Friday, 13 December 2013

Lichen Hat & Bark Shawl

Not one FO for you today but two - linked by a theme of nature and also by designer. The very talented Suseknits produced a lovely shawl pattern recently called Bark. As she was having a KAL over in her Ravelry group and I happened to have a perfect skein of yarn newly acquired in my stash - Solstice yarns Tidal sock yarn in the Leaf Mould colourway - it seemed like a match made in heaven.

Typically for me I didn't read the pattern properly and worked the repeats a little differently to how the designer had intended but I love the finished object. It has wonderful drape and texture and is feminine without being fussy.

The second FO is a hat which I did as a test knit, also for Suseknits. This is the Lichen & Moss Hat and I used some Sublime Organic merino dk in an Oatmeal colour. This yarn has been in my stash for some considerable time after I bought 10 balls of it on sale. It is a loosely plied single so I didn't want to use it for a garment, but its soft and squishy nature means it is perfect for hats, scarfs and cowls.

This was wonderful pattern to knit. A very effective textured stitch pattern which was easy to memorise and fun to knit. This hat practically flew off the needles and is now my 'must-have' accessory when I leave the house. I always struggle with hats to find one that looks 'right' but this is just perfect with just enough slouch and a perfect fit on the brim.

Sue also has the Lichen & Moss Cowl pattern available to match which she kindly gifted me, so guess what I'll be working on soon?

Sunday, 1 December 2013


I spy a fabulous new project for the forthcoming year - this came up on my radar a few days ago and I love the idea.

The Great Oddments Knitdown is the brainchild of the very talented Rosemary (Romi) Hill, this project aims to use up all those oddments you have lurking in your stash - and don't pretend that you don't have any :)

There will be 15-18 patterns released over the coming year for a variety of small projects. Ideal for using up those single skeins and troublesome oddments you can't throw away but can't bear to part with either.

I love the first pattern which has just been released and it would make a great Christmas present - the FairySnowCap.

I know I have a fair bit of aran weight yarn to use up in my stash but also, I'm thinking that with dk weight and smaller needles it would make a great child's hat too.

Monday, 18 November 2013


Introducing Haystacks - my latest sock pattern just out on Ravelry

The pattern is a fun one. Some slipped stitch mock cables and a side cable which twists down the leg add to the interest but are easily memorised. The socks are man-friendly without a hint of lace or openwork and the pattern is presented as either a toe-up or a cuff down version to suit your preference. And, as an added bonus, the stitch patterns are super stretchy - making it an ideal pattern for gift knitting.

Until Nov 21st there is also 50% of the purchase price on Ravelry - just use the code 'Haystacks'

In case you were wondering, Haystacks is a well known hill in the English Lake District. It was made famous by Alfred Wainright, the well known walker and author who loved it dearly. It is also a firm family favourite of ours and the inspiration for these socks came about one sunny summer walk on the fell, whilst my two boys were having fun scrambling on rocks.

Both my boys now have a mini-pair of these socks and I hope they bring some fun into your life too.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Cowl Love

I have been feeling a little overwhelmed recently - the usual story - too many WIPs and not enough time to knit them all. So the last thing I needed was another project, but I needed to whip up something luxurious and indulgent for a friend going through a hard time, and I happened to come across a skein of Solstice Yarns Ishtar Lace (a delicious silk/baby camel blend) in a perfect delicate green colour (Chartreuse)

I couldn't resist.

So a quick Ravlery surf later I came up with the April Showers Cowl pattern.

The yarn is held double which gives a wonderful feel and drape, and because you start with a provisional cast on and then graft the ends closed you can knit until you have used almost every scrap of precious yarn - the perfect project.

I'm so in love with the finished cowl. It's a good job my friend is a very dear one, otherwise she would be getting a box of chocs and I would have a lovely new cowl to wear today :)

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Icon Update

Just a quick update on my Icon Dress.

It has been sadly neglected in recent weeks in favour of much sock knitting but I am making slow but steady progress.

The front is almost done. I have left the straps on waste yarn just in case I need to do some alteration to the fit before seaming. I'm not sure how low the neckline will be and I wanted to give myself the chance to adjust it slightly if needed.

The back is almost done too and I have just picked up my second -to-last ball of yarn (ball 11 from 13) so I easily have enough to finish - possibly with 1 whole skein leftover.

Perhaps it is the lack of sleeves, but I am pleasantly surprised at how quickly this has knitted up. It is my first time knitting a dress and I truely thought it would take much longer than it has. Still, musn't count my chickens too soon. It isn't finished until it is seamed, blocked and all the ends woven in - and heaven knows I can prevaricate for England when it comes to that.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

My first knit-along

It's been all systems go over on the Solstice Yarns Ravelry group, as my first KAL (co-hosted with the lovely Eleanor) has been launched.

I am pleased to say that the Samhain sock KAL is going well so far and as of this morning we have 15 participants all working away on some beautiful socks - some of them going at speeds which put me to shame.

It reminds me of one of the (many) reasons I love Ravelry community. For some participants it is their first toe-up sock, for others it is their first time trying magic loop or cabling without a needle, but it is great to see others happily stepping in to offer advice and support.

As my DH works away from home a lot and I fit my work around looking after my boys I don't get a chance to go to a local 'Knit Night' or craft group so, in effect, Ravelry is my 'Knit Group' - always there - always helpful - and always supportive.

In other knitting news, the Icon dress continues (slowly) and I'm hard at work on another sock pattern - hopefully in time for those of you looking for Holiday Knitting (no mention of the C-word here)

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Production line

The socks have been put aside this week in preparation for a class I am teaching this weekend. Designed for adventurous knitting beginners, this class aims to give people the skills they need to tackle their first garment - a baby cardigan knit seamlessly on circular needles.

A simple top-down raglan construction but with different increase options and tips and tricks to get a polished finish that any knitter would be pleased with.

I don't need to extoll the virtues of seamless knitting here I'm sure but it always amazes me how much books aimed at beginners focus on traditional seamed knits. I did the same when I was learning and must have spent longer trying to figure out how to set in a tiny sleeve than I did to knit the garment in the first place.

So much easier to knit a little raglan cardi or sweater, add a few buttons, weave in an end or two and ta-da

One baby sweater: 60g of dk yarn and I estimate about 3-4 hours of work (if that - I wasn't really timing myself - but it took two short evenings of TV knitting).

Now, one more sample to block and weave in the ends and I can get back to the socks :)

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Samhain KAL

I am pleased to announce my first ever KAL, co-hosted by the lovely Eleanor from Solstice Yarns.
The pattern is named Samhain, for the forthcoming ancient Samhain festival, also known as Halloween.

All details are over on the Solstice Yarns group on Ravelry and Eleanor is dying up a wonderful range of yarns to complement the pattern-. click here to be tempted by some seriously beautiful yarn.

We start on October 15th when the pattern will be released and using the checkout code of Samhain will get you 50% off the usual price of £2.50.

All are welcome to join. Just pop over to the Ravelry thread and say hi to the lovely chatty bunch of people over there.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Yarndale 2013

It has been many years since I last attended a yarn show and I was determined to make it along to Yarndale this year. Rounding up the Madmum household for a 6am start prior to a 4hr car journey was not fun but boy, was I determined. The boys were in the back of the car with half a croissant each before they knew what had hit them.

Unlike others who arrived later on the Saturday we had no traffic problems and parked with ease at the venue. We had more difficulty persuading DS1 and DS2 to get changed from their PJs into real clothes. For a while it looked as though I was going to be accompanied by 2 small boys in tiger onesies.

I had some doubts about how well the boys would fare but DH was adamant that we all go and enjoy a good family morning and I have to say that it was brilliant. We were all entranced by the alpaca, especially when you could hear their gentle melodic humming. DS1 fell in love with a small angora bunny and both boys had an amazing time with a drum carder. If I can ever learn to spin properly and persuade DH to buy me a drum carder I have two handy helpers who think that turning the handle and feeding in the fibre is the best fun ever.

Anyway - the serious business of stash enhancement had to take over and in short order I managed to procure some serious beauties:

From the Knitting Goddess:

Sparklynne Sock Yarn - semi solid Pearl

Sparklynne Sock Yarn - Undead

I also scored some of Joy's new Britsock - more about that later as it deserves a blog post all of it's own.

From Fivemoons:
 Diana ply sock weight yarn - As the Crow Flies

Beautiful Vintage 4ply sock yarn in the rather unattractively named 'Vermin' colourway

I also bought some Red Lace Chiao Goo sock needles and couldn't resist road testing them as soon as I got to my parents house - along with the Britsock - they deserve their own blog post.

After a lovely lunch it was time to pile back in the car and head to my parents house so they boys could chill out and get back into their PJ's.

A fabulous day was had by all. I know that some people experienced a few teething problems but it was an amazing event and I for one will be in the queue for tickets next year.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Going Steady

In my knitting life, monogamy is unusual. I am generally a bit of a magpie with lots of different projects on the go at once. At the moment though I am finding that my Icon dress continues to hold my attention, making it my 'go-to' project except for when I am out and about. I have a pair of socks on the go - well 1 sock halfway through the design process but apart from that, I am just happy to sit and work with this beautiful alpaca.

For a sportweight yarn it is growing pretty quickly - this photo was taken a couple of days ago. I'm now almost up to the armhole shaping. of course I do have to knit a back as well but so far, so good.

It isn't as though there aren't lots of other pretties trying to grab my attention though. I am very keen to cast on for a Brickless, especially since the lovely Knitmore Girls are going to be having a Martina
Behm KAL soon - with a discount code off the pattern purchase price.

I aslo want to make an Ammolite from the most recent edition of Pom Pom Quarterly.

And then there is the sweater I promised DH two winters ago - I have 15 skeins of Rowan DK British Breeds waiting to be knit up into a lovely warm sweater for him. But it is Brown, and he wants it Plain and it needs to fit a 48" chest - I bet you can guess where this item is on my to-do list :)

Friday, 6 September 2013

Under a Rose Moon

Just a flying visit today but I'm determined to post this in the midst of a crazy day.

A new FO and also a new published pattern - yay

The pattern is Under a Rose Moon and is toe-up only this time due to the slightly more complex pattern motif. I did try to go for cuff down too but it defeated me.

The yarn is the gorgeous Coniston from Solstice Yarns in the colourway - The Vanishing Lady. Simply beautiful to work with and the colours just glowed at me whilst I was working with it - a real treat.

Monday, 2 September 2013


Don't you just love that fit of enthusiasm that comes over you at the start of a new project? The yarn is fabulous, your tension is spot on, the pattern set-up is a doddle. You feel as though you are flying along and this little beauty will soon be gracing your wardrobe.

Of course, we all know that it won't last. The lure of Ravlery will seduce me away. Something brighter, shinier, newer, more popular is bound to draw my eye at some point. Easily

But for now, this project is enthralling me and entertaining me in equal measure.

It is the Icon Dress in the fabulous Purl Alpaca Designs alpaca (colourway Mushroom in case you were wondering).

I am knitting as part of a KAL over on the Stitched Together Designs group - the challenge being to use a hard copy pattern (book, magazine etc) from your craft library to create something you have been meaning to make for ages...but just never got around to.

There are some lovely and inspirational projects over there - do go and take a look.

The deadline for finishing is 31st October - I have a feeling that I may not make it in time (this is a dress in sport weight yarn, let's not forget) but I think I will have fun trying.

Friday, 30 August 2013

FO, but slow

So this didn't exactly turn into the high-speed Hitchhiker that I had hoped for.

I persevered with the Continental technique, I really did but after about halfway through the shawl there was no discernable increase in speed and I was finding it pretty hard going to be honest. It isn't that I can't knit with the yarn in my left hand. I can and I can keep a fairly even tension too, but it just doesn't seem any quicker.

And yes, I was sad enough to time myself too, before you ask.

In the course of my internet reading though I did come across several links to Lever Knitting, also known as Irish Cottage Knitting. This method is espoused by The Yarn Harlot no less, so I did give it a go and found it to be a little more intuitive and natural-feeling than the Continental style. I guess I am a born thrower, and having the yarn in my right hand just feels 'right'

I did also come across several hints and tips for faster or more ergonminc knitting. Some of them I think I knew already or instinctively use but I thought I would share them with you anyway.

  1. Power loading (again, a la The Yarn Harlot)- sounds scary but it just means to scrunch up your left hand stitches up as close to the needle tip as possible.
  2. Live on the edge - keep the stitches on both needles as close to the needle tips as possible to minimise exessive movement.
  3. Don't re-tension - once you have the yarn tensioned comfortably try to ensure you have enough yarn for your row or round, reducing the need to stop and re-tension your yarn.
  4. Practice - any new technique should be practised for at least 20hrs, giving time for your brain to learn all the subtle micro movements needed and develop that muscle memory.
  5. Relax - tension in your neck and shoulders can impede muscle movement and slow you down.
More details about the shawl are on my ravelry page in case you are interested.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Shawl Surprise

The surprise being that I seem to be obssessed with shawl knitting, despite the fact that I should be knitting socks.

I just finished my Herbivore by Stephen West and am really pleased with how it turned out. It has just the right amount of drape and long enough 'arms' to wrap properly around my neck. The yarn is perfect too - silky and luscious to knit with bright little pops of colour - pale green and blue amidst the teal.



I enjoyed it so much in fact that I spent a happy hour perusing more shawl patterns on Ravelry, looking for some more instant gratification. In the end though I plumped for a pattern I have knit before - a Hitchhiker - in some yarn from my Deep Stash. I think it may be from the Natural Dye Studios but don't quote me on it.

I don't normally knit the same thing twice, but this time I have a cunning plan. if I am going to Knit All the Things then I need to knit faster...much faster. So on this project I am determined to crack Continental knitting.

I found this great U-Tube clip which was really helpful. I have tried to knit this way before but until now I never grasped the significance of using the thumb/middle finger of the left hand to hold the stitches at the base of the work - providing a stable point to lever the yarn through, rather than just poking the right hand needle through the loop and fishing around for the strand of yarn coming from the left index finger. Sorry for the appalling description - it makes sense to me - but this lady explains it far better.

So wish me luck...I am going Continental.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

A bit of fun

With so much of my knitting being for others or on deadlines I have found a little stress creeping into my knitting life this week. Don't get me wrong, I love my sock knitting and will never be parted from it but when all my ongoing projects are sock related I start to feel a little flat and one-dimensional.

So in the interests of fun and variety I have declared today a Non Sock Day and cast on for a shawl instead.

A  chance comment by the lovely Kerry over in the Sheep Shop group on Ravelry lead to the setting up of a summer mini KAL/CAL for folks interested in casting on for a shawl project this summer. Inspired by a shop sample I have decided to cast on a Herbivore shawl in some gorgeous Sparkleduck Galaxy yarn. Perfect as a relaxing summer knit whilst entertaining the boys at home.

Not much progress yet, but I will be working on it after 'Bath & Bed'.

It sounds almost like knitting heresy but despite being a huge admirer of his work, I have not yet made any of the Stephen West shawls. By a strange coincidence I have been trying to play around with different shawl shapes for fun, and came across his Shawlscapes class on the Craftsy website.

So now, I am knitting on my own Herbivore whilst working my way through the online tutorial. I'm not entirely sold on his presentation style, but it's early days  - I'll let you know how I get on.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Gratifying FO

Just realised that in the sudden flurry of FOs I forgot to post finished pictures of my Cranford Mitts - a fabulous p/hop pattern. I took part in the Shinybees Podcast p/hop KAL and a few days of jury service were all I needed to complete these quick and simple mitts. The lace pattern is lovely and soothing to knit, and once you get into the rythmn they fly off the needles.

Beautiful sparkly Sparkleduck yarn, beautiful soothing pattern - a very gratifying finish.

Friday, 12 July 2013

And breathe...

Life seems to have suddenly taken a turn for the frantic, weeks whizzing by with amazing speed. And, as ever at times of stress I turn to my knitting for support.

A simple, mainly garter stitch shawl for a close relative going through some difficult times:

The Mountain Moss Shawl from the most recent edition of Pom Pom quarterly

Some new socks of my own design in a beautiful vibrant yarn from Solstice yarns

The pattern is Seed Pods and features a lovely slipped stitch cable pattern which is fun and easy to work.

My latest creation which should be published soon (no name yet)

And of course, when times get tough, some retail therapy is always in order:

 My latest yarn haul from the wonderful and talented Sparkleduck

Friday, 26 April 2013

Day Four: Colour Review

It doesn't take an infographic to scientifically analyse my stash and determine my colour preferences. A quick rummage through the stash easily visible, or a quick peruse of my projects page shows that I am predominantly a 'cool' colour person.

I have no objection to pinks/oranges/yellows but by preference particularly when making items for myself I am drawn to the soft muted blues, greens and greys with an special fondness for purple.

So, no surprises here - the 0% relates to yellows and oranges of which I have precisely zero in my stash.

Maybe I should be more adventurous with colour - I love to see warm bright colours on other people - just not me.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Day Three: Infographic

This was another example of perfect timing.

We are in the middle of a bit of home re-decorating and I have been forced to unearth my stash (all of it) and rehome it elsewhere. I decided to organise it by weight so that I could easily find what I was looking for and so the subject for todays infographic easily presented itself.

I obviously tend to favour sock weight and dk weight yarn as that accounts for the bulk of my stash. No surprises there then. I do have a few beautiful skeins of laceweight which I'm too scared to use, and bulky yarn tends to hurt my hands after a while.

Whilst I was at it, I grouped it by colour as well - more about that later in the week.