Thief!

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It’s always upsetting when something gets nicked but it’s particularly horrible when it’s something you’ve made yourself. On Friday I was in the pub and another customer apparently decided that they were a bit cold and would like to warm themselves up by wearing my beloved Autumn Leaves scarf home! I should add that it’s quite a nice pub where the beer is fairly expensive and the customers can afford to buy their own accessories. It’s a bit silly to get overly attached to an inanimate object but I loved that scarf! :( I get very cold and pretty much hate winter but it’s so reassuringly big and cozy and colourful that it brought me much needed cheer. It took me a little while to make but I’ve worn it pretty constantly through this winter and last winter.

Now, I like a drink now and again (ahem…) and if I’d had one too many and forgotten it I would only have myself to be cross with. But I really can’t fathom what sort of person steals something that is so obviously handmade and irreplaceable and really of no value to anyone but me. I’ve had wallets stolen before of course (I lived in London for seven years) but I understand that as it’s skint people who are after money. It’s crappy and upsetting but it makes sense. This is something totally different……It’s not like there’s any chance that whoever took it thought it was theirs either! I’m really very confident that no-one else has made themselves the exact same pattern of scarf in the same wool….

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So, should you happen to be walking about in Cambridge and spot someone snugged up in my beautiful (and frankly rather distinctive) toasty scarf you will know they are a thief! I haven’t got the heart to make myself a new one at the moment so for the moment I will be looking very grumpy and a bit cold…….

A cardigan for a very tall and incredibly thin person…..

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It’s taken me years to get around to making an Aidez by Cirilia Rose. It’s a free pattern with a really lovely cable. There are tones of them on Ravelry complete with super happy pictures. I did my research in advance and it looked like the biggest problem would be small arm holes. I was a bit worried about that as I am rather generously proportioned in the arm area (I have no idea why as I am lacking in any accompanying strength). Luckily for me that didn’t happen. I ran into a different problem entirely. I managed to make a cardigan which is super duper long and at the same time impossibly narrow and thus totally unwearable. :(

While this is not the first virtually unwearable item I’ve made it is by far the most beautiful! It’s so cruel. It looks so lovely sitting there and then as soon as I put it on it on, ugh! I couldn’t bear to take a picture as it looks so dreadful so I will try and describe it instead. Picture a long thin sheet of knitted fabric hanging limply down my back, so narrow that you can barely see it from the front. It manages to make me look both shorter and rounder which is not exactly the look I’m going for.

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Look how pretty the pattern is! I wish I could wear it!

I suspect that the problem is with the wool. It’s a lovely sort of grey/purple shade of Garnstudio DROPS Big Merino which was an absolute pleasure to knit with (It is super soft and has the loveliest stitch definition). Unfortunatly it is on the thin side for an aran which is less than ideal considering the pattern actually calls for super bulky wool. My gauge was a little off but I thought I could get away with going up a couple of sizes. Clearly that was an optimistic plan!

As I was making the front pieces I was concerned that they seemed rather small but had hatched a plan to pick up stitches around the outside to form a fairly thick button band. Once I’d finished the (long and rather tedious) process of seaming I realised that the approach just wouldn’t work as the button band would need to be 4 or 5 inches which would look weird and use up a hell of a lot of wool. It also wouldn’t solve the problem of the cardigan being insanely long.

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Look closely, can you see where I went wrong?

To make matters more frustrating with this project I actually had to make the back twice. I’d finished the whole thing off and started on the front before I spotted the sneaky knit stitches hiding in with the purls. I thought maybe I could get away with leaving them but the longer I looked at it the more I could see the mistake! As I was using pretty big needles (6.5mm) the second version came together quite quickly but I was still less than thrilled.

On a more positive note the cables look quite complex but are super simple and easy to remember. If you’re familiar with the pattern you might have noticed that I’ve made a slight change to the outer cables on the back. I could pretend it’s because I preferred the more classic cable I went with in the end but that would be a lie. In truth I couldn’t work out what the instructions were asking me to do and rather than be patient with it I just substituted the cable for something easy! I’m sure that if I had read it properly and spent some time on it I would have worked it out in the end.

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So, what am I going to do about this knitting disaster? I haven’t quite made up my mind yet. An optimist might say that I could improve things with a really firm block to try and widen the cardigan and take up some of the length (so far it’s only had a pretty half hearted blocking). Or, I could just admit defeat and unravel it? Perhaps this cardigan just isn’t meant to be!

How easy is it to re-use old wool?

A year or so ago I made a Funky Grandpa by La Maison Rililie in Du Store Alpakka Mirasol. I loved the wool and I hoped that it would be an awesome boxy cardigan that I would wear to death. Unfortunately it didn’t work out quite the way I wanted it to. The weight was a bit wrong for the style of cardigan plus it was a bit too big for my shoulders and kept falling off.  I wore it a few times last winter but other than that it has stayed resolutely in the cupboard.

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Here’s the cardigan before I unravelled it!

So, when I ran out of wool between Christmas and New Year (very poor planning on my part) and decided to have a go at unravelling and re-using some old wool, this cardigan was first on the list. As I’d finished this over a year ago I didn’t find it too painful to unravel. I still love the buttons so I was pleased to have them to use for another project (maybe Bellows ). The wool is alpaca and had started to try and felt in places so it took a little persuasion to unravel at times but I made fairly swift progress and rather enjoyed it.

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This is how curly it was!

Initially I’d planned to try and re-knit the unravelled wool without washing it properly first. This turned out to be a very unrealistic idea as the the wool came out insanely kinky. It would have been a nightmare to work with (and I suspected would have looked awful when knitted up). So I decided to do things properly. I wound the wool into skeins (using the back of a chair), soaked it in some lovely hand wash detergent and hung it out in the garden to drip dry.

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It looks a lot less kinky after I’d washed it.

The skeins of wool haven’t come out totally straight but they are looking much better! I think the final little kinks will come out over time as they are wound into balls.

The process has been a little more time consuming that I’d originally thought, and the front room is now covered in bits of orange fluff,  but I’ve found it very relaxing. Lots of winding things and unwinding things!

I’ve already started a new project with the wool. It’s going to be Natsumi by Kazekobo (from Wool People Vol. 7). I’ve had my eye on this project for a while and think the wool will suit it very well. I’m hopeful that the fluffiness of the alpaca combined with the side-on stitches and the interest of the cable pattern will distract the eye from any imperfections in the re-used wool.

I would definitely recommend having a look through your knitting drawer and seeing what you can find to unravel! It’s much slower than going to the shop but the process is relaxing and nothing beats the smug feeling of getting something for nothing!

A massive blanket I can actually wear in public

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For a couple of winters now I’ve been craving a massive aran cardigan to keep me warm when the weather gets chilly. A big baggy one, to wrap myself up in, that would easily go over a jumper, basically like blanket that I can wear in public without fear of embarrassment.  This winter I actually got around to doing something about it! I opted for Maude by Carrie Bostick Hoge as it looked super cosy. I was also tempted by Rosemont Cardigan . I might make that one for next year.

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If you look closely you can see the line from where my cardigan was drying on the airer. I was too lazy to block it out properly!

I used Garnstudio DROPS Nepal in cream. It’s a slightly itchy wool but it’s super warm and it’s for the winter so is unlikely to be right next to my skin. It was slightly off gauge, to be honest, but as it was going to baggy I wasn’t too concerned. Indeed, I was so confident that the gauge issue wouldn’t increase the size too much that I went up a size to make sure that it was suitably baggy. In the end that was overkill; I had forgotten that I am only 5’2” and that my knitting is almost always too big….  It’s a HUGE cardigan! At first I was a bit disappointed as it wasn’t what I’d had in mind. I was aiming for big rather than massive. However, as it has been cold I’ve been wearing it anyway and it has really grown on me. Now I’m thinking that it looks kind of cool in a 90s sort of way.

This is what it should look like. I think this model is quite a lot taller than me!

This is what it should look like. I think this model is quite a lot taller than me!

I’m so used to working with 4-ply that it was a bit weird to be knitting in aran. It came together so quickly and my progress was so visible!

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The sleeves are so long I’ve had to turn them up

The pattern was super easy to follow and I ran into no problems at all. It’s a nice construction with the body worked in once piece until you reach the sleeves and then both the sleeves worked before bringing everything together onto a circular needle. No seaming! The button band is picked up at the end and worked in garter stitch. I wasn’t sure about that at the time as I like the stretch of a ribbed button band and thought a garter rib might pull it out of shape. It has grow on me now but I think that if I was doing it again I would go for a rib to pull it all in.

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The buttons look like they are hideously uneven at the bottom but they are fine I promise!

I got the buttons from the lovely Raystitch in Islington last time I was in London. I have a thing for wooden buttons and I think these are perfect for the shade of cream. I normally avoid cream wool for fear of staining it, by chucking tea all over it or something, but I surprised myself by keeping it clean, even while drinking mulled wine! I had planned to put the pockets in as I am a huge fan of pockets but I ran out of wool and was too cheep to order another ball.

Although its turned out differently to the cardigan I had in my head at the start it has really grown on me and has been worn in heavy rotation since I finished it. I work at home and it’s particularly good for chucking on as an extra layer if it’s not quite cold enough to put the heating on but distractingly chilly. It was also AMAZING when I ventured into the icy cold for ice-skating. My toes were freezing but the rest of me was toasty! All in all I would call it a success!

Making presents

Hello, Happy New Year! As you might have guessed I am a big fan of knitting and sewing in general so it follows that I would also be a big fan of knitting and sewing my own Christmas presents. Here are a few that I made this year:

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These are some lavender pillows for keeping drawers smelling nice. I saw something similar at a craft fair before Christmas and I thought they looked pretty easy to replicate. I used bits of left over fabric that I had and got a big bag of lavender from the awesome vegetarian shop down the road for just a pound! I’m very pleased with the way these have turned out and I really enjoyed making them. I was quite tempted to make a set for myself actually!

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This is a pair of oven gloves I made for my mum. Sorry for the rubbish photo. They were a bit too long to fit in. You’ll just have to trust me that they look good! I used a pattern from a Cath Kidston book and some fabric I already had. These were my first experiment with wadding but it was much simpler than I feared. Getting the bias binding to look neat was surprisingly tricky but I could solve that another time by not taking the wadding all the way up to the edge. My walking foot came in very handy for these. I’m not quite sure how you’d manage otherwise!

I also made a little pair of hand warmers for my sister.

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These are a pair of Sherwood Mitts by Pam Allen. I made them in Garnstudio DROPS Nepal. I’ve made these hand warmers before, also as a Christmas present, and I really enjoyed knitting them both times. The pattern is pretty easy to remember and as the wool is nice and chunky they come together quickly. I need to get around to making a pair for myself at some point!

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Coco also got into the spirit of Christmas and let me decorate her cage. She loves Christmas because she is a massive fan of brussel sprouts and also cardboard boxes. She doesn’t like it so much when we try and dress her up in a Christmas hat though….

It turns out colour work is not for me!

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I’m very into boxy shaped jumpers and cardigans at the moment so when I spied the Peace and Love sweater  I was super keen. I was slightly concerned that not many people had made it but I put that down to a limited selection of sizes and maybe the challenging colour work.

I decided that this jumper would give me a good opportunity to try out Garnstudio DROPS Merino Extra Fine which I’ve had my eye on for a while. There’s only so much alpaca a girl can knit and sometimes I need a rest from it!  I’m not normally one for copying the exact colour of the sample but this time I couldn’t resist the lovely dark grey. I love grey.  The merino was a treat to work with and is nice and soft against my skin. It’s also a bargain at £3.10 a ball! 

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I made the small and it’s come out a bit bigger than it should have done. This was no massive surprise as my gauge was totally off. I think the pattern was made for a smaller DK wool. Because of the arthritis in my hands I have to be careful of working with too stiff a fabric. My 3.5mm needle tension square was already pushing it a bit so I couldn’t really go any smaller. I think the final size is pretty good actually and any smaller would have been too small. For me it’s more important to enjoy the process than have perfect tension.

In case you haven’t seen it the jumper should look like this:

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The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed that the original version (above) has a lovely bit of colour work going on and mine…. ummmmm…..doesn’t. I tried, I really did. I wound some little bobbins with wool and a had a valiant go but whatever I did it turned out rubbish, the tension was all wrong, the edges looked weird and all in all it just wasn’t quite good enough. It was so disastrously bad I couldn’t bring myself to take a picture of any of the attempts.

Proof I tried to do the colour work!

Proof I tried to do the colour work! I cut out some little bobbins and everything!

After I admitted defeat with the colour work I thought I would be all clever and replace the colour stitches with a purl. This was looking great and I’d completed almost all of the pattern before I realised that I’d managed to do it off centre. Ahhhhhhhhhhh! It was about the 5th time I’d had to start again and I can’t bring myself to rub out the marking on my pattern and start  yet another time so I decided that fate wanted me to have a plain jumper. I prefer plain jumpers anyway.

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This is the first jumper I’ve made for ages that needs to be seamed. I’d forgotten how tedious it can be! It took hours and was very dull. I’m not 100% sure that the sleeves are set in as well as they could be  (I’d prefer them to sit a little bit flatter) but otherwise I’m pleased.

The sleeve length indicated that the pattern was a little shorter than I prefer. I planned to make them just a little bit longer but accidentally made them huuuuuuuge. As I was sewing them up I was very worried indeed. However, now that it’s finished I am loving the long sleeves. They are ideal for the winter and keep my poor hands warm, like built in hand warmers!

I’m very happy with the jumper and have been wearing it loads now that the weather has turned cold. I love the colour and the fabric and the shape is great, perfect!

Ravello jumper – (yet) another lesson in checking gauge!

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The ribbing looks a bit messy because I didn’t quite get around to switching down to a smaller needle…..I think I can just about get away with it though!

As you may well have noticed I’m a big fan of Garnstudio DROPS Alpaca. If I had to choose it would be probably be my favourite wool to knit with because a) it’s fairly cheap b) it feels nice c) you get a lot of yardage for a ball and d) it’s splendidly fluffy (and hides your mistakes). My obsession with this particular wool is causing me a couple of problems. Firstly, I have ended up with a fairly vast selection of knitwear in exactly the same wool (sometimes the same shade of the same wool….) which is a little odd and means that if by some freakish turn of fate I don’t want wear alpaca I have very limited options. Secondly, I have ended up with numerous random balls of Garnstudio DROPS Alpaca in various shades. Not quite enough to make anything out of in any particular colour but enough to make me feel guilty when I see them sitting around…..The solution to the first problem is obviously to branch out and force myself to use some different materials and hopefully I’ll be able to share that with you in the next few weeks. The solution to the second problem? a multi coloured ravello by Isabell Kraemer! 

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Thankfully I had a few colours that sort of go together. You might recognise them from previous patterns? The construction was super simple and the pattern very easy to follow. It’s just a top down raglan jumper.  I don’t think I ran into one single problem with the pattern.

I got part way through one of the sleeves before realising that I probably didn’t have enough grey to finish both of the sleeves. This was a bit annoying as I think it would look much better with grey sleeves. However there’s always going to be a bit of compromise when you’re working with odds and ends of wool so I had a go with blocks of green at the bottom of the sleeves. It was looking a bit wrong when I started it but I hoped that it would look better as I got going. It didn’t….I think it’s something about the move from little stripes of green and grey to massive chunks of them that didn’t work. After starring at it for a lot time I decided to switch the green for the purple. That way it matches the block of colour at the bottom of the body and looks a little less random.

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I’ve finally tracked down some wooden 2.75mm needles which has made my old lady hands very happy!

I’ve been making a lot of knitwear with an open weave lately so I thought I’d use 2.75mm needles and have a firmer fabric. Given my many recent gauge based disasters you’d think that I’d make a swatch…….but I didn’t…I don’t know why….. I just started and hoped for the best! Because of that it’s come out a little small. Not so small that I can’t wear it without looking indecent but small enough that I feel a little self conscious about my recent cake intake. It also makes my arms feel rather tubby (I am going to pretend that is yoga based muscle rather than fat arms!) Because of that I haven’t worn it that much. I think it is waiting for a skinny day, or spring or a high waisted skirt……or a flash of inspiration!

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Look at my sad little face! I haven’t helped matters by taking a slightly blurry picture on a dark rainy day!

For some reason I decided to make it a little shorter than the pattern suggests. To be honest I don’t really remember why. Perhaps I was getting bored of the stocking stitch? In retrospect it probably would have been better longer but I’m not bothered enough to undo the ribbing and fix it.

All in all my attitude to this jumper is distinctly ‘meh’. I’m not sure about the sizing (my own fault) or indeed the busyness of all of the colours (inevitable when using up lots of wool). However I quite enjoyed making it and it was basically free so if it ends up at the charity shop or gets given to a friend I haven’t lost anything! Fingers crossed my next project with be more successful!