Tag: Yarn

Sewing in the ends

Sewing in the ends

It’s the hardest thing to do. Not because it’s a complicated endeavour, but because if you put that finished project down for five damn seconds, it’s impossible to get around to picking it back up within a month.

No? Just me?

I do this all the time. A few months ago I decided to knit my partner a hoody since she wears them a lot and I don’t care about the sweater curse, we’re basically married anyway (we’ve been together nearly seven years, when did this happen, and if living on different continents for some of that time didn’t break us, the sweater curse hasn’t got a chance). I finished it just after Christmas, then decided I was done with it and would give it to her for Valentines, honest.

It’s May. This weekend, mid-concussion and still unable to knit because my tendons hate me, I picked up the hoody. I took ten minutes to sew in the ends, and suddenly I have a completed project on my hands.

She likes it. I’m giving it to her just in time for it to be too warm for her to wear, but no one ever said I was made of logic.Hoody for Nari - Knitter Nerd

It’s currently spread out behind me on my blocking mats, mocking me by taking roughly five bajillion years to dry. I also have to sew on the buttons but I won’t put that off once it’s dry – my partner now knows it exists, so I have to get around to it. Them’s the rules.

(That didn’t work when I made her the Avengers blanket, though… That took about eighteen months to give to her.)

This is clearly something I need to change. I sorted out my basket of random projects the other day and realised roughly 25% of them are about ten minutes from being finished. Do I just not like finishing things? Do I have commitment issues? Or do I just get too easily distracted?

Since my hands aren’t letting me knit at all these days, I may as well take some time to weave in some ends and finish up some older projects. After all, that will make me look super productive with minimal effort. Why yes, I did finish a sweater and a pair of socks and a shawl all in one weekend! (I started that shawl about 4 years ago, but that will go unsaid.)

It turns out knitters are a predictable lot, so I know I’m not the only one to do things like this. Has anyone got any tips for getting past it?

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The Return of the Crochet Bug

Today I have an announcement to make: I’ve stopped knitting. No, I’m not going back to level one, I’ve just remembered that crochet exists. After fighting with an awkwardly written but very pretty pattern (link here) I’ve started a shawl with my hook and some very pretty yarn because, well, crochet is awesome.

Sometimes I forget this. I started out with an intense love for crochet and rarely picked up the needles, preferring to keep a hook on me instead. Slowly I learned that I liked to knit more than I liked to crochet and I turned to that instead, but sometimes I make a trip back down memory lane and here I am, crocheting pretty lace.

Well, um. It’s not so pretty yet, so I can’t really share a picture. This is going to need some intense blocking when it’s done, but at least I understand the pattern now. It made my head hurt a lot when I started.

The yarn I’m using is from Blue Brick Yarns, which is one of my favourite dyers now. The colours are gorgeous. It fades from my favourite shade of blue/green into a grey, and they balance each other out well. It is soft and fun to work with too. A shawl I’m designing is made with this yarn, but that’s currently on time-out because I was knitting it at a time when I needed to stop knitting and return to level one for a while.

I can share a picture of the yarn; this is from my Instagram last Thursday when I bought it. It was destined to be socks, but it said no.

sawks.PNG

Okay. My cat is doing her awkward slow-creep onto my arm to see if I’ll cuddle her, and since she’s damn cute I’m going to go do that. Are any of my fellow knitters bi-craftual? Do you pull out a hook all the time or just for special occasions?

Also if you do crochet and you use Instagram please let me know – I need more hookers, uh I mean crocheters on my feed!

Suddenly, a cardigan appears

Over the last week I have finished a few projects  (on their way to the blocking mat) and frogged one fairly major project (story coming later this week). Since everything on the needles is giving me attitude, I decided to start a project I’ve been excited about for a while.

Plus it was my birthday Sunday. What better excuse to cast on a cardigan?

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I only started this yesterday and it’s already ten inches deep. It’s a welcome break from troublesome projects!

The magical sock pattern

The magical sock pattern

Spoiler: a friend and owner of my local yarn store wrote the pattern I’m speaking about here, so I’m entirely biased on its merits.

That doesn’t mean the pattern isn’t awesome though.

Recently it seems everyone I know is writing amazing patterns and I have to keep knitting them. No, it’s not out of a sense of obligation; I won’t knit something that I don’t like in general, because life’s too short for that. Nope, turns out the talented folks I know write damn good patterns.

Martina Munroe published Camber Twist Socks around the same time as Vickie Hartog published the Grandifolia Shawl (which I’ve finished and you shall see soon). Another friend asked me to knit her some Camber Twists and I began, and as soon as I memorised the pattern I was hooked.

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The yarn I’m using is Cascade Heritage Wave (I would recommend not googling ‘Cascade Wave’ as I just did, as it turns out it is something very different). It’s red plied with shades of grey, and it is SO SQUISHY I have since bought a skein for myself. I’m adapting the pattern to be knee-high socks for a friend, hence the little stitch markers and the odd shape.

See, these are excellent socks. The pattern looks quite plain on the needles but when you put it on it turns magic. My coworkers watched me knit and when I showed them what it would look like stretched around the leg, their minds were blown.

This is why:

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Look how cute that is!

Not only is it cute, but it’s a great idea for a sock stitch. It’s less boring to knit than plain ribbing but will be snug and comfortable against the leg despite that. I have a problem with skinny ankles that means a lot of socks don’t fit well but these would be super versatile for anyone.

And yes, that is my pinky sticking out at the top of the sock.  My legs were too far away.

I know I spoke about knitting for Christmas last week but these are the exception. I have, however, started a pair of fingerless gloves in the same stitch as above. Apparently I dig it enough to have multiple projects on the go with it.

The best thing about Camber Twist? It’s still free until the end of August. Go get it now!

Do you love alpaca yarn too?

If you saw my last post about Nuevo Norte Alpacas and my trip into a little world full of alpaca-based happiness, you will know that I one day intend to keep alpacas.

Why? Well, the first time I felt alpaca yarn my mind was blown. I knew on a vague level that alpacas were a thing, but alpaca turned into my gateway drug into the world of fancy, soft, fluffy, amazing fibre. One small skein of pale blue baby alpaca/silk and I was sold on the world of fibre.

glovet_mediumThat project was one of the early documented ones on the blog, back in December 2011. I had been knitting for about a year and a friend send me the yarn. I found a nice pattern for fingerless mitts, something I’d never needed so badly before I knitted, and spent some of the worst weeks of my life knitting them. I was sick, I was in pain, and I’d had to postpone my year in Canada due to all of the above. (The picture to the side is from when I was bed-bound for a few weeks, and the featured cat is Disney who hated almost everyone but loved me so, so much. Especially when I didn’t move for a while.)

By December I was better and ready to go, but there’s a reason I called them ‘Escapism Mitts’. They gave me the space to enjoy texture and colour and the process of knitting instead of dwelling on the difficulties at the time.

I still have and use the mitts and they still look fabulous.

Since then I would have to say alpaca has remained close to my top spot in terms of my favourite fibre. I knit with wool more often as I knit socks pretty much constantly, but when I have an excuse for alpaca I don’t often resist.

How does that translate into wanting to keep alpacas myself?

My girlfriend and I are animal lovers. We surround ourselves with them, her even more than me (at her work). One day we plan to have a small farm – one they call here a ‘hobby farm’ – and keep a few choice animals. We’ll have alpacas (because I’m deadly serious about it), goats, chickens, horses. Maybe a few cows one day.

I mean, ideally I’d like to have an enormous herd of merino sheep but as I would spend all day running around hugging those giant puffballs, I’ll stick to alpacas.

I mean REALLY.
Just look at this fluffy asshole. – Merino, Glen Orkney, Awatere, Marlborough, New Zealand, CC BY 2.0.

Wait, alpacas are also giant puffballs. Maybe I should reconsider. (I won’t.)

Do you like alpacas? Would you ever like to keep animals for their fibre? If you do already, how do you find it?

 

An Alpaca Surprise

An Alpaca Surprise

It’s wonderful to get away for a while. In the middle of July we packed up our things into a car that is much smaller than it looks from the outside, like a sort of reverse TARDIS, and drove a few hours along the edge of Lake Ontario with our knees by our chins. It’s been a long time since I went camping and I had no idea what to expect from a Canadian campsite, so I was excited for new experiences (and hopefully raccoons).

As we drove through the gorgeous Southern Ontario countryside my head whipped around when my girlfriend pointed out a field full of alpacas. I noticed the sign ‘gift shop’ and tried to be polite and say we could maybe stop on the way back? If we had time? Except somehow I gave in and we turned around, pulled into the yard, and descended upon the friendliest alpaca farmer I’ve ever met.

We’ll pretend I’ve met more than one.

The farm was Nuevo Norte Alpacas in Colborne, and the owner – I believe her name was Amy – opened up the gift shop just for us. Well, me. My girlfriend and her mum weren’t in it for the fibre.

Nuevo Norte
Nuevo Norte

She showed us down to the gift shop and I told her that one day I wanted to keep alpacas, and she was super helpful. I feel as though I learned more in that half an hour than anything I’ve learned before. She explained the entire philosophy behind how she cares for the alpacas (and she has 80+ so she should know), and that she got into it for the fibre as much as anything else.

I bought two sets of roving and a beautiful grey lopi yarn from their flock, and geeked out about knitting and spinning. On the way back Amy (I think) showed me the wild woad growing on her land which I had never seen in person – only in pictures. She brought us to the pen full of pregnant alpacas or those who had recently given birth, plus some thoroughly adorable crias (babies). I learned that alpacas all poop in the same spot in the field and that crias will stand for a long time in that spot with nothing happening while they’re still nursing. This entertained me more than it should.

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I know this isn’t the kind of image you came here to see, but you’re welcome! 😀

Though I cannot get back out there easily for now as I don’t drive, once I do – and have some spare time – I will be going back. My aim to one day keep alpacas is sincere and I think I’ve found a place that would be perfect to learn more.

If you’re ever passing through, check out Nuevo Norte Alpacas. They do tours and workshops and classes, and they have some gorgeous fibre for sale.

My first crochet projects

My first crochet projects

Once I figured out how easy crochet was I got a bit excited by it all. I began crocheting All The Things. At the time I was working in a large complex of stores all owned by the same people, and when I was in one of the two stores I worked in most often, I had ample time to crochet under the counter.

Yes, the place closed down around the beginning of 2011 due to how quiet it had become. It was my first full-time job and I enjoyed it well enough, but it was mostly sad to see it go because it had been there my whole life.

Anyway. I had plenty of time to crochet secretly at work and to crochet more as soon as I got home. Not to mention the fortnightly Stitch ‘n’ Bitch where I could take a wild break in routine to, you guessed it, crochet some more. I really enjoyed crocheting and I understood it much better than I understood knitting, so it was my default.

Here are a few of my proudest creations.

blanket

The star blanket for my nephew. That baby is not my nephew, but a small child who passed out at my nephew’s first birthday. I had permission to post it back then, so I assume it stands.

This was my second attempt at the blanket and I was super proud of the results. It’s very simple to do and looks amazing in variegated yarn, and seeing my small baby nephew in it gave me the warm fuzzies.

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Heavily filtered through the glorious iPhone 3g that I loved at the time. You can hardly see the project, what was I thinking? Anyway, this is probably the best thing I made when I was just starting out.

It’s a blood choker. I took the inspiration from a pattern but didn’t like the execution, so I designed it to differ a lot. It was the first time I’d made something that looked exactly how I planned it without following a pattern. Yes, it’s a tad gory, but it made me happy and my Halloween costume for work was badass. (At the time I had shoulder-length hair, and I used most of a can of hairspray to make it stand out in a huge bird’s nest of a mess. I wish I had photos of that.)

choker1

Another moment of pride for me. At the time it felt like I had been crocheting forever, but in fact it had only been about four months. Making this little lacy motif made me super happy even if I never got around to finishing the pattern (a choker called Asphyxiation).

It was crocheted with some thread I bought on a trip to Newcastle upon Tyne to visit a friend. Little did I know that a few short years later I would live there for eighteen months while I waited to get my permanent residency in Canada. Funny how life takes us on such wayward routes.

I don’t crochet much any more, but looking back at my Crafter Origin Story has made me wish I did. I’m in the middle of a complicated knitted shawl right now, but once that’s done I think it’s time to crack out the hooks.

A comfy knitted neck-thing

A comfy knitted neck-thing

My friend Jen is a good person. She’s the kind of friend who stays in a hotel overnight at the airport so she can meet you off the plane. She’s the kind of person who enjoys treks to yarn stores (hence our visit to Loop when we were in London). She’s the kind of person who deserves a nice knitted gift here and there.

This is, coincidentally, the first knitted object I’ve made that I did entirely in Continental. It was an easy choice. It’s basically a long knitted tube, so I had no purling and no complicated lace. My stitches weren’t as even as they are with English/throwing, but my gauge was consistent and a little blocked got rid of the worst of it.

I might write up this pattern, simple as it is.

A note on the yarn: it is a thing of wonderment. It is called ‘Ayni’ from Amano Yarns and it is a beautiful, fine, luxurious blend of baby alpaca and silk. It’s gentle on the skin and comes in some gorgeous colours. I picked a deep purple for Jen.

I cast on enough to make the size I needed, then knitted for two solid weeks while teaching a new hire class at work. Once it was twice as long as I needed I folded it inside out and kitchener-stitched the whole thing up into a tube.

This was the result.

IPoon 420

And this is what it looks like on the intended recipient as we sat drinking posh drinks in Costa. Oh, how I missed Costa.

IPoon 424

She says it’s going to be great for when she’s watching football as scarves usually fall off. I’m glad it’ll have a practical use, though it looks so great on her that I don’t really mind either way.

It’s lovely to knit something for someone that’s knitworthy, isn’t it?

First attempt at Dorset Buttons

When I started knitting and crocheting I was fascinated by the link to history the craft provided. So many women and men through the centuries sat down and enjoyed (or tolerated!) the same craft that I had discovered. Some of their work is even around today.

If you’re careful, you can even follow the patterns from decades ago, or even more in the case of my talented friend Lisa.

The more I look, the more there is to see. A while ago I heard about Dorset buttons and was instantly intrigued. Though I live in Ontario now, I was born in Dorset and spent a large chunk of my life gazing at those rolling hills. I visited my hometown for a week this month (pictures coming later) and until then I had forgotten how it felt to be surrounded by and steeped in history, so it was appropriate that my friend Maureen gave me the instructions on how to make my own Dorset buttons.

Want to learn how to make Dorset buttons? Here’s the tutorial I used.

Dorset buttons were a huge part of the Dorset cottage industry during the 18th and 19th Centuries. Imagine all those men, women, and even children hunched around making intricate and beautiful buttons. One quarter of my ancestors were very old Dorset folk; my legal name is even tied to the general area. I can easily imagine my own distant relatives making these.

Of course I had to try it.

It’s easy, though not as quick as it looks. You need plastic bone rings, a yarn needle, and some yarn or tapestry thread. I used some fingering weight yarn when I sat down to try it out when recovering from a migraine (possibly not the best idea I’ve ever had). It took me about forty minutes total, and I was going slowly. My hand cramped afterward so I wouldn’t be able to do a lot in a row, but there’s no way I’m not making more.

Knitter Nerd: Dorset Button

 

Though it’s wonky and one of the spokes is doing its own thing, I’ll be making a lot more of these.

Switching to Continental

Knitting barged into my life nearly six years ago now. Though a large portion of that first year or two was taken up crocheting, I still knitted occasionally and since then I’ve knitted almost every day. When I learned, I learned English – not surprising as I lived in England at the time. Now, after six years, I’m thinking of switching to Continental.

What’s the difference? For my readers who don’t know, a quick explanation.

English knitting is also called throwing. You tension the yarn in your right hand and ‘throw’ the yarn around the needle for each stitch.

Continental knitting is also called picking. You tension the yarn in your left hand and ‘pick’ the yarn with the needle through each stitch.

There are dozens of videos online about how to do both, so it’s easy to learn if you feel like switching. I wish I had learned Continental to begin with; it’s quicker and kinder on your hands, or at least it is for me. My right hand once had a severe RSI as a teenager (believe it or not, from making pixel dolls) so knitting English is sometimes a strain.

When I knitted the obscene mitts, I knitted two-handed. One hand English, one hand Continental. That’s how I learned Continental, though not on that project. However I can’t seem to get into the habit of knitting one-handed when doing Continental.

After finishing those mitts and the baby sweater (pictures coming soon!) I started getting hand pain again. Fed up, I decided to try a project completely Continental. I picked up the yarn I bought a few days before and cast on a stockinette cowl for a friend. Easy, rhythmic, and perfect to practice. It’s so much faster and because the movements are so small and confined it’s not nearly as hard on my tendons.

English knitters, I highly recommend trying it.

What method do you use when you knit? English, Continental, other? Is that how you learnt or did you make a conscious choice to switch?