Monday, April 7, 2014

If it's April, it must be hooking time

Not that kind of hooking, gutter mind. This kind of hooking:

Once again, I am participating in the spring Potholder Swap run on Ravelry. This time around, I've challenged myself by using slightly thinner yarn (sportweight vs. last year's DK weight) and a pattern that uses some new techniques.

The pattern I'm using is the Crochet Flower Pot Stand by Lindervrouw, using the English translation of the original Dutch pattern from I made a few changes to stay within the swap designated size, so instead of working 10 rounds, I'm only doing 9, and they're coming out at about 7.5 in across.

I've gotten 4 out of the 6 sides done - since the potholders need to be double thickness, I'm making both sides the same. I actually have done five sides, but somehow I managed to make the second purple/green version with 16 petals instead of 15. No idea how that happened, but there you go. Thankfully I've got enough yarn to make another one, so I'll keep the mutant one for myself.

Next up on my list of WIPs to finish off this week: ummm...maybe the grosgrain ribbon backing for my Unravel sweater so I can actually wear the damn thing would be a good plan?

Monday, March 31, 2014

Happy Porpoise Spin-Along

This is an example of how Twitter is either the greatest community builder of all time or a path to a lovely tropical hot spot paved with good intentions...spinner be warned!

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Jacqui Tweeted about her new book, and about how excited she was to spin in all sorts of new and exciting ways. Her Tweet reminded me about my excitement when I got the same book, and how I'd meant to spin my way through the entire thing. One Tweet led to another, which led to emails back and forth, which has now led to:

Button courtesy of J's brilliant children

The Happy Porpoise SAL, in which we work our way through the brilliant Sarah Anderson's "The Spinner's Book of Yarn Design", thereby expanding our spinning skills, and broadening our handspun horizons.

Everyone is welcome to join us in this quest: we're running it out of my Ravelry group, the Porpoise Pod for ease of having everyone in one place, so grab whatever is in your stash and come play with us! 

We'll be going chapter by chapter, and starting the frenzy tomorrow (April Fool's Day seems like a reasonable beginning date, no?) with Chapter 2: Singles for plying. One of us will start a thread tomorrow morning in the group, and we'll be off and running! I, for one, will be running to catch up, because I'm pretty sure Jacqui hasn't been able to restrain herself...

Hope to have you all join us in our spinning adventure!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

March pattern release: Echinoid hat

A few years ago we took a family trip to Paris, and spent one very rainy and wet afternoon in the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle. In one exhibit, there was a mezzanine walkway lined with glass cabinets, and I was quite taken with the display of sea urchin shells of every size. My designer brain immediately decided that I needed a sea urchin hat, and thus, Echinoid was born.

This hat is worked in worsted weight yarn (Knit Picks Wool of the Andes for the sample), starting with my new Most Favoritest Cast On Ever™, the tubular cast on. The body of the hat is worked mostly in seed stitch, with five equally spaced columns of knit stitches that mimic the five-fold symmetry of the sea urchin shells.

Knitting, purling, increasing and decreasing, tubular cast on (pattern includes links to a video tutorial, but not extensive directions for the cast on)

Small (medium, large, extra large), to fit head circumference of up to 18 (20, 22, 24) in/45.5 (51, 56, 61) cm. Actual hat circumference is 16 (18, 20, 22) in/40.5 (45.5, 51, 56) cm.

Pattern requires approximately 95 (115, 135, 165) yds/87 (105, 123, 151) m worsted weight yarn.

US 5/3.75 mm and US 6/4.0 mm double pointed needles or 16 in/40 cm circular needle.

20 sts/24 rows per 4 in/10 cm in seed stitch on larger needles.

Pattern includes both written stitch pattern directions and charts.

Echinoid $5.00

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Other Sweater

There's lots of knitting going on in my world right now, but sadly most of it is not for public consumption (yet). But I do have a project to share that I've been working on in fits and starts for the last few weeks, feeling guilty about it all the time.
Automne in progress
This is Automne by Ruth Garcia-Alcantud, from Knit Edge Issue 4, worked in Elann Highland Chunky.The yarn arrived and I cast on for a gauge swatch, I mean sleeve, immediately.

After a fingering weight sweater, working with chunky yarn is instant gratification. I've finsihed both sleeves and made it through the waist shaping, which is done with cable crosses.
Automne in progress
This is the Other Sweater because I was cheating on the Unravel sweater with it, and I will continue cheating on my current deadline projects with it whenever I get a chance or can carve out a moment for it. I think the back will get finished this weekend, and then it will be on to the fronts...

Friday, March 7, 2014

A week late, the Denbigh Cowl is released into the wild

It didn't take very long for my resolution about releasing a pattern every month to fall by the wayside, did it? Without further delay, please meet (again) the Denbigh Cowl.

This pattern was originally published in Issue 23 of Knit Now as one of the Designer Challenge projects. The challenge being: you have one ball of Blacker Swan Island DK and one ball of Blacker Breeds Pure Teeswater DK - what do you do?

In this instance, I knit them up into a fun cowl with a dramatic geometric pattern created with slipped stitches and two dramatically contrasting colors. The cowl begins with an i-cord cast on (kind of a pain in the bum, but well worth the effort), and is worked to a depth of about 8.5 in/22 cm before finishing off with a matching i-cord bind off.

The version of the pattern now available also includes a long version, that is approximately 57.5 in/146 cm in circumference, so easily long enough to wear hanging down or wrapped a couple of times for extra warmth.

A note about these two yarns: although both are designated DK weight, they are very very different. If you're going to substitute different yarns, beware! The Swan Island DK is a plush, round, fantastically squishy yarn that is perfect for cuddling up next to your skin. The Pure Teeswater is a much thinner yarn with dramatically less elasticity, owing to the properties of the breed. As a spinner, I was fascinated by how different these yarns worked up together, and I tried to emphasize the characteristics of each. If you are going to substitute, I would recommend maybe using a heavy fingering weight yarn for the CC in place of the Teeswater to get a similar effect. A standard DK should be fine to substitute for the Swan Island DK.

Knitting, purling, knitting in the round, i-cord cast on and bind off, slipped stitch pattern.
Small (large), approximately 20.5 (57.5) in/52 (146) cm in circumference, and 8.5 in/22 cm high.
MC: Blacker Swan Island DK, 120 yds/110 m per 50 gram ball, 1 (2) balls. 
CC: Blacker Breeds Pure Teeswater DK, 120 yds/110 m per 50 gr ball, 1 (2) balls.
This is a great project if you've never worked with two colors before but you want to try - only one color is every used in any one row, and there are only 4 rounds in the entire 12 round repeat that are anything other then straight knitting. 
Denbigh Cowl, $5.00 - click the button below to buy now from Ravelry. The pattern will be delivered to you as a pdf, and you do not have to be a Ravelry member to purchase. Thanks, and enjoy!

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Today is World Book Day and, as an avid reader, I heartily approve of anything that encourages kids to read and be excited by books. However, in my household, there is very little encouragement needed, as my eldest child would read every single waking minute if she could, and the younger one was up late enough last night reading Tintin comics that I had to collect her early from school because she was so tired.

Last week, Devil got invited to go to a special Book Day event on the Southbank, and she got to choose the character she wanted to portray. Coincidentally enough, she is in the midst of a full on Rick Riordan love fest, that has recently seen her conning her grandfather into buying her a 550 page "early birthday present" by said author which she then finished in less then 24 hours. So naturally, Annabeth Chase was her costume of choice.

Cue clueless Mum: "What does Annabeth wear?"
(insert long suffering eye roll of doom): "Mum...she wears skinny jeans, trainers and a Camp Half Blood t shirt."

long pause

"She also carries a dagger."

I decided (wisely) to leave the dagger part of the costume to those in the family with greater facility with wood and metal (i.e. Dad), and bent my efforts to a Camp Half Blood t shirt.

Step 1: find orange t shirt. No problem - thank you H&M boys section.

Step 2: get Camp Half Blood logo onto shirt.

Now, here's where things get a bit tricky. My drawing skills are pretty minimal, as a number of magazine editors who have reviewed my design proposals will testify. And the logo required is pretty specific. So off to the Great Google I went. Thankfully, with out too much trouble, I was able to discover a lovely Youtube video (complete with link to a print out for the logo) that showed how to make your own Camp Half Blood t shirt in a few easy steps.

Fairly straightforward, right? Get freezer paper, make stencil from print out, iron on to shirt, color in with Sharpie, peel off freezer paper and off you go. Except there's one little problem...Reynolds Freezer Paper is not widely available in the UK. At least not in the time frame we were talking about. So...

I found a couple of websites that insisted you could use plastic carrier bags to replace the waxy layer on the paper, but had no luck whatsoever with that tactic. Things were starting to degenerate into panic (on my part) until I remembered the rolls of contact paper that I'd gotten at the beginning of the school year for covering books. Bingo!
print out, contact paper and greaseproof paper

I covered the logo with the contact paper, and stuck it to the greaseproof paper to keep it all together. Out came the X-acto knife.

Many minutes later, there was a stencil and a t shirt ready to go.

Then I peeled the contact paper/stencil off of the greaseproof paper and stuck it to the shirt. The greaseproof bit went inside the shirt to keep the ink from soaking through.

let the coloring commence!

Devil wanted to help, but eventually lost interest.

We could have cut out the inserts for all the letters, but it was easier to just leave the centers un-inked.

And finally, we were done!

Behold, the fearless and super-tough Annabeth Chase:

She was totally thrilled, I was totally thrilled at how it came out, and she wore it for three days straight (including to the event on Monday). This might be my most popular costume yet. And all it took was a marker...

Monday, March 3, 2014

The State of the Boo

Dear Boo,
This past Friday was your seventh (!) birthday, and your first ever sleepover. Well, first sleepover at our house, that is. You had three friends come over after school, and the four of you plus your big sister proceeded to spend the next 8 hours alternately: 1) presenting a true-to-the-movies recreation of the Harry Potter series (complete with arguements over who was going to be Hermione and who was going to be Voldemort). You, predictably enough, were Hedwig and you capered around flapping your arms and hooting; 2) eating your way through vast quantities of food - for five reasonably normal sized children of your age, you can put away a remarkable amount of cheese pizza. And carrot sticks. And broccoli. And Tangtastic Haribos. And chocolate cake...; 3) having drama-filled relationship meltdowns and makings-up over a time course that would make a soap opera star's head spin.
It was a lovely party, and I think everyone had a good time, except when I had to camp out in your room at 11:00 pm and tell two of you little gabbers to "Stop. Talking. Now." in a very serious tone of voice every 3.5 minutes until you actually shut up and went to sleep. The next day was punctuated by having a lovely time until everyone else went home and then stomping off upstairs in high dudgeon over...something? Your sister found you passed out on the guest bed a little while later, and mid-afternoon when you finally woke up, you were back to your usual sunny self.
It's been quite a year for you m'dear - you are in the oldest class at your school, and you have handled the increasing pressure of next school assessments with nary a blip. I think it helps that you only did one assessment, because your parents have chosen logistical ease over all else and are sending you off to the same school as Devil. I have discovered though this process that you have fewer inhibitions around strange adults when your parents are absent; the faculty member that interviewed you described you as "quite a character". Apparently that is a good thing (sometimes it's really hard to tell with the Brits...), and I'll be happily popping you on the bus alongside your sister next autumn.
You continue to attack the world with fearlessness and curiosity, as evidenced by your recent "mastery" of alpine skiing. I put mastery in quotes because, although you are now competent to ride up on a lift and schuss down ski slopes in a variety of colors, your concern with anything other then pure speed (i.e. turning, stopping, not killing anyone...) is perhaps a bit lacking. In one notable exception over half term, you decided to use the banks of snow on the edge of the trail to slow yourself down. Imagine your surprise when this tactic resulted in you jamming the tip of one of your skis into the bank, popping it loose and launching yourself over the side of the trail into the unknown. Thankfully, I skied over to find you lying on your back, laughing like a loon. Good thing you have rubber bones kiddo...hope they hold on long enough to get you to the Winter Olympics in 2030.
As always, it is a pleasure being you mother 95% of the time (Monday mornings could take a long walk off a short pier and never come back, but I think most people feel that way). I love you so very, very much, and I can't wait to see what adventures you get into next.