Saturday, March 31, 2012

Colour by numbers.


I’m afraid my knitting has reached a kind of plateau recently, I’m still slogging away at the socks mentioned previously, and I’m due to start knitting some tension swatches for my mum who needs them for a show.
So instead I shall blog not about knitting, but about one of my favourite things about knitting: colour. Beware; I have a tendency to get a wee bit sentimental.
A cheerful selection of HandKnit Cotton.

Colour theory has been top of my list of things I want to learn about for ages. I find the whole business fascinating, and am often inspired by colour more than anything else. I love the fact that there are what I call ‘untranslatable colours’ those which cannot exist outside of their specificity. Things like the precise orange of a sunset, the colour of winter light. I find these things endlessly exciting and inspiring, and with a mother who is an indie dyer, I find myself being more and more drawn into the world of colour. 

Since working in a knitting shop, I’ve been amazed at the wide selection of colours on offer. I guess it’s something I never really encountered before becoming a knitter. I paint, but often the colours have to be the same shades – cobalt, burnt umber, Payne’s grey etc. 

Masala
The most bizarre thing is the names. I love thinking about whose job it is to come up with accurate names for the newest shades, and it’s surprising how much companies can repeat themselves! It’s really satisfying when a name of a shade really encapsulates the colour it is in reality – the one that sticks in my head is a Knit Picks yarn, ‘Masala’.  It’s such a great name for such a rich, warm, inviting colour. 

I also love Debbie Bliss’ Apple Green – it’s an ideal spring hue and perfectly named in my opinion. I also admire and appreciate the really bright colours, Knit Picks are really great at this too, their Macaw, Canary and Cyan shades always cheer me up if it's a grey day, and I always jump for joy any time anyone buys any. Recently, we’ve gotten in some Amy Butler Rowan yarns, and the colours are all so perfectly complimentary that I’m over protective of the display!
 
Amy Butler Shades for Rowan
I loved doing the colour workshop because it allowed some specific time to be put aside to think about colours, and when I think about knitting, I’m spend far more time considering colours than I do debating over particular patterns.

It’s been said that your favourite colour says a lot about you, and it’s been really interesting looking up what colours may mean. Obviously colours have a long history of symbolism that predates all this psychology malarchy, but nevertheless, it’s been really interesting looking at ‘What my favourite colour says about me’.
For the record, my favourite's green:

 The color of harmony and balance, Green symbolizes hope, renewal and peace, and is usually liked by the gentle and sincere. Greens are generally frank, community-minded people, fairly sociable but preferring peace at any price. Green people can be too self-effacing, modest and patient, so they may get exploited by others. They are usually refined, civilized and reputable.

Though I refuse to make a comment on the accuracy of this assessment, it’s still a pretty interesting exercise.
So, what’s your favourite colour, and what does it say about you?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Be a man:

I found this here and just had to share.

I love vintage tattoo style illustrations, and this one really made me smile, so much so I'm sharing it on all my blogging platforms!

However, I have never met a serious male knitter - something I hope to rectify at this year's WonderWool event, which I am far too excited about.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rabbiting on...


Okay, so the reason I’ve been so absent the past week or so is because of this:


This little bundle of delights is my gorgeous baby niece, who was born this week.

I’ve been honoured in that she’s been given my name as her middle one [long, touching story], and I maintain that the only reason she came out when she did was that I finally managed to finish knitting the slippers I had been working on for 3 weeks previous to her arrival! I knew that I wanted to get them done before she arrived in the world, but as more and more got in the way of my daily life, I thought it was an impossible task. Thankfully for me, not so much for my sister, baby was not keen on coming on time, so I got an extra 8 days to make all the finishing touches.

The pattern was from this Debbie Bliss book, which is going quite cheap these days and is chocka with loads of really nice, really makeable things for kids. Keen followers of the Facebook feed will know that a lovely customer inspired these! I used some trusty sale yarn from GBY, and hey presto. The pattern was really easy, and it’s amazing how it goes from this:



To these:



The best thing is that when they’re done, they look really impressive. I feel like I’m slightly cheating because they really were easy to make. Best of all, I was able to follow the pattern all by myself, with no help from any of the various knitting gurus I have surrounded myself with in the past. It was such a sense of achievement to finish and to hand them over. Though it did take me a long time to actually sit down and knit, they didn't take that long to actually make, which is always good.

I doubled up my gift by purchasing some gorgeous knitted wares from Potting Shed Crafts, and, sticking to the theme I chose a gorgeous bunny ears hat.


Babies really are the best! I can't wait to make lots of new things for my namesake.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I Knit, Therefore I Am.

Apologies for the lack of posts of late, all will become clear in my next post - I promise.

For the mean time, while I get my act together, why not check out this awesome project bag from Astor Knot.


Hate to admit that I've been feeling this a lot lately!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Give Peas A Chance.


The Saturday just gone was a day of progress and a day of breakthrough. The glorious spring sunshine had spilled over into my wonderful country garden, and I couldn’t resist bringing my knitting outside with me to try and tackle something I’ve been wrestling with for a while.

The undeniably gorgeous weather that led me gardenward.
  Before I even began knitting, before I even knew what a purl stitch was, I fell head over heels with Amigurumi. I persuaded my mum to buy a few books, in the hope that she would be as encompassed as me and would want to knit me some of the adorable creations that lined the pages. Alas, my mother didn’t, and as soon as I had a basic grasp of knitting, I dug a few of the books out of my mum’s ‘to read’ pile. Which, I might add, was not an easy feat, the tower stretches over a metre high, and is made of rather heavy cooking and knitting books. 

Apparent book-related danger aside, I’ve always had an affectation with all things Japanese, from manga to sushi, it seems I can’t get enough. Flicking through the book, I wanted to attempt something small. In my na├»ve mind, I thought that smaller things would be easier to do. Oh, how wrong I was.

When you’re not a confident user of double-pointed needles, it is recommended that you steer well clear of things that require you to split six stitches between three needles and work from there. I did not heed this advice. It is extremely difficult, endlessly frustrating, and hopelessly fiddley. So, for the past few months, when I had been feeling particularly dextrous, I’ve had a go at following the pattern in this book to make this tiny bird.
Photo from [http://www.flickr.com/photos/kathrynivy/4800103514/]
  Looks simple enough, right? Well, until a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know how to use DPNs properly. I meant well, but I’m pretty sure that, should my attempts have been at a public knitting event, many tears would have been shed due on account of my lack of form and general ignorance. I was essentially just tying some yarn to three sticks. Thanks to the workshop, I have a new found confidence, and this led me to pick up pattern and yarn on this sunny Saturday just past. 

I’m not going to lie to you; I undid and redid it about 6 times. I deviated from the pattern in ways that I couldn’t explain to you even if I tried, but, finally, I came out with something that resembled my end goal.

My Hap-Pea! You have no idea how many pea-related puns I'm sitting on right now.
You're exceedingly lucky that in this entire post I've only used 2.



The yarn is an unfortunate colour for a bird to be, so instead, I have made a pea. Out of what yarn, nobody knows. I found it attached to some vintage needles in my house and decided to pinch it and breathe some new, vegetabley life into it. I have no shame in admitting that it is stuffed with the filling from my dog’s bed, which fortuitously for me, had been ripped open a week previous. I have, however, found a glorious free pattern for tiny pigeons, made out of one of my favourite yarns, Knit Pick's Palette. I'm definitely going to attempt this soon.

I cannot convey the joy and pride that has resulted from such a silly little creation. I hope to hone my Amigurumi skills over many more projects, and hopefully one day, actually make the bird I was supposed to!


Friday, March 9, 2012

Sock it to me.


Once I had finished those mittens (photos to follow) from a few posts ago, I was at a loose end as to where to go next. The whole ordeal was so traumatic, that, if I’m honest, I wasn’t really keen to start anything new. My mum tentatively suggested socks, and before I could say no she presented me with some sock wool and some DPNs. I’d love to tell you the type of wool, but my mother is a chronic hoarder and has probably lugged this about with her since the late eighties, and thus it would be no use to you even if I could decipher the label. I was keen to learn how to learn on DPNs, it was on my list of new skills I want to conquer, and so I was eventually persuaded. It looked hugely complicated, and I had no idea what to do with all the needles I had just been handed. Mum didn't take too well to my constant delight and very apparent hilarity of using them as chopsticks to pick up everything in my vicinity and bother the dogs.

With a lot of help, I cast on the required number of stitches and set to work. It seemed to be going well, as long as I kept my focus on the two needles I was using at the time, I was able to get to it. However, once I had move past the rib and onto the main 'tubey' bit of the sock, it dawned on me that I appeared to be knitting it inside out! I still don’t understand how that happened, but I was thoroughly concerned. After mittengate, I just wanted to be able to do something, anything, right! My mum, not being a great sock knitter, simply pushed it through the needles ready for me to carry on when I picked it up again. I knew this wouldn’t have solved the problem, so with the help of Sharon at work, and a whole bunch of YouTube videos, I was able to sort out in my head where I went wrong.

My project in all it's glory! (The extra needle is simply
holding it in place).
 Thankfully, when I got round to picking it up again I could see where I had been knitting into the back rather than the front, and felt altogether more confident about carrying on. I have to admit, and I know a few dedicated socksters that will hate me for this, that it’s a bit boring. There, I said it. I am, however, being led to believe that this isn’t always a bad thing. After a long day, I don’t want to use up loads more energy on concentrating on ridiculously complicated patterns - a sock is the perfect thing to get on with when watching a semi-engrossing movie. However, when I’m really in the mood for knitting, sitting and doing 60 rows of the same thing isn’t exactly enthralling. I think I am too addicted to finishing things. I like things that knit up quickly, but look as if they didn’t. I suppose that’s the eternal demand of impatient knitters like me. 

Trauma struck when one of my plastic DPNs smashed into a thousand pieces and littered various domains of my room. Apparently they don’t stand up to being sat on, which is understandable really. I can't hold this against sock knitting, but I thought that I should be honest with you about my foolishness! It was a slight delay to my project, but thankfully they come in sets of 5 and I only needed 4. Oh needle manufacturers, how well you know me.

The triumph of conquering double-pointed needles is undeniably great. It felt like a huge milestone, and now I’m getting fairly confident, it feels like I’ve opened a huge door in the knitting world. It is complicated at first – for goodness sake, it’s like knitting on the Blair Witch Project symbol. (Yes, I just referenced a film that is over 10 years old, so shoot me!) It’s one of those things that has left me wondering why on Earth anyone would think that knitting on 2 needles wasn’t enough for them. I can see it’s useful, sure, BUT WHY WOULD YOU INVENT IT?

Blair Witch Symbol [Source: http://www.answers.com/topic/blair-witch-vol-1-rustin-parr]
Knitting on DPNS. [Source: http://mochimochiland.com/2011/09/how-to-knitting-with-double-pointed-needles/]


And another thing! How the heck are you supposed to carry this thing around? It's a monstrosity - with needles sticking out everywhere. I don't move my knitting around a lot, but trying to get this thing to knit club was a nightmare!

For now, the socks have taken a back seat, as there is a baby expected in the family any minute, and I am working on some very exciting things that I shall reveal to you only in the fullness of time.


Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Workshop!

A selection of glorious Jamesons yarn
that was free with the workshop!
   I had my first workshop experience on Saturday, a colourwork and fairisle session with the mighty Mary Henderson at the Great British Yarns showroom. I was really apprehensive before going, I knew that I would have the lowest level of skill of anyone there, and was afraid of taking up everyone else’s time by having to insist on basic instruction. I wasn’t sure how advanced the others would be, and whether I’d be slowing everyone else down. Thankfully, as soon as I got on with the first task, I realised that everyone was there because they were after a day of peaceful knitting and learning new skills, no-one was there to show me up or make anyone else look bad. It was a suitably challenging day, which definitely utilised my brain a way that hasn’t been done since leaving university! It is so refreshing and rejuvenating to learn a new skill, with each step forward we all gained momentum and were all keen to keep progressing. We were able to go at our own pace and choose our own work, which meant that we each learnt something slightly different. This was good as it meant that we all could share the one-on-one time with Mary as and when we needed it, and we could learn independently alongside that. As it was a colour workshop, it was really interesting to see how everyone put their colours together, and it has left me totally inspired for fairisle. 

Everyone's finished samplers. Mine is the purple and green
fairisle and the brown. blue and red intarsia.


I started my day by doing a fairisle sample that we all were given, it was a useful way to go over the techniques we were going to use for the rest of the day. Although I was the slowest in the group, I didn’t feel bad about it or feel like I was wasting the teacher’s time. Everyone was really patient and encouraging, which really put me at ease for the rest of the day. I managed to get to grips with the two-handed fairisle method, which I think will make me faster when I get around to doing larger things, and, although I haven’t quite mastered it, I’ve gotten to a level where all I need to do is practise. It feels great to learn something new and something that not everybody can do. It really gives me confidence, and that confidence inspires me to do lots of new things.

As Mum and I keep saying, all I need to do is learn the rules, and then I can set about breaking them.

A fellow workshopper getting down to it.
I was happy with my finished sample, it was a bit wobbly and there were a few mistakes, but overall it was pretty impressive and something I never thought I could do so quickly. After that I wanted to learn how to do intarsia. I have to admit that when I asked to do it, I wasn’t 100% sure what it was. I just knew that it was something I couldn’t do currently, and therefore it was something worth learning. It’s the kind of thing that, as a beginner, doesn’t occur to me to learn. It doesn’t come up in many patterns that I look at, and I often assume that the colourwork I’ve seen comes about from sewing up blocks of different colours. Intarsia is the way of knitting so that you keep it all together as you knit, and it was so rewarding to get my head around it. Once I’d got used to what I was doing, it was really easy to get on with it, and I am so pleased with the finished result.

Colours on the go!
I also conquered the long-tail cast on, something that I’ve wanted to do for ages for no other reason that it looking awesome when you do it. Of course it has its practical uses too, but I feel like a wizard when I do it and that’s that.

The whole day was so lovely, I’m still buzzing. I feel more confident in my abilities and I’m so keen to keep knitting. It was just what I needed after having a few weeks of being exasperated and disappointed with myself. My mind is racing with all sorts of ideas, and I’ve learnt so much. 
Glorious pile of fairisle.