The Year So Far

…Really hasn’t included much knitting, or blogging for that matter but we won’t mention that! The enforced break from blogging made me realize how easy it actually is to wean yourself off the internet, but I also missed writing and engaging with like minded folks, so for now, I’ll try again and see where this takes me.

The slightly enforced break from knitting, more about that in a bit, made me focus much more sharply on what it is that I really want to knit instead of the madcap “knit all the things” I was prone to before, which in all reality just set me up for complete failure as no-one can possibly knit all the things… but it didn’t stop me from trying.

So, that enforced break… I was experiencing a lot of pain in my right shoulder at the back end of last year, not knitting related thankfully, but it was painful enough to stop me knitting. Actually it was painful enough to stop me from doing most things. It turned out to be a frozen shoulder which baffled the Doctor and the Physical Therapists as I just don’t fit the profile of most people who end up with this, as it’s usually caused by a lack of use of the shoulder mainly due to the arm being strapped after surgery, or a lack of use in general. But I’m a kayaker, a camper, a hiker, a mountain biker, a cross country and down hill skier among other things. I like to be outside, and I like to spend most of my time outside “moving”, not just sitting and enjoying the view. I do knit of course, which is sedentary and I really enjoy family history and tracing my family tree, which is also sedentary, but I don’t do either of those things to excess.

The bottom line though was that I found myself in Physical Therapy three times a week for almost 2 hours at a time. And as amazing as it was (having never experienced anything like this before), it was also ridiculously painful in the beginning as my shoulder had to be forced to move in order to free itself up.  There were heat treatments and ice treatments, work outs, massages, time spent with the therapists and also exercises to do at home.  It took up a lot of time but I ended up stronger than before and with a better idea of what I’m capable off both mentally and physically.  I also made new friends and really looked forward to going along, after the first few very painful weeks!

I slowly got back into  knitting as my range of motion improved, so here’s a quick run down of the few things I’ve managed to finish so far this year.

January ~ My Young Padawan Socks by Heidi Nick

A simple pair or socks with a cable running down the centre.  I knitted them in a self striping yarn from Opal.


February/March ~ Woolly Snowflake Hat by Sylvia Leake

I made two of these for the wonderful techs at Therapy.  They were so much fun, kept everything upbeat as well as keeping everyone there on track, and we had the ability to regularly make ourselves laugh until we cried. They both have long hair, so they both got stranded colour work slouchy hats with big pompoms!   I was a bit compromised with time for these and ended up having to take finished photos at my work desk using my phone camera.  Both hats use Michigan Shepherd’s Yarn Worsted from Stonehedge, the top one in dark green and cream for a redhead and the bottom one in turquoise and cream for a blonde.


 

March/April ~ Entmoot by Heidi Nick

Socks really float my boat and I like nothing better than cables, put the two together and you have knitting nirvana as far as I’m concerned!  Yarn is Holiday Yarns FlockSock in Athena, this is a favourite brand of mine.


(Spot the stylized rabbit on the back of the leg!!)

A second very heavily cabled pair was also completed during March/April.  This one was a “Mystery Sock” for the Sock Knitter Anonymous on Ravelry.  The amazing pattern is called Jack of The Green by Claire Ellen, and yeah, all those cables, it’s a bit time consuming and I had to rest my hands a couple of times!  The lovely yarn is Eidos by The Verdant Gryphon in the colour On Dreams but these FO photos really don’t do it justice at all.

May/June ~ Ocean City Shawlette by Nancy Whitman

My final FO of the year so far is this really pretty shawl. I made it as a gift for my cousins wife when we met recently for the first time.  It’s made in the lighter version of Shepherd’s Wool from Stonehedge that I used for the colourwork hats, it’s classed as a light fingering/3 ply and is 100% worsted spun wool.


So that’s been my year so far. I have a couple of other posts planned as I’d like to write more about making small shawls from fingering weight yarn that’s usually only reserved for sock making, and I’ve been busy with the dyes and a slow cooker again so I’d like to show you the results of that fun weekend!

Radio Silence and Finished Socks

It’s absolutely amazing how that time/space timey wimey continuum thingymebob wotsit catches you out!  I’ve been busy recently but I was shocked to see that my last post here was at the beginning of May!

So, here’s a quick catch-up of the socks made so far this year, instead of the more blow by blow account that I was planning, but frankly, that’s probably a good thing!

First up is Paragon by VeryBusyMonkey, in KnitPicks Stroll Tonal in Thunderhead.

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Next we have Dr Who inspired socks by Heidi Nick, these ones are Rose Tyler and the yarn is West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4Ply in Juniper.  The cables on this pattern continue on to the foot.

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After them came a simple pair for my husband, Petty Harbor by Rayna Curtis in LionBrand Sockease in Taffy.

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Next up is a fun pair from Hunter Hammersen called Planorbis Corneus.  The yarn is also fun, nice and bright for when it was still snowing in Michigan in late April, it’s Berroco Ultra Alpaca in Grove Mix.

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And finally, these pretty socks have been on my radar for quite a while, but I was waiting on the perfect yarn before starting them.  They’re Sweet Chicory by Debbie Orr, and the yarn is Spritely Goods Fey in Fairy Duster.

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This is a close up of the lovely pattern but the photo above is a more accurate colour representation.

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I also counted up my current WIPs, or SIPs (socks in progress) if you prefer, and I find that there are five of those!  Better get knitting then.

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Finding Spring

In a continuation of the previous post, we finally sound something akin to Spring in South Carolina…

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And since returning to The Great Frozen North we’ve found it to be pleasantly unfrozen again.  Let the gardening commence.

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Always

I knit a lot of socks, I don’t mind admitting that.  I find them to be the perfect carry around project, and as they’re small, they’re also quick to make.  Not quite instant gratification, but certainly not jumper complexity levels either.

I also seem to like “fandom” patterns, having knit a lot of pairs inspired by Dr Who, Agatha Christie, Harry Potter etc.  The Harry Potter ones are the most prolific I must admit, so much so, that a knitting friend challenged me to leave Potterville behind this year and head deep into The Shire.  The February challenge at Sock Knitters Anonymous was Literary, so it seemed apropos.  I picked Aragorn and was busy choosing yarn for it when the unthinkable happened.  Alan Rickman died.  I was mortified, truly shocked actually as he’s long been a favourite of mine before any Harry Potter books were available to read, let alone watch on the big screen.  Some of my favourites are listed below, not all great movies, but all movies made better by Alan’s talents.

  • Robin Hood
  • The Barchester Chronicles
  • Blow Dry
  • Galaxy Quest
  • Dogma
  • Michael Collins
  • Bottle Shock
  • Sense and Sensibility

I’m still sad when I think that there will be no more films with AR in them after the couple that are being released this year.

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So I changed my plans pretty quickly, and turned to one of my favourite sock designers, Heidi Nick, and chose the beautiful After All This Time socks, based on an excerpt from The Deathly Hallows Pt2 when we finally learn of Snape’s love for Harry’s Mum, Lily.

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I knit my socks in a favourite yarn too, Holiday Yarns Flock Sock, the stitch definition for cables is outstanding, and I picked the most Slytherin-like colour from my stash.

 

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Naturally these immediately made it to the top of my most favourite things for 2016 so far and they’re now in regular rotation in my socks drawer.

Project page here.

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Stranding Around

Every year since I started knitting things other than dishcloths I’ve set myself a little goal to learn a new technique.  Two years ago it was lace, last year it was cables and this year it’s stranded or Fair Isle knitting.

Fair Isle knitting originated on the remote island of Fair Isle – a tiny jewel in the ocean lying midway between the Orkney and Shetland Islands to the north of Scotland in the UK, at the point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the North Sea.  The origin of the traditional knitting patterns is now not known, but their similarity to Moorish patterns has led to the, rather romantic, notion of a link to the Spanish Armada ship, El Gran Grifon, which was shipwrecked on Fair Isle in 1588 or the skill may have been developed from the Vikings who settled there in the more distant past.  It seems most likely that at some date a piece of patterned knitting was bartered into the isle from a passing ship in return for fresh food and water. Much of this trade was with ships from the Baltic nations and this is from where the knitting could well have originated. The isle women, who were probably already skillful producers of plain knitting, eventually developed the patterns into a unique form of knitting. By the mid 19th century all-over patterned garments were being traded off the isle and the evolution of the intricate patterning has continued ever since. Crosses and lozenge shaped hexagons containing symbols, often of a religious nature, formed the basic OXO pattern. A range of other, smaller, patterns – such as anchors, ram’s horns, hearts, ferns and flowers – were also used, all of which reflected the life and environment of the isle.

The traditional wool used in Fair Isle knitting is from the Shetland sheep, introduced to their close neighbours, The Shetland Isles, by the Vikings in the 9th century.  Neutral colours were the most common, dictated by the variations in the natural colour of the fleece, but native plants, and those bartered from passing ships, introduced more colours in to the palette.  Today the yarn is commercially spun and dyed in Sandness on the Shetland mainland, although the sheep on Fair Isle are mostly still sheared by hand using clippers.

In genuine, traditional Fair Isle knitting made on Fair Isle, two colours are used in each row with an average of four colours used throughout the whole garment. Blocks of patterns are not repeated.  The term ‘Fair Isle Knitting’ has nowadays unfortunately become generic and is used worldwide to denote any form of multicoloured knitwear.

So that’s a quick run down in the history of this type of knitting.  Two things always put me off trying stranded knitting.  The first was thinking about managing two or more colours and balls of wool at the same time; and the second was all the project notes I’d read on Ravelry that said that their item ended up too tight and had to be ripped out.  In order to combat the fear of more than one colour on the go, I knitted two mosaic sock patterns towards the latter half of last year, see 2015 In Wool post, August and November.  They worked out well and gave me confidence to look into colourwork further.  The  second issue was more worrying.  In traditional colourwork the yarn not in use for a few stitches is carried along behind the working yarn creating “floats”, or “strands” of unknit wool on the back of the project.  Get these strands too tight and they pull in the garment, making it unwearable as it doesn’t block out.  There are techniques to help you keep the floats loose, but it all seemed a bit intimidating for a beginner colourworker.

One of the sock knitting challenges on Ravelry that I like to participate in had stranded knitting as part of their January challenge so I decided to knuckle down and, armed with lots of info about what to do and what not to do, give it a go.

I choose what looked like a simple pattern that stated it was good for beginners and looked through all the projects already made to give me a starting point, Fair Isle Flower Sock by Candice DeWitt.  I ended up picking a plain cream yarn and a multi coloured contrast yarn for the patterned part.  That way I would get a colour variation without constantly changing yarns.

This is how my sock started out

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The pretty yarn on the left is Lorna’s Laces, and as pretty as it is it’s killed every pattern I’ve tried with it because of the short colour runs.  Pairing it with the cream plain yarn not only tamed it but allowed it to shine.

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I ended up really liking the technique, the floats turned out to not be an issue, I think because I constantly checked them and made them as loose as I could.  I can see more gap lines between the dpns that I would have on normal socks but I was very happy for a first attempt.  So happy in fact that I started modifying the pattern.

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I have a lot of notes for my modifications on my Ravelry page for this project if anyone is interested in making their own.  And these socks turned out to be the springboard for more stranded projects.  But more on that another time.

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2015 In Wool

Cross posted from my old blog, but it seems like a really good place to start on the new blog too.

I like to do a recap of the previous years knitting in the early weeks of the new year.  It turned out that my 2014 recap was all about keeping my feet warm, my feet, I’m happy to report, were also well supplied in 2015, but I managed to keep other parts of me warm too.  In fact, I made the exact same number of pairs of socks in 2014 and 2015, but the big shift in 2015 was to accessories.  I’m not branching out per se, it’s just that I’ve become quicker at the socks and have more time for knitting in general.

So here’s a month by month breakdown:

January ~ Unsurprisingly the month started with socks.  Pretty lace ones in a bright orange yarn.  The pattern is Crescendo by Laura Jenkins and the yarn is hand dyed from Canadian dyer Tanis Fibre Arts in the Orange Blossom colourway.

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February ~ Birthday socks for Mr WL.  Cheaper, big box yarn that he picked because of the bright colour and I think subconsciously, they reminded him of Giraffes which are his favourite animals!  Just a simple rib patttern, he has big feet and I know a rib is going to fit him well, it’s one I’ve used before by Glenna C called A Nice Ribbed Sock.

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The first accessory appeared in February too.  Staghorn Cable Mitts to match a cowl I made at the end of 2013.  They grew out of a  pattern for wrist warmers by Carribee, but I lengthened them into fingerless mitts.  Yarn is Stonehedge Shepherd’s Wool in worsted weight (UK Aran), a yarn that is relatively local to me here in Michigan.

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March ~ Harry Potter inspired socks, these are Socks For The Deputy Headmistress by Erica Lueder, knit in big box craft store yarn but they’re my favourite cheaper brand and they wear really well. (Patons Kroy).

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April ~ A hat for me.  This is Clun Forest Hat by Carol Huebscher, knit in a different colour of the Stonehedge yarn that I made the fingerless mitts with.  A pretty, simple and quick knit.

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And a pair of simple socks, Snow Queen Socks by Emmy Coplea, inspired by the Snow Queen in the Hans Christian Andersen books.  The yarn was hand dyed in Maine using old lobster pots as the dye kettle, the colour is Cape Sky.

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Another pair of April socks were Alluvial Deposits by Rich Ensor, these were much more complicated and I thought they’d never be finished.  I knitted them everywhere, even on a beach in South Carolina.  These socks use my absolute favourite yarn for socks, Holiday Yarns Flock Sock, the colour here is Seaglass.

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May ~ Back to the Harry Potter themed socks for May, these are Moody Stockings by Erica Lueder (though technically wouldn’t Mad Eye only require one sock?), a gansey inspired textured knit using a 75% bamboo/25% nylon mix so no wool in these at all.  They’re very soft and surprisingly heavy, a sport weight rather than a fingering and they’re very lovely to wear.

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June ~ It seems I did a lot of fandom knitting in 2015 and I’ve only just realised it.  These socks are Dr. Who inspired, Weeping Angel by Marie Martin, named for those creepy angel statues that move!  I bought this yarn whilst on holiday in South Carolina, although it’s a Californian yarn, Pagewood Farms.  I wear these a lot, I love the pretty Spring colours in them.

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July ~ More Literary fandom up next, these are Nemesis by Susan Dittrich, named after the Miss Marple book/program/film of the same name.  I loved making these, the yarn was sublime, it has cashmere in it, and I adored the simple, yet effective, pattern.

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August ~ Bovary socks by General Hogbuffer, yes, more literary themed socks!  These were a mystery knit-a-long, the pattern is split into four clues and you get one a week.  I think these were my least favourite pair last year though, I’m never keen on all over lace at the best of times, but most lace patterns have an all knit rest row between lace rows.  These ones didn’t and I hated the lace on lace rows as they hurt my hands.  I almost didn’t make the second sock!  But the yarn is very soft and comfortable, Louet Gems, so I do find myself wearing them a lot.

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An August pair I did love though are these, Ugly Duckling socks by Karin Aida, so called because you take an ugly skein of yarn and pair it with a solid yarn and a slip stitch pattern and an amazing transformation takes place.  The results are remarkable and they look incredibly difficult, like stranded knitting only they’re neither stranded nor difficult.  I made mine with scraps of yarn from other sock projects so I had an awful lot of ends to sew in.  The technique is called Mosaic Knitting. Can you see the glaring error on the bottom sock?

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September ~ A busy month on the knitting front with three projects started and finished, that’s a record.  First up was another hat, Thistle Hat from Carrie Bostock Hoge, in more of the Stonehedge Worsted yarn.  This was left over from a scarf I made for Mr WL a couple of years ago.  As you can see, it’s only small, so it knitted up in no time.  I’d like to make this one again in a pale blue.

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Next was a cowl to go with the hat I made in April, another quick knit and it used up the rest of the yarn I had used to make the hat with so it cost me nothing, as did the Thistle Hat.  It’s called Twisted Willow and it’s by Tetiana Otruto. I still haven’t blocked it as I really like how it hugs my neck instead of gaping open.  We have cold Winters in Michigan, so I don’t see the point of a big gap at the neck when you’re all wrapped up to keep out the cold.  It seems to defeat the object of making something warm!

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Finally for September, a pair of socks, and we’re back on the Harry Potter theme.  Tentacular Leaves by Heidi Nick.  These have been in my queue for ages but they’re pretty complicated, seven charts, and I was more than a bit intimidated, but breaking it down in to individual pieces and not looking at all of the charts as one entity, meant I had them done in just 23 days!  The yarn was also bought in South Carolina, and it’s incredibly soft and a bit fuzzy as it contains Llama, it’s Good For Ewe Sultry Steps. Up until this point I’d been knitting using small, uncomplicated charts but these socks really took away my fear of charts.  So much so that in recent months I’ve been test knitting for Heidi!

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October ~ I worked on a larger project and two pairs of socks but got nothing finished this month.  I really thought I’d finished something every month last year, but apparently that was not the case.

November ~ My most favourite pair of socks all year, possibly of all time, were made in November.  I used Holiday Yarns Flock Sock again (see April) and cemented my love for it, the stitch definition is amazing for cables, and I love cables too!  Pattern is Wheatsheaf Socks by Jennifer Pattison and the yarn colour is Amethyst.

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The second November pair were another of the Mosaic technique socks (see August) and I don’t know how I feel about these ones.  The bright yarn is 100% Merino so it should be beautiful and sumptuous but it’s not, it’s very splitty; it’s also dyed in extremely short colour runs and it seems to contain every colour known to man!  I would have preferred to pair it with black but I only had this dark gray.  I think it’s a pair that probably looks better close up as most of the grey pattern on the sock is rather lost.  The pattern is Zarathustra by Caoua Coffee and it looks really striking in the right colours .  These are not the right colours.

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December ~ I seemed to finish the year with a bang.  The “big project” mentioned above was finished.  It’s a scarf/shawlette, my first.  I made it with 100g of Stonehedge fingering weight yarn (4 ply) in the Roasted Pumpkin colour; the scarf is called Saroyan by Liz Abinante after a character in a TV show. I knitted this on a transatlantic flight, both to the UK and the return journey and received a lot of compliments on it from the cabin staff.

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I also finished socks this month.  These are Meera & Jojen by Jill Bickers from the Fire and Ice series of books, so more fandom ones, although I’ve never read the books.  They’re simple ones with a fraternal lace section running down the outside of each one.  The yarn is Araucania from Peru and as it uses pure new wool and not Merino, they’re very woolly socks, but they softened considerably after washing.

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And over Christmas I started and finished a hat, Prim by Andrea Mowry, and made my first ever pompom, as an adult at least, to go on it.  I made it to match the fingerless mitts from February and a cowl I made at the end of 2013, so I have my first matching set now, all made with the Stonehedge Worsted yarn which I absolutely love!

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And below is the complete set of hat, cowl and mitts.

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There were a couple of other things on the needles in 2015 too.  I test knit for a designer for the first time to check out her pattern and ask questions/report any mistakes/ offer pattern advice for clarification etc. (See September socks).   I only had to make one sock for that, but I do plan on making a mate for it, after all, one sock isn’t any use to man nor beast!  I used KnitPicks Hawthorne for the first time and despite it having beautiful saturated colours it’s a devil to photograph.

These are the best photos to show off the pattern, which is Five Golden Tickets (from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) by Heidi Nick.

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However, this is the true yarn colour:

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I also should have had a second pair of socks finished in December, but they got put aside in favour of the Prim hat!  I’ve started working on them again and they should be finished soon, I have the heel and the foot to do of the second one, basically 50% of one sock or 25% of a pair left to do.  Here’s the completed sock, it’s called Paragon by Very Busy Monkey.

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So the totals for 2015 were:

  • 14 pairs of socks
  • 2 single socks
  • 3 hats
  • I pair of mitts
  • I cowl
  • 1 long scarf

And all of that added up to 3.17 miles of yarn used, or 5,581 yards, but that total doesn’t include the two half pairs shown above.

So, looking forward to 2016, what’s on the cards, or the needles for that matter?  I definitely want to try stranded knitting, you know, fair isle.  Nothing big, like a jumper, I’ll start with a pair of socks and maybe move on to a nice hat of something like that.  I’d also like to continue knitting more accessories, especially shawls.  I have some fantastic yarn in my stash that’s 100% Merino wool, which won’t make brilliant socks because it lacks nylon content, but it would make fantastic lacy or cabled shawls.  So that’s my plan for the coming months.

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