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!

Spring jumper

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It’s a coincidence that the flowers behind me are nearly the same colour as my jumper but I think it looks rather lovely.

Most people I know put away their wooly jumpers and cardigans as soon as the first hint spring comes. Not me! I love knitwear and being a knitter I have an exceptionally large collection. Luckily I am one of those people who is always cold so rather than bore my nearest and dearest moaning on about it I just carry on wearing my knitwear almost all year around (obviously it is occasionally too hot for a cardigan, I’m not cold blooded). Also as cold+ arthritis = pain I have an added incentive to keep knitting all year around.

If you read this blog regularly you’ll have noticed that I love Garnstudio DROPS Alpaca. I use it a lot because a) it’s cheap b) I like the colours and c) I like the texture. I’d highly recommend it. So far though I’ve never used it doubled up. I gave that a go with il grande favorito by Isabell Kraemer. 

I’ve had my eye on the pattern for a while. I love slouchy fluffy jumpers so it’s right up my street. It’s a bit of a simple knit though, lots of boring stocking stitch, so I wasn’t super excited about the process of knitting it. Once I got started I realised that it was going to be super fast. With the wool doubled up and 6mm needles the jumper zipped by. It can’t have taken me more than 3 weeks and those were 3 weeks of slack knitting as it was so dull. I got to use my cubic needles which is always a treat and much easier on my hands. I love my cubic needles and I just wish they made them in smaller sizes.

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I was very well behaved and made a tension square. I’m pleased I did it because it meant that the jumper was a fairly good fit. If anything I maybe should have made it a little bit bigger to accommodate my many voluminous tops. As you can tell by my happy little face I love this top. It’s really cozy, it has nice long sleeves and it’s a very pretty colour. I didn’t actually indeed to go for that sort of shade of lilac, I thought it would be more of a dirty pink. I got used to it while I was knitting it and now it’s really grown on me. Sometimes shopping for wool online can be a bit of a magic mystery tour where you don’t always get what you planned but you get something interesting. I’m very pleased and tempted to make myself another one in a bigger size in grey for the winter…..

Hey Girl cardigan

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Before Christmas I went along to a craft show with my mum and I found some Rowan Purelife in DK on sale. I haven’t used a DK in ages and I was taken with the colours.

It took me a while to find the right pattern for it. I wanted it to be a fairly classic cardigan with a V neck. Because the wool is variegated I needed a simple design that wouldn’t fight with the grey and white but wouldn’t be too boring. I hunted around for a bit and came up with the Hey Girl pattern by Bonne Marie Burns.

It’s taken me a quite a long time to finish the cardigan. The combination of 3.5mm needles and DK wool made for a very stiff fabric which was pretty tough on my hands. I couldn’t work on it for very long and when I did it wasn’t very comfortable. That probably would’ve have been too much of a problem if I’d been more excited about the project however as useful as plain raglan cardigans are they are super boring to work on!

The pattern was well written and easy to follow. I went with the plain version because there was already enough going on with the wool to need to bother with a textured stitch. I ignored the waist shaping because I wanted it a bit less fitted and more boxy. I also ignored the instructions for sewing up the neckband. I tried the whip stitch the pattern suggested but it looked really crappy and the seam was very obvious do I undid it and sewed it up with a mattress stitch which looked much better. It left things a little bulky but once blocked looked much better.

When I was making the body of the cardigan I put the sleeve on some orange scrap wool. After a while I got really attached to the combination of the orange with the grey/cream. I decided to see how it would look it I finished off the edges in orange. I wasn’t 100% sure at first but now I love it!

Because there were so many colours I wasn’t quite sure what to do about the buttons. I tried various combinations of grey and wooden buttons but it just didn’t look right. I thought orange would look pretty awesome but it turns out that orange buttons are virtually impossible to get hold of. I was having one last look in Dalston Mill and I spotted some lovely cream ones. I bought them on a whim and turned out that they were perfect.

Despite the fact that I hated this cardigan for most of the time I was knitting it I love it now that it is finished! It’s cozy, warm and comforting and the colours work really well. I’m so taken with it that I might make myself another one in a different colour.

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An accidental foray (back) into 90s grunge

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I hope you’re not getting too sick of shots of my garden…..it’s looking pretty bleak at the moment. Still, a garden in London is a very exciting thing.

Being of a lazy disposition I rarely bother to work out gauges for my knitting or do a tissue fitting for my sewing so I often find that there’s an element of surprise to trying on any finished garment I’ve made. Sometimes it is a pleasant surprise (it looks like it was going to be too small but it fitted or the cut/shaping is super flattering) and otherwise less so…..it’s not necessarily that I don’t like it but that it doesn’t look the way I had seen it in my head. I’m having that problem with my Robin  jumper at the moment. It’s come out waaaaaaaay bigger than expected and is looking very different to what I thought I was making!

You would think that I would have learned by now that as my knitting is so loose and everything I make comes out huge that I need to make the very smallest size and even then go down a few needle sizes. Perhaps you’d even think that I’d finally start checking my gauge properly and trying things on as go. But no…..for some reason I can’t comprehend the making of an extra small, it feels too cold to take off one jumper to try on a half finished one and I’m wedded to be 3.25mm needles  for 4 ply (even when I know that the fabric is looking rather open and distinctly unlike the picture on the pattern).

In my defence I find that working on a loose fabric is much easier on my arthritis. I think that it reduces the strain on my hands. Recently I was working with an aran weight on 4mm needles to get gauge (it was a hat for someone else so I was forced to make an effort) and the stiff fabric was so much tougher on my hands (even with my lovely cubic needles) that I could only work on it for half an hour or so at a time. I fear I am consigned to a life time of over sized garments unless I buck up my ideas and start measuring/trying on/adapting things!

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Here’s my jumper blocking on the spare bed.

Anyway back, to the Robin. I shamelessly copied Kathryn when I saw her making this in the summer. I  like the shape (I am a big fan of bat-wing sleeves) and also the stripes. I decided it would be perfect for the Du Store Alpakka Tynn Alpakka I picked up while we were in Norway. I love the shade of green, it’s muted and subtle but still pretty interesting. As this wool is pretty hard to get in the UK I had to use Garnstudio DROPS Alpaca for the stripe. The two are fairly similar so I wasn’t too worried about them looking odd. I tried out various colours with the green and went with grey in the end. For some reason I thought I would need loads of wool for the stripes and ordered three balls of the grey! In the end I only used one….

The pattern was super duper easy to follow, it’s a top-down raglan with short row shaping at the neckline and at the back and some stripes to keep life interesting. The only problems I had were occasionally getting carried away and forgetting the stripes and doing something odd with my first lot of short row shaping on the back. Other than that it sailed along smoothly and was a very relaxing project to get along with. A perfect TV watching bit of knitting.

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Here’s what it should look like……..

I knew as I was going along that it was looking pretty big. I suspected that it was going to be baggy but I didn’t realise until it was blocked and dried and I had put it on quite how big it would end up! It’s massive! I suspect that it doesn’t help that I’m only 5’2”……

There’s something of the 90s grunge about it that I wasn’t expecting, it’s something to do with the extent of the bagginess and the length I think. I  was decidedly unsure at first. But it’s really growing on me now! It may not be super flattering but it’s very comfy with nice long sleeves to keep my hands warm.  Anyway, I rather liked the 90s first time around so there’s no harm in getting on board with it again! Maybe I should get myself some Doc Martins as well……….

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Cubic needles – easier for arthritic hands?

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Here are my cubic needles in my Autumn Leaves stole. If you look closely you can see that they are square!

A little while ago my friend Maya mentioned that she’d heard  really good things about cubic needles being useful for knitters with arthritis in their hands. I’m always on the hunt for anything that will help me to be able to knit more and for longer so I was super keen to give them a go. Apparently the shape is more ergonomic and according to the makers reduces “hand fatigue”.

As my birthday was coming up I decided to see if any of my family members might treat me to a set of cubic needles. I guess I could have tried out a fixed needle first to see how I go on  but I’ve been wanting an interchangeable set for quite a few years now and it seemed like a good opportunity.  Luckily my Mum and Dad were happy to help me out.

I got the interchangeable Knit Pro Symfonie Rose set from Knit with attitude. They are a lovely dark wood and the packing is lovely. It all fits neatly into one little case with all of the needles and cables tucked away – a far cry from my tangle of individual circular needles! I sometimes feel like my knitting and knitting paraphernalia takes over much of the front room so it’s nice to have at least one thing that packs away nicely!

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It’s not quite as yellow as this in real life

I’ve started using them on my Autumn Leaves Stole. I’ve been a bit naughty and switched over needles part way through the project. It might give me some gauge based issues later on but I didn’t care as I was really excited to use them.

It was a bit weird knitting with square needles to start with. It took a few rows to get into the rhythm (and get used to the risk of being jabbed by a corner). Now that I’m used to them I’m really enjoying working with them. The wood is lovely to the use and the stole is looking great. Wood is so much nicer than metal!

It’s hard to tell at this early stage if they are helping my hands or not. I’m inclined to feel that they are but that could be wishful thinking on my part! I’ve certainly been able to have several evenings in a row knitting with them and not gone to bed with painful joints so it’s looking very promising!

My only problem with them is the sizes; for some reason they only start at a 4mm. Given that the needles I use most often are 2.75mm and 3.25mm that is a bit annoying. The 2.75mm in particular causes me problems with my hands so I would have been super keen to see if a cubic version would have helped. I tried to order them but they don’t actually make them….. I guess that I am fairly unusual in having a preference for 4ply over DK and aran and they just don’t have the demand for the smaller needles so they don’t make them. My problem with the heavier weigh wools is that they are much bulkier and less flattering plus they tend to lack drape. I really want to use my new needles though so I will be searching out decent DK and aran patterns to find something I actually like!

lace and cable hand warmers for my tiny wrists

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It’s almost impossible to take an attractive picture of hand warmers….They just aren’t very pretty!

Autumn can be a bit rubbish for me as I hate being cold (mainly because it makes my arthritis worse but also because I’m a wimp!).  There are upsides to everything though and for Autumn one of the main ones is that it is knitting season! It’s all about the hats, scarves and gloves! I’m starting with hand warmers. The hand warmers I made last year have felted quite badly and also left bits of rusty fluff all over me (and my poor boyfriend) so I decided to make a new pair for this year.

I opted for Merletto Mitts by Jody McKinley. I liked the lace and the cables plus I preferred the fact that it was 4ply so wouldn’t be too bulky. I used trusty Garnstudio DROPS Alpaca. I spotted an oilve/yellowy mix that I hadn’t seen before.  It’s a bit less bright in the flesh than it is in the pictures. I don’t normally like variegated wool but the shades in this one look great with each other and was too multicoloured and weid.

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Here’s the back

I think that the pattern was a little bit confusing, well, either that or I was being a bit dim….. Once I got going though the lace and cable pattern was easy to remember.

I finished one whole hand warmer before actually trying it on. Once I did I realised that it was HUGE! I think it was a combination of my loose tension and big knitting and my tiny little wrists.

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The HUGE hand warmer before I undid it

I unwound the whole thing and started again with a smaller version. I made the following modifications:

  • I cast on 48 stitches in total, kept the front the same size and reduced the plain bit at the back.
  • I also decided to ignore the ribbing suggested and just do 1×1. It doesn’t look quite as polished but I think it’s fine.
  • When I got to the thumb increases I stopped when I had 16 stitches.
  • As I’d cast on fewer stitches I didn’t need to decrease at the top of the hand warmers.

I’m really pleased with them. They look much better on than in the pictures and the colour is lovely. Hopefully these won’t felt quite as quickly as the last pair! My next knitting task is a new hat……

I’ve learned to crochet!

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I’d been meaning to learn to crochet for quite a while but hadn’t quite got around to it.  I thought it might be good for my arthritis to have an alternative to knitting and also I really love the look of granny square blankets.

During a quiet afternoon at Knit with attitude I persuaded Jess to teach me how to crochet a granny square. It turns out she’s a very good teacher and I picked it up much more quickly than I thought I would. I’ve tried before and got a but confused so I think it was helpful to have someone there to demonstrate (I have a feeling I’m more of a kinetic learner).

I’ve really got into making  crochet squares and I’ve done quite few so far. I got some good tips from Bunny Mummy’s blog .

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I’m really enjoying it, it’s almost as addictive as knitting! I’m still working on getting my squares perfect, at the moment they’re not all coming out exactly the same size and there are some  messy bits, but I’m getting there!

I’m not sure how useful it will be for my arthritis. I have a theory that a change in hand movement would be helpful (so that I’m not just completing a repetitive knitting movement all the time).  It feels very hard on the joint at the base of my thumb and it’s hard to tell if it’s better or worse than knitting for my hands overall.  I’m sure that ideally I’d stop knitting or crocheting when my hands hurt. But, in reality, I get so frustrated when I have to just sit there without anything to do  that I end up focusing on how much pain I’m in which makes it worse.  I guess that there’s no ‘right’ thing to do. I do very find it very annoying that as autumn rolls around and I really want to get knitting the change in temperature (and rain!) really sets off my arthritis. I’m currently day-dreaming about moving somewhere warmer where it doesn’t rain…maybe the Caribbean….I wouldn’t actually be able to wear my knitwear…… but it would be like a miracle cure…..plus  think of all the yoga I could do *stares dreamily into space*…….