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Christmas Time!

I haven’t blogged in ages, because I’ve been doing this –

I’m currently playing Smee in “Peter Pan” with the Takeaway Theatre Company. We’ve travelled the country from Wiltshire to Aberdeen and most places in between, and I’ve got 10 days off before going back for the final week of the show. There hasn’t been much time for crafting in between doing two or three shows a day, and travelling around 5000 miles (so far)!

It’s been a fantastic job, but it’s great to be home as well, coming back to these cheeky little faces.

Hope you’ve all had a very merry Christmas, and may 2010 be a fantastic year!

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Hats for the Homeless

I belong to a local knitting group who are currently knitting hats for homeless people, so I’ve spent most of the week working on a quick and easy pattern. I wanted something quite simple so that it would suit a beginner knitter, and would hopefully appeal to the tastes of a wide range of people. Not knowing the recipients, I also opted for colours that were likely to be neutral and weren’t strongly associated with any football team. The yarn is a super soft acrylic, which will be really warm but will also dry much faster than wool after wet weather. The resulting pattern is available below – feel free to use it to make hats for gifts or charity causes. It’s really easy to customise it by adding motifs, stripes, pompoms or other embellishments.

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Basic Hat

Size – to fit a medium (large) adult head

You will need – King Cole Big Value Chunky, 100% acrylic, 153m per 100g ball – 1 ball per hat – I used Seaspray and Grey, 5.5mm circular needle or long DPNs, yarn needle.

Gauge – 15sts to 10cm/4in on 5.5mm needles

Instructions –

Cast on 72 (80) sts and join to work in the round. Place stitch marker to mark beg of round.

Work in K2 P2 rib for 28 (32) rounds, starting with K2.

Work 18 (22) rounds in st st, dec 2sts on last round for smaller size only. 70 (80) sts

Decrease for crown –

Rnd 1 – *K8, k2tog, rep from * to end of rnd. 63 (72) sts

Rnd 2 and every other even numbered rnd – k to end

Rnd 3 – *K7, k2tog, rep from * to end of rnd. 56 (64) sts

Cont in this way until 14 (16) sts rem.

Next rnd – K2 tog to end of rnd. 7 (8) sts

Draw yarn through rem sts and fasten off.

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Sven Cardigan

If you haven’t already started, now is a good time to get cracking with the Christmas gift knitting. There are approximately 7 weeks till Christmas, which is plenty of time to knit up things that are a little more complex as well as simple last minute projects. Babies and toddlers are ideal recipients for knitted gifts. They are small enough to make the knitting process reasonably quick, they’re unlikely to complain about your choice of colours, and they’re bound to look super cute wearing anything that you make!

If you’re looking for a project for a little person in your life, I’ve just released my Sven Cardigan. This was originally published in Knit Now magazine, and is a stranded cardigan featuring a pattern of reindeer, snowflakes and pine trees. The yarn is Cygnet Superwash DK, a soft but durable yarn which is ideal for children’s clothes. It comes in a wide range of 25 colours, so you can select a colour palette to suit your personal taste.  I’ve knitted my sample in Christmassy red and white, but my lovely test knitters chose different colour schemes in white, blue and grey.

Christmas sven cardigan

The cardigan is sized to fit babies and toddlers aged between birth and 4 years. It’s knitted in one piece to the armholes, and has a ribbed button band and dropped sleeves.

I also have a number of other patterns which would work well as Christmas gifts. Check out my Ravelry store to see if there’s anything else that takes your fancy! If you’re a beginner knitter, my free scarf pattern might be ideal for you – find it here.

 

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Stash Busting

A few weeks ago I pulled some long forgotten cotton yarns out of my stash and thought I had better do something useful with them. Very quickly I realised why they were long forgotten – I don’t particularly like working with 4ply weight mercerised cotton! I decided that crochet would be the quickest solution, and spent some time looking out patterns.

The first yarn was actually one that I quite like working with, Rowan Handknit Cotton. It’s a lovely smooth cotton that falls somewhere between a DK and Aran weight. I found a pattern on Ravelry for crocheted washcloths in a really simple stitch, and managed to get two cloths out of one ball of yarn. They’ve gone into the Christmas gift box, probably to be wrapped up with some nice soap.

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Next was another yarn that I quite like, but which is very splitty – Rowan Milk Cotton DK. I should have made things easier on myself and chosen a knitting project, but instead I went for crochet because it works up faster. I opted for a baby blanket, which was billed as an easy pattern using groups of treble stitches. Somehow I managed to mess this up, and my rectangular blanket started to look a bit triangular at the edges after only a few rows. I managed to recover the lost stitches however, and finished the blanket with a simple improvised shell edging. This is the hardest colour to photograph, a soft purple which looks brown in a lot of pictures. The blanket used all six balls of yarn from my stash, and is a decent size for a baby moses basket or car seat.

The final project was one which I regretted starting at times. I had a ball of Patons 100% Cotton 4ply and a ball of Sirdar Pure Cotton 4ply, both of which are mercerised cottons in shades of blue. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with them, but I knew that it had to be crochet in order to use the maximum amount of yarn in the shortest possible amount of time. Browsing through old issues of Crochet Now, I found the Storm Shawl by Annelies Baes. The original was knitted in a woolly yarn, but I thought it might possibly work in cotton. The first dozen rows of the shawl were quite difficult, and at several points I almost unravelled it all and gave up. However once the basic shape was established, the pattern was very intuitive and easy to follow. I omitted the last pattern repeat mainly because I couldn’t be bothered crocheting any more, and finished with the border row as set. I’m not sure how much I like the finished result – it’s a lovely pattern but I get the feeling that it would work better in wool than in cotton. It was a great stash buster though, and helped me develop my crochet skills.

After all that, I still had several other balls of Patons 100% Cotton yarn in 4ply and DK. I really couldn’t bring myself to make anything else with them, so they have gone to the charity shop. All in all, a successful stash bust!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I Don’t Have That Much Yarn, Honest

The title of this blog is what I tell myself from time to time. I look at the two stacking boxes of yarn on top of my wardrobe, and think “that’s not much, really”. Recently, the stacking boxes have seemed to get a bit fuller, and there have been bags of random yarn lying round the living room. Then I decided to catalogue it all in Ravelry, and the site kindly printed me off an Excel spreadsheet that told me I had 14,200 metres of yarn approximately. That seemed like quite a lot, but I hadn’t even gone through the box of scraps or any of the stuff in project bags. So I decided that a bit of a sort out was in order. This post will probably be super boring for anyone who doesn’t like looking at yarn, but I’m going to look back at it every time I think I need to buy some more.

I took out all my boxes and bags of yarn and half finished projects, aided by the cat and the four month old baby. I’m sure you can imagine they were very helpful. Then I arranged my main stash on the floor like a big colour wheel, because it looked pretty and also a bit smaller. Here it is, in all it’s glory.

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This is a significantly smaller amount of yarn than I used to have, but it’s still a lot. Most of it has been picked up in charity shops, bought from Wool Warehouse, or left over from design commissions. Most of it was bought without a project in mind, because it was pretty and I thought I’d probably use it one day. There’s some lovely wee bits in there, Jamieson and Smith Shetland yarn, soft alpaca, a nice skein of lace yarn. I started to get ideas about what I could knit with it all, but then I thought I should really pull out all my projects and see what I could finish off first.

First up, and a work in progress for about three years, is this fair isle cardigan. It’s knitted in Drops Alpaca, which is lovely and soft. Normally I get stranded projects knitted up quite quickly, but this one has been my nemesis. The pattern isn’t as intuitive as I’d like, and it just seems like a bit of a slog.

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Next is the Bornholm Satchel, one my own patterns which I knitted up for publication in a lovely wool yarn. This sample is knitted in Drops Bomull-Lin, a cotton/linen yarn that’s a total pain to work with. It’s very splitty, and although the finished fabric is perfect for a bag, it’s not fun to knit – especially in this kind of herringbone pattern. I’ve done most of it though, so I just need to build up the courage to finish it off.

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Then we have a lace shawl in 2ply baby yarn, started in a moment of madness when I thought I could knit something enormous and lacy. I haven’t even knitted the garter stitch centre square yet, so this might not be finished for another few years.

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Next up is Kilda, a lovely fair isle cardigan. I started knitting this in two colours of Rowan Felted Tweed, and then discovered that the pattern didn’t show up. So I’ve started again, and will be using the basic pattern but making it striped instead. I’ve done approximately one inch of rib on the back, so again this will take a while!

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Then there is my current favourite project, a top-down sweater for my daughter in the most amazing pastel sparkly yarn. This is Papatya Batik Silver, and the pattern is the Contrast Sweater from Petite Knit. I love it, really simple to knit and working up quite quickly in a DK weight yarn.

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In contrast, my next WIP is working up very slowly. This is a cardigan I’ve knitted once before, Evie by Kim Hargreaves. I’ve been working on this one for a year, and I haven’t gone back to it because I forgot where I was in the complex shaping.

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I also have a few bags of yarn which are allocated to particular projects, but I haven’t cast on yet. There is a whole pile of Drops Nepal, which is going to be the Utivist cardigan by Helene Magnusson. I love the colours, but the idea of steeking is scaring me a bit, so I haven’t started yet.

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I’ve got some Drops Fabel all ready to start a pair of Sanquhar Duke pattern gloves for my husband, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll have to adapt the pattern to fit his hands, and that’s not a job I want to do anytime soon.

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Then a new parcel arrived from Wool Warehouse today, with two cakes of Caron yarn to make a Flax sweater for my friends’ daughter. This is the Mixed Berry colourway, and it’s lovely and bright and cheerful.

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I also bought some Cygnet Boho Spirit. I don’t normally like to knit with acrylic yarn for myself, but this stuff seems lovely and soft and it was quite cheap. This is earmarked for a cardigan from the new West Yorkshire Spinners Croft Shetland Colours book.

The final project waiting to be started is another Yves sweater – I’ve made two of these already for my son and my nephew, and it’s a great pattern. I have lots of the Scheepjes Colour Crafter yarn left over, so I’m making one for my friends’ son.

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After all this, I thought that I probably didn’t need to start anymore projects just yet. I remembered that I had a whole bag of Drops yarn on top of the wardrobe which is set aside for future designs, so that would keep me going for a wee while. Then I turned out the scrap bin, and realised that there was a LOT of yarn in there. This is where I put all my odds and ends of yarn that aren’t really enough for a project, and are useful for swatching new designs.

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So, after all this, I formulated a plan of action. I’m going to try and get all my WIPs off the needles, whether that means finishing them or unravelling them if I really can’t face finishing them. Then I’m going to knit up all the projects that I have plans for, and try not to start any more new ones in the meantime. After that I will go through all my patterns and yarn and try to match them up. And if anyone sees me buying any more yarn, remind me of this post please!