Wednesday 31 December 2014

Indie Design GAL 2014: Summer into Fall

I've been promising myself that I would knit Lisa Chemery's Summer into Fall since the very start of the Indie Design GAL, and here we are on the very last day... And it is done!

Lisa's designs first caught my attention in summer 2013 when she released Entrechat. The design is wonderful, with it's cute peplum hem and textured stitches. I've made three so far, and I'm sure there will be others. Her other designs are equally lovely; I have yarn earmarked for her Red Riding Coat, but have a little leeway on that one as I know I have enough yarn to make it in the largest size! Her pattern writing skills match up to her designs, with enough detail that an ambitious beginner could make any of them.

This design turned out to be 'one of those' knits. It started off in turquoise, I knitted the garter edging, then decided it wasn't my daughter's colour and changed to red. Casting on in red took a couple of days (genuinely casting on a few stitches then abandoning it as I was needed elsewhere), and by the time the requisite number of stitches were on the needle I decided red would be too Christmassy and changed to purple. I'd checked the tension in both turquoise and red, and hadn't managed to cast on before we needed to go away for Christmas, so I wound all the yarn I needed off the giant ball of Hayfield Bonus Aran and threw it in the bag with the needles that had worked for the turquoise and red (4.5 mm, for reference). Rookie error. About three quarters of the way through the skirt I thought 'this is looking a little wide', so I measured it and the stitch tension is out by 0.5 sts per 4 inches, so not majorly, but enough that my daughter won't be wearing it until late spring! Fortunately the design is forgiving and can be worn as a top with leggings once it's too short to be a dress. But I shall bear in mind, yet again, that tension should not be taken for granted...

As I had no other needles with me, I continued with the slightly large dress, which worked up nice and quickly. For some reason I got sidetracked whilst knitting the second strap and the dress got put to one side until I got home. So on Monday evening the dress was pulled from my luggage and I got the last few details done. I loved knitting the ruffles on the shoulders; so totally unnecessary, yet so adorable (they're also a bit bigger than shown in the pattern pictures as I had rather fewer rows per 4 inches than called for in the pattern, but still cute)! I finished the dress off with some super-cute buttons I'd bought in Somerset; I really like wooden buttons and the hearts are a really nice detail - although, as is often the case on my baby knits the buttons cost at least as much as the yarn. Let's not think about that too much...

I hope everyone has enjoyed my Indie Design GAL posts. I've had a great time following the discussion boards on Ravelry and watching the finished objects thread. I've seen some wonderful designs that would otherwise have passed me by, and I've got to know a few people I would never have had the courage to contact. I'm really looking forward to next year's event, and I hope you are too!

Tuesday 30 December 2014

A very merry Christmas and a happy New Year

With two children and family scattered about the country, Christmas is a crazy time of year for us, so I realise that today is the 6th day of Christmas and I still haven't wished you all a merry Christmas. So here it is,


Our Christmas break started with the wedding of two friends I've known since university. The wedding was perfect, in a beautiful private house with lots of space for small people to run around. Unfortunately I missed most of the ceremony as my son decided that it was boring and needed to go out, but the rest of the day was lovely. The meal was more like a Christmas party than a wedding reception, with every table have a box of crackers containing a different party game - hand bells, wind-up creatures to race, balloon modelling... - party bags for the children and lots of wine and merriment. The evening reception featured a disco that alternated Christmas tunes with more conventional wedding disco songs. My daughter decided to be the party animal, staying up until gone midnight, while my son was asleep by 8.30.

We then headed to my parents house, via my heavily pregnant sister's for a bit of a run around and some fresh air (and some delicious mini mince pies - the perfect car snack, they fitted perfectly into one's mouth in one go, making for far less crumbs than most car snacks), and a chance to pass on their Christmas presents.

Christmas in Somerset was surprisingly warm; so warm in fact that we saw daffodils on Christmas Eve! Yes, daffodils in full bloom in December. I still made my daughter wear her Christmas pudding hat, even though it wasn't always totally necessary, which got many compliments and smiles. As we had arrived in Somerset a few days before Christmas, we helped out with a few of the festive tasks, such as collecting the turkey for Christmas dinner, and buying the odd last minute present. We also bought a frankly enormous pork pie (10-12 inches in diameter - we somehow managed to eat it before I got round to measuring it) - you have to make the most of feeding a crowd, I'm fairly certain my husband and I could not get through that size of pork pie on our own!

My daughter's best Christmas present arrived a few days before Christmas: two teeth. She then proceeded to spend the rest of the holiday testing them on her toys, and us if her toys weren't available.

I finally finished my daughter's Christmas stocking on Christmas Eve evening (I had almost finished it before we went away, it just needed a last-minute hanging cord), just after my son had gone to bed, so had to quietly sneak up to the bedroom to hang it without disturbing him. He, of course, had already hung his and left a mince pie out for Father Christmas.

Christmas morning started pretty late - around 8, apparently my son had forgotten it was Christmas and had to be asked to go and look in his stocking - and was actually pretty relaxed. A few of us went to church (where my son decided to use my daughter's hat to clean the pews, and spent much of the time throwing his teddy around so he could get up and fetch it. I don't think anyone minded, the Christmas day service is pretty relaxed), then headed home for the lunch that the rest of my family had cooked. By the end of lunch we were stuffed and the afternoon was a haze of Christmas presents, Christmas TV and more food. I love Christmas Day!

Boxing Day (apparently a peculiarly British Bank Holiday - the day servants and trademen receive a 'Christmas box' from their employers - only observed in former British colonies and Britain itself), the day after Christmas, used to be one of the few days of the year when everything was shut, but has become the first day of the sales these days. We went for the more traditional Boxing Day walk at a rainy National Trust property. At least the cafe was open, so I could be dry while feeding my daughter when she decided it was time for food, and my son had a lovely time stomping in muddy puddles with his grandad.

Saturday was special, catching up with school friends over a late lunch and meeting my friend's adorable three month old, who spent much of the afternoon demonstrating her tongue sticking out skills.

And then we headed back North. The middle of the country had been hit by snow, so the driving was slow in places, and we saw many more accidents that usual. Having reached my in-laws for dinner we decided to cut our losses and stay there on Sunday night to avoid any more hours sat in traffic. My son was pleased as it meant he got more time to play with the toys that he'd received from his grandparents. And driving home on Monday morning was much nicer, with far less traffic on the road.

We're now safely back in the North; greeted by heavy frost, much more festive! Now onto suitcase unpacking and catching up on the washing. At least the Christmas trees are still up. Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday 22 December 2014

Bake day roundup

Bake Day Wednesday has seemed like something of a misnomer for the past few weeks. We have been baking, but generally in a rather time-restricted 'these cakes need to be ready for a nursery party tomorrow and it's now half past midnight' way that happens so often around Christmas. But there have been bakes, so here's a quick round-up of the tasty treats we've made over the past few weeks.

Peanut butter and jam cookies
Chosen purely based on what ingredients we had in the house one afternoon; the biscuit dough has some peanut butter in it (the recipe said crunchy, we only had smooth, so the final biscuits were rather less textured than the recipe recommended), is rolled flat, then spread with jam and rolled like a swiss roll before being cut into slices and baked. I really liked their savoury edge and the batch disappeared pretty quickly. Even my husband ate some and he keeps telling me he doesn't like peanut butter!

The worst muffins in the world ever!
I am often surprised when our muffins turn out nice. This batch of chocolate muffins were back to my standard (poor) record. They were so rubbery I classed them as diet muffins, I couldn't eat a whole one and about half the batch went in the bin. A sad bake. Anyone have any muffin baking tips? I could do with them.

Festive cupcakes
Last week we had three toddlers and two babies in the kitchen decorating festive cupcakes. The cakes themselves are standard chocolate cupcakes. The trees are decorated with green butter icing, a chocolate star (made by Dr Oetker, and really delicious) and mini chocolate beans. The boys had great fun decorating them, although it has to said that two of them were rather better at eating the cakes and decorations than at making the cakes look like Christmas trees!

The reindeer were a bit complicated for three year olds, but one managed to attach the pretzel antlers, chocolate button and Smartie nose, and marshmallow eyes. If I was doing this with older children I'd using writing icing to add pupils to the eyes and they would look better, but most three year olds are not that discerning! And you might notice that very few reindeer had red noses - our tube of Smarties was not obliging.

We repeated the activity yesterday with a different set of toddlers; I didn't managed to get any photos though. This time there was more attention paid to the Christmas tree decorating, and they looked really good, but you'll have to take my word for that.

Grandad's birthday cake
We live a fair distance from both sets of grandparents and my son was rather miffed when I said we wouldn't be able to bake a cake with Granny for Grandad's birthday. So I conceded that we could bake a cake in his honour. My son got fully involved and once we'd sung Happy Birthday he dashed to the kitchen to get one of his plastic knives to cut the cake. So cute, but the slice was a very strange shape!

Planned bakes
With only a few days left until Christmas we're hoping to get a couple more traditional bakes in. I  bought a gingerbread house kit from IKEA a month or so ago, which we'll hopefully find time for. I've always wanted to make one, so am quite excited about it. And we need to make a Yule log. Need I tell you!

And that wedding blanket...
Didn't quite get finished in time. I've given the bride and groom a framed photo of a bit of the blanket as an IOU. I could have powered through it to get it done, but the kids do need feeding occasionally...

Friday 19 December 2014

Indie Design GAL: Alhambra cowl

What feels like a lifetime ago (pre-children), I spent three years living in the beautiful city of Cambridge. I loved to roam the city in my free time, admiring the assorted architecture, watching the world go by and breathing in the air in the many green spaces that are scattered across the city. There are many things of note in Cambridge (including the world-renowned university), but here are a few:
  1. It is old
  2. It is beautiful
  3. It is flat, which brings us on to
  4. Everyone cycles, me included. I have never cycled anywhere else; Cambridge is very well suited to it, a lot of the streets are not really wide enough for cars, and the lack of hills makes it pretty easy. My bike got a puncture the week before I left Cambridge and I have still not fixed it over 5 years on (I blame the Durham hills)!
  5. In the winter it can get rather cold!
I have vivid memories of a particularly cold winter, when every morning for a week I cycled to work in freezing fog; it was horrible! With this in mind I decided to hunt out a cowl pattern for a friend who still lives in Cambridge. I had the yarn in mind, a skein of Malabrigo Rasta, leftover from my Arabella scarf, so looked through the superchunky cowl patterns in the Indie Design GAL on Ravelry (full details can be found here; note that you will have to be logged into Ravelry for the link to work) and stumbled across Sarah Sundemeyer's designs, which include two superchunky cowls, both with Rasta as the recommended yarn.

Sarah's Sorrento cowl has a gorgeous texture; through a clever use of wraps and cables it looks woven, and would make a lovely last minute gift; there's even a matching hat. The pattern for the cowl is also in the supplement that comes with Issue 42 of Knit Now, which is in the shops now.

Sorrento Cowl, image copyright Sarah Sundermeyer
I decided to go with her Alhambra cowl as it knits a little bigger without any adjustment - when cycling in freezing fog being able to snuggle deep into the cowl while sat at traffic lights is a bonus! The cowl features a simple lattice pattern which I thought would work well with the level of variegation in the yarn.

Alhambra cowl, image copyright Sarah Sundermeyer

I sometimes struggle with knitting with superchunky yarn as it gets very heavy very quickly, and I find knitting with the thick needles required a bit cumbersome, but, that aside, this pattern was very easy to knit. Handily the tension for this project is the same as for the last project I knitted in this yarn, so I skipped the tension square step, which I did have a minor panic about when I was about halfway through the cowl and it looked a bit on the small side, but it was fine after blocking. The instructions are written very clearly, and I managed to knit the cowl in a couple of evenings (and definitely could have managed it in one if I hadn't had children to contend with). It did take me a few days to get round to washing and blocking it - this is not the time of year for things to dry quickly! And then it took me even longer to get round to photographing it as daylight is lacking at this time of year. But here it is, the finished cowl.

The first photo I took, which I managed to take zoomed in way too far, but it's still my favourite, c'est la vie...
If you don't want to snuggle into your cowl, I also like it folded back on itself
If I made it again for me I'd add a few more stitches (they can be added in multiples of four), but adding too many more stitches might push you over into a second skein, which is fine if you have some scraps leftover from another project, but annoying if you don't. It should be fine on my friend though; I hope it keeps her warm on her bike this winter.

Showing off the stitch pattern and the pretty variegation

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Indie Design GAL 2014: Rudi

The Indie Design GAL on Ravelry (full details can be found here; note that you will have to be logged into Ravelry for the link to work) is a little beyond its halfway mark, so I thought I'd show you my latest knit for it, a new Rudi jumper for 2014.

My first Rudi jumper was knitted a couple of years ago for my son when a school friend suggested that we all wear 'awful' Christmas jumpers for our Christmas reunion dinner. As we were taking my son to the dinner I thought I'd play along by knitting him a super-cute Christmas sweater, and Rudi is what I came up with. It was my first attempt at designing a jumper, and I'm still really pleased with how it turned out.

A couple of weeks ago my son was looking at my designs on Ravelry, and asked me if he could have a new reindeer jumper. The last week in November is not the best time to receive a request for a Christmas jumper (even if it's worn every day in December, it still only gets 31 days wear; by January Christmas jumpers don't tend to get much wear, and he's growing so fast it won't fit next year), but how could I refuse such a request?

Having hunted through the stash and discovering that I didn't have several of the colours in the right weight a trip to a yarn store was necessary. As the yarn was for a children's jumper I didn't want to spend too much money, so took a trip to Boye's (a local-ish chain of hardware/haberdasher/clothing, etc. stores that sell a good variety of inexpensive yarn lines) with my son in tow. We quickly accumulated the yarn we needed, my son choosing a big ball of green as the main colour (I personally would have chosen something a bit brighter, but I guess he's growing up), and paid before I could buy anything else.

I love knitting with aran weight yarn, it seems to hit the sweet spot for my knitting and projects grow really quickly, and managed to knit the back and sleeves in one evening each. The front took a little longer as I had to incorporate the picture, but was still done in a couple of days, and whole jumper was finished on December 1st, just in time for my son to wear for his first nursery day of December.

The jumper is a hit, with my son wearing it three days in a row last week (admittedly it had to be washed twice during those two days, I was so glad I'd gone for some yarn that dried quickly!). I think I'll have to make the next size up for next year, but maybe I should start before the last week in November! Handily I have enough yarn leftover from this one that I won't need to buy any more for next year's.

Monday 8 December 2014

Christmas stockings

I still remember my first Christmas stocking. It was blue with Snoopy skiing on it, made from one of those cloth kits where the design is printed on a sheet of fabric, then you cut out the bits and stitch them together. My brother had my stocking's sibling, which was red with Snoopy decorating a tree on it. They're probably both still in a drawer at my parents' house. I loved hanging the stocking on the end of the bed on Christmas eve and putting out mince pies for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph.

Fast forward several years, and now I'm excited about my children hanging out their stockings for Father Christmas. This is the first year that my son is big enough to be excited about Christmas and he will be using the stocking I knitted for his first Christmas. It's red with cream fairisle around the top of the leg and round the foot, a Debbie Bliss design. Obviously I had a little over a year to knit my son's stocking, but somehow didn't quite get round to casting on until December 18th, and finally finished it late on Christmas eve, just in time for Santa to fill it with presents.

Of course I've learnt from this experience, and have my daughter's stocking ready to go for her first Christmas. Except that I haven't, in fact I haven't even cast on! I have made a stocking this year though...

A couple of months ago a friend emailed me to ask if I would knit a stocking for her daughter's first Christmas. She'd sent me a few pictures of things she liked: Scandinavian style striped fairisle stockings in red, green and cream, but not looking like the Italian flag. I deliberated for a bit about whether to go ahead and knit it, and in the end went with yes. Every child needs a stocking!

I chose a nicely rustic aran weight yarn, Drops Alaska, a 100% untreated wool (as it's a stocking it won't need washing very frequently, and the shade of red in that yarn was perfect, not too bright), and set to work charting some Scandinavian style stripes.

Once I'd worked out a few charts and decided which order to put them in, I got started on knitting the stocking. I don't have much experience knitting socks, so based my stocking on this basic pattern. I had to alter the stitch count a little to fit my designs on, but it did at least give me a starting point, especially when it came to the heel, which I wouldn't have had a clue on. The leg and foot lengths were entirely dictated by the widths of the stripes I'd charted (I shuffled the stripe order a bit so the leg and foot were in the right proportions).

Knitting the stocking was really enjoyable. I don't often do stranded knitting, but managed to get the tension about right so it didn't pull in too much (I have been known to pull it all in so tightly that the resulting fabric has no give). Really annoyingly I ran out of red yarn about 10 rows from the end of the toe, so had to order some more and wait for it to be delivered (no one locally stocks it, so I actually spent almost as much on the postage and packing as I did on the yarn, it was at least the right dye lot though, so not entirely frustrating; I was very well behaved and didn't buy any other yarn while I was ordering).

My friend had requested that I line the stocking to stop little fingers and odd-shaped presents catching on the floats, so I had to knit the whole stocking again, without the pretty bits, which was slightly less fun. My tension between the inner and the outer was a little different, so I had to adjust the number of rows for the lining. Once both parts were knitted I washed and blocked them to get them to approximately the same size, then I embroidered the recipient's name on the outer.

After the embroidery I mattress stitched the two pieces together, and voilĂ , one stocking!

I really like this stocking, and had a lovely message from my friend saying that she loved it. Now I just need to decide what stocking to knit for my daughter. I probably ought to get a move on...

Sunday 7 December 2014

Indie Design GAL: Antiquity Mitts

I enjoyed knitting my Farm to Market Mitts so much that I thought I'd look at casting on a few more pairs of mitts for the knit along part of the Indie Design GAL on Ravelry (full details can be found here; note that you will have to be logged into Ravelry for the link to work). I chose Antiquity by Alicia Plummer purely on the recommendation from Corley when I interviewed her a few weeks ago. They're a really delicate looking set of mitts, with a Broderie Anglaise stitch pattern worked across the body of the mitt and the thumbs knitted straight. I think they'd make perfect reading mitts for those days when your hands are just a bit chilly when you're sat still reading a book and thus can't hide your hands under a blanket.

I decided to use cream Debbie Bliss Rialto DK, left over from another project (in fact unravelled from an ill-fated hat). The pattern recommends casting on using the alternate cable cast on, which I hadn't used before, so had to Google. The cast on required a bit of thought, but looked much better than the standard cable cast on (my default) when combined with the ribbing, so I'll definitely use it again. There are also variants of the cast on for different types of ribbing (e.g. 2x2 and 2x1), so I might look into those too when I get a chance.

The mitts come in three sizes: 7, 8 and 9 inch hand circumference, and I deliberated hard about which size to cast on. These mitts are going to be a gift for a friend from university, and overall she is much smaller than me, but I do have surprisingly narrow hands, so I ummed and ahhed over which size to knit. I started off by casting on the smallest size, having a moment of doubt, pulling them out, casting on the medium size, deciding they would be too big, then starting again with the smallest size.

The stitch pattern was pretty straightforward - it did take a couple of attempts to get my head round the elongated stitches, but after the first couple they were easy, and the stitch pattern was easy to memorise. The thumb gusset increases are yarn overs; I knitted through the back of the them to close them a bit. I didn't pay enough attention to the thumb gusset increase instructions on the first mitt though and managed to work the increases too fast, so had to pull back about an inch, then pay more attention the second time round!

Knitting with cream yarn is a bit fraught for me. I was happily drinking a hot chocolate whilst finishing off the first mitt, and had a minor 'what am I doing??!!' panic, but the mitt made it unscathed!

Overall these mitts were a very satisfying knit, complex enough to be interesting, simple enough to not require too much thought. And I really like how they look now they're done (and blocked, before blocking they were a little lumpy in places; for some reason I wasn't great at stopping ladders at my needle changeovers in this stitch pattern). I'd definitely recommend this pattern.

Tuesday 2 December 2014

And the winner is...

Thank you to everyone who entered my competition to win a copy of my Christmas pudding hat pattern; it's always nice to know that I'm not just talking to myself! The winner (using a random number generator) is Noodles & Poodles (RavID: Dadouz). I shall be in touch shortly with your prize. Happy knitting!

Monday 1 December 2014

A month in knitting: November 2014

It's that time of the month again; what have I achieved this month?

Dripping on the Side
It's not my favourite hat ever, but is getting quite a lot of wear while I try and find time to knit another hat! You can read all about my making of it in a previous blog post.

Farm to Market Mitts
Knitted as part of the Indie Design GAL, really quick and very effective. I think I'll be making more of these. 

Star-Crossed Slouchy Beret
Technically finished last month, but finally got round to blocking it this month. My fifth of this pattern, it knits up quickly and makes an excellent last minute gift.

Granny's Favourite
My third of these, this one is destined for a friend's daughter. I cast it on last month, and lost interest about halfway through the body. I hadn't realised quite how close we were to the occasion the cardigan is for, so had to speed knit the rest of the body and the sleeves. I love it now it's done, but it might be time to put this pattern to one side for a bit.

Christmas Pudding Hat
As the title suggests, a Christmas pudding hat for my daughter. I've knitted about 5 of these over the past two years and still love them. It always gets lots of compliments; you can read more about my knitting the hat in this blog post.


Lily's Christmas stocking
At the request of a friend, I knitted a lovely festive Christmas stocking, which I'm sure I'll tell you all about in more detail later.

Are we nearly there yet?
Antiquity Mitts 
My handbag project for the past week, these were lovely to knit, and I really like them now I've cast off. Just waiting for them to be blocked now.

The wedding blanket
Some progress has been made, I'm over halfway. I will need to focus on crocheting this blanket though for the next few weeks to get it done on time!

Stash rotation
  • 400 g of Hayfield Bonus Aran in Neon. This one is not actually my fault; I ordered a ball of this last month to finish the wedding blanket, but when it arrived the texture was all wrong, so this is a complimentary ball from Sirdar. Thank you Sirdar, this one is much better!
  • 100 g pale blue baby DK. I needed some pale blue for a swatch for a submission, but didn't have any in my stash (although as I type this I think I might but was looking in the wrong place, oops!)
  • 100 g navy blue DK for swatching 
  • 100 g Drops Alaska, 100% wool; 50 g in Dark Red and 50 g in Off-White. Really annoyingly I ran out of yarn on the toe of the stocking I'm knitting, so had to order some more. I hate it when that happens. I was good though and didn't see what else I could buy at the same time
  • 50 g wool/acrylic blend. Free gift with Knit Now, so not sure it really counts. I should be able to use it though, the polar bear pattern it comes will be a perfect Christmas present for my son 
  • 200 g King Cole Magnum Chunky for a couple of hats for a friend's daughters - I didn't have anything appropriate in stash, and the girls need these hats!
  • 600 g aran weight yarn for a Rudi jumper for my son. He was insistent the jumper should be green and I didn't have any, and the shade he wanted only came in 400 g balls, always the way. Some of the colours I needed are from stash, but I also had to buy two shades of brown too.
  • 600 g ruffle yarn. It was a bargain, I could not resist!

  • 50 g Debbie Bliss Rialto DK in burnt orange. This is the yarn I made my daughter's pumpkin hat from - I'm not likely to make another in the near future, so have donated my spare ball to a friend at my knitting group who was admiring the colour while I was knitting the hat.
  • 70 g Stylecraft Life aran for my Dripping on the Side
  • 45 g James C. Brett Pure Merino for the Farm to Market Mitts
  • 61 g Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran for the Star Crossed Slouchy Beret
  • 106 g James C. Brett Top Value DK for Granny's Favourite
  • 47 g Wendy Merino DK for the Christmas pudding hat
  • 440 g Drops Alaska for a Christmas stocking
Total: +1331 g 
Oops, really had better get working on that blanket. On the plus side, that's marginally better than last month. Better luck next month!

Aims for December
  1. Finish the wedding blanket!!!
  2. A stocking for my daughter
  3. Summer into Fall by Lisa Chemery
  4. Alhambra Cowl by Sarah Sundermeyer
  5. Buy less yarn than I use...

Friday 28 November 2014

Indie Design GAL 2014: Meet a Designer, Cristina Ghirlanda

The knit and crochet along part of the Indie Design GAL on Ravelry is continuing apace (there are prizes to be won; see here for full details, note that you will have to be logged into Ravelry for the link to work), and I am delighted today to be interviewing a fellow GAL designer, Cristina Ghirlanda (minimi on Ravelry; her design portfolio can be seen on her Ravelry designer page, she can also be found on her blog and Facebook page). As I said in a previous blog post, I am in love with Cristina's Polonaise hat, and, even though it is at the very edge of my cable knitting skills, I hope to at least cast it on before the end of the GAL (I can't make it too high a priority as that hat will definitely be for me, and gifts probably ought to come first; it might become my Christmas break knitting).

Polonaise hat, image copyright Cristina Ghirlanda

1.How long have you been knitting? And who taught you to knit?
My mother is a knitter and she taught me to knit as a child. I was never interested though, until the discovery of wooden needles in 2006. I would not knit without them!

2.When and why did you start designing?
The very reason that I knit is that I want to create exactly what I have in mind. The only way to do that is to design my own. At the beginning I was only designing for myself. Then to my surprise, there was an interest in what I was designing, so I've started designing seriously since 2013.

3.Which of your designs are you proudest of?
My favourite design is Bella Vita Cardigan. It's the kind of plain sweater that I want to live in.

Bella Vita Cardigan, image copyright Cristina Ghirlanda
 4.If money was no object, what would be your dream crafting item?
A professional model! That's not exactly a crafting item ;-)

5.You design for adults, children and babies. Which is your favourite age group to design for?
I have no preference, I still have to try to design for men though.

6.What inspires your designs?
People. Some of my design ideas are from answering the question "what would look great on THAT person?".

7.I love all your beautiful cabled designs. Do you have any tips for anyone who hasn’t knitted cables before?
Inspect your work often. There is nothing more irritating that discovering that you have crossed a cable wrongly several inches below.

Minimissimi Sweater Coat, image copyright Cristina Ghirlanda

8.You have a toddler. Is he interested in your knitting, and have you tried to teach him to knit yet?
My son loves winding yarn! He's still too little to learn to knit.

9.If you’re not working on one of your own designs, do you have a favourite designer whose patterns you turn to?
I like trying patterns from new designers!

10.What’s your favourite knitting technique?
Knitting in the round. I hate purling!

11.Are there any techniques you’re keen to learn?

Fair isle.

12.Are there any techniques you have no interest in learning?
I'm open to learning anything, not just in knitting!

13.What are your design ambitions?
Make a living by designing alone.

14.At Bake Day Wednesday we like a nice piece of cake, so what is your favourite type of cake?
Chocolate muffin! I hope to share my favourite recipe soon on my blog!

It has been lovely getting to know about more about Cristina, and she has been added to my Ravelry favourites list! Her latest design, Flip, is a lovely unisex design in sizes up to 10 years, and is available now in her Ravelry store.

Flip, image copyright Cristina Ghirlanda

Thursday 27 November 2014

Indie Design GAL 2014: Christmas Pudding Hat

The knit and crochet along part of the Indie Design GAL on Ravelry is in full swing (there are prizes to be won; see here for full details, note that you will have to be logged into Ravelry for the link to work), and I've been knitting one of my own patterns, the Christmas Pudding Hat, as my latest project in the KAL. The Christmas Pudding Hat was the first pattern I published, just over two years ago, and is still one of my most popular. I was hoping that my daughter would be able to wear the prototype that I knitted for my son, however, my daughter is much smaller than my son ever was, so that hat is massive on her! So I hunted through the stash and located the leftovers from Can't Catch Me (Wendy Merino DK), which are the perfect colours for a rustic pudding, as well as being lovely and soft and warm - perfect for winter.

The hat was a pretty quick knit; I finished it in a couple of days. The hat itself is knitted in reverse stocking stitch - I enjoy purling, but know it's not everyone's cup of tea, so you could just as easily knit the hat in standard stocking stitch, then turn it inside out. The sauce is knitted separately, then stitched in place as I liked the three-dimensional effect that gives, then the leaves and berries are knitted and attached at the end.

All blocked and ready to wear now! Just need to wait for December to start, then it shall be worn pretty much constantly!

Competition time!
Do you want to knit a Christmas Pudding Hat too? The pattern is available in my Ravelry store, and is written for 5 sizes from baby to adult male. Also, in the spirit of the GAL, I'm giving away one copy of the pattern. If you'd like to win it, leave your Ravelry username or email address in the comments section by 11.59pm GMT on Sunday 30th November 2014 and I'll draw a name from the (metaphorical, possibly even actual) hat sometime on Monday. The winner will be announced on my blog and contacted via email or Ravelry messenger.

Friday 21 November 2014

Indie Design GAL 2014: Farm to Market Mitts

I picked up Aimee Alexander's Market to Farm Mitts as part of the Indie Design GAL sale on the basis that they had an interesting cable pattern, and would make an excellent speedy gift. Wanting a quick project I had a quick rummage through the stash and located several pairs of balls of Merino DK in a selection of colours. The pattern calls for 120 m, so one ball should just do it, but it's always worth having a little in reserve, just in case. I went for some pink James C. Brett Pure Merino that I've had in the stash for a couple of years; I bought it with the intention of making a pair of fairisle mittens for a university friend, but have never got round to it, so these slightly less time-consuming mitts are for her!

The pattern is great, really clearly written with a lovely clear chart. There's even a handy table of stitch count vs. charted row number (which would have been even handier had I noticed it before I did the final thumb gusset increase row on the second mitt! For reference, it's just below the chart). The instructions are pretty straightforward and I found it easy to memorise the sections between the cable rows (I never managed to memorise the cable row, even after two mitts), and the cable is only knitted every 8th row, so there's not too much to keep track of.

I risked not doing a tension square, I've used this yarn recently enough at this tension that I was confident that 2.5 mm and 2.75 mm needles would be fine. The mitts grew quickly (although their growth was much slower when feeding a baby at the same time! I still managed to knit both in three days whilst working on a couple of other projects too), and were very satisfying to knit. I kept trying them on while knitting them and they're lovely and cosy. Pre-blocking they were a little snug on my 7.5 inch circumference hands, but they'll give a bit on blocking, so I'm sure they'll fit well (and my friend has smaller hands than me; obviously that was written before the mitts were blocked, and after blocking they were perfect!).

One very minor thing to note is that the cable requires two cable needles, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend it as a first cable project. I couldn't work out how to do the cable without using cable needles, although it's probably possible. I used a spare circular needle instead of two cable needles as it meant I only had one extra item to keep track of; it worked really well, and I'm really pleased with how crisp the cables look.

Overall I'd say this was a really enjoyable knit; interesting but not too taxing, and the resulting mitts look great. I only needed 111 m to knit them, so still have a spare ball of yarn to do something else with. And remember, if you buy the pattern before 11.59 pm (EST) on November 21st 2014 you can get 25% off using the code giftalong2014.

Having said I was being restrained and not buying any more patterns, three more have leapt into my basket (nothing to do with me, honest!). I've enjoyed knitting these mitts so much that I've bought two more mitts patterns: Given 'Em The Slip Mitts by Triona Murphy (I saw someone else's shared to the GAL group on Ravelry and fell in love), and Antiquity by Alicia Plummer (purely on Corley Grove's suggestion in my interview with her); and another hat pattern, Tupelo Slouch by Sara Gresbach (I'd been deliberating over buying it, then saw a finished project and knew I had to buy the pattern). I have yarn in stash for them all, but am certain I won't get everything I've bought patterns for knitted before the end of the GAL, but they're all at the top of the queue, so over the next year people I know are going to get some lovely gifts!