Sunday, 28 December 2008

Winter warmers - for the feet

What is your favourite way of keeping your feet warm?

I must admit, I’m a massive fan of knitted wool socks! I have quite wide feet at the front and have to wear cloth training shoes to accommodate them so if it’s raining, my feet get wet! Wool socks keep them feeling warm and toasty even if they are wet. Felted slippers are great for keeping the draughts out inside too.

Do you have a favourite pair of socks you reach for to keep your toes toasty?
(all rav. links)
Well, I learned after knitting a whole heap of pairs that socks with a reverse foot (purl bumps on the outside) was best for me because I’m a loose knitter and those bumps on the inside wear ridges in my feet when I walk on them lots (ouch!). But of the other sort I’ve knitted, my faves are the ones I knitted this year as part of the Sock Madness competition. The Laceweight sock is sooo pretty (and lovely and comfy tho. not at all practical!) and I loved the paint job I did on this pair…

Is there a pair of socks/slippers you have been wanting to make for ages but haven't got around to?

I have bought six of Cookie A’s mindbenders (Millicent, Gothic Spire, Mingus, Rhiannon, Stricken and Twisted flower) and even cast on for the cuff of Millicent for my ma for xmas. When I found it would be too big for her, I put it on hold to do for myself but still haven’t got around to doing any more :( Still, I think they're works of art and hope to knit them all one day.

I personally like to stretch myself but at the end of the day it's just nice to get something I haven't sweated blood and tears over myself, no matter how simple or complex it is :-)

I keep knitting long socks for other people but not for myself (D’oh!). I like the idea of the Whitby socks as a quick knit, I only recently knitted a pair of DK socks for the first time and can see the time advantages.

I think those felted boot slippers look fab and a bit different too. I’ve queued loads of socks in ravelry do do eventually but then something else gets in the way, sigh….

What is your favourite finished object that warms your feet?

Too many to count!

What is your favourite yarn to use for socks/slippers?

I have used both Regia and Opal sock yarns and found Opal a bit coarser but I loved the Posh yarns socks I knitted (merino?), the Laceweight ones (merino/cashmere) and Socks that Rock lightweight are lurvely to wear. I’m a bit of a colour fanatic though so it doesn’t stop me buying new colourways! I can always wear the less soft pairs round the house.

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!

Phew! I've just got back from a fun-packed morning/afternoon at Nadine's with lunch and laughter thrown in! To explain a little further, we christened my pristine new copy of Raving Rabbids TV Party which only arrived on Xmas eve on her Wii and it's that (and my somewhat dodgy abilities at gaming) that got us laughing our socks off. The mental image of sitting on the Wii fit board and using your bottom to control some bovine creature that you're riding along a ski slope to a finishing position...or hovering one leg above the board whilst the other one's being used as an accellerator on a driving game whilst simultaneously using the controller to steer...incredibly badly BUT very funny!

Anyway, as usual, a little late but I hope you all got nice xmas prezzies and it occurred to me that I'd never posted a pic. of my xmas tree...

(and no, it doesn't fit on one photo!)
It's actually a darn sight tidier than previous years 'cos I got my eye on these red shiny flock baubles and bought bucketloads back in October from B+Q. Hence the lack of red tinsel (need to get some more in different colour) as it's what usually gets thrown into the mix.

It also gives me the opportunity to show you my favourite decoration, bought with two others at the Christmas Shop in Salzburg, Austria many years hence...

The tree topper was from there too, it has the words to silent night in German. I always enjoy putting these out, they were expensive (well, they are hand-blown glass!) and I breather a sigh of relief when they come out of storage unscathed each year.

Santa may have brought me a prezzie or two, here's my favourite yarny one...

It's a kit for the Hanne Falkenberg Mermaid Cardigan in the colours shown. I was torn between this one and a brighter version but on reflection, this was more versatile to be dressed up or down. 'Sides, now I have the pattern, I could knit it again in 4ply yarn. I will show you the rest of the crafty goodies when I have more time including thr new books, the cute sheepy purse from mel, the lovely batt from Debs...

I have not exactly been idle during the festive season, whilst it's true I don't have to cater for the masses or indeed cook Christmas dinner or Boxing day buffet, I put my llimited energies to other matters...

...This is a brand new bookcase reserved online and purchased from the Bromborough Argos on Boxing day lunchtime to be carted home, assembled and then the painstaking process of filling ensued.

To explain, my books are downstairs in my cluttered (to put it mildly) back room. There isn't room to put an extra bookcase there hence this one is upstairs in the (slightly less) cluttered back room. So, there was a couple of hours of lugging armfuls of heavy hardbacked books up the stairs then painstakingly ordering them according to height in the appropriate shelves. What's really scary is that. apart from the paperbacks on the top very short shelf, they're all my knitting books/magazines with a wee sprinkling of spinning, dyeing and crochet thrown in for good measure! And I still need to track down a few extras...and put some form of organisation into what's there...But on the plus side, when people ask me for a book, I'm much more likely to be able to lay my hands on it!

I haven't laid my needles aside during this festive period, in the evening and quieter days with laptop handy, I have been doing this...

In a spectacularly thought out KAL from Moni (she of Dem Fischer Sin Fru shawl and many others), this Christmas special began on Christmas eve with a second clue on Christmas day and a third on Boxing day. Not too big and whilst I haven't finished all of clue 3, the next one is only due today with the fifth on the 31st to give people who work time to catch up. Then they go to weekly on a Friday and it's been great fun so far. The second and third clues had an easy-to-remember repeat section so the charts are not huge but the pattern is still entertaining. I will let you know if this pattern becomes available for sale if you're interested because I have really enjoyed making time for it. The yarn is a much-abused skein bought from ebay, originally in a Fiddlesticks knitting kit so most likely Zephyr laceweight. It was the only thing wound at the time I was casting about for a suitable yarn at 9pm on Christmas eve and meant I could get started straightaway but I'm loving knitting with it. As it's a pale green, I anticipate a paint job at its completion...gentle of course!

And as that project's not exactly portable, the Hug coat's at that crucial non-portable stage and the new Galaxy cardi is having sizing teething problems, I cast on something new...

Originally a non-taxing self-designed slip stitch pattern that wasn't going particularly well, I frogged it back to the rib and hunted for a pattern in one of my new books, namely, Knitting Socks With Handpainted yarn. It should have been halfway down the leg by now but unfortunately, I was seduced by a two-row pattern that in my opinion is EVIL!!! I mean, how hard can it be? Two rows, ten stitch pattern, I have spent an average THREE HOURS knitting two rows! Still, fingers crossed, I have kicked the curse, I am now on the third row (but keep your fingers crossed for me....).

And with that I will leave you for now to return sometime in the new year where if I make any resolutions at all, they'll be alterntive as I'm not sure I've actually completed any from this year!

Monday, 22 December 2008

UK Swap Questionnaire 2 and a brief update

Am I the only one racing around like a headless chicken trying to catch up with myself? I spent twenty minutes in a baskets only queue in Iceland today and when we did the Asda supermarket shop this evening, there was still no let up, we happened to choose the till that the belt just broke down on the customer before us causing massive delays and eventually, having to move to another till. Still, with luck, there should be minimal shopping between now and xmas... fingers crossed!

Still no photos, what with there being less light about and by the time I get to blog there's only night light, but I'll catch up eventually. Nowadays, it's a pretty frantic turnaround in the mornings to get the dogs walked, breakfast eaten, shopping done, sorting office visited on a daily basis 'cos I'm out the house when postie calls (I heave a sigh of relief when it gets left with a neighbour or actually fits through!). Then it's off to the shop, picking up lunch on the way (or not as the case was today) where I can actually sit and relax and knit for a bit.

At least all prezzies have been duly knitted, arranged, purchased but not yet wrapped and I have continued to clear out the corner that the tree will reside in. It'll probably be a late Xmas Eve touch but better that than not at all! Why do we do this to ourselves?

Anyway, there's not a lot of photos to show you right now, as the latest stuff is either swap related or xmas related'll just have to read the swap stuff instead (if you need to!).

What is your favourite neck warming pattern?

Ooh, I love the Noro Striped Scarf, Brooklyn tweed wrote up one version, such a simple idea but so effective. Tudora and Ice Queen from Knitty are two totally different but still beautiful patterns. The Boteh scarf (rav. link) looks a piece of crocheted art whilst the Celtic Cable Neckwarmer is one of a number of fab cabled patterns. Lacy Orca Tails and Anne Hanson’s scarves and neckwarmers like this and this and Spiraluscious, I adore her designs!
Once again, I like so many, there are too many patterns to list!

Do you have a favourite FO?
I’ve not really been a fan of knitting scarves/neckwarmers in the past, the idea of hours of straight knitting without something to entertain me didn’t appeal and if you’re doing a more complex pattern, why no expand it and make a stole or shawl? I have a commercial alpaca scarf which is lovely and warm but during my last cold, I was forced to knit a mini scarf with buttons to keep my neck warm and stop me coughing. Since then, I’ve got much more respect for this element of the craft! Stephanie Pearl Mc Phee’s got a lot to answer for too, with her recent addiction to the Noro Striped Scarf!

Is there a style of neck warmer you particularly like?
I’ve recently found use for both scarves and shortie scarfettes/cowls to protect my neck/breathe through in the cold weather. It's good to either have a button or two so I can get a close fit or a reasonable length to wrap around for the same reason.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

'Cos If I don't post anything now....

...Life's been pretty frantic at the moment (if you hadn't guessed!) and I still haven't exactly photographed everything but at least I can do a wee bit of catch-up.

First, and in typical fashion, what should have come last (but hey, I've had half a bottle of wine at this point so I probably can't blame it on Blogger this time!), My most recent F.O.'s...

The Pampas Military Jacket. It's actually slightly stretched on me but it might just be the push to shed a few pounds after xmas (so long as it warms up a bit)...

It was a very quick knit (3 days) and is now residing in the shop window, capturing admiring glances and basically feeling a bit smug. We've already had one of the newer members get inspired to knit the pattern so that's good too...

..Then there's the Bergere de France Jacket. It ended up taking 21 balls but it did knit into a lovely thick but soft fabric and makes a lovely warm cuddly jacket. I am more than a bit in love with Natura, their combination of Alpaca and wool is lovely to knit, shiny, soft, lurvely! It also took less time than I thought though not as quick as the Pampas Jacket!

Anyway, in fantastic reverse-o-vision, here are the pictures from the knitters Xmas meal, back on the 9th. Just nobody blame me for some of the less-than-flattering ones!

Still, a fun time was had by all....
Alcohol may have been consumed (by some..including me).....
Our genial host (and the source of my increased yarn addiction) namely Val, owner of Made...

(did I metion alcohol?)..Nice soup though...
In truth, around five of us appeared to share 4 bottles of wine (though thank goodness we stopped at that!) so there were a few tipsy but not totally plastered group members that night.

It was a great night and a chance to meet other than at the shop (hence away from the wool fumes!) and the food was good too at a reasonable price. Who knows, maybe we'll have to spring another meal,...hmm, what's the next event...Easter maybe?

In other news, the Hug coat is nearing completion (or in the glass half-empty theory, getting closer to the dreaded sew-upathon); I'm currently creating a unique collar 'cos I have to add a twist here and there...

The xmas knitting list is officially closed as of today. There may be an IOU for the new year and swap pal stuff still to knit but in the short term it's going to be all " me, me, me!" (no change there then!). I may have a new project on the horizon, hopefully a quick one and I will get back to spinning sometime soon...just haven't had the energy after running round like a headless chicken trying to do christmassy stuff and housey stuff and shop stuff all at the same time, MAJOR plate spinning excercise, let me tell you! And poor hubbie has the dubious pleasure of having a birthday tomorrow which has always been a bone of contention as to its proximity to Christmas. Granted it hasn't always been treated sensitively enough and when my dad ended up shattering his ankle one year on that same day, he held his hands up and declared enough was enough! Anyway, now I need to be extra sensitive, arrange an as non-christmassy day as I can get my hands around at this time of year (this time it'll be a meal and a movie, fingers crossed!) whilst doing all of the above...

Still, his prezzies are wrapped, card's written and he's booked the day off (which, considering he's just worked 11 days straight is very necessary) so fingers x'ed it'll all go to plan.

So that's it for now, lord knows when I'll next post but you'll just have to watch this space...

Monday, 15 December 2008

Better late than never: Friday Questionnaire (UK Swap)

So, what is your favourite winter warmer for your hands?
Umm, for practicality, I’ve had loads of use from my snuggles, I like the gloves with just the fingertips missing so I can queue in the cold and still knit. Next on the list to knit will probably be glittens can see a pic. here so I can have toasty fingers when they’re not needed for knitting and maybe a hideously complex fair isle number to aspire to like sanquhar gloves (but a bit funkier).

Then again, I could try for a felted knit…indecisive anyone?

Do you have a favourite pattern or finished object?
Too many to count! I was mooching through the ravelry pattern selection (for three hours!) and found these which are really pretty…along with a million others!
(Floral Fair Isle Gloves) (rav. link)
(Twisted stitch Gauntlets) ( and...
(Swirling gauntlets) I might add fingers though!

What is your favourite yarn for gloves/mittens/handwarmers?
Wool or wool blend. I used Wendy Mode Aran for the snuggles but anything that keeps the wind out and my hands warm, it’s not an easy task round here as it’s pretty windy! Hence the felted versions.
Are there any patterns out there you would love to own?
With so many fantastic free patterns and my overly large library, I’ll never get through what I’ve got already!

Or do you already have a winter warmer and you would like some mittens/gloves/handwarmers to match?
I don’t have anything specific on the go at the moment.
Sorry for the lack of Sunday post, poor hubbie's been working all weekend AND I've started clearing the front room ready for the tree, not an easy task! I'll catch up eventually....

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Licking project at a time!

This week may not have been the most stress-free thanks to some pesky paperwork leaving me financially worse off for three weeks but after hours of phonecalls and the invaluable help of Wirral Bridges, fingers crossed it won't rear its ugly head again. Still, a combination of that and waiting in all day for the safe return of the wheel has been extremely beneficial for the knitting schedule.....

There's the FIL's Xmas socks AKA Fraternal (or spot the difference) socks...

...Mostly because I didn't actually write the pattern down first time round (it was make-it-up-as-you-go-along time) but they look close enough anyway! I think that's why I put off starting the second one for ages and fretted so much over the first one's pattern but, hey, they're done now so I can cross another Xmas project off the list.

I've been reassessing the list ( I DO get the propensity to keep adding MORE things!) and worked out that I'm a few short projects away from completion...providing I don't add any more pressure on, that is!

Actually, there's 2 more FO's to show you but you'll have to wait...despite taking the camera to the LYS all week, I still didn't manage to get photos...too busy and too preoccupied I guess! So that'll have to wait for next time. I can tease you even further by saying that both the Military Jacket AND the Bergere De France Jacket fit well and will make great cosy winter wear. Thing is, I don't want to pill up the BDF jacket before Xmas and so Made might as well use them for display until then..maybe get a few sales too...

Whilst I'm being virtuous about those projects, it occurred to me in a somewhat panicked state on Monday that I had nothing on the needles...Well, you know what I mean, I have at least a dozen UFO's outstanding but most are unsuitable for outdoor travelling or need more concentration than knitting group can stand or other reasons so I needed to start something new!

...And that's where the early up and long wait came in handy, transforming this pattern...

...Into the vast majority of a back which was completed the next day! Knitting's been a wee bit slower since then but I'm over halfway into the first front now so I'm hoping I can get wearing in the next couple of weeks. I've been stuck wearing a small selection of pure wool thick sweaters in the house to keep away the cold and it could be useful to have something new I CAN wear!

In the spirit of the recent knowledge acquired by the knitting of hte UURgh! coat, I've found a new respect for changing needle sizes to get tension and magically, the whole fabric becomes denser and how it's actually meant to look! With this pattern (common in Sirdar patterns), I've not only gone down a needle size but also a pattern size so it measures up to MY size...

I actually did manage to squeeze in a few extra rows of Mystic Ice too (though you probably can't see the difference...)

It's been hard going somehow...probably because this is the first square shawl I've ever knitted so the pattern's repeated four times and it makes for increasingly loong rows! The pattern itself is not that difficult but I guess I need to give it more of my time than I do at the moment...and be at home to use the laptop too!

I've also spent most of the week queueing at the sorting office collecting undelivered parcels, one of which was yarn from Turkey which looked like it might appropriate gauge for this somewhat more expensive yarn....

I picked up the pattern book half price over a year ago and when I saw the yarn reduced recently, it set me thinking. Still, at £3 per ball and at least 10 balls (16 for one project) needed, it was a lot cheaper to try this one instead.

It's a 50% Wool, 50% Acrylic singles spun yarn and the recommended needle size is 8-9mm but it seemed thinner in the flesh sooo...I did a multiple tension swatch to let the yarn speak to me.

Starting from the bottom, I swatched with a 9mm needle then went down in whole mm sizes so it covers 8,7,6 and 5mm. Personally, I like the feel at around 6mm so maybe I'll try a Noro project instead, it could be a substitute for Iro? Then again, it could be a push to design something for myself...It never hurts to put a little groundwork into a future project, particularly when you're feeling antsy for the next thing. Startitis, you fickle beast!

It could be a reaction to months of xmas knitting where I had to knit from yarns I wasn't aching to get into but I am trying to be kinder to myself right now, particularly as I'm busy and still fighting off the residue of this darned cold. The Noro stash started whispering sweet nothings into my ear, the Sirdar Escape keeps calling to me and then there's that Finnish number that I'm determined to make even if I can only work out about 25% of the words! Still, I'm finishing the Hug coat first and any final Xmas stuff then it'll be open season on the stash! And the Joy's relocating to Made so I get to spin at least on a Thursday and I can quell those cravings.

There are never enough hours in the day, but I seem to squeeze plenty out of them anyway!

Next stop will be the grand room clearance in prepration for the it really only a few weeks away?

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Handmade Item Swap Questionnaire

Swapping time comes around again...or pretty soon anyway! There'll be some fab. FO's to show off on Sunday but for now it's just info...

What kind of items are you interested in receiving?
Hat, gloves, handwarmers, socks, scarf

Do you knit, crochet, or both?
I basically knit, one day I’ll find time to learn to crochet!

What is your favourite colour?
Blues, greens, purples, autumn shades, deep chocolate browns, bright firey reds, black.

What is your least favourite colour?
My skin tone doesn’t suit beigey or pastel/washed out shades. Mustardy dull colours, most browns also don’t suit.

What’s your style? (elegant, traditional, glamourous, girly, natural, sporty, outgoing, etc.)
Eclectic! Okay, you probably want more than that…I favour cosy, comfortable items, tend to knit showstopper numbers as far as sweaters are concerned (to indulge my showoffishness) but they still have to be warm, snuggly and comfortable.

Do you have a favourite type of fiber or brand of yarn?
I like soft yarns whether all natural or wool mix, wool is so warm and cosy. I luurve variegated yarns like Noro, Mirasol, Manos for special occasions but there are so many lovely self-stripers out there now, it’s hard to pick a few! Sirdar Escape, Wendy Fusion, James Brett Marble, Opal and Regia sock yarns are all fab.

Do you have a least favourite type of yarn?
Itchy, scratchy yarn, I’m not terribly fond of cabled yarn (it reminds me of school sweaters!).

Do you do any other crafts?
I spin and dye as well as knit. I have done loads of other crafts over the years but tend to stick to these three at the moment.

Are there any knitting accessories you are interested in receiving?
Stitch Markers always come in handy! I’m addicted to Knitpicks Harmony needles right now, from their fixed circulars for socks to their interchangeable and straight needle sets but they’re a bit pricey for this swap!

What do you like to eat?
I like chocolate (who doesn’t?), ginger, orange, mint, caramel, shortbread, cookies, chocolate chip cake and for xmas we’re lining up a chocolate fondue set so stuff to dunk in chocolate could be good too like crackers.

Any allergies/preferences (fiber-wise or treat-wise)?
I don’t drink tea or coffee though do have the occasional Hot Chocolate or Twinings Fruit tea. If you have cats and they’re anywhere near any yarn/knitted item you’re sending me, just let me know as I’m mildly allergic. It’ll stop me from smooshing my face in straightaway! Gentle washing generally sorts it out anyway.

Anything we missed that you’d like your partner to know?
Nope, think I’ve covered everything I can think of but if you need to know anything else, just drop me a line. I’ll happily clarify. I love swaps and the chance to get to know new people!