Saturday, April 29, 2006

Crochet Critters

I make no bones about the fact I’m quite a girlie girl and that I love a bit of kitsch - my flat is literally littered with hearts, and I even have a Popcorn the Bear knitting kit to complete – so it should come as no surprise that I quite like (some of) these new Amigurumi crocheted critters that originated in Japan and are now all over the net.

There is a dedicated blog and heaps of pictures on Flickr and while trawling through them I came across a cat, rabbit and monkey I though were cool creations (as well as a tiny bunny and some tiny Chihuahuas) and unlike that trend for collecting Beanie Babies a few years back, half the fun of these is in making (and sometimes designing) them yourself.

However, whilst looking at them I came across something even more kitsch - a pattern for crocheted Care Bears! – Its lucky I can’t crochet (yet) because I don’t think I’d be able to resist knocking up a few of these for unwitting (and probably soon to be ex-) friends! ;-)

WIP - Noro Pattern with the Wrong Wool!

I may have been a little over ambitious!

A friend of mine is getting married in June, and I bought the most beautiful dress (I will post a picture of it at some point). It is rather unusal being a light knit layered with other fabrics and is in a pattern which includes quite Modernist-style drawings of women (I'm an art historian after all!) in an electric blue/purple, rose and pale turquoise colour. Have I made it sound awful? Well its not! Anyway, there was a matching cardi/jacket, but I didn't get it as it seemed a bit much all together. In my Noro pattern book however, I found a pattern for a very short, very plain moss stitch jacket/cardi. I decided that it would be a good style as I just want something to cover my arms for church (I am relatively old fashioned at times) and to cover up in case it is cold (who knows what the weather will do in June!). Despite not having the faintest idea what weight the Noro wool was that was used in the book (does anyone know Noro equivalencies - it doesn't seem to say anywhere?!), I went to my LYS (which is extremely limited) and found some pale turquoise (I would call it eau de nile actually) chenille. I knitted a tension square and by some astonishing miracle it was almost spot on, so I am forging ahead witht the back of the cardi/jacket. To start with, I was finding moss stitch a pain in the arse. I kept making mistakes because I couldn't get the rhythm of flipping the yarn to the back and to the front for every stitch, but the last two days it has fall into place a bit.

I don't want to speak too soon though, and will report back on my progress because I can't help thinking I've been rather ambitious so early on in my knitting life to substitue a wool....we'll see....

Friday, April 28, 2006

In Appreciation of Stitch and Bitch

It may seem strange, seeing as I have already set up a blog (something knitters are urged to do by Debbie Stoller in Stitch and Bitch), that I hadn't - until now - read this much lauded knitting manual. Now that I have read it, however, I understand why people rave about it so much and indeed why it is responsible, in part, for a league of new knitters (of which I am one) taking up their needles - and indeed taking over the net.

I was most impressed with how this book is written. I am largely a book/magazine taught knitter, but many of the knitting instructions I have relied upon have been written by experienced knitters who have forgotten what it is like to be a bit green. Stoller, on the other hand, has written her handbook as though her days of being daunted by the likes of DK and double-pointed needles are only too clear a memory. I found it so easy to understand the techniques she was describing because she pre-empted my very misunderstanding of them!

Although I can already knit(ish), this was the first book where I found clear explanations and also illustrations of (amongst other things): how to know if the loop is on the needle the right way; how to create neat, straight edges, and how to undo a load of rows without going too far or dropping a stitch. In addition to this, because the book is written in such a light, cheeky (almost frivolous) way, it helps you remember the instructions. For example, although I know how to tell the difference between a knit and a purl stitch, having them described in terms of wearing either 'nooses' or 'scarves' has lodged the difference even more firmly in my mind - and as I am currently grappling with moss/seed stitch (more on that later) it is really useful to understand my stitch 'anatomy' (as Stoller would put it) more fully.

As a historian, I constantly crave historic context in my understanding of knitting and really enjoyed both the personal - but also wider - historical context Stoller provided for the practice of knitting. I like to know how knitting has evolved and what are current trends rather than steadfast rules. For example, many of my books instructed me to hold my right-hand needle like a pencil i.e. with the needle poking out above my hand - this is how my mother holds her right-hand needle. I however hold it under my hand, in fact in pretty much the same way as I hold the left-hand needle. Until reading this book, I had assumed I was some sort of knitting deviant (I will describe some of my other strange knitting ways later) but Stoller explained that the 'pencil-holding' style is simply a more recent, more lady-like needle-holding fashion. So now I feel less like I'm doing it the wrong way and more like I'm doing 'a way' or 'my way'.

The only things that bothered me about the book were, firstly, Stoller's use of the word 'knit' for both past and present tense whilst happily referring to its opposite as both 'purled' and 'purl'. Is this an American thing? I feel sure I'm not the only person who says 'the jumper I knitted' rather than the 'the jumper I knit'. (This is a petty grievance I know!). And secondly, despite the fact the patters are wide-ranging and modern, and the snippets of information on their designers is extremely encouraging, I must admit I'm not really champing at the bit to knit any of them. The patterns find more exciting are in fact the ones she includes for making a knitting tote and needle case. I've looked all over the net for project bags and needle cases that I like and have drawn a blank, but being able to make my own matching set is extremely appealing. The only problem however (and this is of course not Stoller's fault), is that I can't sew!

But of course I can't rave on enough about the combinations of knitting and feminism!

Finally, the sections about blogging, online zines and setting up Stitch and Bitch groups were very inspiring. I have of course already taken the blog plunge, but I'd love to have a regular group of knitters to hang out with. There doesn't seem to be a Stitch and Bitch in my town (St Albans) and although there are some nearby (Lemsford, Borehamwood), they are far enough away to make them a bit of a chore to attend, so I may (and I mean may - as I don't know how I'd find the time right now) try and set one up.

So in conclusion, I would thoroughly recommend this book to new knitters like myself. In fact I'd go so far as to say that to start with, its the only book you'll need - until you want to start adding much trickier skills to your repertoire. And as its not that big, it will easily fit in your newly made 'knitters' tote', so that when you are on the move with your WIP and you'd like to KIP, you don't have to find an accomplished knitter (as Stoller did early on) to help you out (although you might like to do that anyway...).

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Uh Oh - the wool is taking over...

My stash is out of control already! - And I live in a small flat! I have had to buy this new hamper to hide it all in. Mind you, I have now started to think about all the things I would like to knit:

lacy shawl,
patchwork bedspread,
a Noro jumper I've seen the pattern for,
anything with cables - cushion covers maybe,
a boat neck/slash neck jumper in the pink chunky wool my mum bought,
some cute sleeveless vests to layer with long-sleeve T-shirts,
eternity shawl (we know this already)
socks, socks, socks....

So I can see the hamper beginning to bulge already!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Completed - Noro Cardi

This is another first for me! The first cardi I have ever knitted!

It is a Noro pattern called 'Lizzy' from the Naturally Noro collection by Jane Ellison. I knitted it in Silver Thaw no.5 which I have to admit I was hoping would be whole lot more purple, but I still love it. The pattern itself was very simple (in fact easier than the Sirdar jumper I just finished for my boyfriend) and would probably be quick to knit for a more experienced knitter - it took me about 5 weeks on and off. The only bit I really struggled with was picking up the stitches for the frill down the front. I guess this bit wasn't so much difficult as a new experience and my maths doesn't really stand up to diving 107 stitches into easy-to-manage sections (I kept whipping my mobile phone out and using the calculator to double check!).

Anyway, as I said, I love it, and I figure that if I wear it with lots of purple it will look purpler!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Sweetness 2

OK, while I'm salavating over treats, I've also fallen for these needles (Petra's Beaded Needles), which can be found at Pavi Yarns. I really like the purple ones; they would look fabulous poking out of the Noro cardigan I'm trying to knit myself (although I'd like them even more if they had hearts all over them)....

Completed - Men's Jumper

Here is my labour of love! I started knitting this jumper (in secret) in February, for my man, and completed it (with help from my Anuty) just in time for his birthday on Easter Sunday. It was a major project for me because up until knitting it, all I had managed was a few scarves and a poncho. I am extremely pleased with how it turned out, despite the fact I unpicked it a few times, struggled with matching decreases on neck and raglan edge (which the Sirdar pattern didn't in my opinion spell out clearly enough) and messed up the picked-up stiches round the neck (meaning that the rib isn't exactly continuous in a couple of places).

The challenge and steep learning curve that this jumper provided, however, gave me a crash course in knitting and totally gave me the knitting bug! While I was knitting it I started finding all sorts of websites and blogs and yearning for new projects to get my teeth into. So this jumper is really very symbolic for me, it was both something I slaved over to show someone how much I love them, but also indicates the beginning of my obsession with knitting - I hope loving knitting and boys aren't mutually exclusive!

And here (finally) is a picture of the boyfriend in the jumper. Now I know in knitting folklore that knitting a jumper for your boyfriend is meant to be the kiss of death for the relationship, but I come from a long line of women who knitted their boyfriend's jumpers and then they became their husbands, so hopefully things will be ok?! ;-) Plus, he really likes it, so there!!!

Completed - Baby Booties

Yay! I've finished my first pair of baby booties! (for my friend's sister's new baby boy) They were knitted using a Debbie Bliss pattern from the baby clothes suppletment in issue 14 of Simply Knitting magazine. I have to confess to not having used the stated wool (a 4-ply) and foolishly substituting a washable DK (which was really cheap). This subsituted wool may have contributed to them ending up a bit bigger than I think they were supposed to be and to the heel becoming overly bulbous (although this subsided after I stuffed them with tissue paper!). Apart from that, I'm rather proud of them! In fact I have to admit it was fun to knit them because they were done on two needles only, and about half way through they suddenly spring into a 3D form right infront of your eyes.


I keep gazing at these twists of yarn on the Sweet Georgia site and dribbling! They really do live up to their name. I think I'd just like to have a few as ornaments around my flat - let alone knit knit anything with them!

I've yet to knit a pair of socks - to be honest I'm scared of trying yet - its too soon! But if I ever scale the dizzy heights of sock-dom, I'll be placing an order for some of these beauties!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Knitting Week!

This week is going to be my knitting week! I had a major week work-wise last week, so I'm taking a week long break and indulging in some R'n'R and a lot of knitting!!! On Tuesday I'm going to my Aunt's house to get help finishing my first ever jumper (a surprise gift), as I've run-a-ground on keeping the rib continuous as you decrease round a raglan sleeve - and I want advice on making-up to make sure its robust enough. Then I'm going to finish the Noro cardigan that I'm knitting myself (again my first ever cardigan), and after that, I'm going to attempt the easy baby booties in this months Simply Knitting magazine for my friend's sister's new baby boy!

Oh and look, thanks to Texere Yarns and my mummy who visted their Bradford warehouse, I have a stash! Its full of my favourite strong purples and pinks and should keept me ticking along for a while!

Monday, April 03, 2006

More Eternity Shawl

I've discovered the maker of Mary-Kate's Eternity Shawl. It is a designer (with a very cute website) called Suzanne Juul, and there in her Spring 2006 collection is what looks very much to me like a cotton version! (see the right-hand-side of the image)

It does seem however (if you look closely) that her original mohair ones do have a seam, so perhaps it is as simple as knitting a scarf and joining the ends? I wonder though if knitting on a circular needle would work better, or whether you wouldn't be able to knit one long enough. It would be good to find a way of making one without a seam (not least because this would make the name more appropriate)!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

ReBlog - Eternity Shawl from purlfriday

I'm reblogging this from purlfriday (Tuesday 21st March)

"A nice speculative post...So Mary Kate looks a treat in her eternity shawl. To be honest, I think she bounces between the roles of style maven and bag lady. And if I met her, I'd buy her a pie. But I like the liked it too. But £120? Nope. I can make this. It has reminded me of a stash of pale blue mohair mix that I have residing in the bottom of a plastic box. I might not love it enough to consider mastering the moebius cast on but I can easily knit a long scarf on big needles in mohair and graft the ends together. A little lace patterning, the odd YO and I'll have saved myself £120.Although I must first finish my sock. I reached heel territory before work this morning and intend to turn-away this evening... "

I absolutely love this scarf/shawl. I adore all shawl/scarf/wrap-related items and I'd love to knit this. I agree with purlfriday that it can't be that hard to replicate and wonder if one in cotton would be really nice and floppy (and appropriate for spring months)? I'll have to keep track of purlfriday's blog and see what she comes up with!

Slow going...

Well, its slow going on the blog set-up front, because I am busy surfing away looking at other knitting blogs, web rings and general knitting sites in order to collect together my 'stash' of data. I am planning to just sling all the links onto my blog, so that obviously I use it as my operation centre, and then once I've started posting regularly (actually about knitting), I'll look into joining some of the rings. I don't have a cat though, so thats Knitting Kitty out! But here is a picture of my Mum's cat Bluebell anyway....

Saturday, April 01, 2006

It starts here..

OK, I am starting a knitting blog! This decision has mainly been prompted by the fact I want to take advantage of the Secret Pal project, which I think sounds like a wonderful way to get in touch with other knitters across the globe, but I also like the idea of blogging as a way of recording my progress as a knitter. So here goes...