Cardigan Bay

Last summer we spent an unprecedented amount of time in Cardigan Bay in Wales. It is a beautiful stretch of coastline with towns that don’t quite live up to the scenery in which they are set. Which is to say the carousels and arcades of Barmouth aren’t quite as nice as the beaches and mountains that surround it.

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Sometime before we were set to go I decided it was about time to use some Brooklyn Tweed that I had as part of a yarn club a couple of years ago. The pattern in the club was for a shawl which I liked but not enough to want to make. I did have some ideas of my own though. I decided to get an extra skein in a dark yellow kind of colour and make a short sleeve jumper inspired by Cardigan Bay. And I liked that a jumper was called Cardigan. Yeh that’s quite silly.

So last summer I started. On 2.5mm needles. This will take a while. It really did take a while. But there’s sand, a high water mark and the waves in the sea. Just like Cardigan Bay. And now it’s finished and it fits and is getting lots of wear too.

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Something I have discovered is that I can knit in the car if it’s all using knit stitch, which this is. There are two advantages to this. Much more knitting time. And much less back seat driving.

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From start to finish

It started with a bag of raw fleece. It was washed. It was combed. It was spun. It was dyed. A hat was designed. And made. And finished. Red was very clear that he wanted a mix of blue, green and yellow which I thought was quite ambitious but Red and I were both pleased with the result.

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There has not been a lot of blogging lately, but there has been a lot of knitting. Also quite a lot of spinning and some dyeing. Plenty to write about but not heaps of time it. Maybe I will catch up. It’s going to feel a bit like a year in review, although it hasn’t actually been a year (kind of feels like maybe it has..).

Last Easter we visited Holland and I was inspired to try my hand at some colourwork. It is said by some knitters that either your a colourwork knitter, or a lace knitter. Turns out I am both.

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Not sure why, but Kate Davies’ Peerie Flooers hat is a very popular first colourwork project and it was the one I chose too. I guess being a hat makes it seem manageable and there’s no steeking to get frightened by.

 

 

 

 

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Turns out my adventures into continental style knitting (instead of English knitting which was where I started) had an unexpected benefit. There are lots of ways of working colourwork, which typically involves knitting with two colours at one time and one of them is to hold one colour in each hand and knit using a different method with each hand. So in my left hand I held one colour and knitted using a continental method, and with my right I held the other colour and knitted in the English style. Yep, easy as that. But way more pleasing. Also being a loose knitter helped me keep an even tension which I think is often a challenge with colourwork.

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As there are two colours in each row, the fabric you create is double thickness which has made this a super-cosy hat for the winter.

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Dyeing for fun

It all started when I bought three whole raw fleeces at the Cotswold Farm Park in about July. That is a whole lot of fleece which makes it feel like a good opportunity for learning and playing.

I bought three different types of fleece; portland and kerry hill are both fluffy and soft, and cotswold which is the curly topped sheep you see in the Cotswolds. So far I’ve just been spinning the portland which is fairly easy and very satisfying. IMG_0266

The dyeing technique I have been learning about is using a dye bath of water and vinegar on the stove top. I bought several colours of commercial dye to experiment with.

First up was a silk fibre that was an extra treat for me when I spotted it on sale recently. Initially I dyed it green but it was a bright emerald colour which wasn’t what I was after. Turns out the first thing to learn is to not use too much dye at once. So I added some brown and made a nice olive. Not sure what I’ll make with this.IMG_0274 IMG_0278Myrtle wanted to get in on the action, so together we dyed some red. We were kind of aiming for pink (at least, Myrtle was aiming for pink) and I painted bits of brown before submerging the yarn in the dye bath to get a tonal effect. Really pleased with how that came out. It has turned into a wide headband with owls on for Myrtle. Seems a habit of hers to be Not Sure for a few months, before she loves to learn things I’ve made for her. So maybe I’ll get a photo in a few months time.IMG_0277 Another thing I learned was to use gloves.IMG_0256

Yarn store tourism

My husband is about to go on a “business trip”. With his company that means going to a really cool place and doing things like sky diving, white water rafting and mountain biking.

So here’s my guide to being a tourist in a place and finding a yarn store. In my opinion, this is what you should buy your hard working and lonely wife (no subtext here, it’s all very much overt!):

1) Definitely buy something. Do not leave a yarn store empty handed. Ever. Especially if your wife is at home with the children and you just jumped out of a plane. It would be like jumping out of a plane. Without a parachute. Really.

2) Buy something that comes in a skein, rather than a ball. It’s a good sign that it’s something nice.

3) You pay for what you get, and you’re on a really fabulous trip, whilst your wife is not. I am not at all bitter about this. At all. But even so, you should buy some expensive yarn.

4) Variety is the spice of life. You should buy several things.

5) Choose something you can’t get anywhere else if possible. Locally produced, hand dyed, that kind of thing. Then it really is like a souvenir only it’s also useful.

6) Try to get both yarn and spinning fibre. That would go down very well.

7) If possible, visit more than one yarn store and follow all of the rules above (yes, they are rules, not just suggestions..).

8) There are several yarn stores in Utah. Some of them look really nice.

9) Have a great trip 😉

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Dutch Inspiration

We went to Holland and stayed in a wooden igloo. It was at Easter which is ages ago, but life caught up with me for a while. Enough people noticed I had stopped blogging to make me think I would like to start blogging again. Thanks.

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There were tulips.

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And Noah’s ark.

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And lots of other nice things including a really nice wool shop called Knotten. I bought some undyed Dutch Shetland yarn in four of the six colours in which it is made. The kind of thing you can’t easily get outside of Holland and just the right souvenir.
In the shop window was a blanket sample knit up in all six colours.

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It’s Kate Davies Rams and Yowes blanket. The pattern calls for Jamieson and
Smith Shetland yarn which comes in 9 natural, undyed shades and I think it is stunning. Looks tricky too! Colour work knit in the round to avoid tricky colour work purls and then steeked. Don’t know what steeking is? It means cutting, yep, cutting your knitting. Wow scary stuff. Something I am really keen to try. I can see why Shetland yarn would work well; it’s got a kind of stickiness to it that would I think mean the whole piece would just sit tight before you sew it up rather than falling apart but I bet it would be a tense moment or two while you cut. Definitely something I’d like to try. And the rewards would be worth it for sure.

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In respect of stockinette

At the outset of this post, I acknowledge that English knitters traditionally call this stitch stocking stitch. I call it stockinette, probably mainly because I’ve learned a lot of my knitting skills from American knitters on YouTube. However, I also feel that ‘stocking stitch’ sounds so boring and a lot of knitters think that fits. I don’t.

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I’m currently knitting Red a cardigan all out of stockinette with stripes of colour and stripes of black and it’s been one of the most enjoyable and simple knits I’ve completed. Stockinette makes such a great fabric for showing off beautiful yarn. If the yarn is beautiful it doesn’t always need the embellishments of lace or cabling, lovely as those techniques can look, and as much as I enjoy using them. With this knit there has been real pleasure just in the emergence of beautiful knitted fabric. I’ve noticed it features quite a bit in illustration at the moment, with that collage style using textures to make the picture interesting. I’ve even spotted stockinette stitch on a cereal packet recently.

There’s something about the rhythm of stockinette which is so relaxing too. Zooming backwards and forwards (or just forwards if you’re knitting in the round) with such repetition of movement that it becomes a clicking tattoo of needles.

My point is not that I only ever want to knit stockinette. It’s just that when I knit stockinette I always think “wow, that looks nice”.

Myrtle’s-not-too-hot body warmer

Last summer Myrtle didn’t wear clothes. Not really at all. We went camping for a week and the only dirty clothes I brought back for her were night clothes as I wasn’t risking getting woken up by a chilly one year old.

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That all changed the week she got chicken pox. Having had to insist at least on her wearing clothes outside our home suddenly she was resolute about wanting to wear clothes, and being very clear about her tastes. Maybe it made her scratch less but it didn’t seem like great timing.

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She may never be the kind of child who wants to be all bundled up though so when thinking about what I was going to make for her before starting on something for Red, promised him when they both chose yarn for me for my birthday, I had to bear in mind that she wouldn’t want to be too hot. I had thought maybe a skirt but she assured me she wouldn’t wear it. At least I knew that before starting.

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My mum had bought me some yarn on holiday last summer and it took me a while to decide what to do with it. Partly perhaps because it was Manos del Uruguay which, though beautiful I have had bad experiences with.. It was also a variegated colour way I don’t think I would have bought myself, which actually made it even more fun to knit with if a little more tricky to settle on a pattern for.

I eventually decided on a body warmer which I designed myself, using the Manos yarn edged with plain black. I had hoped to give it a hood but couldn’t make the single skein of each stretch that far. I knitted it top down with simple cabling down the front edges. It went really fast. Myrtle assured me she liked it and was excited about it. “This is for me” she frequently told me.

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Alas, I got it on her briefly for a very quick photo but she has made her pronouncement. “I am Not Sure”.

All is not lost. Red is going to love his jumper. Of that I am sure!

Grateful recipient

Red is one of my most grateful knitwear recipient and a holiday to Holland provided some good knitting time as well as some exciting inspiration which I will describe another day.

Whilst suspecting Myrtle might not be keen on her knitted body warmer I was sure Red would be really excited about his jumper. We spent quite a while talking about how we’d like it to look. I had some clear ideas about the design I wanted to create. Red had bought the yarn for my birthday: highly variegated greens, browns and yellows in a fingering weight yarn. Not really enough for a jumper. Plenty once I’d added some black of the same weight.

My concept for this was to knit the jumper from the top with the coloured yarn as the main yarn, but to introduce stripes of black that gradually got thicker whilst the coloured stripes got thinner until the black was the main colour. Red was really excited about the idea, and more excited with each fitting, although he did comment the last time that it still doesn’t look that much like a jumper. But it soon will…