Did you miss me?

Ahem – 9 months or so – that’s pretty poor.  So, new year, new start, and, most importantly, a new laptop – this should mean it doesn’t take me 12 hours to actually get any post online.

I’m going to jump right in with what I’m doing right here, right now, and then maybe trawl back through some finished stuff from 2015 later on to catch up.

Remember the Onion Jumper?  14 shades of yellow, 15 shades of brown and green – dyed with yellow and red onion skins.  I made a start on the knitting during lambing last April, and then put it away to work on other projects… the kiss of death to anything.  Anyway, after the Christmas gift knitting craziness, I always feel the need to work on something just for me, and so I picked it up again at the beginning of this month.  I’m not very good at writing notes (no surprise there then!), so did spend some time trying to remember a few vital details, such as the needle size (3.25mm) and the colour changes (every round for the yellow, every 3 rounds for the green).  I suppose I never really intend to leave a project languishing for this long and of course always feel I’ll certainly remember what I was doing.

Since restarting, I’ve knitted the body from the bottom to the armpits, and I’ve started on the sleeves. onion bodyOh man – the sleeves!  Really starting to regret changing the colours every round for these.  I’m spit splicing all the ends, and that is a lot of splicing!  I’m knitting both sleeves at the same time on 2 circular needles.  Despite having painted the ends of one needle with red nail polish, I’m still beginning many rounds with the wrong needle and having to re-jig everything.  I suppose with the colour changes, the pattern (centred, so not starting at the beginning of the repeat), the sleeve increases, and the constant “help” from our puppy (a post in itself), it’s just too much for my old brain to cope with!  So, I’m finding the sleeves s.l.o.w., and can’t wait to get onto joining the arms and the body for the yoke.onion both sleeveI passed the half way mark last night, so some progress I guess.

I decided when I restarted this project that I’d work it as a raglan.  I completed a couple of top down raglans over Christmas and I like the shape.  It would have made more sense to knit this top down too, but I didn’t.  This meant working out how long I wanted the sleeves, then counting back so that both the colour repeat and the pattern repeat for the sleeves end at the same spot as on the body.   Only time will  tell if the maths has worked!

My hope is that the fairisle pattern will look good with the raglan decreases – I haven’t done any sort of swatching for this, so I’ll have to wait and see on that too.  I could have worked the original pattern as written of course.  Or I could have spun two big balls of yarn with long colour graduations to save all the splicing.  Or I could have knitted the jumper top down.  Any or all of these would have made this knit much easier!  Having got to the stage where I almost always spin with a project in mind, I really should make an effort to design my knitting before I cast on!  The destination would be more predictable, although the journey may not be quite as exciting.

Okay, this didn’t take too long to write.  I’ll show some of my Christmas knits next time.  Maybe it won’t take me another 9 months!

 

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Tenacity

At our last Spinner’s Guild meeting we had a yarn dyeing workshop. I took along some undyed sock yarn that I’d been saving, that was a blend of merino, angora and nylon.
I rarely buy yarn nowadays as I prefer to spin my own for bigger projects, but make an exception for sock yarn. Socks are often my travelling project – both car glove compartments hold an “emergency sock”- and a worthwhile sock yarn is a lot of worsted 3 or 4 ply spinning. I don’t think I’d have time to spin enough for my needs.

I’ve been seduced in the past by beautiful hand dyed skeins that knit up into unattractive, blotchy socks with colours pooling in strange blobs. I know that some knitters love this but it’s not for me. I like stripes or really long subtle colour changes.
With this in mind, I eschewed the wide choice of jewel colours on offer at the workshop and chose just pink and blue. I imagined stripes of pink blending subtly through a gentle indigo to a nice clear blue stripe. My resolve wavered a little as I looked at the beautiful blends that others were doing. In comparison mine looked a bit flat and boring.  It was okay, but I was feeling a little envious of the beautiful skeins that had started appearing on our Guild Facebook page.  The “gentle indigo” I was hoping for where the two colours blended came out puce.  Not my favourite colour by a long chalk.  I hung the skein in a tree to make it look more interesting for its photo shoot!

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 I decided to start knitting my socks before I gave my final verdict.  Not a success.  The stripes were one round wide, which made them look like a random mess, and the puce helpfully spiralled around the sock giving the only visible pattern.  It didn’t take much knitting for me to decide that Something Must Be Done.

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I ripped out the knitting and re-skeined the yarn.  This time, I made a much longer skein – I used two chairs either side of the length of our dining table.  This was 3 times the length of the original skein, so the theory was that my stripes would come out 3 rounds wide rather than a single round.

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I mixed up some magenta dye and some blue dye and soaked the yarn in warm water again.  I then dipped an end in each colour and squidged the dye where the 2 colours met.  The package was then wrapped in clingfilm and microwaved for 8 minutes, turning the package over half way.  I was much happier with the colours after this – the original blue bits went either darker blue or purple, the original pink bits went either deeper pink or violet.  I finished by overdyeing the entire skein with a weaker magenta to blend all the colours a bit more (glad I used superwash yarn!).  Rather than a “flat” yarn, I ended up with a multi-tonal skein that would hopefully still give stripes, but with a bit more interest than before – and without the puce spiral.

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The proof is in the knitting.  I’ve finished one sock, but they’re not moving quickly as they’re rattling around in my handbag for when I have 5 minutes to kill.  I’m much happier with the yarn now, and so pleased I didn’t settle for the original dye job.  My favourite bit though is the heel – worked on half the stitches – a nice wide stripe – I’ll need to double the length of the skein again for my next attempt at dyeing.

The sock pattern is my standard one – 60 stitches on 2.5mm needles with a rounded toe (first toe decrease, k 4 rounds, dec, k 3 rounds, dec, k2 rounds, dec, k1 round, dec every round to end).  I use lovely Hiya Hiya needles which let me whizz around.  Did you notice my stitch marker in the earlier photo?  It’s a small piece of plastic drinking straw.  I always use these for stitch markers on socks.  I can never find stitch markers, and when I do they ping off and get lost all over the place.  Using bits of straw means I only need take a straw and scissors and I have as many stitch markers as I need.  It’s a top tip, not of my invention – I read it somewhere years ago and can’t remember where – thank you to whoever it was for saving me many frustrating hours excavating the sides of armchairs.

I think these will be socks for me.  Some of my socks are wearing quite thin now and will need to be either darned or frogged and the good bits re-knitted into something else.

Here’s the first sock knitted up

sock heel nofoot

I’m still spinning the onion yarn, but I think I’m on target, and I’ve been experimenting with contact dyeing silk with varying degrees of success.  I will save that for another day.

Everywhere but home

Last week was half term week here so we’ve been racing around the country.
First up was some time in Somerset where we helped my parents manage some of their land – felling diseased trees and chopping back hedgerows. I also managed to have a bit of a forage for some (potential) dye plants.
I’m interested in the possibility of using mushrooms for dyeing. The information I have (from books and the web) is mainly from USA or Scandinavia. I’d like to explore the potential of our native mushrooms. I haven’t chosen the right time of year to indulge in this new obsession: mushrooms are at their most abundant in Autumn, but there were still some specimens to gather.
I haven’t had chance yet to do anything more than photograph, pick, and take spore prints of my harvest, and I don’t think I’ve got enough of any species to do anything but the tiniest sample run, but my enthusiasm is high, and I will get onto testing my haul as soon as I can.

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I’m particularly excited about this next one – it was such a surprise to find this bright cobalt blue growing on some dead wood.

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think it’s pulcherricium caeruleum (now Terana caerulea) and if it is I think it’s quite rare in this country.  There wasn’t very much of it, but as I rescued it from the bonfire pile I don’t feel bad for taking a sample.

There was also masses of lichen on fallen wood.  It’s really important to gather lichen responsibly – I’d never pick it from trees or scrape it from stone.  Here, it was again going to go on the fire, and so was also fair game.  I gathered a fair quantity of Evernia prunastri which I will put to soak in a 50/50 solution of water and ammonia and try, yet again, to get some of the red dye it produces to attach to some wool.  I know it can be done, but I’ve not got more than a dirty, fleshy pink so far.

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Home for an evening, then it was off to London.  We caught up with friends and family, and did a bit of shopping.  My children don’t share my aversion to shopping as a recreational activity, and there was birthday money to be spent.

I introduced my girls to the wonders of Foyles, whilst feeling a bit sad that my old stomping ground has become a shadow of its former self.

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I also browsed the Liberty haberdashery department and was cheered to see a table groaning with independent sewing patterns.  I bought the tie kit by Sew Over It, which I’ve been looking at for a while.

tiekitbox

I imagine I could probably draft a tie pattern myself, but this will answer a few pressing questions (which weight of domette should I use?, what is domette anyway?, how do I get that cute little triangle of lining to look neat?).  On reflection, those questions probably show that I couldn’t, in fact, draft a tie pattern myself!

The kit cost £15, and contains absolutely everything needed: fabric; lining fabric; domette; paper pattern; a full spool of sewing thread; instructions; and even a little sewing kit with a hand needle.

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If the first tie looks good, and is not too much of a nightmare to sew, I’ve got a stash of cream silk that I could try a bit of contact printing on.  Could this be Christmas sorted in February?  Unlikely.  I can think of only 2 men on my list who would be even vaguely pleased to receive a handmade, hand printed  tie.  I live with Philistines.

For my train knitting, I took a fairisle glove for my outbound journey.  This is a fairly complex pattern, changing colours on almost every round, and consequently not ideal for knitting in a confined area.  On the way home I decided on an impulse buy at the train station.  I bought a copy of “Simply Knitting” magazine, lured by the kit on the front for a penguin soft toy.  The sealed package said “kit includes everything you need!”.

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This is what it actually contained

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That’s it!  4 cardboard spools of thread.  I needed to add:  needles; darning needle; stuffing and tweezers.  As luck would have it, I happened to have the correct size needles with me, and had enough knitting to be getting on with without needing the stuffing at this stage.  It was a sharp contrast though to the tie kit.  I don’t know what I’ll do with a stuffed penguin.  The back of the “kit” does warn me that there is not only a “strangulation hazard”, but also both a “choking” and an “entanglement” hazard.  It was almost worth the £4.99 magazine price for the frisson of danger that this afforded me.  Almost.

Saturday was guild day.  I’m a member of the Wiltshire Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers.  We had a dyeing workshop.  The saga of my sock yarn is worthy of another post I feel.

So, the half term holiday drew to a close.  I’m back at work this week, and glad of the rest!