Designing: What comes first for you?

I was wondering the other day about my own design process and other peoples. I am currently attending a “Design Masterclass” at my local yarn store and the format means we meet once a month for 4 months and explore designing our own garment or accessory based on some sort of inspiration.

During the process I got very blocked for the first 6 weeks. I was swatching and blocking swatch after swatch but never settling on anything to actually make. This got me thinking about other items I have made in the past and how I made them.

 

Fringe and Friends Knitalong 2016

This was a knit along hosted by Karen Templer of Fringe Association and she even provided a pattern for calculating your own raglan design. I kinda of knew what yarn I wanted to use, as I had just fallen in love with Brooklyn tweed shelter and wanted a marled jumper but with some black accents.

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So I knew it was going to be a top down raglan jumper and I wanted it to be simple to let the yarn sing. Hence you could say my main inspiration came from the yarn.

Wingit Top Down jumper

My Wingit top down jumper was started in a class with Anna Maltz at the lovely Wild and Wooly shop. I loved this class. I feel so free. For me this was mostly about designing something and getting good at 2 colour work. I grabbed a stitch dictionary for simple 2 colour charts and some yarn that was roughly the same weight and played with colours and shapes. It was such a freeing experience.

After each section was done I would think about what colours to use next and which sort of shape they should use. I used a variegated yarn I may not have used otherwise and it really pulls the whole design together.

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So this one was more of a process inspiration.

 

Cosmonaut Hat

My first ever design that I then wrote down as a pattern was my Cosmonaut Hat. This was purely inspired by Countess Ablaze’s amazing Space Cadet yarn. It sparkles! I wanted something simple to let her dye work be really shown off and ideally a massive pom pom.

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So inspired by the yarn I can up with a really simple chunky hat.

 

Current design

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My current design I am working on as part of a class started with a yarn again. I knew that I wanted to use Foxen meets merino to make a jumper or cardigan that has some lovely texture in it. When I started swatching the yarn though I felt it was a bit thin in terms of weight for my liking. It is kind of sport weight maybe even a light sport weight.

So I then went through my stash and found some Madelintosh merino light that I had a similar amount of. In an attempt to not buy anything extra and make use of my stash I started swatching.

Now I dislike purling but I really did like the purl side of my swatches. But I was determined to find a different textured stitch that I liked. But I couldn’t. I did think i’d be happy with the effect of stockinette and started making my jumper. However when I turned it inside out I really liked it. So I continuing to knit this in stockinette but the end result will be turned inside out.

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This one started with yarn and I got creative by just using my stash and my knitting preferences. 🙂

I guess I like winging it and experimenting as I go. This alongside some creative chaos provides me my happy place. 🙂

 

 

FO: Ankle Socks – No sweaty feet!

A good friend of mine is an avid spinner and has been dabbling in dyeing yarn as well. For either my birthday or Christmas last year she gave me a very generous gift of some hand spun sock yarn that she also hand dyed.

The sock yarn is a unique blend of Southdown/Corriedale/yak/silk. This means it is all natural fibres and no nylon in sight. By also adding a high ply to it the yarn is super strong and not felting with the first wears. And no nylon means no sweaty feet. 😉

I used Kate Atherley’s trusty custom socks book to make a plain ankle sock top down. I have used the book for all the socks I have made so far, here and here.

Thinking about it though, I should have done toe up as I wasn’t sure how much yarn I would have. So top tip, if you are unsure of how much yarn you do have – just use a toe up method and you can then wing an ankle sock. 🙂

The sock yarns were dyed slightly differently so the pair is more of a sibling pair than a twin pair but they are so comfy and nice to wear. And they are wearing really well. Hardly any piling or felting! I have worn them on long walks and in the house and no issues so far. When my friend spins up more of this blend and opens her shop I’ll be sure to be there!

 

Other nice details were, that I tried a reinforced heel pattern that I hadn’t done before that makes these ridges. I think it looks nice. I think I am ready to try more patterns now. Do you have a favourite sock pattern?

 

Adventures and learnings from drop spindle spinning

At Edinburgh yarn festival I was lucky enough to attend a class on using a drop spindle. I had never tried spinning before but liked the idea of making my own yarn and the portability of a drop spindle. We live in a small flat with not a lot of storage space, so a wheel is not likely to fit anytime soon and also a drop spindle is a lot cheaper to start with.

During the lesson we used a bottom whorl spindle and had a variety of shetland fibre to use creating a marled look.

My spinning was all over the place but I seem to have been bitten by the bug and bought myself a started kit at the festival. The starter kit included a basic top loading whorl spindle ( I didn’t know I wasn’t buying what I used in the lesson) and some fibre. I think it was a merino fibre. I also got myself some lovely fibre from John Arbon to practice with.

My Spinning tools

As I mentioned I bought a drop spindle from Edinburgh Yarn festival and it was from the threshing barn store. My spindle didn’t have a notch in the whorl making it quite hard to not have the yarn slip and I would definitely recommend to check that you do have a notch when buying your drop spindle. We cut a small notch into mine now and it is so much better to use. I have just been spinning and spinning over the easter holiday. 🙂

As it is only the second ever spindle I have used I cannot say much more about it. Sometimes it spins really well but other times it is a bit wobbly. I think it is quite heavy ~60g or so, causing some of my spinning attempts to fall apart as I am getting quite thin singles now.

I have my eye on a turkish spindle from Enid Ashcroft to try out. In terms of tools that is it so far.

My Spinning

My spinning is basically what I learned in the class. I will pull out bits from the fibre and make rolls using my hands. This is meant to created woolen yarn instead of worsted. A lighter and warmer yarn apparently. I think spring my spindle and do a park and draft method. I have attempted spinning with the spindle just going for it freely but I am not a good enough drafter yet.

I have also come across this challenge of spinning 15 minutes a day.

The blog is super interesting and I like the idea of learning something in small increments as that fits my current lifestyle and leaves room for knitting and crochet.

The types of fibre I have tried to spin with so far are Shetland, Exmoor Blueface and I think Merino. So far the Exmoor Blueface is the easiest but also quite easy to mess up. I liked the longer staple of the shetland making it a bit more predictable in my own hands. I can really see how this spinning different types of yarn and breeds can be really addictive. Waiting I have some more shetland slightly overdid by my friend and some John Arbon Devonia Wool Top.

After spinning 2 singles, I wind each one into its one ball and then wind them together into a ball from which I then ply. I find this helps with tangles a bit makes for a more even ply. But I have read all sorts of ways you can do this and gadgets to use to keep your singles under control, from actual gadgets to flower pots. So far I have kept things simple.

My hand spun yarn has been incorporated into a crochet blanket which I talk about a bit here. I currently have about 50grams of yarn drying and would like to knit that into something. We shall see what it becomes.

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All hand spun bits crochet together

Crochet Memory Blanket – Lykke review

I have no idea if this is a thing or not, but I started to crochet a sort of memory blanket using leftover yarn and newly spun yarn.

At Edinburgh yarn festival I took a drop spindle class and I have been making a tiny bit of yarn here and there practising and trying to get better. I then really wanted to use the yarn in something but as it is just small bits here and there I wasn’t sure what to do. So I picked up my Lykke crochet set and started to crochet random bits together.

I guess this is sort of using a log cabin approach but using crochet rather than knitting. This gave me a great excuse to finally use my Lykke crochet set.

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The Lykke crochet set

The set comes with 10 crochet hooks in various sizes. The sizes are conveniently edged into the bottom of the hooks, where there is some metal wrapped around the driftwood.

Similarly to the interchangeable needle set, the wood is smooth and soft to the touch with no scratchy parts. The top of the hook is slightly pointed making it really easy to use, in my opinion. I have only ever crochet with metal sets and this pointy tip really made a difference to me. It was a lot less fiddly to get into different sized loops. My crochet skills are a bit rusty and I am using all sorts of weights of yarn so I really could feel the benefit of this top.

Otherwise they handle as you may imagine a stick might.  They are stick shaped after all. I have only used them for about 30 mins to an hour at a time and got a little bit of a mark on my fingers, like a pressure mark but I think due to the smoothness of the wood I had no blisters.

The bag they come in as a metal latch and a small zip pocket for bits and bobs as well as another pocket on the inside. So plenty of room to store notions in.

The other nifty thing, is that you can stand the hooks up. I am not sure why you need to but if you were to change crochet hook a lot this may be useful. Although thinking about it, the sizes are etched into the bottom so maybe what I am saying makes no sense and you would never stand them up? 🙂

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All in all I am enjoying using these and the sharp tip at the tip is great and they grab the yarn well, but I am not sure if they are the most comfortable to use for longer sessions. A handle of sorts shaped a bit more ergonomically may have been nice.

The blanket

The blanket itself is going well. I had to re-remember how to crochet but otherwise I am just making it up as I go, holding some yarns double or triple and joining them in random ways with the aim of a blanket shape. 🙂

You can see some of the evolution below. I started with just handspun yarn and then found my leftover stash and started to experiment. It can be so freeing to just create from your mind without a set plan and I like that I can point at the sections and tell you which completed project the yarn came from.

P.S: I bought these hooks myself and was not endorsed in any way to do a review.

FO: Brackett Hat

My love affair with Stone Wool Cormo continues. When I purchased Laine Magazine number three this hat design was a must make on my list.

As you may know by know I love a nice cabled hat design as seen here, here and here. 😀

This one is not only cabled but was designed using one of my favourite yarns namely Stone Wool Cormo. The Brackett hat contains a horse shoe cable, as the eye catcher and then has smaller cables and a lace section. Some people have used seed stitch in the lace section but I stuck to the pattern as is.

The design uses 2 skeins, so I started with a dark red colour as I only had one skein of Tobacco. I like the contrasting brim look, but were I to do this again, I think I would knit with one colour as far as possible and then use another at the top to give it a dip dye effect. I really like the idea of that.

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I did use a half size smaller needle as I almost always have to size down and the hat still ended up quite large on my head. I may try to shrink it in the dryer, wish me luck!

The texture of the cables and lace is just lovely to knit and the suggested yarn has such lovely stitch definition that I highly recommend knitting this as suggested. You will love it.

 

EYF 2018

Last year I went to Edinburgh yarn festival for the first time. It was an awesome event to see to knitters, adore knitwear, see people’s interpretations and just get inspired by the lovely stores and wares on show.

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Me and Katja with the toft cow!

The thing that I was missing last year was actually exploring Edinburgh a bit as well, so this year, Katja and I made it a holiday. We attended a class each on Thursday, had Friday to explore, did another class Saturday and then had a bit of Sunday to mill about.

Overall the event was well organised and as much as I did see 200 knitters queue outside in the early morning by 11:30 at the latest everyone was in.

This year saw the addition of another tent with 500 seats. This was an amazing idea as it led to mingling and we got to meet knitters from Bangalore, Philadelphia, Georgia and Norway to name but a few. I love how international this event is and am really grateful for all the nice people I have met.

Selection wise, we felt it was a bit less varied this year or maybe I just know more yarns now. Last year I felt like I found some gems such as Uist and Daughter of a shepherd, but I did not find any hidden gems such as single origin type yarns that I did not know about already. There was a lot of super wash merino and speckles on show. Which don’t get me wrong were looking beautiful and enticing. I think we wanted a few more gambles of less commercial yarns maybe. And more fibre choice as well.

But nevertheless we shopped, learned, mingled, knitted and had a lot of fun.

Day 1:

Our first day started with doors at 9am and I made a beeline for Daughter of a shepherd and collected her awesome new book called Beginnings. I then do not remember in what order things happened but I attended a beginners drop spindle class which I thoroughly enjoyed. We were ten people and most of us had never spun before and by the end of the three hours we all had some plied yarn! How cool is that!? The teacher was lovely and answered all my questions and clarifications.

Of course this meant that I now needed to hunt down a drop spindle and some extra fibre to spin. I found the fibre at John Arbon’s stand and the spindle at the Threshing barn.

Other purchases included some lovely socks from Baa Ram Ewe and yarn from Rauwerk, and from Ysolda’s stand. I also collected the Traverse collection from Myak.

Thanks to the lovely lady living in Surrey I met during my class, as she made me feel really welcome in the knitting community and I liked how she said she suddenly felt super normal being the one with the knitting among a sea of knitters which stuck with me.

Day 2:

The next day we took it easy and then had a tour booked at The Real Mary Close. I can highly recommend this tour. We followed it with food from Devil’s Advocate and as the weather started to turn cold, we took pictures of the castle and meandered our way between Galleries, coffee shops and cathedrals. It was a lovely if very cold day.

We spent the evening practicing spinning and I got a much improved yarn already. yay!

Day 3:

Saturday was our final festival day. We decided to head over to the venue at lunch and have something to eat there, make any last minute purchases and then head to our afternoon classes. I had chosen Pattern Writing skills with Kate Atherley. I loved her teaching style and she is so knowledgeable it is amazing. Again all my questions were considered and answered and I got a lot from the class. Definitely some things to think about and consider.

“Life is too short for bad instructions”

A couple of unrelated highlights were meeting the lady with the traveling scarf and knitting a small section on it as well as running into 2 lovely knitters from Atlanta at dinner and chatting about life while eating Chinese food.

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The traveling scarf! Every section knit or crochet by a different person!

It was a pretty great wrap up to our yarn experience. Purchases included a Wollmeise skein of yarn at 300g for 1700 yards this was an amazing find and I got yarn to hypothetically make this design by Ysolda.

If you can make it to this event I highly recommend it, but make sure to take snacks, water and some knitting of course and wear all your knits! You will make amazing friends and will feel so normal in a sea of knitters. I am sure you will feel like you found your wooly tribe! 🙂

 

Pattern: Cosmonaut the Chunky Pom Pom Hat

As you know I fell hard for the super chunky yarn by Countess Ablaze called Space Cadet. I wrote a little love letter here.

A couple of friends saw my original hat I made and wanted one for themselves so I tweaked my pattern a bit and now have written it up and added it to Ravelry as a free pattern. It is super basic, but what I love is that it is perfect for showing off these amazing variegated yarns by the Countess and they are super quick to knit.

Making pom-poms from the yarn is really fun. I have made the hat with medium and large pom-poms and all work.

The ribbing is very deep so you can fold it. That is how I like to wear it but you could make it less deep to not have to fold it or wear it super slouchy.

It takes barely 2 hours to make, is great TV knitting and makes awesome presents as well.

I hope you enjoy making it and do let me know of any pattern feedback. I want to learn. 🙂

FO: Boko Boko Cowl

 

Back in the summer of 2017 I attended Pomfest. This was a mix of yarn fest and talks and I think there may have also been workshops but I only attended a couple of talks and browsed the beautiful stalls.

One of the talks was by Olga Buraya-Kefelian who talked about her knitting career and her journey through creating 3D textures and shapes with a Japanese influence. I had known of some of Olga’s designs but I wasn’t sure if her designs would be for me. But her talk was THE thing I kept talking about with my knitting friends.

2 knitting friends from the local community also saw her talk and were as fascinated as me by her Boko Boko Cowl and decided to organise a knit along.

Like I tend to do I had some ideas but decided to try and put my own spin on this pattern and see if I can use a lovely gradient of Brooklyn Tweed Arbor that I had in my stash already. This yarn is DK and as it is not too tightly spun I added in the recommended fine laceweight yarn with some steel content to help the spikes keep their shape.

The pattern is relatively simple. The trickiest bit was holding the lace weight steel yarn and not dropping it, as it did not always like to behave like the other yarn.

Once you have the pattern memorised it is a very quick satisfying knit. Not as boring as stockinette but also not too challenging for TV. And you are creating a cool 3D texture.

The yarn:

I used Brooklyn Tweed Arbor for the first time and really enjoyed knitting with it. The colours were great and the yarn never split. The twist seems to help bring out the lovely texture and ridges created by the yarn overs and decreases. It feels soft but not like merino, there is a slight sturdiness to it.

The other yarn I used was the Habu textiles steel wrapped silk yarn. I decided to use a golden colour to match most of the colours throughout and I like the subtle shine it gives the finished piece. Holding it alongside the DK yarn was a bit tricky in places but otherwise it was fine to knit with.

My Mods:

  1. Less repeats of each row and hence smaller spikes due to amount of yarn I had
  2. Multicolour cowl – over 6-8 rows I would alternate colours to fade in the next colour
  3. I didn’t pay attention to how many repeats I should do of the full pattern, just knitted til my yarn ran out
  4. Used DK yarn
  5. Made a size between small and medium

FO: Seathwaite for Tracy

I seem to knit this pattern once or twice a year at the beginning of a new year. This version has been in my mind for ages now.

The yarn is Malabrigo Rios and was just lovely to knit with. It loves cables and the colour is great. I knew though that the colour is not quite right for me and when my friend Tracy visited me last autumn and tried all my hats on she loved me Seathwaite that I made from Three Irish Girls yarn shown in this post.

So I promised her to make her one and a few months later here we are. 🙂 I hope it fits her and she likes it.

Not much to say about this pattern apart from that I love it. It is so clever and soothing to knit and the cables are really fun. I also still cannot decide if I prefer a tubular cast on or a folded brim finish in a hat. Time will tell I guess.

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Review: Yarn Space Cadet – Countess Ablaze

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I am not sure if I will regularly post yarn reviews but I fell hard for this one and just wanted to share my infatuation.

Since I started knitting and building a bit of a yarn stash, I have spent a lot at Countess Ablaze. I love her style and yarn bases. Particular favourites are anything using Blue Faced Leicester. Love it.

Her most recent addition to her yarn bases is this Super Bulky, squishy, soft and above all sparkly Merino yarn named Space Cadet. I kind of knew I was sold on it when it was bulkier weight than DK and named something with Space in it! I have a weird soft spot (or you may call it weakness) for heavy weight yarns. Only recently have I found a love for finer yarns but I still crave a big squishy yarn.

 

Not only is this one Super bulky but it also comes in a massive 200g skein!! It is massive! See this comparison shot with a Fingering yarn skein. My yarn winder could not fit a whole skein on it. I had to cake the rest myself without tools.

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What is it like to knit? Well I abandoned all of my current projects (4 in total) to give this a go. I used 8mm and 9mm needles with a simple hat design in mind.

Above you can see the swatch and a medium to large pompom I made and I still have yarn left after completing the hat. It isn’t plied so you can get into some yarn splitting moments but I used my lykke wooden needles and it was pleasant to knit.

Post blocking I got 10 stitches per 4 inches in stockinette knitted flat using 9 mm needles and 10.5 stitches per 4 inches using 8mm needles.

I hence went forth and made a hat. I started a few times getting guidance from some free hat designs from purls soho such as: Snowy Day hat.

You can find the details on my Ravelry page. It is written in a really basic way as it is a basic hat with ribbing and then stockinette and a pom pom!

When you block your garment or swatch you will feel just how soft the yarn is. It kinda feels like it would dissolve, but don’t worry it is quite strong. It does however really bloom and become rather drapey for a super bulky yarn making it perfect for accessories against the skin in my opinion.

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And how have I not mentioned that it sparkles! It has 10% Manufactured Fibers – Stellina in it which is the sparkle! I love it. It may not be for everyone but it made the yarn for me.

Thanks Countess, this base is genius and I can’t wait to see more colours in it. This yarn takes quite a while to properly dry out after blocking so be patient. 🙂

Note: This is my personal opinion, I bought the yarn last week and loved it so much I wanted to share its awesomeness.