Monday 30 March 2015


You may remember that at the start of the year I was working on a cabled baby blanket for my nephew. Well, I completed it in January and showed you a picture in my January round-up, but never told you all about it. So here it is, my Pargetry baby blanket.

I loved working on this blanket. The project was just the right size for me to enjoy the cables without getting bored of them, and waiting for the next crossover to appear kept me motivated throughout. The resulting blanket is very soft and squishy, perfect for snuggling up with. This definitely won't be the last cabled project of the year; I know many, many people expecting babies this year (7 at the last count), so there might be several more baby blankets, and some will definitely feature cables!

Somehow, around two small children, I've managed to get the pattern written up - with fully written and charted cables, in four sizes (baby, single bed, double bed and king-sized bed) - and tested, so, as of today, it's available in my Ravelry store. Those of you in the EU might have to wait a day or two for the pattern to become available for purchase, please be patient!

Thursday 26 March 2015

FO: Sockhead hat

I showed you this one a few weeks ago, and I think this might be the longest it's ever taken me to knit a hat (at least, the most time actually spent knitting a hat - hats that got abandoned for many months probably technically took longer). It took me a little over three weeks, and it feels like the ribbing took most of that time; it took forever! Once I was onto the stocking stitch it was much faster.

Brim down

This hat is really straightforward - lots of 2x2 rib, lots of stocking stitch in the round, a few decrease rounds, fasten off and you're done. The project was excellent for working on whilst watching TV, and for carrying round in my bag and knitting the odd row here and there. But being easy didn't mean it wasn't interesting. I love the yarn (Devon Sun Yarns Dazzler). I don't think I can say that enough. The colours are beautiful, and there's even a little bit of sparkle (just a tiny bit; enough to catch the light, not quite enough to appear in photos). I really enjoyed seeing what happened next with it. They hat started off with pretty spirals that got closer and closer together, then spread out again. There is one chevron in the hat, right up in the crown. I was a little concerned that the yarn might turn into crazy chevrons all over the place, but it was actually pretty controlled. I really enjoyed knitting the yarn to see what would happen next.
Super slouchy

I mentioned when I showed you this as a work in progress that I wasn't sure it would fit, but thankfully it does. If I knitted it again I'd add an additional 8 stitches on top of the 8 I already added, but more so the decreases at the top were perfect rather than specifically to improve the fit. I really like how this hat fits: with the brim down it is super-slouchy and really shows off the yarn, and it's easy to make the hat a bit less slouchy by folding the brim back on itself (which has the added advantage of keeping your ears cosy). I have a feeling I'll be making more of these, and I might use the measurements to make some slightly quicker DK weight versions in the future.
Brim up

Obviously I have finished this hat just in time for spring, so it probably won't get much wear before the autumn, but there is some hope - I keep hearing people predicting snow over Easter, and just this once, that sounds like a good idea!
A bit less slouchy

If you want to knit your own, the pattern is Sockhead Hat by Kelly McClure.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Little red riding socks: Part 1

Having triumphantly finished my first pair of socks a few weeks, I decided that it was time to cast on my second pair. The yarn choice was easy: I had bought some red Araucania Ranco just before the start of Lent that was just begging to be cast on. As for the technique, that was a little more complex. I could just have knitted a second pair identical to the first, but the idea of knitting socks two-at-a-time appeals, and a friend had lent me a book on knitting toe-up two-at-a-time socks, so that was what I went for.

I considered winding the yarn into two balls, but had stumbled across a blog post that mentioned being able to make a double stranded centre-pull ball for knitting two-at-a-time socks, an idea that intrigued me. So I did some Googling and found a blog post (that I now can't find...) with a pretty good photo tutorial. Essentially you find both ends of your skein, and, holding the two strands together, tie a slip knot and put the loop around the handle of a wooden spoon, then just wind your yarn round the spoon to make a ball. As you don't cut the yarn, it should be possible to use all your wool. My ball is a bit messy, but it was much quicker to wind than winding two balls!

I didn't bother with tension square; one of the advantages of knitting toe-up, is that you can knit so far up the toes, then measure the tension before deciding how many stitches your sock needs. Somehow I managed to get 8.5 sts per inch - definitely the tightest I've ever knitted anything - which might have something to do with having both socks on one needle. Having learnt about the importance of negative ease from my first socks, I worked out that I needed 76 sts.

I found casting on the socks fairly straightforward, but then, none of the techniques are new to me. I've cast on lots of things using Judy's magic cast on, and once knitted a pair of mittens two-at-a-time, although they did end up with two fewer stitches on one mitten than the other, oops. I did learn a new increase though - I have done backward loop increases before, but not left and right leaning. The increase is very straightforward, but if I drop the increased stitch I can't work out how to fix it, hence the slightly loose stitch somewhere on one of the toes.

And now the toes are done and all I have to do is knit for a while. I'm already seeing the advantage of knitting them two-at-a-time; I don't have to take note of how many rows I've knitted as both socks are the same, and while each row is slower as there are more stitches, I'm only having to rearrange the cable half as frequently, so each row is taking less than twice the time it would to knit a round for one sock. I think these socks might be quite quick! There is a bit of maths involved in working out where the heel should go, but I'm leaving that for a bit. The only thing I'm finding a bit frustrating is the centre-pull ball, which seems determined to suffer from terrible yarn barf. On the plus side I am getting pretty good at untangling knots!

Friday 20 March 2015

Two eggs on top

Today was eclipse day, so we excitedly watched the sky while it got progressively... cloudier. Ah well, we did experience it getting a bit darker, and my son got very excited when the clouds thinned a little and he could see a 'sun moon'. I did try to explain what was going on, and he interpreted it as the sun and moon playing hide and seek, which was close enough.

After the slightly anticlimactic eclipse experience, we decided to do something we'd planned on dong for a few days: make 'two eggs on top' cakes, or, as they are more conventionally called, chocolate cornflake cakes. My son has been rather excited by these cakes for a while as our local baker sells them all year round, and they are definitely his most requested treat. We have made them before, but not at a time of year when Mini Eggs are available, so this morning's bake was an extra special treat.

While there are many methods for making crispy cakes, I go for the most straightforward: melt some milk chocolate in the microwave (we used about 175 g this morning), then stir in cornflakes (Sainsbury's cheapest, even I was staggered that they were only 25p!) until they are all coated in the chocolate, then spoon the mixture into cupcake cases, stick a couple of Mini Eggs on each and leave them to set. Super quick and easy, but very good.

Now all I have to do is resist them! Only a couple of weeks left until Easter!

Thursday 19 March 2015


Finally, spring is here! Ok, so officially spring doesn't start for another couple of days, but today it felt as though it was spring.

This morning looked pretty unpromising, with fog and not a scrap of blue to be seen. I had planned to go to the Botanic Garden to take some photos, but the day looked like it was going to be dull, so I didn't pick up the camera. Wrong decision! By lunchtime the temperature was all the way up to 15 °C and the sun was shining brightly, so we went to the Botanic Garden anyway.

For a few minutes at least, both children were happy to entertain themselves, so I got on with a little knitting in the sunshine. The project is the hat I showed you a couple of weeks ago, and it's making excellent progress - just the crown decreases to go now.

My hat just fits in this bag! Admittedly it fitted better at the start of the project when it was mostly a tightly bound ball of yarn.

We did a lot of running about with my son, as well as feeding the fish and hunting for the creepy crawlies in the glass houses (thankfully all the spiders and the like are safely displayed behind glass, otherwise I wouldn't be so keen on looking at them), but I did get a few chances to enjoy the spring flowers that are just coming out.

I love the crocuses in their watering can. The colours are wonderful after the lack of colour that comes with winter.

And daffodils. Admittedly these are in the car park as the ones in the bits of the gardens that we visited are still just shoots and buds, but they are glorious nonetheless. I can't imagine ever getting bored of daffodils, they are definitely one of my favourite flowers.

Hope you're all enjoying the warmer weather and the signs of spring. I really hope that spring is here to stay! And next time I'll take a proper camera with me...

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Mother's Day

Last Sunday was Mother's Day in the UK, and I was away (entirely unintentionally - I'd booked to go and see my sister and her new baby for the weekend without checking the calendar terribly thoroughly). So I was delighted that before I went I got taken out for dinner on Wednesday evening (steak and ale pie, with chips, delicious!), and on Thursday I was handed a box with a very familiar postage stamp on the corner - Devon Sun Yarns, yay!

I'd mentioned Daisy's Mother's Day boxes to my husband several weeks ago and he hadn't mentioned anything, then last Tuesday morning I was browsing yarn sites on my phone and he asked whether he should have received an invoice for 'that yarn box thing'. I emailed Daisy who dealt with it all very swiftly; something had gone wrong with the invoicing and while she'd sent several reminders, none of them had got through either. We got it all sorted within a couple of days, and I got my lovely box of yarn on time.

The Mother's Day box had lots of customisable options, including yarn weight, number of skeins and colour range, so I gave my husband a little guidance as he doesn't know that much about yarn. I requested sock weight (when buying special yarn I aim thinner so it goes further), in either rainbows or jewel colours and left the rest up to him. I'd suggested that one or two skeins would be perfect, so I was very surprised (and delighted) when I opened the box and found not one, not two, but three skeins of rainbow striped yarn! The yarn is lovely, merino with bamboo, very squishable. I haven't decided what I'm going to do with it yet, possibly a shawl, maybe a Hitchhiker, and maybe some socks with what's left, but as it's special yarn I'm going to wait until I find the special project to make with it.

The box also contained lots of other goodies: a notebook, a tea bag, a little pot of body butter (which smells amazing), gorgeous blocking pins with floral heads, a cute flower stitch marker, and a wooden (I think) 'Best Mum' pebble. There was also a Lindt chocolate that my husband very kindly (!) ate for me as I've given up chocolate for Lent.

All in all an excellent gift, the only downside being that my husband might now realise how much my yarn habit is costing!

Tuesday 10 March 2015

A small confession

You might remember that I said I was giving up buying yarn for Lent. Well I was doing really well, resisting going into yarn shops, and starting a couple of new projects exclusively from stash, and felt pretty good about it, but...

Last week my March yarn club box from Devon Sun Yarns and I hid it away in my wardrobe to be opened at Easter (I'd already acknowledged that this was arriving and my compromise was that it would remain sealed). But after a weekend that definitely couldn't be described as one of the best ever (my three year old had a throwing up bug, cue not a lot of sleep and a lot of extra washing, all while we were away from home), and a Monday that was just one of those days (said three year old being fully recovered and rather energetic, I felt exhausted, cold and generally a bit under the weather), by Tuesday morning I could no longer resist.

This month's yarn is beautiful. It's sock weight merino and bamboo, splashed with lots of wonderful spring colours all on a white background. It is so cheerful and I can't wait to cast something on, although I will put that off until after Easter (in part because the necessary needles are tied up in another project; I really must buy another set of 2 mm circulars). I'm thinking either socks or another Sockhead Hat, but probably socks.
The extras in the box are also lovely: a stitch marker with a tiny silver hare on it, and a set of novelty rabbit paper clips (I already have lots of novelty paper clips - birds and elephants - and they make me smile every time I use them). All in all an excellent month!

Monday 9 March 2015

Nate hoodie

I started this hoodie a long time ago, November 2013 to be precise, and abandoned it not long after, finally picking it up again last month when I vowed to empty the box of unfinished projects
The pattern is designed to be knitted using variegated yarn for the body and a solid for the sleeves and trims. I switched this to green and cream stripes for the body and a darker green for the trim. The major selling point of the pattern is the seamless hood, which is knitted a bit like a sock heel, and is great if you don't like seams, or if, like me, you like to test out new construction techniques.

I remember knitting most of the body on a train journey to and from Oxford, but then clearly lost interest as when I fished it out of the box I had only got as far as the body and hood. I could have sworn I was knitting the 9 month size, but when I checked the numbers it turns out I was actually knitting the 12 month size (obviously I would have been handy to have written that down somewhere...). Fortunately I had written down needle sizes and gauge in Ravelry, which was a relief as I didn't fancy re-swatching the whole thing; if I'd had to do that the jumper probably wouldn't have been finished! Unfortunately I couldn't find needles though as I'm bad at putting things away when I'm done! I used Ravelry's advanced project search to see which project they might be with, and finally found the needles with the yarn for the Rudi sweater that I made at the end of last year.
Balloons, great for blocking hoods
I'm not sure what my original plan was with the contrast sleeves, so went with stripes and contrast cuffs to match the rest of the jumper. I hadn't done jogless stripes for the main body of the sweater, but decided to for the sleeves, which was possibly a mistake as they've jogged rather more than I'd have liked - I carried the new yarn under the old yarn as you would in intarsia, but have a feeling I should have carried it over the old yarn, but never mind, I'm not unravelling them and redoing them, or the jumper would never get finished!
Not totally jogless stripes
Having knitted the sleeves I think I know why I gave up on this one. The yarn (Adriafil Regina, 100% merino wool), while being very soft, is rather splitty, and for whatever reason the stitches are not terrible even, even though my stitches are generally fine. I also think it would be happier being knitted at DK gauge (22 sts to 4 inches) rather than at worsted gauge (20 sts to 4 inches) as it feels rather drapey for a children's jumper, but never mind. I persevered and after blocking it looks ok.
Slightly uneven stitches

There are a couple of aspects on the pattern that I didn't like. The sleeves are a bit loose for my liking (although this will make it easier to get onto a wiggly baby), and you have to finish the very bottom of the neckline by stitching down the ends of the button band, which I think looks a bit messy. Those details and the fact that I've seen this jumper for long enough mean I'm unlikely to knit the pattern again.
Rather fiddly buttons and button band

I also had problems with the buttons for this one. They're little wooden cars, bought very cheaply direct from China via eBay and the holes are tiny! I had to remove a single ply from my yarn, then use a needle with a very narrow eye to stitch them on, which was a bit of a faff. In the end though, I'd say the jumper looks good. I like the colours and the style of the hoodie.

The jumper won't fit its original intended recipient - he is now nearly two - so I'm passing it on to a friend in my knitting group (she's a crocheter) who admired it while I was knitting the sleeves and has a little boy who's almost 6 months, so it should be perfect for him. I had a lovely time wrapping it up: I was given a 'Hand Knitted by Vikki Bird' stamp for Christmas that I've not yet had the opportunity to use, so used it to stamp one side of my care instructions label, then I wrapped the parcel with some fab moustache tissue paper recycled from one of my Christmas presents. But the best bit of all? It's no longer an unfinished project!

Finishing touches

Friday 6 March 2015

The trouble with socks: Part 6

Finally, I have a pair of socks! Hooray!

And they match (although not quite perfectly). One is marginally smaller than the other as it is from the fully unravelled sock, so the yarn was stretched before use. But they're very close.

I wore them for the first time on Monday and discovered that they work well inside my walking shoes (default footwear at present), but not so well inside my slipper boots, so I'll have to knit myself some slipper socks sometime! I will have to learn how to make my cast on a bit looser though as one sock was a tad snug at the top, not so much that it was uncomfortable, just enough that I noticed it.

So what have I learnt from knitting my first pair of socks?
  1. Sock maths! The mathematics of socks is actually pretty straight forward once you've knitted three in two different sizes
  2. The importance of negative ease
  3. Hand knitted socks are comfy!
  4. Knitting with skinny yarn and tiny needles is pretty satisfying
  5. Sock yarn can be addictive. So many amazing indie dyers making so much pretty yarn!
As I've decided I'll definitely be knitting more socks, what are my next steps?
  1. I need to make my cast on slightly looser
  2. Two at a time socks (and how to hand wind a centre pull doubled ball so I can use every last inch of yarn)
  3. Socks from the toe up - there's some fabulous yarn I want to try!

Wednesday 4 March 2015

WIP Wednesday

As I cast off so many projects in February, many of them long-lingering, I thought I could cast on a couple of new things in the past few days completely guilt-free. So here are my two latest works in progress.
Rainbow blanket
I need to knit a few baby presents at the minute, so I thought I'd cast on my first: a blanket made from squares, half in rainbow colours, the other half with pictures. I'm not yet ready to let you know the blanket theme as I haven't even started sketching the picture squares, let alone charting or knitting them, but I am ready to start to show you the rainbow squares. All the yarn so far is from my stash; I've given myself a pallette of 6 colours, plus white and black. I'm not going to be able to finish the blanket without buying some more yellow though, so it will be stalled shortly as I'm not allowing myself to buy any yarn during Lent, but I'm making good progress so far. I'm really enjoying it too; lovely satisfying easy knitting, and so cheerful.

Sockhead hat
In January I purchased some gorgeous yarn from Devon Sun Yarns, the colours are too beautiful for socks, so I decided I'd make a Sockhead Hat instead. I've had a bit of a fluke on the number of stitches, and the yarn is creating wonderful spiral stripes - I spend as much time knitting it as I do staring at the colours! Even though I've added 8 extra stitches to the hat, and my tension is a bit looser than the pattern suggests, I'm still not certain it will be quite big enough, but the stripes are too beautiful to disrupt so keeping it as it is and will gift it if necessary.

Tuesday 3 March 2015

Let's bake for Comic Relief

Over the past few weeks, the BBC has been gearing up for Red Nose Day, a charity telefon that happens once every other year and raises money for the charity Comic Relief, which funds projects here in the UK and in Africa. The charity was set up in 1985 and has so far raised over £950 million, so is a pretty big deal. For many years now, Comic Relief have published a recipe book that comes with the tag line 'Let's Bake for Comic Relief', and in recent years has been tied in with The Great Comic Relief Bake Off, a celebrity version of The Great British Bake Off.

We're not going to be holding a bake sale for Comic Relief as we're busy, but I have bought a copy of the recipe book, and on Friday I got to test it out. My criteria for deciding what to cook were (1) it must not contain chocolate as I've given it up for Lent; (2) it must be able to be baked from ingredients we already had in the house. Lots of the recipes looked tempting, and many contained pretty basic ingredients, so I had plenty of choice. I fancied making the blueberry bakewell tarts, but didn't fancy making pastry, so had another look and decided that the next most likely option was the sunshine flapjack. I love flapjack, and pretty much lived on it while at university, but haven't made any in ages, so was really excited to try a new recipe.
The book is really good for beginner bakers, with lots of handy little tips and hints. The flapjack recipe had the excellent hint that you shouldn't add too much syrup, as otherwise the flapjack would become solid when cooled. No one wants rock-like flapjacks! Having said I had all the ingredients to hand I was out of mixed seeds, so used flaked almonds instead, which really isn't a major substitution.
The recipe was really easy to follow, with just the right amount of direction. I followed the instruction to cut the flapjack whilst hot, as it's pretty tricky otherwise. I did skip the bit about heating and greasing the knife used to cut it though as I wasn't that bothered about presentation as it was just family eating it.

If you're new to baking, I'd definitely recommend this book (well, more of a pamphlet really). The instructions are very clear and easy to follow, and most of the recipes are things I'd like to eat. And you're helping a charity, so win win! If you already own a lot of the Great British Bake Off tie-in books you might want to give it a miss as the recipes all come from those tie-in books, so you will get some duplication. But there are plenty of other Red Nose Day products available should you wish to support the charity in other ways. You could even hold a bake sale yourself. Red Nose Day merchandise is available in Sainsbury's stores and Oxfam shops.

Last week was also made a Hummingbird chocolate cake at my son's request. I agreed, even though I'm not currently eating chocolate. I did find it pretty hard to resist - chocolate cake just smells so inviting! We almost had a disaster with the cake; I was using a spring-form tin, but hadn't aligned the base properly so nearly lost all the mixture over the oven floor! Fortunately I noticed in time and was able to salvage it, but the base of the tin did have quite a lot of mixture cooked to the outside, and the final cake was a long way from level.

My son decided to finish the cake off with blue butter cream and sparkly stars. Not what I would have chosen at all, but he had a lovely time helping, so it was hard to argue with.

Sunday 1 March 2015

A month in knitting: February 2015

This month I decided to focus on getting long unfinished projects either finished or frogged. So how did I get on?

Scarf for Teddy
A rainbow of loveliness, you can read all about it here.

Scarf for my husband
From the box of abandoned projects, I finally finished this one in time for Valentine's Day.

The wedding blanket
Finally! It still needs photographing, but once I've done that I'll tell you all about it.

A squishy cowl
So soft and snuggly.

Nate hoodie
It still needs blocking and photographing, but is done having been fished out of the box of unfinished projects.

My first socks
They are done! And I am delighted with them! Full report to follow.

Still in progress
My dinosaur still needs his legs stitching on, but I haven't fancies that yet. Hopefully I might find time to do it this month.

I've cast on a sockhead hat from some sock yarn that is just too pretty to turn into socks.

Sadly departed...
The long abandoned cardigan
Has become a pile of balls of yarn and donated to a charity shop.

The yellow dinosaur
Never to be finished, he ended up in the bin. 

The tiger stripe cardigan 
It was never meant to be.

Stash shuffling
  • 2 x 100 g skeins of Araucania Ranco. A friend said she really liked working with this, but sadly it's discontinued. So I felt I had to buy a couple of skeins from my local yarn shop (The Woolly Workshop) before they ran out. I went with very subtly variegated reds and turquoises. I love the colours! I've added them to the sock yarn stash; I see more socks in my future! I am sorely tempted by some of the other colours, but I shall refrain for now.
  • 400 g of Ranco pre-Lent; 100 g red, 300 g undyed. I'm really looking forward to dyeing it in the garden in the summer with my son.
  • 20 g dinosaur parts from the box of unfinished projects
  • 605 g unravelled cardigan from the box of unfinished projects
  • 43 g scarf for Teddy
  • 256 g scarf for my husband
  • 55 g a top-secret commission
  • 167 g blanket squares that I posted to my mum
  • 127 g Tiger striped jacket
  • 2446 g The wedding blanket
  • 93 g Squishy cowl 
  • 151 g Nate hoodie
- 3562 g!!! Excellent news, finally a proper dent in the stash!

Aims for March
  1. Complete one baby blanket
  2. Keep up the yarn non-buying