo it in a 1x1 rib with smaller needles. It's flaring out a bit with the 2x3 rib and I'm not sure blocking would solve it.

Spending several hours doing this type of colourwork is hard on the hands so I've put Lerwick aside for a few days before tackling the sleeves (never my favourite bit - it's far too tempting to turn this into a short-sleeved top, but I've come this far, so full sleeves it will be).  For a complete contrast, I picked up and finished my Vatsland Jumper, designed by Ella Gordon.  This was a joy to knit, even the sleeves. I would definitely recommend this pattern for anyone who is new to knitting jumpers.  I added one of the contrast colours to the sleeve cuffs and did an extra row of decreases around the neckline, as well as adding another inch or two to the body.  I think it stretched out a little in the blocking stage, but that can be fixed.  At the moment it's too hot to wear, but this will be the perfect everyday, go-to sweater for the autumn and winter.  It is so cozy and the Brooklyn Tweed Shelter blooms wonderfully after a soak, which really smooths out any tension inconsistencies in the stockinette.

Plain and fancy.  Intricate and basic. Fingering versus Worsted.  Colourful and muted.  We need all of these in our wardrobes and I love being able to create such different looks and types of garments, all through this magical power of knitting.   And another WIP off the needles!

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

In Which I Give Myself a Stern Talking To. . .

The WIPs are piling up.  And piling up.  I've been busy trying to sort out my ever-expanding stash and in doing so have come across quite a few bags with half finished projects going back at least six years.   Blimey.

Here's the problem.  I love to start new projects. It makes me feel virtuous to be using up stash and it's exciting to venture into a new knitting experience. It doesn't help that I subscribe to a number of knitting magazines and there are just so many beautiful publications coming out this year.  The inspiration and temptation is overwhelming.  These are just a few that have popped through the mail box in the last month.  I want to knit about a dozen things from this lot alone.

And so, in a burst of creativity and optimism and quite frankly, smothering myself in a cloud of delusion, I happily cast on. And I get so far.  And then I get bored, or tempted by another project, or I pop it temporarily in a bag and forget about it.  Yet,  I still really, really, want to finish these projects.


It's time to get tough with myself.  I have some absolutely lovely knits on the go and I am determinedly pledging to get at least three WIPs - any three - done before I cast on anything new.  I can see myself trying to get smaller projects done first, but that is fine - I have socks and wrist warmers and hats, all in various stages of completion.  And if nothing else, I need to free up those needles.

So here are my most pressing WIPs and the ones I will be trying to finish first.

#1.  My Next Year in Lerwick jumper by Tori Seierstad.   I'm off to Shetland in just over six weeks and I really need to get this done.  I have the bottom third to knit, two sleeves and the neckline. It's doable but I need to get cracking.

#2.  The Talmadge Cloche.  Designed by Romi Hill, this is June's project for the Year of Techniques and it's so modern and stylish.  I never though I'd go for - let alone knit -  a lace hat, but I've seen several finished projects now and it's the type of design that suits a lot of different heads.  I'm nearly at the brim so one more push and a block and I'll be done, although I'm reminded I still have May's mouse to finish too.  But I won't cast on July's project until my three WIPs are done.

#3. When the heatwave hit last week, I went scrambling in my stash for some linen or cotton to knit with (another excuse to cast on something new).  I'm half way up the body of Waterlily by Meghan Fernandes and it would be nice to wear this before the end of summer.

#4.  Another Shetland jumper.  As soon as the pattern was released, I knew I wanted to knit this, also in time for Shetland as we'll be meeting up with the designer, Ella Gordon.  This is the very pretty Vatsland Jumper and whew, I've been having a time trying to decide on my colours.  I had enough Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in my stash for the main body and this was my first version - just pulling some scraps from stash.

But Brooklyn Tweed yarn has a very distinctive, soft, mottled look and the different yarns just weren't playing well together. It also had too much of a Ronald McDonald look for my liking.  So on to the second incarnation.  This time I used a few colours of Brooklyn Tweed Loft held double, along with the main colour.  It was an improvement but I wasn't in love with it.

Just as I was pondering whether to continue or rip back and have another rummage in the stash, as if by magic, there was a thump on the door mat and this lovely box arrived.

I have long heard knitters rave about the legendary Alice Starmore's Hebridean 2ply yarn and since I'll be heading to the Outer Hebrides later this year on holiday, it seemed only fitting that I try it out. I ordered a few skeins for some different projects entirely, but as soon as I held the Pebble Beach colourway (in the middle), I knew that this was exactly what my Vatsland had been waiting for.   And so Version 3 was born and this one is a keeper. The Barn Owl colourway of the Shelter really responds to a lighter colour palette and the Hebridean looks perfect next to the other Brooklyn Tweed shades.  In fact, the texture and airiness of the Hebridean is surprisingly similar to the feel of Shelter and Loft, whereas I'd expected it to be a bit stickier, more like Jamieson and Smith's 2ply.  I am delighted with this discovery as it's much cheaper and quicker for me to order from Virtual Yarns and so far I really love knitting with it.  This has a simple stockinette body and three quarter length sleeves. I so hope I can also finish this in time for Shetland although my Lerwick remains the priority. 

#5.  My Firth O' Forth Cardigan by Kate Davies.  This is my latest cast-on, which I am knitting with Portland Lace in a beautiful deep teal blue colourway called A Day in the Woods.  I won't be finishing this anytime soon as it's knit in lace weight but it's a fairly easy pattern to memorize and so could be a good portable project. I'll be crossing the Firth of Forth by train on my way up to Ullapool so I must get a few stitches knitted on the actual bridge. 

I won't bore you with the many other WIPs I need to tackle, but hopefully they will be making an appearance on this blog as Finished Objects before too long.  I must stay strong. . .