Friday 30 October 2015

Socktober: Pairs #2 and #3: The tale of two pairs of rainbow socks

Over the past few months I have been stashing beautiful sock yarn faster than I can knit it. In honesty, I was a bit scared of knitting 'the good stuff' as I'm not 100% confident in my ability to make socks that fit properly. But for the whole of September I was a bit miffed that I don't have enough pairs of hand-knitted socks to wear them every day - I have four pairs, and realistically they're only going to get washed fortnightly at most, which leaves me with ten days in a fortnight that I don't have lovely socks for. So in September, I looked through the sock yarn box and chose to cast on something gorgeous: Cuddlebums Twlight Rainbow in Donegal Nep.

This yarn has been in my stash since my birthday in April, and apparently needed Autumn to happen for me to cast it on. I chose to knit a new pattern, one from the toe up, but that has gussets - my knitting of hand-knitted socks so has taught me that I like knitting them toe up best, but that my feet like wearing ones with gussets best. I merged a basic pattern with a slightly more complicated one (Zigzagular) for interest.

The yarn was wonderful to work with. Completely crazily pooled, but I love that it looks a bit like a sari in its colour scheme, and can't help but make me smile. I struggled a bit with the heel, but that was probably just because I wasn't paying enough attention, and knitting them two at a time wasn't covered in the pattern, so I had to guess that bit. But it worked well, and is a really nice heel, with its slipped stitch reinforcement at the back of the foot as well as on the heel flap.

The finished socks are my current favourites. As soon as they're dry from washing they're back on my feet. And my husband has been admiring them, so he's going to get a pair too.


A couple of weeks ago we went to see a friend who we hadn't seen in a few weeks. Things have been a bit tricky for her recently,  but her birthday was coming up, so I decided she could do with something hand made to cheer her up (she is one of the most knitworthy person I know). It being Socktober, I went for socks, and rummaged through the stash to find something beautiful, but struggled to find something that would really suit her. I then remembered the yarn I won from Mothy and the Squid in September (which hasn't yet made it to stash - it has its own special box), and cast on a pair of socks in Silver Skies Rainbow - grey with a rainbow splash and silver sparkles.


These socks were lovely to work up; I liked the reinforced heel so much I used the same pattern as for the Twilight Rainbow socks, but minus the zigzags. The yarn kept me guessing the whole way through, and I raced the rainbow splashes, getting the socks done in a record five days (admittedly these socks are for size 5 feet, not my monster 10s)! I haven't yet passed them on to my friend, but I am hoping she loves them as much as I loved making them.


I think that's probably it for completed socks for Socktober. I have cast on a pair of West Yorkshire Spinners Blue Tit socks for another friend, but they're not going to be done by the end of the month. What has everyone else managed for Socktober?

Saturday 24 October 2015

32 things, #11: Knit a striped shawl

For most of the items on my 32 things list, I've consciously sought out a way of crossing the item off my list, but this item is something I got to cross off without planning to: knitting a striped shawl. A few weeks ago I had a bit of a stash clear out, finding some treasures along the way, and off-loading several items that I was never going to use. I also found lots of lovely smooth merino in pretty colours, but none of it in large enough quantities to make a whole shawl. So I chose three complimentary colours: cream, sea green and turquoise and set about knitting the Ex Boyfriends shawl - a pattern designed to use up ends of balls, hence the name.

I followed the stripe width given in the pattern, but made up the order of colours as I went along. The pattern is really easy to memorise - this is perfect knitting group and car knitting. The shawl grew really fast, and I like how dense and squishy it feels in DK weight yarn. The final shawl is lovely and long, and nice and cosy. It's not for me though; it's going to a friend who is about to have a baby. She does lots of crafts, and has already knitted my cloud blanket for her baby for herself, so I thought I'd do something a bit different. I really hope she likes it (otherwise I might have to 'borrow' it back).

Poorly modelled, but you get the idea!

This is definitely a pattern I will revisit. I always have lots of half balls left after finishing projects, and am never quite sure what to do with them. This shawl is a great way of using them up.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

A break from finishing things

As you might have noticed from my September yarn round up, last month I won a lovely bundle of yarn from Mothy and the Squid: 5 skeins of yarn, totalling 450 g. I was really excited when the parcel arrived, and pretty much like a giddy child when I opened it. All the yarns are lovely, such bright vibrant colours, and there were a couple of bonus gifts: a beautiful sock blank in shades of deep blues and teals, and a couple of stitch markers - appropriately enough, a moth and a squid. There was also another sock blank that I bought to be added to the parcel (oops, it has been on my wish list for ages though), it's a beautiful double sock blank dyed in rainbow colours and I cannot wait to turn it into socks.

'Unloved' yarn. It's not; I love it!

This month has so far been all about finishing things as I have lost track of how many projects I have on the go (this happens occasionally; I have terrible startitis), but last week I let myself have a little break and cast on a hat for my daughter (it was cold on the Monday morning and she has grown out of all her hats from last winter). One of the skeins I had won was a 50g skein of rainbow coloured yarn, which I knew would be perfect for a toddler hat. Looking at the skein I assumed it was variegated, so braced myself for winding a centre-pull ball and working alternate ends from opposite ends of the ball (to reduce pooling), but when I undid the skein I was delighted to discover that it was in fact a self-striping skein, hooray!

Oops, wound it in the wrong direction...

...that's better

So, skein wound into a ball, I used my Apple for Teacher pattern to improvise a little hat (actually not such a little hat, my daughter's head already has a circumference of 19 inches, which is big!) with a rolled brim and an i-cord at the top (the I-cord is 20 rows long, then tied in a knot at the end, should you wish to replicate it). The yarn was perfect for the hat: I used almost the whole skein, and the hat features all six colours (there are six colours, but the initial pink is mostly hidden in the brim). The yarn was lovely to work with, and I'm now really excited about working with the rest of the yarn in my parcel. I probably ought to get back to finishing a few more things first though!

And if you'd like to make your own hat, you can have 50% off my Apple for Teacher hat pattern on Ravelry using the code RAINBOWAPPLES until the end of October 2015 (23.59 GMT, 31/10/2015).

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Bake Day Wednesday: An abundance of apples

On Sunday my neighbours caught me as I was getting in from the supermarket to ask if I wanted some apples; apparently they have five apple trees in their garden and the weather this year has caused a bit of a glut. I happily accepted a large bag of apples, then had a think about what I wanted to make. We've had a lot of hot puddings recently as the weather has turned colder in the evenings, and snuggling up and eating crumbles and sponge puddings is a great way to spend an evening, but I fancied making something else, so settled on Swedish Apple Cake (which were words that had entered my head like an earworm. No idea where they'd come from, but I thought I'd run with it).

A quick Google found me this recipe by Rachel Allen (why do I own recipe books? I always ask the internet for recipes before actually looking in the books these days), which handily contains no fancy ingredients. Making the cake was really straightforward, and it smelt delicious while it was baking.

The glaze was much more tricky: the steps sounded so simple: melt the butter, dissolve the sugar in the butter and add the cinnamon. It turns out that dissolving sugar in butter is not straightforward, and I ended up with a rapidly darkening and increasingly burnt smelling, very hot, sticky saucepan. Which I threw in the sink and started again.

Rather than risk doing the same glaze wrong for a second time, I used a simple cinnamon and caramelised sugar syrup (50g water, 50g sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon. Stir the sugar in the water over a low heat; once the sugar has dissolved, stir in the cinnamon, then increase the heat, and reduce the syrup to approximately half its original volume. Do not stir the syrup while it's reducing. Once reduced, immediately pour the syrup over the cake). It worked perfectly first time, although if I did it again I'd use a pastry brush to distribute it a bit better.

The cake went down well at my knitting group, and I'll definitely make it again. Probably a good thing really, as I still have quite a lot of apples!

And tonight it's the final of Great British Bake Off. I don't have a favourite this year, and genuinely don't mind who wins (although for reference I think Ian might win - I don't think he's necessarily best, but I think he'll do everything well enough tonight). I'm hoping the final will be a bit like last year's, when the contestants had to make something basic without instructions and do it perfectly. Not much longer to wait now anyway!

Sunday 4 October 2015

Socktober: Pair #1: Watermelon striped socks

Earlier this year I posted my friend Amy and I were having a text conversation about sock yarn and she sent me a picture of some watermelon striped socks, but was sad that she couldn't find the details of the dyer to get some for herself. So when I saw a photo on Facebook of indie dyer Young Yarns knitting a pair of watermelon striped socks I immediately emailed her to ask where she had got it from, who said it was from Hand Dyed by Kate, an indie dyer based in Wales. A few weeks later Amy received a ball of self-striping watermelon yarn for her birthday, which she rapidly turned into a pair of socks.

Amy's watermelon striped socks. Image copyright Amy H.

Adult socks don't generally take an entire ball of yarn (unless your feet are as large as my husband's, in which case a ball of yarn doesn't make a whole pair of socks), and most people who knit socks have a bag of oddments somewhere in their house. I've seen lots of projects that use sock yarn leftovers: mitred square blankets, linen stitch wraps, beekeepers quilts. But Amy went for sending the leftovers of the watermelon yarn back to me, so that I could make some super-cute watermelon striped socks for my daughter.

I cast the socks on enthusiastically while on a train journey, and rapidly reached the heel, then got distracted by other things. Last week in honour of Socktober I finally got back to them and finished the first one off in an hour or so - baby socks are quick! I made the leg a bit longer than I usually would so the 'seeds' didn't fall in the ribbing, but that should make the socks last a little bit longer. Annoyingly my first cast off round ate slightly into the next pink stripe, so I had to unravel the cast off and pull back a row before casting off again. But once done it looked lovely with its matching ball of yarn.

The second sock was much quicker, as I was determined not to abandon these socks this time, and I finished them on Saturday evening. I did have to do the heel a couple of times, and even in the final version it's still a row higher than the first one, but c'est le vie. Now my daughter has a lovely pair of stripy socks, and I'm very much looking forward to showing them off!

These watermelon socks are the first pair of several I hope to get finished during Socktober, and if there's time I'm going to try and knit a pair of Caoua Coffee's Leonore or Athos socks so I can join in with the Sock Knitters Anonymous group on Ravelry's challenge for October*, but we shall have to wait and see whether I actually get that far! Does anyone else have any Socktober plans?

*You have to be logged into Ravelry for this link to work. Joining is free and it is an excellent knitting and crocheting resource.

Thursday 1 October 2015

A month in yarn: September yarn

What's that? A monthly update at the right time of the month? Yes it is! Here's what I've been up to in September, crafting-wise.

Vest and hat for a friend's baby

Commissioned shawl (top secret)
Commissioned cowl (no photos allowed yet) 
Commissioned lace cowl (no photos yet)

Whale blanket
Almost there! Just a little bit more seaming and the border to go
Bee blanket
At the minute it just looks green. And the baby is here already!

Wiggly worm blanket
For my son. In all the colours!

Twilight rainbow Zigzagular socks 
Gorgeous yarn from Cuddlebums, I wanted something new and I love them

Striped shawl for a friend
Using the Ex boyfriends pattern in DK weight and making it up as I go along

Watermelon striped socks for my daughter
Half way through the first sock and I've stalled... The yarn is from Hand Dyed by Kate

Hermione's everyday socks
No progress this month

Charity mitred blanket
No progress this month, although I did finally post three baby blankets I finished last year to charity, and donated a pile of squares to be incorporated into a charity blanket, so I don't feel too bad
A cardigan for my daughter
Yes, still got the sleeves to go

Melodie shawl
No progress this month
Yarn in
300g yarn from Unbelieva-wool (there was a sale)
200g Unbelieva-wool yarn club
550g yarn from Yarndale

Yarn out
85g for shawl
71g hat and vest
86g for cowl 1
126g for cowl 2
About 1kg of oddments got donated to my son's school. I didn't weigh the bag, but it did get rid of lots of bits I was never going to use!

Yarny maths
Probably about even this month after donating some bits and bobs and finishing a few things. But this month I realised how much my yarn stash weighs, so I'm going to focus on using stuff up over the next few months.
Plans for October   
Finish up the socks on my WIP list - it will be Socktober after all!

The children need hats. And so do I.

Use 5 kilos of yarn before I buy any more (or drown in yarn) - I've already failed in this as I've just won some yarn from Mothy and the Squid, which I am unbelievably excited about! Isn't it gorgeous?

My prize yarn. Image copyright Jillian Gabrielsen (@jillian.gabrielsen on Instagram)