Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Knit Nation 2011 Part 2

Whilst at Knit Nation, as well as shopping, I took a class in colourwork with Susanna Hansson. This was the first knitting class I have taken, being a largely self-taught knitter, so I was unsure what to expect. Would it be one long lecture? Would it be too easy? Would it be too hard?

I needn't have worried - I loved it! The pace was just right for me with plenty of time to practise, and I now feel much more confident at using different colourwork techniques. The class was small and friendly with easy to follow handouts. Susanna was very clear with her demonstrations and helpful when we were doing individual practice.

We began with intarsia by making two swatches. The first is an intarsia rectangle block which was to get us used to working with the two colours. Here is mine:


The second swatch was meant to be an argyle design but I only finished one diamond:


I was really pleased with how these both came out. I have tried intarsia previously, but my stitches always looked sloppy at the joins between the two colours. I have now learned that this was to do with how you wrap the yarns around each other (or when to wrap and when not to), particularly when the design is slanted like the diamond above.

Next up was the stranded knitting section. Again, I have tried this technique before. I made Eunny Jang's Endpaper Mitts and these came out really well. However, when I tried Ysolda Teague's Cotton Reel Mittens a couple of years later, the tension was really off and even after blocking, they were wrinkly. I could not work out how I had gone so wrong. It turns out that I need to keep my tension really loose and resist that temptation to pull my floats tight. For our swatch this time, I chose to make a baby hat (as opposed to a tube/beer cozy). I finished it on the Sunday morning after Knit Nation. If you look closely you can see that the tension evens out towards the top as I realised I just needed to loosen up! I am really pleased though that this looks so neat and it hasn't even been blocked.


Please excuse all the undarned ends. And the head. My darling bf decided he wanted to try it on.

As well as learning the importance of tension in stranded knitting, we also learned about colour dominance, which I had never heard of before. The colour which dominates is connected with which yarn is floated under or over at the back and hence which hand it is held in (if you knit with both hands as I do). For most knitters, the colour in the left hand is floated under and will be dominant, whereas the colour in the right hand is floated over and will be...non-dominant (or submissive?). This occurs because the stitches in the over colour are slightly larger and so appear dominant over the other. Very interesting.

The last part of the class looked at slip stitch knitting, which I had never tried before. Susanna also brought some lovely yarn for us to try. It is an American hand-dyed yarn from a company called Prism. We experimented with using a semi-solid with a contrasting variegated yarn. Slip stitch knitting produces a nice thick textured fabric; I could really see using this for a warm pair of mittens (since I don't really do socks). Here is my swatch:

There are two different stitch patterns here; I was too lazy to bind off the first one! Slip stitch knitting works by knitting with just one colour at a time, slipping the stitches of the other colour. It is perhaps an easier technique than the first two, but the constant slipping means it is more difficult to get into a good rhythm.

So all in all, a very successful class for me. I can't wait to try some colourwork projects now!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Knit Nation 2011 Part 1

I spent this past Saturday at Knit Nation at Imperial College, London and I had an amazing time. I was a bit nervous beforehand as I was going alone. My mum was meant to come with me, but due to an op to remove a cataract the day before, she couldn't be there (it all went fine though, and now she has amazing eyesight!). But I needn't have worried. Knitters are truly such kind and friendly people that I didn't feel lonely at any point during my day. Most of my time was taken up with the Knitting with Color class I took by Susanna Hansson. It was fantastic and I will talk more about that in my second blog post. What I wanted to share today were my purchases at Knit Nation. There were so many beautiful yarns and accessories to see!

My first purchase was some laceweight by Juno Fibre Arts . Earlier in my day, I had seen a lady wearing a beautiful lace shawl made from a pink yarn with a lovely shimmery thread running through it. I decided I wanted something similar and then came across this - perfect. The yarn is called Sirius Lace and is in the colourway Envy.


My second purchase was some more laceweight (because you can never have too much!) from Old Maiden Aunt. This is a lovely soft hand dyed yarn - alpaca, merino, silk mix. I also adore the colour as I'm having a bit of a green thing at the moment. The colourway is called Bitter Bug.


Next, I visited the stall shared by Made by Loumms and Sweet Clement. I follow the Loumms blog and I am friendly with erqsome on Ravelry, so I had coveted one of their beautiful handmade project bags for a while. I chose a wrister bag, an ingenious project bag which allows you to knit on the go. I really loved all their whimsical and fun fabrics, but this one was my favourite.


I had not heard of Sweet Clement before, but I loved the vibrant colours and so chose some lovely red 4 ply Superwash Blue Faced Leicester. It is called Beloved and is in the colourway Scarlet.


Last, but by no means least, there was a lovely stall from a place called Well Manor Farm. This company was new to me, but they were very friendly telling me all about their farm and the sheep. They raise and shear the sheep themselves, then dye the yarn. I chose some yarn from their Gotland sheep, which I hadn't heard of before, but they had some lovely samples which showed that it knits up beautifully. I bought the Gotland Lambswool in a DK weight, but they had yarn in everything from a 2 ply laceweight up to an Aran weight. All the colours were either undyed or dyed using natural dyes, resulting in a stall full of wonderful earthy colours. I have one undyed skein and three in a rusty red colour.


And that's about it. Needless to say, I shall not be buying any more yarn for a while. Now I need to just get knitting it all!

PS. I'm still plodding along on the Princess Shawl. I'm on to the second chart of the large border. Progress is slow, but I'm not giving up!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Progress of a sort

I finally finished the border edging of the shawl. It got quite repetitive towards the end, but I did speed up considerably to the point where I could do one repeat in under half an hour (without TV). The holidays helped too, and with a few days of marathon knitting, I finally got it done. I decided to do 72 repeats and this seems plenty long enough. Stretched out, it nearly fits across our living room!
Before embarking on the picking up I hunted around for some advice and found some helpful posts on The Princess Diaries. One thing I was unsure of was whether you were meant to pick up and knit (which is what I usually do whatever the wording) or just pick up the stitches. After reading a clarification from Sharon Miller on The Princess Diaries, I picked up (ie. just putting the loop on the needle) without knitting. I picked up 12 sts per repeat and 13 sts in the middle repeat to give me the required 865 sts. To help, I placed safety pins on the border strip marking every repeat and then marked each group of 12 sts picked up with a loop of thread. I then also marked each group of 10 repeats with another marker. This helped me to keep track, and I managed to pick up the 865 sts first time with no mistakes. It did take me about 4 hours however, and no distractions were allowed!
One technique I'd like to share which really helped with the picking up was using a vertical lifeline whilst knitting the border. I found this technique on Fleegle's blog. Essentially, as you work the border, you carry a contrasting thread along the straight edge. Then when you come to pick up stitches, the loops are already there on the thread for you to pick up. This makes it so much easier since stitches knit in gossamer are super-tiny and very difficult to see.
So, current progress? I worked the plain knit rows and am now on Row 4 of the feather border. Each row takes me about 45mins, so I'm aiming for about 2 rows a day. It's slow-going but it's exciting to start this new stage.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Bewitched By A Princess

Wow, has it really been so long? Getting back into blogging was one of my New Year’s resolutions and now we are beginning to emerge from the doldrums of winter, I feel inspired to begin again. I don’t have any particular reason for the long hiatus – life just sometimes gets in the way.

My recent inspiration to blog again has come mainly from my current wip. Just over a year ago, I got engaged and of course the first thing I thought about (after saying yes and jumping with joy, of course) was wedding shawls! I have deeply coveted the beautiful Shetland lace shawls, especially the ethereal wedding ring shawls, for years and had even thought of casting one on previously, but had decided that that would be just a little too weird. So once the ring was on my finger and I had come down to earth, I started looking at Heirloom Knitting. I had originally wanted to do the wedding ring shawl, but I was unsure if I would be able to persevere with this, and instead decided to pick the Spring Shawl. A triangular shawl knit with cobweb weight yarn, it didn’t seem as daunting. So I ordered the necessary supplies and got started. Fast forward nearly a year and it was finished. And I liked it. But I didn’t love it. Because in the mean time, I had fallen in love with the Princess Shawl.

So over the last month I have been deliberating about whether or not to be crazy and knit a second wedding shawl. I have time (the wedding is not until April next year) but these shawls are so all-consuming that I don’t have time to knit much else. And this would mean knitting with gossamer yarn on teeny tiny needles – what if I just got bored?

Alas, common sense did not prevail and a few days ago, after months of research, I chose my materials and cast on. I spent a long time looking at different yarn choices. I knew I wanted a silk blend and decided to go with the Heirloom Knitting Gossamer CashSilk in a pale silvery grey (I think the colour is correctly called platinum). I’d read that it can be slippery, which it is, but I have not found it unmanageable. I shall probably take that back the first time I drop a stitch. I’m knitting it on 2mm needles and I’m happy with how the lace is looking at this tension.

My reason for wanting to start blogging this project is that in my research, I found that not many people have started this shawl, let alone finished it. Therefore, I hope that my documentation of this project may be of use to someone else who’s thinking of knitting this. My initial response would be: go for it! I was quite daunted by everything I read, and for a long time (and perhaps the reason I chose not to knit such a fine-gauge shawl to begin with) is that I felt that it would be beyond me. So far, the pattern is very clear and not really any more difficult than the Spring shawl. The knitting is slower going as the stitches are smaller and the yarn more slippery, and therefore more difficult to manoeuvre safely. But I’m enjoying it, and surely that’s what matters the most. Here's how much I've done so far.


The pattern begins with the border; I’ve knitted about 8 repeats 10 repeats out of 60-80 something so far (I haven’t decided exactly how many to do yet). I’m aiming for about 2-3 repeats a day which will hopefully help with giving me time to work on other projects. I’m not going to promise to blog every day or every week, but I shall try to give periodic updates on the knitting.