Sunday 31 May 2015

Super socks

You may remember that in April I showed you my first foray into hand dyeing yarn. Well, here are the socks up knitted using that first skein.

The yarn didn't turn out quite as I had expected; I had anticipated a more uniform gradient, and for the burgundy sections to turn out something closer to purple, but I really like how this knitted up. There is the slight issue though that you could consider these socks as looking as though I have shot myself in the toes. Oops. I probably ought to think harder about the colours I use to dye things in the future!

The pattern I used was less of a pattern, and more a list of suggestions - it never specified types of increase and decrease to use, so I made it up as I went along, but I like the fit - the heel is made using short rows rather than a standard gusset, which means that in the long run they may not wear as well as other socks I've knitted, but it was interesting using a different construction method. For these socks I also had the forethought to wind the yarn into two balls before I started, so I got into much less of a tangle than with my first pair of two at a time socks! 

Monday 25 May 2015

Bank holiday knitting

This weekend is a bank holiday, so today is one of those confusing Sunday/Monday days. So I'm catching up on some sock knitting. The legs of my Coexist socks are now done. Onto the heels!

Hope you're all having a good weekend.

Sunday 24 May 2015

Yardage chicken, round 2

I told you last week about my last round of yardage chicken, that thankfully came out in my favour, but the final cardigan was too girly for the person I was making it for. So I cast on a second in a more boy appropriate colour way.

This yarn (Hayfield Bonus Buzz) is really well thought out, with the lengths and order of the three colours constantly varying so you don't have to worry too much about the crazy pooling that sometimes happens when you're working with variegated yarns on a constant number of stitches. I did find that it went a little static occasionally while I was working with it, but that might just be me.

I skipped the tension square phase as I've recently used Hayfield Bonus DK and, in my head at least, they should be comparable. I happily knitted the yoke, using my birthday fruit stitch markers, which really made me smile, then sped through the body. I made the buttonholes slightly closer together than on the last Beyond Puerperium, my plan being that I would end up with one more buttonhole for the same number of rows. To be on the safe side I measured the cardigan after the sixth buttonhole and realised it was already the right length. Apparently my row gauge was rather looser in this yarn than with the Stylecraft! So six buttons it is, which is fine by me - more chance of winning the game of yardage chicken!

I managed to finish both sleeves with only a little stressing about whether I'd have enough yarn, and when I finally weighed the finished cardigan I discovered it to be a pretty close call as the cardigan weighed 99g! I added some cute green star buttons to finish, and am really pleased with how it looks. Hopefully it will be appreciated by its new owner.

Friday 22 May 2015

32 things: #1 and #4, a mystery KAL pair of socks

Two things I was keen to do as part of my 32 things were knit a pair of 'non-vanilla' socks and join in on a mystery KAL. Sock knitters will know that non-vanilla socks are socks that are more than just stocking stitch and rib: socks with lace, or cables, or colour work; while a mystery KAL is a knit along where only the designer knows what the finished item will look like, with the pattern being released in instalments to keep the finished object a mystery for as long as possible.

I've been reluctant to join a mystery KAL in the past as all the items I'd previously knitted are things that other people can see - hats, scarves, mitts, etc. - but now I've mastered socks I have a new avenue open to me. No one really looks closely at your socks, so I could risk a mystery KAL, as even if I wasn't that keen on the final pattern, I'd still end up with a functioning item, even if it was one I didn't enthuse about all that much! So for the past couple of months I've been keeping my eye out for mystery sock KALs. 

There are plenty of sock enthusiast groups on Ravelry, and many have mystery KALs every month or so, so I had plenty of opportunity, but nothing grabbed me until I can across the Coexist KAL, May's mystery KAL in the Sock Knitters Anonymous group.* The pattern is inspired by fandoms, with each clue being based around a different set of fandoms, e.g. sci-fi, fantasy, etc. In fact each clue has at least four options to choose from, which means everyone's socks are slightly different and completely personal.

The KAL started on May 1st with the cuff and leg clues being released. The cuff has four options: Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars and Firefly; I chose Doctor Who as I'm a bit of a fan, and I loved the name of the chart (Timey Wimey Wibbly Wobbly). I cast on as soon as I could, although it did take me three attempts to get a yarn/needle/fit combination that worked for me. The chart is more complicated than any sock I've ever done (this is only my fourth pair of socks, so that isn't much of a surprise), but the actual knitting was actual alright, once I'd got used to doing cables with such tiny yarn.

Then onto the leg. Four more options, all on a fantasy theme: Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Game of Thrones. The decision was much harder for this section as I've either read or watched all the options. I went with Harry Potter, as I liked the chart best, which is as good a reason as any (if I was choosing blind I would probably have gone Narnia or Harry Potter). I've found this section really slow, but not unpleasant. It's been nice to watch the pattern emerging, and I'm really pleased with how the socks look now I've done a couple of repeats. I still have a couple more to go, but repeat two was faster than the first, so these final two should go a little faster.

The heel and gusset patterns have already been released, but I'm concentrating on knitting the first clue for now. I love the concept behind this pattern - it reminds me of the 'choose your own path' books I read when I was younger where there are many different chapter options and you choose an option based on what you want to happen next. I'm also enjoying seeing what other people have chosen, and why, in the associated forum. At the time of writing there are 320 options (assuming you only choose one design per section - several people have chosen to mix and match making fraternal pairs), and that's without including the foot options!

Should you wish to join me on my mystery KAL adventure, the pattern can be found here. All the clues will be released by the end of May.


And if you want to join in a KAL where you know the outcome, I'm still running my Ronnie the Robot KAL in the Knitting for Boys group on Ravelry, also until the end of May.*
*Note you need to be logged into Ravelry for this link to work. Membership is free.

Thursday 21 May 2015

Daleks vs. Sontarans

A few weeks ago I showed you some excellent Doctor Who biscuit cutters that a friend bought me for my birthday. Now we've actually tried them out and I can show you the results.

We used a basic chocolate shortbread recipe from our trusty Be-Ro cookery book, then my son did an excellent job of cutting out the biscuits. These cutters really are excellent - you use the cutter itself to cut out the biscuit, then plunge it to add the detailing. Even the ones my son did on his own looked great.

And after all the washing up had been done we sat down to enjoy a couple of the biscuits, delicious! I'm looking forward to using the matching K-9 and Cybermen cutters in the next few weeks.

Monday 18 May 2015

32 things, #18: Tarte tatin

Tarte Tatin has been on my to-bake list for a while now (it even made it to my 32 things list). We keep seeing them being baked on programmes like Masterchef, and they always make a hooha about them being a bit tricky, but I've never really been sure why, surely it's just puff pastry, apples and caramel. Obviously there are things that could easily go wrong: I've burnt caramel before and it's not all that nice, and you have to flip the whole thing at the end, which could result it a rather sticky floor and no dessert, but I thought it was worth the risk.

I went for a Jamie Oliver recipe (mostly because it was the second result on Google, the first being the Wikipedia entry, but also because I've followed his recipes before and they usually work pretty well) and after a trip to Sainsbury had all the requisite ingredients. The ingredients were rather more expensive than I anticipated, mostly because I had to buy 500ml of Calvados (apple brandy), even though I only needed 100ml!

Step one was to roll out the pastry to be the size of the pan, with an extra 5cm all the way round. Easy enough, although my pastry was a long way from circular as it started off as a square block and I was feeling a bit lazy!

Step two, peel and chop the apples. The recipe said to remove the cores using a teaspoon. This does not work with Granny Smith apples (and I wasn't going to sharpen a teaspoon for the purpose!), so I used a knife instead and cored them in the conventional manner.

Step three, make the caramel. Here I hit a slight problem. The only pan we have that works on both the hob and in the oven is a griddle pan, which wasn't ideal. It was pretty hard to stir the caramel, and even harder to work out when it was caramelised as the inside of the pan was black. I had to go by smell to work out when the sugar and Calvados had caramelised, and I think I added the apples a little early as they never did get the 'toffee apple vibe' described in the recipe. I stirred the apple and caramel mixture until the apples had softened a little, then put the pastry hat on top, using my wooden spoon to push the excess pastry down the sides.

Step four: bake the tart. Easy. Did some washing up and drank some coffee to pass time.

Step five, remove the tarte from the oven, and flip. Terrifying! I didn't risk using a plate as that didn't allow excess area if it slipped while flipping and used a board instead. Using a board did not allow much room for manoeuvre, but it worked! The apples did look rather mushy, which was a pity, but I think just confirmed that I had under caramelised and over cooked them in the earlier steps.

But it was delicious! And we have enough Calvados to make another 4, so maybe I'll do better next time!

Friday 15 May 2015

The classic knitters' game: yardage chicken

Every knitter has the occasional project that they know, before they even cast on, is a bit of a risk, yardage wise. And while they know that they might have to knit the cuffs in another colour, they go ahead anyway, playing a game of yardage chicken. A few weeks ago I cast on one such project.

One of my son's favourite nursery workers is currently expecting her first baby, so I said I'd like to knit something for the new baby. She responded that yes, that would be lovely, and that she wasn't keen on classic baby colours, preferring brights and rainbow colours. So I went ahead and chose a pattern (Beyond Puerperium, a simple baby cardigan that looks great in pretty much any yarn, and provides the opportunity to use lots of novelty buttons), and some bright rainbow coloured self-striping yarn. The yarn isn't something I'd normally go for, but it met the criteria, so I decided to buy one ball, and knit the cardigan in the largest size I could. Yardages given in patterns are often on the generous side (no designer wants complaints that the customer bought the amount written in the pattern, only to run out with a sleeve still to knit), so I decided that I'd risk the 6-12 month size, even though officially I was going to be a few metres short. 

I cast on and happily knitted the body, the yarn growing on me with every stitch. When I cast off the body I weighed the remaining yarn: 32 g. Would it be enough?

I was aware the even if I did have enough yarn, I almost certainly wouldn't have enough to stripe match the sleeves, so I just joined the yarn for the first sleeve as it fell and knitted the first sleeve, weighing the yarn occasionally for reassurance. And I made it to the end of the sleeve with plenty to spare! Hooray!

And when I examined what yarn was left I was delighted to clearly see both a purple section and a blue section, so there would even be enough to colour match the sleeves (approximately at least).

I finished it with some wooden apple buttons (wood goes with all the colours!), and the finished cardi is pretty cute (it must be, even my husband said so). And the yardage chicken played ball - after stitching on the buttons I had 9g of yarn left, plenty!

But you know the best bit? This yarn has knitted up way more girly than I expected (the pink and purple are both rather more pink than I expected from the online pictures I could find of the yarn knitted up), and it turns out the baby is a boy, so I'll be playing the yardage chicken game again when I knit a second Beyond Puerperium in this slightly more boyish colour way...

Should you wish to knit your own super-bright rainbow baby cardigan, I used Stylecraft Wondersoft Merry Go Round in Rainbow.

Wednesday 13 May 2015

A month in knitting: April 2015

It turns out I haven't yet managed to get round to posting about my knitting in April, possibly because it's a rather shameful purchasing list compared to the amount of knitting I've done! But here it is anyway. I think it's all there, and if it's not I can't bring myself to confessing to any other purchases!


Granny's favourite
I think this one deserves its own post soon...

Still on the needles
Robot blanket

Beyond Puerperium

The shameful confessions of a yarn addict
200g cornflower Ranco
100g purple Orielle
100g bright lemon Hayfield Bonus DK
100g aran - Devon Sun Yarns
100g Stylecraft Merry Go Round
200g Sirdar Heart and Sole
200g Rico So Soft Prints
100g Ringarosie hand dyed sock yarn 
300g rainbow yarn - Cuddlebums
100g Drops Fabel
400g Hayfield bonus Aran - in error 
1400g King Cole Big Value chunky for a baby blanket

75g red Ranco for socks
41g aran returned to Sirdar
122g Granny's Favourite
300g really wooly wool went on eBay

Doing the maths
Eek, +2762g. No comments please!!!

Tuesday 12 May 2015


It's been a bit quiet round here lately, life seems to have got in the way of blog writing (as has a commission that ended up taking much longer than it should - one of those projects that just didn't work. I finally finished it yesterday, when it should have been at the publisher...).

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that Unbelieva-wool had a sale on Facebook, and while I'd said I don't need any more yarn, the sale featured a few gradient blanks, which I've been wanting to try for a bit, so caved and bought one, and a skein of sock wool with a bit of cashmere in it in colours I couldn't resist.

And who can resist Unbelieva-wool's logo. Isn't that sheep just adorable!


And I'm delighted to announce that Amy H is the winner of my birthday giveaway. I shall be in touch shortly to arrange delivery of your prize.

Wednesday 6 May 2015

I *had* to cast on something new

Last Monday afternoon I was packing my bag for Monday evening's knitting group and looking through the available projects, only to conclude that none of them were suitable. On my needles were:
  1. A baby blanket that I had got to the border of. Large pieces of fabric do not work well in the pub
  2. A pair of socks that had reached the critical 5 rows before the heel step, and I was planning a heel I hadn't done before. Far too much concentration required to work on whilst chatting
  3. A baby cardigan with just the sleeves to go. Perfect, apart from the my not being certain I'd have enough yarn to make both sleeves full length, so the yarn would need weighing every few rows to make sure I can make both sleeves the same length, and I wasn't taking the scales to the pub, which made this project another no go
So what's a girl to do? Cast on a new project of course!

I needed something easy enough to do whilst chatting, but something interesting enough that I would also want to finish knitting it later. I opted for the Htichhiker scarf, currently the most popular pattern on Ravelry, with over 19,000 projects! The scarf has been in my queue for a long time, and has recently been promoted with my acquisition of rather a lot of hand painted sock yarn - the combination of garter stitch and constantly changing row lengths makes this pattern perfect for such yarn. 

I wound one skein of my Mother's Day yarn into a ball and threw it in my bag along with a pair of 2.75 mm needles (gauge isn't too critical for this pattern, and these needles should get me pretty close to the tension specified). I cast on in the pub, and immediately liked my pattern selection: the pattern is really well written, with some nice details; the pattern repeat is only 8 rows, so easy to memorise; the yarn is a pleasure to work with, soft, squishy and I'm enjoying watching the pools of colour emerge. I knitted 8 'teeth' in the pub, and have now done 14; I'm really looking forward to knitting the remaining 28!

Monday 4 May 2015

Happy Birthday to me! Part 4, a little giveaway

I had a birthday last month, and to celebrate, I thought I would have a little giveaway. Last month I was given a 400 g ball of Hayfield Bonus Aran, the yarn I used to make my Pargetry baby blanket. Rather than push it into the overflowing stash cupboard, I thought I would give it away to one lucky blog reader, along with a set of cable needles, some stitch markers and a pdf of the pattern for Pargetry - everything you need to make your very own Pargetry baby blanket.

All you need to do to enter is leave a comment below, including some way for me to contact you should you be the winner. The yarny part of this competition is only available to blog readers in the UK, but if you are overseas you can still enter and I'll let you choose one pattern from my Ravelry store - so when you comment, please say whether you are in the UK or overseas. The competition will close at midnight BST on Monday 11th May 2015.

Saturday 2 May 2015

Happy Birthday to me! Part 3, baking things

Only one baking gift for my birthday last month, but it's a good one: Doctor Who biscuit cutters! Don't they look fun. We haven't yet had a chance to use them (I was going to on Friday but we didn't have any butter in the fridge), but I'm hoping we might be able to over the next few days.

That's all from me for today. Hope all of you who having a long weekend enjoy it, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for sunshine!

Friday 1 May 2015

Code Breaker Cowl

I am very excited to share a new pattern with you today. My Code Breaker Cowl pattern is in this month's issue of Knit Now magazine, which went on sale in the UK yesterday.

The cowl is a feast of intertwined cables (I designed it during my cable obsession at the start of the year). The cowl looks complex, but the cables are only every fourth row, and the pattern has both written and charted instructions, so if you have any experience with cables you should be able to knit it - I called it Code Breaker as without the key it looks tricky, but once you have that, it's actually pretty straightforward!