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Giveaway: Win Three Skeins Of Handspun Yarn!

Giveaway: Win Three Skeins Of Handspun Yarn!

I’ve decided to part with my most recent three skeins of handspun yarn and thought it would be nice to host a giveaway to find them new homes. One of my hopes this year is to improve a few of my skills and expand my […]

Recovery Spin

Recovery Spin

Get straight back on the bike you fall off of; get straight back on the wheel when the yarn doesn’t work. I quickly came to terms with the fact that I made an ugly yarn, and in retrospect have decided that it is not that […]

The Ancient, Knit Anew: Trilobite Tank Top

The Ancient, Knit Anew: Trilobite Tank Top

Some time last year I decided to knit my little boy a new tank top as anything I had already made for him was so very quickly grown out of. I decided to design the tank top with trilobite motifs, simply as a challenge to myself and because it would be something that I would enjoy knitting (and who knows how long he will be happy to wear a trilobite tank top hand knitted by his mum… my days for this sort of thing may be numbered!)

I designed a selection of colourwork motifs and fit them into a canvas of the right size to fit my gauge and desired finished dimensions, and set about knitting. Unsure of cutting the yarn usage fine I began with a provisional cast on (in orange) to unravel and add ribbing once the colourwork was complete. The yarns I used were a couple of light fingering weight yarns. The lighter colour was from Theresa Shingler Knits, a nice semi solid yarn spun from British wool with a good amount of grip. The darker yarn I have (annoyingly) lost the label for, but it’s a stark contrast to the first. Though it’s hard to see in this picture, it is a high sheen, very smooth yarn with a lot of drape. There’s definitely some silk content in there along with merino, but I cannot remember the proportions of each now that I have lost the label. I just cannot seem to do justice to the colour in any photograph, but it is a yarn of darkest plums and teals on a bed of brown/grey. Though these two yarns do not sound very suited to each other, they exactly mirror the dark, shiny fossilised trilobites in their sandy matrix of some of the specimens that I own, both in colour and texture. I worked up a swatch and washed and blocked it to ensure that the finished piece would hold its integrity, and it did. The grippiness of the lighter yarn was enough of a framework to ensure that all the colourwork remained neat and that the stitches did not creep or distort.

The plan had been to knit the tank top in the round to the armholes, then split for front, back and neck and knit the pieces flat from thereon. However, then the A Year Of Techniques project surfaced and threw all of my plans in the dustbin. One of the techniques that was to be covered would be steeking, one of the knitting techniques I was yet to try, and which I thought might be very useful for future projects. I put the tank top on hold both as I wanted to knitalong with a few of the Year Of Techniques projects and also as I wondered if the prospect of steeking might alter my plans for knitting and finishing the trilobite tank top I had started.

As it happens, all of my greatest wishes for the steeking project were realised, as the project in question was the Oorik Tank Top: a stranded colourwork tank top sized for toddlers. fortunately for my future knitting projects, steeking was simple and very handy for what I wanted to achieve. Unfortunately for the trilobite tank top I had started, it was the very last technique covered in the projects, and though the final six patterns were released together six months after the project was launched, those six months proved enough time for the rapidly increasing size of my toddler to outgrow the tank top I had started, so I decided to unravel what I had and begin again.

Reclaiming Partially-Knit Yarn

Some people say you should never knit directly from a skein of frogged yarn. Honestly, I think this is a matter of personal preference rather than a hard or fast rule. I knit a pair of long socks from a double strand sock blank (one of The Yarn Yard’s ‘Magic Carpets’) and they knit up just perfectly, and many people knit socks directly from dyed sock blanks with no issue. However, I think it can be very important to wash and re-skein yarn that has been reclaimed from a partially knit garment. As with this tank top, only some of the yarn had been knit. Yarn that is buckled and kinked may knit to a slightly different gauge than when straight, and the relaxation of all that texture once laundered may cause a shift in the texture, drape and gauge of knitting part way through a finished garment. Similarly, highly buckled yarn can present problems when knitting stranded colourwork as the floats and edge stitches can sometimes cause tension issues and skewed stitches.

Re-skeining the yarn is a simple process if you have a niddy noddy or skein winder (or a couple of chair backs pushed close together, at a pinch), and makes the yarn much easier to store and care for, and (to me) presents a much nicer prospect to knit again in the future). I used my lovely niddy noddy to re-skein the reclaimed yarn. It’s a commercially produced tool, but I have in the past made niddy noddys out of bits of broomstick and plastic pipes, which work in a pinch if you are on a tight budget.

Once re-skeined and fastened with three or four figure-eight ties simply pop your skeins into some lukewarm water. I add a drop or two of a no-rinse wool wash such as Soak to just freshen the yarn up, but unless your yarn is dirty or dusty through handling or from sitting a while in a yarn basket, the purpose is mostly to get the skein back to being straight and smooth.

If only some skeins of yarn were knit up, it is important to wash them all together. Some yarns may be prone to shrinkage or, indeed, relaxing and ‘blooming’ when introduced to water for the first time (a reason your swatch should always be washed and dried before measuring and the final fabric assessed) so if only some of your skein(s) of yarn have been through a wash treatment then the final gauge of the previously washed and un-washed portions of knitting may differ when the entire garment is laundered. The quick rule to bear in mind is that all of your yarn should be in the same state when knitting. It should all be kinked or it should all be straight. It should all be unwashed, or it should all be laundered together.

So, as my yarn was only partially knit, I gave it a little soak, pressed the excess water out between two towels and then hung the yarn to dry.

Starting Again

The re-washed yarn is as good as new and a pleasure to look forwards to knitting again. However, I decided that after knitting Oorik that I would make things easier on myself and get some new yarn for the project, some Jamiesons & Smiths 2-Ply Jumper weight, a lovely, super-grippy shetland wool, and the same yarn in which Oorik was knit.

Alongside the previously knit portion of tank top, the darker yarn in particular is not quite as perfect as I’d had, but what I have lost in the sheen and subtlety of colour variation I have definitely gained in ease of knitting. Shetland yarn is so inclined to grip to itself that steeks often do not need reinforcing at all, though I will pop in some crocheted reinforcements so that it is guarded against the super wriggly and very explorative tendencies of a two year old. Colourwork also tends to stay flatter as the stitches stay where you have put them, and do not slide around as they can do with a smoother yarn. I could have steeked with my previous yarn choices, but the smooth and silkier of the two yarns would definitely have required some sewn reinforcements from the sewing machine to keep everything secure and that silky yarn safely in place.

On top of the change in yarn, I have also had to change the charts that I was working from. A different gauge in the new yarn, as well as that growth spurt have meant that I am now working on what feels like the hundredth iteration of my trilobite charts, but hopefully this will be the final version, and I have about twenty different trilobite motifs to work into future projects. The actual motifs I am using are the same, but they are in a completely different arrangement to work with the current stitch count.

The contrast in colour between the two yarns is now greater, which makes the images more defined. It is not wholly my first choice as I did like the way that despite the difference in the textures of the two yarns, the slightly reduced contrast made the ‘fossils’ look as though they could be emerging from the stone, but I can see that the shapes are far more immediate now that I am working with two yarns more solid in colour.

Now that I have made the changes and rescued my last yarns for another day, this project is galloping along, and I hope to have this trilobite fossil tank top finished before too long.

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Handspun Yarn Experiment: Finished Spin Show & Tell

Handspun Yarn Experiment: Finished Spin Show & Tell

I have finished plying my most recent skein of handspun. A 3-ply skein weighing 155g and 400m in length, this was my attempt at spinning something a bit heavier than my usual spinning output. Most of the general tips I have seen on spinning a […]

Not Having All The Answers

Not Having All The Answers

We’ve kept a fairly steady, even keel these past few weeks, all considered. Apart from the fact that I am just so very frustrated with how things are happening; the delays in tests I have been awaiting due to weather, the run-on issue of staff […]

Yellow Wagtail Scarf

Yellow Wagtail Scarf

I knit Sarah Hatton’s Yellow Wagtail Scarf from the A Year Of Techniques project about four months ago, and I haven’t written about it until now due to not having managed to get any decent pictures. Unfortunately I can’t see that changing any time soon so here are a few pictures whose greatest quality is that they at least exist.

As written, the pattern gives a long (7ft) scarf with relatively narrow ends, widening in the centre, like a perfectly postured, straight spine effortlessly carrying a pregnancy off in style and comfort (ie, nothing like when was pregnant). This provides a lot of extra fabric of the scarf in the area around the neck for extra warmth. As the scarf is so lengthy, wrapping the scarf twice around the neck feels natural, so you may have a very warm neck and chest for even the coldest weather.

I actually thought that much bulk would be a little too substantial for me and that I would find it easier to style a traditionally shaped scarf of consistent width. The pattern starts with a stitch count of 26, increasing to 53 by the time the centre point starts to near, maintaining that stitch count for a while and then decreasing back down to the original 26. I decided to go with a 41 stitch cast on, increase 3 when setting up for the cables and then knit the scarf with a consistent 44 stitch width until decreasing 3 to account for signing the cables off at the very end.

Apart from the change to the shape of the scarf I made no other changes. The scarf is knit in the kit yarn that the pattern calls for, Shetland Aran Worsted in the shade Auld Gold, seven balls of Shetland woolly warmth. I think I only used 6 balls for my scarf, knit to the same length as the original. It feels relatively weighty, but in a comforting, sheepy way, and the pure Shetland wool holds in a good deal of warm air.

The main design feature of the scarf is the play of the two cable details that run down each long edge of the scarf. Once is a simple, uneven twisted rope type cable, with long and short sections between the ‘twists’ and the other is made up of four intertwining strands on the same garter stitch background that makes up the scarf body.

There’s a single garter stitch border that sits alongside the narrower cable which gave me a few issues in blocking. It wanted to fold under the cable (which would have given a nice edge) but still wanted to creep into view at the points where the cable twisted. I think if I were to knit the scarf again I’d have added an extra stitch or two to the border on that side, to match the other, and just bring that cable in slightly, or swatch to see how the edge would look with a different treatment.

As with all the A Year Of Techniques projects, the pattern comes bundled with a wealth of opportunity to learn something new. The teachings of the Yellow Wagtail scarf were how to knit from a charted cable design, but the instructions also include written instructions for either back-up/comparison or, indeed, for those who do not like nor wish to knit from charts. The lesson is there, and it is comprehensive and well explained, but the pattern does not leave any knitter out in the cold. There also appears to be a bit of a bonus technique included to help people who wish to cable without the use of a cable needle, which is my preferred method. Not only does the technique information give great instructions on cabling with or without a cable needle, but also on visually interpreting the cable stitches so you can ‘see’ what is going on with the knitted fabric to create the pattern. I think cable charts are perhaps one of the most visually immediate types of knitting chart, alongside colourwork, as most charted cable stitches are very representative of the patterns that they relate to.

Though I was confident knitting from charts and without the use of a cable needle, I still thoroughly enjoyed reading the technique portion of this pattern for its thoroughness and clarity and think as both techniques make knitting cables so much quicker and easier that it would be a great learning opportunity for anyone who wanted to firm up their skills with either.

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Coddswallop

Our First Two Years Together

Our First Two Years Together

It’s been two years since our family grew by one. I think we were always a family, Russell and I. From, perhaps, the day that I felt like I trusted in his goodness to let go of that little bit of certainty and security of the path I was on, soon to have my own little place to live, and took the leap that I could trust in this human to be good and to care and love enough that I could uproot once more and move in with him to a pokey little cold flat in Whitley Bay. Boy it was cold. And it was so tiny! But perhaps it was my favourite of all the places that I have lived due to it being where our story began and the first place in which I had felt safe in a very, very long time.

But my favourite chapters of the story so far all burst into colour two years ago when a tiny human popped into our world, a mixture of Russell and I. This whopping great blackcurrant stained baby shot into the world at a faster rate than I could really handle it. But after all the worry and panic there lay this 9lb bruise with a wrinkle for a nose and Russell and I cradled pure love in our arms. It had not been so very long previously that I did not think that I could trust anyone to truly love in my lifetime, and now I had these two pillars of love, one huge and protecting and one (not so very) tiny, heartbeat fluttering fast upon my chest, and I knew that I would never feel the same again. And our family was strong.

I truly love being a parent, but as so many people will tell you, parenthood is tough. Gosh, yes we have our off days. Tired, grumpy days, days of illness and the mystery maladies of baby and toddlerhood, sometimes that write themselves apparent three days after the screams and sobs with a scarlet rash and sometimes which manifest on no physical symptoms that you will ever detect and are put down to some mystical condition which may or may not have existed. And you are always, always doing it wrong. So says that lady in the supermarket, or the health visitor who you’ve known for four minutes of your life, or that relation who’d do that differently, or the neighbour who is old enough to remember when babies did not cry because in those days 10 month old babies did as they were instructed, and probably earned their keep down the mines at the same time.

If my little boy knows or feels anything I would hope it is just how perfectly I love him and that I love learning from him more than from any of those people. I hope that Russell and I can teach him, above all else, how to be kind, how to be thoughtful and how to have empathy for all the people whose lives touch on his. I do not expect that as he grows and natually makes mistakes for him to always be good, or that he will always make the right choice, but I do so hope that we will always have time to put three chairs around the table and to talk about how we feel and how others might feel, and the effect of our actions on others. And from him I am learning how to best see the world anew. How the most basic and fundamental feelings that I have can be best nurtured and put to use. I am tougher in my resolve to surround myself with good and kind people and to not let damaging influences into our lives without guard, and to that end I have a strong determination to stand up for my family and to know when to say ‘no more’.

I hope that our third year together will be one of greater learning and growth. I hope it will be full of rainbows and colour, but when there are grey days that we can make things better with love and understanding. I hope that that there will be laughter, kindness, and, importantly, dinosaurs.

 

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