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Category Archives: Yarn

FO: Foxglove/Revontuli

A miracle happened today. The light drizzle stopped and the sun came out just as we were gearing up for a quick Finished Object shoot. The gods somewhere must like my new shawl/scarf as much as I do.

The pattern was one of the first I ever queued on Ravelry, Revontuli-huivi. The yarn is Kauni Effektgarn, an Estonian 4-ply with long pattern repeats and I used 6mm KnitPro needles.

The majority of the shawl was knitted during epic bus journeys to-and-fro North-East Scotland. It was a perfect travel knit – long stretches of knitting/purling and a bit of interest ever so often. I quickly fell into a rhythm and could knit whilst keeping an eye on the ever-changing landscape. I think I would have thought this a bit of a boring knit if I hadn’t been on the road. The yarn really does most of the work for you.

The pattern is well-written and well-charted. The yarn is rustic with beautiful colours – but it also nearly lifted the skin off my yarn-carrying finger (I knit Continental). I cannot imagine myself knitting Kauni (or its siblings, Aade Lõng and Evilla) at a tighter tension or for a full garment. I would need to wrap band-aids around my fingers in order to survive – and I’m not sure I’d find that particularly fun.

But, gosh, my shawl is beautiful. It blocked out very big, I love the colours and I know this will become my go-to scarf this autumn/winter. It is my favourite knit for quite some time and I feel a bit silly that I did not knit this a long time ago.

Have you seen the new Twist Collective? Oh my. I’m in love with at least four or five patterns (which puts the cat among the pigeons as far as future projects are concerned). My two must-knits are Hallett’s Ledge (I have some vibrant purple Troon Tweed kicking about) and Cityscape (I might redrawn the chart so it includes some Glasgow buildings), but there are plenty of gorgeous patterns I can see myself wearing.

Also, I could kick myself. Some of my best friends have just been to KnitNation in London – and I forgot all about asking them to buy me some Wollmeise yarn. I did not want much – just one skein for a small scarf – but I completely forgot and seeing as Wollmeise yarn is normally as scarce as unicorns I probably won’t get another chance (unless KnitNation happens again or I go on yarn-buying vacation to Germany – I don’t know which is most likely).

Speaking of vacations, I did enjoy my mini-vacay but unfortunately it has meant that admin work has been piling up and I will be spending the rest of my Sunday filing papers and writing up reports. I think this calls for tea and buttered crumpets.

Day Seven: Something About Yarn

Fourth Edition is taking part in the Knitting & Crocheting Blog Week, and you can read more about that blog project here.

I often get asked which is the best yarn I have ever used. I never know how to answer because, for me, the quality of yarn is wholly dependent upon what project I am doing. When I think about yarn, which I admittedly do all the time, I just try to think about it in context. What type of project am I making and who am I making it for? How will the object be treated, how will it be used and how often will it be used? Do I need to think about maintenance? In other words, every yarn has a purpose.

Many knitters shudder at the thought of acrylic yarns, but I maintain they have their place in the knitting world. Knitting for young children? Acrylic yarns (or woolblends) will seem like a god-send because they can be thrown into the washing machine with nary a thought. Acrylic yarns also have a better range of colours, they will not pill as readily and certain brands will arguably withstand nuclear holocaust (or toddlers).

I do not tend to knit for children, though, so I mostly use natural fibres. Since I live in chilly Scotland I also tend to use mostly woolly yarns.

New Lanark Aran is one of my favourite yarns. It is locally produced, is available in some truly beautiful colours and, best of all, it knits up like a dream whilst still being affordable. Old Maiden Aunt is another guilty pleasure – she dyes beautiful sock- and lace-yarns. I adore Rowan Kidsilk Haze which has a beautiful halo and yearn for a project in Rowan Lima, a soft and complex merino/alpaca-blend.  Drops Alpaca is one of my desert island yarns. I’d happily roll around in Noro Cashmere Island.  Also, I hoard Dansk Naturfiber 1-ply kidmohair/merino because I think it may be discontinued, it is absolutely divine, and I rarely get a chance to get my clammy hands on it (I used it for my Laminaria shawl). I dream of making something out of Garthenor 1-ply. And let us not forget handspun wool – I am lucky to count some hand-spinners among friends.

Meet the glittering star in my yarn stash firmament, though.

This is Färgkraft SoftBlend, a 2-ply laceweight Gotland-wool handdyed using organic dyes by textile artist Margrét Kållberg for the Färgkraft co-op in Sweden. 765 yards of utter perfection.It ticks all my boxes: rustic, organic, laceweight, Scandinavian, and dyed in my favourite colour in the entire world.

A Swedish friend of mine gave it to me last year as a birthday present. I am still trying to decide what to make from it. I feel tempted to pair it with my favourite shawl pattern, but on the other hand I also feel tempted to pair it with a traditional Scandinavian (or Nordic) shawl pattern.

I have many, many lovely yarns in my stash thanks to friends and family, but the Färgkraft 1-ply just stands out for me. I may never actually use it, you know..

Basic Tutorial: Dyeing Yarn with Cake Paste Dye

There are various methods you can use to dye your own yarn or project. You can handpaint hanks of yarn, microwave your dyeing project or use a big stove top pot. For actual hanks of yarn, I prefer the stove top method, but if I am dyeing actual projects, I use my oven.

My Modus Operanti for (over)dyeing shawls:

I use the basic methods outlined in the links above, but opt for a cake icing dye paste which I bought in a local cake decorating shop. The paste is so concentrated that I need to use only a small amount to dye an entire shawl, thus making it a more economical choice than, say, Kool-Aid (at least if you are in the UK) or commercial food dyes available in your local supermarket. The icing paste also comes in a gazillion colours and you can mix/match to your heart’s delight.

For my Echo Flowers Shawl I used half a teaspoon of paste which I dissolved with boiling water and I added citric acid as a mordant. Most dyers use vinegar as it is easier to obtain, but I happened to have some leftover citric acid from some lemonade making. The rest of the dyeing process was straight-forward and I am still very happy with the result.

Completely unrelated: how amused am I to try my hand at Quizlet and getting a B- (75%) score on my Danish language skills? I guess that is what I get for spelling words correctly instead of imitating the quiz master’s spelling mistakes. Lumosity is a much better way of wasting time online in an educating and self-improving manner.

And headcold has turned into a real cold. I apologise in advance to anyone meeting me off-line in the next few days. I look and sound like I’m on the edge of death.

A Long Post About You Know What

Someone brought the camera with him to work, so I cannot show you all the things I have been working on lately.

I am playing around with a few yarns: Rowan Lima (a great review by Clara Parkes), RYC Cashsoft DK and Rowan Felted Tweed. I’m knitting up a small sample of Lima just to see how it responds to textured stitch patterns, while the Cashsoft DK will be given a test-knit to see how it works with ‘everyday’ stocking stitch. I started some mitts in Felted Tweed some weeks ago. I was particularly intrigued by how the Felted Tweed responded to being knit on 2mm (US 0) needles. It is a real treat swatching and playing with these yarns – just figuring out how they respond to needle sizes and types of stitches. I may finally have become a real knitting geek because at the end of it all I will have very little to show despite all my efforts.

I can, however, give you a little glimpse of yet another shawl I am working on. The photo was taken last week when we still had snow. This will be my fourth shawl since 2010 began and I am a bit .. shawled out now. I am knitting Kiri which is a top-down version of the lovely Birch shawl by Sharon Miller. I would have knitted Birch except it calls for 2-and-something balls of Kid Silk Haze and I only have two balls of KSH Liqueur. The shawl is working up really well. Just one more repeat and then the edging.

I sometime wonder where I fit in. Am I a Danish blogger due to my nationality? Do I qualify as a British blogger because I write in English and live in Britain? I read many Danish knitblogs, but I do not really feel part of the Danish knitblog scene because I do not meet up with anyone at Danish knitting events nor do I knit any of the popular Danish patterns in the yarns currently de rigueur in fair Denmark. But Lisbeth K obviously thinks I qualify because I was  given this little “creative blogger” insignia by her. Thank you, Lisbeth! I am not usually one for internet memes, but this is delightful.

The little award comes with obligations. First I am to share seven facts about myself and then I am to pass this award to seven others.

  1. My favourite colour is somewhere between peridot green and moss green.
  2. Peridot is also one of the very few gem stones I wear (along with amber, moonstone and pearls). I rarely wear jewellery, though.
  3. I used to have fuchsia-pink hair. I was being very ironic in that special early-twenties way.
  4. I like my own company far more than I like being around other people. I am not anti-social (indeed, I am not) but I need a lot of solitude and quietness in order to be at my best.
  5. My perfect home would be an 18th C cottage with an open fireplace, bookshelves lining the walls, worn leather sofas with handmade throws and a sleeping dog. Unfortunately this sort of cottage does not sit well with my other requirements: a local Fair Trade coffee shop, a Mediterranean deli around the corner and excellent public transport.
  6. I would still really, really, really like a dog. And the handmade throws.
  7. My birthday almost always coincides with seeing the first few snowdrops/vintergækker.

I am passing this on to Paula (one of the most multi-talented creative people I know and a fantastic friend to boot), Ms Mooncalf (who is slowly taking over Scandinavia with her crafty blog and thus deserves a Scandinavian creative blogger award),  Bells (for inspiring me daily both through her projects and through her words), my dear friend Kathleen (whose projects always fill me with awe and admiration – her Hap Shawl is my favouritest project ever), Anna (who thinks amazing thoughts about crafting and also conjures the most beautiful things out of seemingly nowhere), Meg (because she uses her crafty talents for nefarious things such as steampunk costumes and awesome jewellery) and finally Louise of Garn & Gammelt (a recent blog discovery but I love, love, love her style and creativity).

What A Difference A Dyejob Does

nov09 264

Meet Percy post-dyejob. That safety vest orange shawl turned into deep, vibrant Wollmeise-esque red shawl. I am very, very, very happy with it.

Some of you have asked how I dyed the shawl. I had a big ovenproof dish into which I poured half my dye solution. I put my shawl (which had been soaking in lukewarm water for 30 minutes) into the dish and poured the rest of the dye solution over it. I squished the shawl gently to ensure that the dye was seeping into all parts of it, and then I put the whole thing into the oven at Gas Mark 1/140C for 45 minutes. Then I took it out and let it all cool before rinsing the shawl thoroughly. It was very easy. I think that I’ll use a similar method on all those overtly variegated lace yarns I have lying about.

Speaking of ovens, I baked David’s birthday cake last night so we could have some just post-midnight (we are both children at heart). The cake is one of my all-time favourites and it’s so easy to make.

nov09 255Meringue Cake (serves four or five)

2/3 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla essence
1½ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder

2 egg whites
2/3 cups sugar

Raspberry jam.

Mix butter, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla and egg for about 4 minutes. Add flour and baking powder and fold in gently. Pour the batter into a small, greased oven-proof dish. Put the filling on top (if using jam, try heating it a bit before as to making it more runny/easier to spread – see notes). Whip the egg whites until stiff, then folding in half the sugar. Whip the egg whites again and gently fold in the rest of the sugar. Pour on top of the cake and bake for 1 hour at 150C/Gas Mark 2/300F.

Notes on filling: you can basically use whichever filling you want. I’d recommend using something sharp or tart as the rest of the cake is very sweet. Instead of raspberry jam, you could use tart apples (peel and slice them before adding them) or maybe even gooseberries? One of my friends tried adding banana and loved it, but I found it way too sweet.

(I would have shared a picture of the cake but funnily enough it has all disappeared. So, instead, you get a photo of me freezing.)

Mad, Bad & Orange To Know

nov09 057Being ill has its benefits. Last time I was stuck in bed for more than two days in a row, I ploughed through Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell which I had previously failed to get into (the plot starts unfolding one-third through the novel). This time around I am knitting whilst listening to podcasts on John Milton (interesting) and Ezra Pound (dull and I even mouthed ‘WRONG’ at my ipod at one point).

I’m knitting with my bright orange 2-ply baby alpaca (yes, the colour is accurate in the photo). It is underspun, rather fragile and almost angora-like soft. And I’m knitting Percy, a pattern which I have previously attempted to knit. I’m now halfway through my second repeat of the dastardly Chart B and I might add in another repeat before doing the edging chart, just to make the shawl a bit bigger. It almost seems a shame to knit an intricate pattern in fuzzy yarn, but the process knitter in me actually Does Not Care. It’ll be a mad, colourful and warm shawl – and I will have conquered Chart B. That is all that matters.

I am still ill, alas, but I think today I will actually get dressed!

And here’s a little news story which may cheer you up:

Rumors of a city of 25,000 lesbians have led hordes of men to contact Swedish tourist authorities and swamp the nation’s Internet providers. Chinese media especially have spread the tale of “Chako Paul City,” supposedly founded in 1820 in northern Sweden by a man-hating widow who banned males, reports Australia’s Daily Telegraph. Inhabitants then turned to lesbianism “because they could not suppress their sexual needs,” goes one recent account in China’s Harbin News service. Swedish tourist authorities are baffled. “I’ve no idea where this came from, but it’s not true,” said a spokesman. “At 25,000 residents, the town would be one of the largest in northern Sweden, and I find it hard to believe that you could keep something like that a secret for more than 150 years.”

(I cannot remember how I came across it – if it’s via you, please let me know so I can credit)

Knitting With Lilith

nov09 052Spending quality time with one of my favourite people is always such a pleasure.

Old Maiden Aunt‘s Lilith is currently test-knitting the Adeline Coat for the a black pepper design studio and I  adore the cable detailing. I’m not one to wear copious amounts of cabling (again, body issues) but I know beautiful design when I see it. I also loved how the pattern was working up in the now discontinued Rowan Harris Tweed. The finished jacket is going to be stunning.

Lilith and I were discussing many things and not all were knitting-related. We talked about body perceptions (going back to this post, of course), feminism, how language usage shape our world (without even mentioning the good old Sapir-Whorf hypothesis!)  because apparently I act differently when speaking Danish than when I speak English, and, oh, our shared love of early 20th C country house mysteries.

nov09 053But unsurprisingly we also talked knitting.

To the left, you see David’s sweater in its incomplete state. I am almost done with the body and am thanking the heavens above that David is on the skinny indie boy side of things. Knitting stocking stitch in the round can be fun but .. it can also get really tedious.  I’m currently pondering doing a gansey-inspired yoke but let’s see how I feel. I’m also tempted to incorporate some elements from the classic Danish SNS sweater.

To the right, you see something I uncovered in my stash. A full cone of 2-ply baby alpaca. A full cone of orange 2-ply baby alpaca. I know the yarn will not block out particularly crispy, so instead of a shawl I am considering doing a shrug or a very light cardigan/pullover. Lilith suggested maybe an orange baby alpaca incarnation of Buttercup? It’d be drapey and very lightweight. Any suggestions? I’m really eager to start knitting this beautiful yarn that I had almost forgotten..

Knit A Poem

Knitting and poetry are more similar than they might first appear, she added, with poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy partial to an occasional knit, and the Society’s president Jo Shapcott, Seamus Heaney and Emily Dickinson all authors of poems featuring knitting. “With poetry and with knitting, you work line by line, and if something goes wrong you have to unravel it,” Palmer said.

In order to celebrate the Poetry Society’s centenary, people around the world are knitting individual letters which will be made into one giant poem. Yes, I am one of them. I have been assigned the letter G and I’m working on my letter in-between other projects as I’m not a huge fan of the intarsia technique. But I love poetry and I celebrate that something as wonderful as The Poetry Society exists in this day and age.

Keep up-to-date with the ongoing project at Knit A Poem – The Poetry Society.

The Knitting Basket of Doom

august09 014Hello FLS, my old friend,
I’ve come to knit you again,
Because pretty yarn came softly creeping,
And I can knit you while sleeping,
And the shawl that was frogged yesterday
Still remains
Within the knitting basket of doom.

In restless dreams I walked alone
Wondered if I should knit Cobblestone,
‘neath the halo of a second-hand lamp,
I turned my eyes to the weather cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of
bright light
That split the night
And touched the knitting basket of doom.

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand possible projects, maybe more.
Projects without assigned yarns,
Projects with double-sided lace charts,
Projects that look fabulous – but not on me
And not one made me
Disturb the knitting basket of doom.

Head said you do know
Your yarn stash like a cancer grows.
Find some sweater amount for Hey Teach,
Take these patterns and an FO this month you may reach.
But my hands like idle raindrops fell,
And rested
By the knitting basket of doom.

And so to the great knitting goddess I prayed
I looked at items I had previously made.
And the signs were flashing,
By the sweater amounts I had been stashing.
And the signs said, top-down it shall be
It’ll be easy garter-stitch and fancy-free
And suit that lovely wool-alpaca yarn you
have kept in the knitting basket of doom..

(apologies to Simon and Garfunkel)

Percy & Me

july09 445
Yes, that would be my Percy(Bysshe Shelley) shawl. I finished the set-up chart, repeated Chart A eight times and, for about a week, struggled with Chart B.

Chart B was my first double-sided lace chart (i.e. knitting lace on both the knit and the purl rows) and I found it inexplicably difficult to read my purl rows. Post-it notes did help me keep my place, but progress was very, very slow. With an ordinary lace project I can zip through eight or ten rows without problem. With this one I got through two rows and I had to stop because I lost concentration. In four days I knitted thirteen rows. So Percy is no more. Yes, dear reader, I frogged my shawl last night at 11am.

Do you ever start a book, discover it is dire and yet you finish it, come hell or high water? I am a fickle reader. I start a book and if it does not grab me in one way or another, I stop reading it. My life is too short for dull reads. I’m a lot more loyal and disciplined when it comes to knitting. I never have more than three projects on the go (and frequently fewer) and although I do suffer from Second Sleeve Syndrome, I finish my projects. I think a lot about what I’m knitting and spend much time considering patterns and yarn before I even start.

But Percy started getting on my nerves. It was not fun and I consider lace knitting to be my fun projects. I’ll try the pattern again in a much heavier yarn while the Old Maiden Aunt yarn  is already ear-marked for another lace project.

(.. related: I’ve found some very delicious Swedish laceweight which I’ll resist until I’ve knitted a huge part of my laceweight stash down..)

So, let us look at some new patterns. The new Drops patterns have been out for a wee while, but I have forgotten to mention them here. As always, the Garnstudio designs are a bit hit-and-miss but thanks to the sheer volume of designs, I always manage to find some real must-knits.

One of my favourites is this yoked pullover. It’s classy and very wearable (which probably means it will languish in my Ravelry queue while less wearable and more flashy knits jump onto my needles). To wit, this tunic is far more likely to catch my knitting attention – maybe do it in gray? And what about adding long sleeves to this cool top? Also, a part of me is very, very taken with this crocheted skirt.. Moving swiftly along, I also really like this cardigan and am intrigued by the Twinkle-ness of another wearable cardigan. Or what about a cropped cardi? Finally, I know I’ll never knit this and that it would look very unflattering on me, but this pullover just oozes “cosiness” and “snuggling up in front of a lit fireplace”..