Friday, 30 December 2016

The final three!

With one day to spare, the final three hats are done.  There's a man's chunky blue and black hat, a lady's dk dark red hat, and a newborn dk hat.  As ever, I've been combining yarns make inroads into the donated coned yarns and to get different weights, so the man's hat is a strand of black aran and a strand of blue 4 ply , while the lady's hat is 2 strands of 2 ply red wool/cotton and a strand of 2 ply grey mix (probably acrylic, but I can't be sure).  The baby hat is made of some King Cole Bin Ends yarn which is very pretty and puts me in mind of cup cakes sprinkled with hundreds and thousands!

This completes my self-set challenge to complete 12 boys' jumpers and 52 hats in one year.  This target has certainly spurred me to knit and crochet more this year than I have previously.  The donations of yarn that I have collected on behalf of Loving Hands this year have also encouraged me to think more laterally about what I can make and how I can combine yarns to get different effects.  I have used up almost 16 kilos of yarn since January, without counting December's finished items.

I have, however, decided not to set any targets for 2017.  It will be interesting to see whether I use up just as much yarn when I am free to make whatever I like.

There is one final item that I finished off just after Christmas.

I took these two cones from my stash in November.  They are both 4 ply, and the bright pink is very bright!  The paler pink is from a range called Magicolour, and has a rainbow of other colours running through it.  Working directly from the cones, so no ends to darn in, I started a corner-to-corner blanket.  This photo gives you an idea of the different colours:

The completed blanket is 42 inches square and looks like this:

It is bright and cheery and will be going to Chemogiftbags, a charity which provides support for people undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.

Happy New Year everyone, and thank you for reading and commenting on my posts in 2016.  

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Hat chase nearly over

Just a quick post to report that I have finished hat 49 of 52 for 2016.  These are 3 chunky, tweedy hats, made with multiple strands of stash yarns.  The green ones are adult size and will be going to the Mission for Seamen.  The grey and maroon one is child size, and will be for Operation Orphan's 
2017 campaign to Keep a Child Warm.  On 27 December we will be driving up to Twickenham to meet friends and go to the Harlequins rugby game at Twickenham Stadium, so I will have time to make progress on a matching scarf go with the child's hat.  I don't tend to knit hats in the car because of the danger of losing dpns under the driver's seat.  Once bitten, twice shy definitely applies in that case!

Still lots to do on this Christmas Eve; both my sons and my daughter-in-law will be arriving later today, so there are beds to prepare, baking to be done, and still quite a few presents to be wrapped and stockings to prepare.  So I will use this picture of our local woods in the snow to wish everyone who happens on my blog a very Happy Christmas, and thank you for taking the time to read my posts.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Log cabin

Back in April last year, I started knitting a log cabin blanket.  I had a lot of Stylecraft Wondersoft variegated yarn in peacock, but when knitted up, it looked more like camouflage than a flamboyant bird's tail.  I think the jumpers below demonstrate what I mean.

So I put the rest of it to one side, and had a think about what I could make with it (did I mention that I bought a kilo of this yarn?  Probably not!).  Finally I came up with the idea of a knitted log cabin blanket.  There have been lovely ones knitted by other Loving Hands members, so this seemed like a plan.  I chose a range of different colours that were in the peacock, and two that weren't, to provide a little bit of contrast.  This was a project that my heart really wasn't in, and so it only came out when I didn't have anything else to do.  But do you know, as I was sewing it up, I began to fall in love with it.

Somehow it makes me think of modern art:

Doesn't this look like it could be on a gallery wall?
OK, I'm getting a bit carried away here.  Because it uses different brands of yarn, some of the squares are not quite as even as they might be, but this adds to the overall patchwork effect of the blanket.  And there are so many ends to be darned away - I still have a good few more to do.  But it is lovely and warm and weighs in at 460g.  It's a bit odd and quirky, and I have a feeling that I might keep this one for myself!

Ideas for what I should make with the remaining 300g of the peacock will be welcomed!

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Jumper number 12

Yessss!  This is boy's jumper number 12, so I've met the first part of my challenge for 2016.  It's knitted from a Knitwell pattern which I found among my Mum's patterns.  There is no date or price on it, but it uses old needle sizes (9s and 7s) so is pre metrication of knitting needles, which I think was around 1975.  It was interesting to knit; the front centre panel has increases and decreases to make the little stocking stitch squares.  I enjoy cabling and knitting twisted stitches, which featured on the sleeves as well as the front.

The yarn is from a cone which I bought from the scrapstore.  It is marked as chunky, but to me it felt more like aran.  I compromised and knitted it on size 4.00 and 5.00 needles (8s and 6s) instead of the recommended sizes.

I have another half a dozen hats to make to meet the second part of the challenge by 31 December - watch this space!

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn around....

Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn around,
Teddy bear, teddy bear, touch the ground.
Teddy bear, teddy bear, jump up high,
Teddy bear, teddy bear, touch the sky.

This week, Loving Hands was asked if we could supply some tiny teddies for babies in Kings College Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit to receive on Christmas day.  Although I'm not especially fond of making toys, these little teds are very quick and easy to do, so I thought I would make a few.  As I was knitting them, I suddenly remembered an action rhyme that my boys and I used to sing when they were small.  And days later, I can't get it out of my head! It must be at least 25 years since we last sang that rhyme, but now it keeps repeating and repeating in my brain.  

These are the tiny teds; they are 2.75 inches tall, just right for little babies.  They are knitted in 4 ply on size 2.50 needles.  Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn around.......

As well as these, I have been making some things for Children's Hospice South West to sell to raise funds.  A child's hat and scarf set is knitted with two strands of double knit:

 The pattern is called Luuk, by Annis Jones, and is free on Ravelry. I think the hat looks rather like a creamy cup cake with hundreds and thousands sprinkled on.

I've also crocheted a few snowflakes for tree decorations or to add to parcels:

The two at the top of the photo are made with a tinsel yarn found in a charity shop.  They really sparkle when they catch the light.  The bottom two are just made with crochet cotton, and stiffened after blocking with a little spray starch.  

Hopefully they will help with the fundraising.  Teddy bear, teddy bear,turn around...............

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Another stripy jumper

I have just 2 more boy's jumpers to finish to reach my target of 12 for the year.  Well, only one now, as I have just finished this one.

it's a 26 inch chest, knitted in double knit on size 4.00 needles, and I used my favourite jumper pattern.  I think I have made about 8 of these in total in the last 5 years.  It is a free pattern from Ravelry called simply Child's jumper pattern.  I made the stripes 10 rows wide, but you can choose your own colour and stripe combinations. From my stash I chose Copper and Mocha by Stylecraft, and a dark brown (no shade name) from Marriner.  Lots of Loving Hands members, inspired by another member, Pat, have been making a special effort this year to knit jumpers for boys, as they seem to get fewer donations.  To date, over 400 jumpers for boys have been made, which, as Pat says, represents a school full of warm boys!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Hats galore

Hats have turned into a bit of a compulsion.  Over the last 10 days or so I have made 8 hats, four knitted and four crocheted.

The first one is an adult hat, knitted with one strand of DK and 2 strands of coned 3 ply.  I really enjoy the mindlessness of knitting rib, and the finished hat is lovely and stretchy.  This has gone into my box for the Mission to Seamen, who do a brilliant job in helping those who work at sea (both my grandfather and father were sailors).

After the simple ribbed hat, I decided to try a bit of fair isle.  This is a technique I am still perfecting, and so I went for a basic toddler beanie and a simple pattern.  I took inspiration from a pattern on Ravelry called Celebration Day, although I changed it a bit, using more stitches and making the fair isle more symmetrical.  I like the finished effect (each of the colours is 2 strands of coned 4 ply) which is quite subtle.  It probably will get a pompom before I send it off.

Next up was crochet.  I found a ball of James Brett Baby Marble that I had forgotten about, and used a 1 - 2 year size Ravelry pattern (Spring Lacy hat) that I thought would work with the colour changes.
Although the pattern is for worsted yarn with a size 5.00 hook, it worked well with DK and a 4.5 hook to make a newborn hat.  They were quick to work up, so I made 2.

Back to the knitting.  There was a small ball of white 4 ply in my knitting bag, just enough for a preemie hat.  I cast on 80 stitches and did a couple of inches of 2 x 2 rib so it would be nice and stretchy.  Then I decided to do a bit of cabling.  Why, I do not know, as I was using dpns, and adding a cable needle to the mix was really asking for trouble.  Well, I got there, but not without a few dropped stitches and a bit of frogging on the way.  There was enough Marble left to make another preemie hat.  This one you will notice has no cables.  Can you work out why???

Finally I went back to crochet for a couple more adult hats.  The pink one is a slouchy one, and has a button on the brim, cunningly concealed in the photo.  The blue/brown one is based on Julia Odie's Magnus hat pattern, sized up for an adult.  Julia is a fellow Loving Hands member, and I have made this hat many times in many different sizes.  Both of these hats are made with different combinations of coned yarn.

So now I have made over 40 hats this year, and my target of 52 by the end of December seems more achievable.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Mixing colours

At the start of the year I set myself a challenge to knit 12 boys' jumpers and 52 assorted hats by the end of the year.  As we start November, I've managed 10 jumpers, and another is well underway, so I'm pretty sure I will reach that target.  But I've fallen way behind on the hat front.  I have recorded 31 hats so far, which leaves 21 to complete by the end of the year.

I've started by knitting these 2 children's hats:

Although they are quite different in appearance, they both use the same multicoloured yarn as their base.  It's another King Cole bin end yarn, which is great value for £1 per ball.  I love the different colours in the yarn, but as a fairly thin DK (or at least that's what I think it is - you have to guess with bin ends yarns) it needed boosting to make warm hats for children.  Coned yarn to the rescue!

Two strands of 3 ply wool / acrylic mix in ivory went into the paler hat, while two strands of alpaca / acrylic 2 ply in a camel colour went into the darker one.

They both make interesting mixes that could be worn by either a boy or a girl.  I am enjoying experimenting with mixing colours like this - I might try with some green next!

Monday, 10 October 2016

Planning the next blanket

It was great to finish the blanket I blogged about in my last post, but I do enjoy having a longer term project on my needles or hooks so that I can pick it up or leave it alone as the mood takes me.  Time to plan the next blanket project, then!

This one will be a crochet blanket. again at least single bed size.  Loving Hands received a wonderful donation of coned yarn from Nicola a few months ago, and in my share I have some beautiful colours.  I was especially taken with this cone of variegated yarn:

It is 4 ply superwash pure wool, and I love the range of greens and browns in it.  Among the cones I found some greens and a brown which echo its colours.  I also picked out an oatmeal shade, primarily for joining and the border.  So my blanket planning currently looks like this:

The pale green at the top is 2 ply yarn with alpaca, the brown and oatmeal are 4 ply acrylic and the rich teal is a 4 ply acrylic and wool mix.  As you can see, the variegated cone is considerably smaller; there is only 250g of that while the others are 400 or 500g.  The 4 ply yarns will be crocheted doubled, but a small trial showed that I would need 3 strands of the 2 ply to get the same size squares.

The next question is, what shall I put with the variegated yarn?  If I crochet it doubled, I won't get many squares from it.  I have done a test square with one strand of oatmeal, but it seems to hide the richness of the multicoloured yarn.  These are my test squares so far:

What do you think?

I'm going to try a couple of other combinations and see what results I get.  I really want to showcase this lovely yarn, not swamp it with its background colour.  I'll keep you posted!

Friday, 30 September 2016

The blanket is finished!

After several months in the making, I have completed the aran squares blanket.  I had planned to use 48 squares, but when I laid them out, I realised that just one more row of 6 squares would make it a single bed cover, and therefore it would be much more useful as a blanket.  So I knitted a further 6 squares, and its finished size is just over 6 feet by 4 feet.  All the squares are knitted corner to corner on size 5.00 needles, and apart from the bright green, all of the yarn had been donated to Loving Hands.  I expect that this blanket will go to Operation Orphan for their Keep a Child Warm project.

It has a simple crochet border which is made up of half trebles and double crochet.  It has been a brilliant stash buster, weighing in at just over 1.35 kilos.  Repeat after me, "I must not replace the yarn used up, I must not replace the yarn used up......."

Monday, 19 September 2016

Finished and not yet finished items

During the summer months I have been knitting squares to make an aran blanket.  My stash of aran yarn has grown over the last year and was filling one shelf of the guest room cupboard, as well as a bag inside the wardrobe in my bedroom.  Something had to be done, and that something would be a large blanket of 8 inch squares.  It has been a good summer project; eight inch squares can be taken on car and train journeys, and knitted outdoors without making you feel hot and sweaty as a larger item might.  I now have 40 squares completed from my target of 48:

I hope that he colours I chose will go together well in a random blanket.  I have used up the red and the pink completely, and will be making a few more brown and bright green squares as there is a lot of those colours still left in my stash.  The blanket will be 48 inches by 64 inches, which is quite a substantial size.  The squares also make quite an impressive tower when piled up!

As well as making progress with the blanket, I have also knitted another girl's cardigan with the grey rainbow yarn.  You may remember in a previous post that I couldn't decide whether this yarn would be suitable for a boy.  Well, this time I went for an obviously 'girly' pattern that was among the ones that my mum left.  I wonder, did she make this for me when I was little?  It was a double knit pattern but I knitted it on 4.5 needles with 2 strands of coned 4 ply.

The button bands are pulling slightly, which means that I didn't pick up enough stitches, but I don't think it will notice when it is being worn.  It is 24 inches across the chest, so should fit a 5-6 year old. There is still enough of this yarn left to make a baby jacket or a few hats - it is amazing how far it goes!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Continental knitting anyone?

On Saturday, I found myself in Hampstead, North London.  I hadn't been there for many years, but I lived there for 3 years in the early 1970s when I went to University.  Sadly, Westfield College, the arm of London University that I attended, has long since been merged with Queen Mary College, and all the wonderful buildings and spaces we lived and studied in have been converted into luxury flats.  It was jaw-dropping to see 2 bedroom flats in our old library building being advertised in estate agents' windows for £1.1 million!

But I wasn't there for nostalgia, I was attending a knitting workshop run to raise funds for Knit for Peace, in their headquarters in the quaintly named Radius Works, Back Lane, Hampstead.  The workshop was for continental knitting and fair isle, and was led by expert knitting tutor Juliet Bernard.  Wool to practise with was donated by Rowan Yarns, and Juliet, as well as giving her services for the day for free, also provided one of her own patterns for us to have a go at.

I've mentioned in a previous post that I struggle to purl in the continental style, and Juliet showed us several ways to do it so that we could select the one that worked best for us.  I practised on the rib of the hat, and, as the picture shows, I have a long way to go before I can call myself able to do it properly, but at least I now have a technique that I can manage with.

I enjoyed the day enormously, partly because I went with my niece, Amelia, so we were able to catch up as well as compare one another's progress.  The picture above shows how far I got with the fair isle hat, although I have to admit that I went horribly wrong with following the chart and had to frog a few rows before I got to that stage.  I will be carrying on with it, and will report progress in future posts.

It was good to be in Knit for Peace's HQ too, and to see where they sort the garments they are sent.

There was also a table full of all sizes and types of knitting needles and crochet hooks that had been donated, and were awaiting being sent out to different projects where people are being taught to knit and crochet to be able to support themselves and their families.

Altogether it was a lovely day spent knitting with like minded people, in the knowledge that, while enjoying learning new skills, we were also supporting a charity that helps others both here and abroad.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Round ripple blanket

What shall I make next?  I ask myself this question far too often, and not just when I have finished the project I'm currently working on.  Like lots of crafters, I have a mental list of items I'd like to make, and I often start a new project before the current one is finished.  Sometimes I persuade myself that there is a reason for starting a new one, as was the case with the round ripple blanket.

On Monday nights I go to my local craft club, and due to the chatting and cake eating that goes on, concentration levels are not high, and so I need a fairly simple project to do while I am there.  I'd been taking small, quick items like these knitted ventilator bonnets.

About 6 weeks ago I decided I would have a go at a round ripple crochet blanket as a craft club project.  I've made a straight ripple lap blanket before, about 4 years ago, and I enjoyed doing it.

The pattern I decided on was a Beginners Round Ripple from Ravelry, and I chose 3 dk colours from my (not inconsiderable) stash.   Two were Stylecraft special, and the third was some "mill end" James C Brett baby yarn that I bought online.

I found the ripple pattern really relaxing to do, and it didn't take much concentration. The only difficulty was in deciding how big to make the blanket - I've never done a circular one before.  In the end I stopped when it was 44 inches across at the points.

I tried several different borders because I needed something that wouldn't detract from the shape of the blanket. In the end I decided on a simple picot edging that finishes it neatly:

This blanket will go to a charity, Chemogiftbags, which gives a goodie bag, a heart cushion and a lap blanket to women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

The result..............

In my last post I showed the start of a little cardigan with a very pretty stranded colourwork border of hearts:

I was struggling with the purl rows of the design, and wondering whether I would be able to complete it to a reasonable standard.  Well, it took a while, but I'm pleased to say that I have now finished this project.  Sadly I don't have access to a cute toddler to model it, but here it is laid on the carpet instead:

It looks a bit of a funny shape without a child inside it because it is a jacket design, rather than a cardigan.  You can see the knitted darts on the fronts, above the hearts, and there are matching ones on the back.  I will be blocking it under a damp cloth before it goes into my Loving Hands box to be donated to a suitable charity.

The row of hearts took for ever, with me trying every which way of holding the yarn. At least I didn't pull the trailing yarn too tight.  In September I am going to a Knit for Peace knitting class in London with my niece to learn how to do this technique properly.  I can't wait!

This was knitted with 2 strands of 3 ply held together to make double knit, on size 4.00 needles.  When I use this yarn again, I think I will drop at least one needle size to get a tighter fabric.

Monday, 8 August 2016

More than I can chew?

Colourwork.  Now, I very much enjoy learning new techniques and trying new challenges, and I have been making half-hearted attempts to crack stranded knitting with 2 colours for a couple of years now, but I have never really felt confident in knitting with one strand of yarn in each hand. I have done some hats with a colourwork band such as this one, although you can see that there is some tightness in the band of arrowheads - the tension isn't quite right.

But onwards and upwards, and while looking on Ravelry I found a pattern for a little girl's jacket with a stranded border of interlaced hearts.  Although this picture doesn't really show it, this is a 'swing' jacket which is wider at the bottom and then gradually tapered towards the armholes.

I fell in love with it, and knew exactly which yarn I was going to use.  Among the cones were a couple of 3 ply Shamal in Ivory and Old Rose.  As this is a double knit pattern, I could just double these two colours and I would have the right thickness of yarn.  A couple of goes with the wool winder later, and I had the yarn ready.  Isn't the old rose a beautiful colour?

I like that you cast on with one colour, then immediately change to the other for the rib.  It gives a lovely continuity to the jacket.  The fronts and back are knitted in one (less sewing up - I'm all for that!), so there were 200 stitches.  No problem, the rib was knitted while watching England bowl out Pakistan in the final afternoon of the test match -  I am a bit of a cricket fanatic, by the way.  Then came the stranded part.  Aware that I needed to watch my tension and not let it get too tight, I started the first row of the pattern with rose in right hand and ivory in left.  So far, so good, I have developed a technique for making knit stitches with the yarn in my left hand.  

But then I came to the second row, where I needed to make purl stitches with each hand.  I suddenly realised that I have never done this before, because the hats on which I have done the stranded knitting have been made in the round (knit stitches all the way).  Oh boy, what a mess I got in!  Despite watching the best you-tube videos, I still couldn't (and can't) get the hang of this.  Much frogging took place.  The front side looks OK, but the back of the fabric, where the unused yarn is carried along, is , shall we say, less than tidy!  But at least the tension on the back is not too tight, if anything it is too loose.  

Have I bitten off more than I can chew here?  This is taking such a long time to knit, but I keep telling myself that there are only 14 rows of pattern to do.  I will persevere, and update you in my next post!

Sunday, 31 July 2016

How many strands?

I've been enjoying a bit of experimentation this week.  The garments that I'm knitting and crocheting now will be passed on to charities for distribution in the autumn and winter months.  In their latest newsletter,  Knit for Peace were asking for hat and scarf sets, particularly for older children and teenagers.

Time to start combining yarns, then, to make thicker and warmer garments.  When I was sorting out the cones, I noticed some smaller ones (250g or less).  There were a couple of sparkly yarns, and also some multicoloured ones.  I chose two, and teamed them with a navy blue 4 ply.

Using my new toy (the wool winder) I wound them together to make them easier to crochet with.

Somehow I managed to produce a ball that weighed almost exactly 100g.  First I crocheted a simple beanie hat, then I used the Spring petals scarf pattern on Ravelry to crochet a scarf with the rest of the ball.  I like this pattern because it is light and lacy-looking and is a single row repeat.  Using a size 6.00mm hook I got a lovely drape to it, and as the combined yarns were more than aran thickness, the hat and scarf will be quite warm to wear.  

Flushed with success with a 3 strand combo, I went for broke.  I picked 3 strands of 2 ply and wound them together, then paired them with a 2 strand ball of 50% wool 4ply.  Effectively, aran plus dk, so overall chunky weight.

I tried my luck with knitting this time.  I used a simple broken rib pattern (knit 3, purl 1) and made a scarf and hat.  I was really pleased with the outcome, although using a rib stitch meant that the scarf was narrower than I at first planned.  I will knit a wider one that will be more suitable for a teenager.

I probably knitted a little slower than usual, and kept checking that I had all the strands in each stitch.  But using the winder meant that the multiple strands were quite easy to control.  I think it was a good investment!