Wednesday, 12 November 2014

A knitting workshop focus: Introduction to lace 22nd November

Lace knitting can be chunky, warm and rustic, or delicate, light and ethereal. It can be modern or evoke a vintage feel. It can be geometric and striking, organic and intricate.  (All the images here are of my knitting, simply because I don't want to use other people's photos without permission, but search any image collection for lace knitting, and you'll see what I mean!)

It can brighten up a formal look, or add a touch of elegant glamour to a casual outfit. For the product knitter, there is plenty to like; for the process knitter, there is a world of possibilities, of intricate stitches and fun techniques.

All that, and in terms of pennies per knitting hour, lace knitting is by far the most economical road to tread. I'm planning my next garment: Bonny, by Tincanknits. It will cost me less than £20 in yarn - a single skein of laceweight - and that's despite more stitches than I'm going to think about very hard.

At the same time as offering all these opportunities for the knitter, lace tends to daunt us a little. But there are charts! But it's difficult! But it's so fine! But, but, but!

It isn't that difficult, and charts in and of themselves aren't incomprehensible. They're different, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing, and written instructions can run parallel to those charts to ensure you are comfortable with both forms.

My Beginner's Lace class is designed to teach you all you need to know about knitting simple lace. Beginning with a focus on reading your knitting, and exploring specialist cast-ons, increases and decreases, we'll experiment with swatches to see how these elements work together.

We'll explore patterns for lace knitting, looking at the differences between charted and written-out instructions, and you will start to knit a simple sampler scarf, which you can finish at home.

If you'd like to join me for this class on the 22nd November at the Malvern Cube from 10 am - 1 pm, please email me: ruthcrafts [ at ] ruthv [ dot ] co [ dot ] uk. The class costs £25, to include materials (needles and yarn) for the workshop, as well as the pattern and kit to knit the Flower Lace Stole so that you can consolidate your skills.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Stitching catch-up: A Question of Pieces

Sometimes, I embark on a project and set its parameters without really thinking through the scale of the task ahead. Like when I suggested to a friend on her hen do that I'd be happy to make her a quilt for her wedding gift, as long as she didn't mind it being late. Patterns were pored over, and one finally approved (Italian Tiles from Popular Patchwork July 2005 - subscriber access is available). Then I procrastinated. And procrastinated. This was going to involve a lot of cutting, and everyone knows that's easier to do with a bit of time ahead of you. And there wasn't really any sense of urgency... Until this Spring, when I looked at the calendar, saw how many bank holidays fell very close together, realised that we were visiting her and her husband in their newly-purchased and decorated home, and thought I should just get it done already.

Easter weekend thus began with cutting, and kneeling, and cutting some more, until I had a lot of squares. Which were sewn together, and cut into two, and pressed, and at the end of a full day's work I had the same number of pieces as I'd had at the beginning, but they were all two-colour and two tonal (mid light and mid dark).

The next day was a cutting day: lots and lots and lots of light and dark squares, which were then cut along the diagonal: so, triangles. Triangles to be individually sewn to the edges of the two-toned squares prepared, so that they can be pressed again, and the extraneous triangle carefully excised by roller cutter (this was waste fabric in this project... if I have reason to use this pattern again, I will plan a secondary project to use them too somehow).

One final step before it would be time to focus on the layout: sewing the half-square triangles into squares. These squares are 5 1/2" wide, and there are 196 of them.
By this point, I'd run through my first weekend, and through weeknight evenings into the second. We had a computing friend of Mr P's to stay, so sewing and programming and takeaway made for a fun time, and, thankfully, a third pair of eyes. I had been planning to sew my squares into blocks of 4 before laying out the whole quilt top, but it was pointed out that this might limit where I was willing to place them beyond what was actually physically possible. So we discussed the rules for colour repeat / nearness that I was happy to abide by, cleared the comfy chairs and general stuff from the living room, and covered the floor with fabric. Better eyes than mine pointed out colour meetings, and where I'd offset the whole design by one square... 
And then I began the to-ing and fro-ing, marking the squares in a block with pins and numbered pieces of paper, and carrying them carefully back to the sewing room to be completed. And pressed. And sewn into long strips. And eventually, into a full top.

Which I must now find the motivation to make into a quilt sandwich, and wrestle gently with through the quilting process. When the pieces will finally be the promised gift, is a matter of time. Time, and patience, and perseverance!

Friday, 7 November 2014

Jormungandr: Socks

These socks are named for the mythological snake and son of Loki - the Midgard Serpent who encircles the world, holding his tail in his mouth. As an Ouroboros, as well as being in some ways the beginning and ending of the world itself, he himself is never-ending, a symbol of eternity. And so, when it came to naming a detailed pair of socks centred on a sinuous combination of cables and mock cables, he seemed an appropriate choice.

 Ideally suited to a semi-solid or solid sock yarn, this is a project to conjure autumn nights: long evenings in front of a fire, with a special fibre in a jewel-like colourway. The finished item is intricate and elegant, whether worn hidden in your winter boots, or on show.

The ribbed texture ensures that cables and mock cables alike spring from the surface of the knit, while also making them fit a wide range of sizes, though instructions are included for medium and large versions. Both charted and written instructions are included throughout the design, for rib, cuff, heel flap and foot sections in order to ensure clarity and ease of reference.

The samples were knit in Artists Palette Yarns Smoothie Sock (Blue), which can be found in small batches through etsy, and in Eden Cottage Yarns Pendle 4ply in the Sand colourway, and these wonderfully tonal and surprisingly subtle semi-solids allow the pattern to really shine through.

Available in Medium and Large ladies sizes, these would, I think, also suit a man with discerning taste.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

My Other Knitting

The current WIP that you won't have seen so much of is a cardigan: the Bailey's Irish Cream by BabyCocktails / Thea Colman. I love Thea's sense of style, and design aesthetic, but the fact that I mostly live in a temperate, semi-urban environment has prevented me casting anything on until this, an elegant lace panelled cardigan with stocking stitch back and sleeves. It's a stash-busting project, using the yarn originally bought to knit the March Colourwork Sweater of Elizabeth Zimmermann's Almanac repurposed with only 2 additional balls to complete it.

More significantly, I'm hoping it will be a work-appropriate cardigan: it's relatively light and feminine, and doesn't, in my opinion, wear its handknit status on its sleeve. Not that handknits aren't work-appropriate, but in my new 'smart officewear' dress code, there's a fine line. (As distraction from the poor light in these photos - the true colour is between the two - here are the flowers I was kindly given by the lovely people in my old office)

Sadly, I'm finding it a slow knit. As usual, I'm having to add two inches of length to the body (taking it to 15 1/2”), and the rows are loooonnng. Plus I keep picking it up, and putting it down, and losing the chart...

In fact, I started this before Unwind Brighton, and was making good progress on it there, until I realised that I'd crossed half of the cables in the first repeat of the lace chart (on one front) in the wrong direction. Queue mammoth fixing session: we sat on the beach while I knit 8 stitches, dropped down the next 8 by 16 rows and recrossed, and then knit them back up, knit 8 stitches, and repeat.

Having got it under control, I'm hopeful it will now progress relatively steadily, though fear that as an increasingly unportable knit for me at this time of year, it won't be quick!