Monthly Archives: October 2013

Spin a Yarn 2013 – spinning threads across the world

On Saturday I was very proud to be part of an ‘around the world spinning link up’ with my spinning group at Castlehill Heritage Centre in Caithness. Over the course of the day we were joined by spinners, knitters and other textile artists from all over the globe. We were joined by people via Skype and occasionally telephone (as some were so remote that Skype wasn’t available) from Kyoto in Japan, Pretoria in South Africa, the Free State in South Africa (who knew there are so many spinners in that part of the world!), Kerala in India, the Falkland Islands, Calgary in Canada, New Zealand and even the Halley Research Station in Antartica. One lovely person took the trouble to create a map showing where we all are
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It was an amazing event and one that took much careful planning as we are all on different time zones (thank you Ann!). We all spun and knit to make squares for a cushion cover, like the link we did earlier in the year with the Falkland Islands (International (well, kind of) spin along)
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The first photo is of the actual squares we made for the Falklands link up, once we have received the squares from them it will be made into a cushion like the second photo – a replica of the cushion that has been spun and knitted by one of our group’s members.
Unfortunately I was only at Saturday’s link up for a couple of hours as my energy level has been low recently but while I was there we spoke to South Africa who were spinning merino and angora, a lovely woman in India as well as two people in the Antarctic who were knitting.
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Above are Agnieszka and Christoph from the British Antarctic Survey knitting away. We thought they looked very cosy, despite it being very cold there, about -40 degrees centigrade I believe…brrrr.
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That is how we all looked; one of the best bits at our end was when two little girls joined us with their peg weaving and wove using some of their Granny’s handspun! We achieved the objective of linking every continent through friendship in spinning, knitting and weaving and thoroughly enjoyed the company of all who joined us.

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There are already plans afoot for a further one next year; it is so interesting to have a glimpse into the cultures and countries where other yarny folks live and humbling to realise the scope of our craft, united through our love of such a simple fibre. Go well.

There is weaving afoot

Well, as I mentioned in the last post, a friend has lent me her Ashford Knitters Loom and it arrived for a wee holiday yesterday.

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I couldn’t wait to get started (impatience is one of my more unfortunate character traits) so set to warping it following the instructions. Ashford, in my experience, are good at providing clear and easy to follow guides so this wasn’t a problem (I’m not on a commission honestly, I believe in giving credit where credit is due) and I soon had a satisfying collection of parallels waiting to be woven. My friend had warned me that warping eats up yarn, she wasn’t wrong! I had two balls of some fairly average yarn I had bought a good while back that had definitely not spoken to me, or if it had I wasn’t listening, and thought I could use one for the warp, the other for the weft. Ha! How wrong was I…it barely made it through the first stage.
By the time Mr Knittingkitten got home from work I had already started weaving. I have to say I was disappointedly not enamoured initially, it was felt rather awkward and clunky, not like the rhythm of knitting or spinning at all and someone who shall remain nameless complained of the clattering that was coming from my direction. I couldn’t seem to get the hang of it, the edges were really scruffy and the overall look did not appeal. I changed yarn, from a dodgy mustard coloured weird dusty old ball of Patons (which I thought would be good to ‘waste’ on a practice run) to some lovely left over sock yarn from Elvincraft, an indie dyer based in Skye. What a difference! Almost instantly I was hooked (wrong term somehow but never mind) and when this was combined with the penny dropping about how to move the heddle (the part of this loom that creates the shed or gap to move the shuttle through as well as pushing the new rows into place) I made my mind to become a proper weaver. Don’t ask me what one of these looks like, I just know I will be one.
I finished my first project today, I love it and feel a bit proud as you do the first time you do something.

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Shhhh, listen to the yarn

I have started a new project; after falling into a pit of analysis paralysis or overthinking my next project (as a result of making a mistake with my last one I suspect), I stopped contemplating the perfect knit and just let the yarn speak to me. A few weeks ago I bought some 3ply oatmeal shetland with no real clue as to what it would become but just because I could and because it is lovely. It told me that it wants to be a shawl, a simple one so it can show off it’s natural beauty. The more cynical out there may think the wool didn’t actually speak to me, but it really did, you just have to know how to listen…sit next to your stash, reach out and pick up a ball or skein or just run your hand over the woolly wonderfulness, there, can you hear it? Which one is demanding to be squished, snuggled and nuzzled? That’s the one to chose for your next project. As for which project, well that’s where Ravelry comes in; take a look at the pattern pages, especially the ‘hot right now’ one and see which one(s) leap out. If you don’t have the right yarn at the moment you can always queue it and keep searching…how many hours have been wasted this way?!?

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Hmmm, quite.
Anyway, I cast on this, something that needs very little thinking about, the odd row of counting for the pattern but otherwise lovely, simple, cosy knitting. Not that I need another shawl, mind, it might is unlikely to be Christmas knitting, I like the wool too much but I plan to extend the pattern and make a really big shawl, to snuggle with.

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The pattern calls for Aran weight, clearly as I am using a much finer yarn it will need to be extended considerably, more knitting pleasure to be had then.
In other news I am being seduced by the idea of trying some weaving. This is an art I haven’t really considered until now, largely because I have enough to be keeping busy with already with knitting, spinning and a pinch of crochet thrown in. I blame my mother-in-law. She asked me why I didn’t weave, and I couldn’t really come up with a good answer. I knew absolutely nothing about it other that it is a completely foreign language and still know very little but have been reading a little online; the frustrating thing is that, unlike knitting etc, there aren’t quite so many free resources out there so I am impatiently waiting the arrival of a book and have been promised the loan of a loom from a friend. Exciting times, for me anyway. Until next time, go well.

Cough, cough, splutter splutter

Don’t get too close, you may catch man flu… As I’m not a man you’d have thought I would be immune, unfortunately this hasn’t been the case. Sigh.
Moving onto knitting; after frogging Stonecutter once as I didn’t like the huge holes that were made by the yarn overs and reknitting with increases by lifting the yarn between stitches and knitting into it, I decided I still didn’t like it so frogged again, this time permanently. Despite this I feel I achieved what I wanted to as I completed the first chart – the really hideous looking one – and discovered that it was actually very straight forward, appearances can be quite deceiving don’t you think? So the challenge had been met and I couldn’t honestly see myself wearing it without sneaking a glimpse at the increases and expressing a little humph. The yarn is far too nice for that and deserves better.
Since then I have been in a knitting no man’s land which I hate, I haven’t found anything else that grabs me in that ‘must get my needles out and cast on now!’ kind of way. So I’ve done what I usually do when this mood takes me and have dabbled with a bit of crochet, some spinning and wasting hours looking at looms on the internet (I know, I know, the last thing I need is another textile hobby).
I have been spinning more Jacob yarn and now have four big fat skeins just crying to be used but I just can’t seem to find the right project. It’s a horrible kind of feeling, a kind of ‘floating around and not knowing where the landing strip is’ feeling. Oh well, the only thing for it is to eat cake until the runway presents itself.
On the other hand we have had some fabulous sunrises in the far North.

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Stunning aren’t they? Until next time, go well.

Are you a swatch fox?

Knitters come in many shapes and forms with infinite approaches to their craft. In my experience, this is very much shaped by personality and nothing is more revealing than someone’s approach to swatching.
Knitting designers and pattern writers, knitting magazines and project books all, almost without fail, emphasise the importance of swatching. Getting gauge is one of the ultimate knitting goals and one must not dream of starting a WIP without it.
However, I believe the reality is often quite different. How many of us really do swatch without fail?
Do you always knit that little square of yarny mathematics for every pattern you embark upon?
These are my swatches; I keep them in the folly belief that one day I will be able to make a blanket from them, a mosaic of all of my knitted objects.

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As you can see, either I have only knitted three items (the observant among you will see two swatches in one yarn…that must have been a real fit of enthusiasm), or I tend not to swatch. I will let you work it out.
My approach to swatching tends to reflect my approach to most things…I just wing it. I throw everything into the arms of the knitting fates. Generally this tends to pay off; I know enough about my knitting to know that as a rule of thumb (what is that? I have no idea but it sounds good) I get gauge. Shhhhh, don’t say it too loud, the knitting fates don’t like it to be known that swatching isn’t always necessary.
There is some rationality behind this though. There have been very few occasions (once that I can recall right now) where I haven’t ended up with (oh, just remembered another) a garment that fits. One being where it fit a friend instead and consequently I swapped the offending cardi for some absolutely gorgeous handspun yarn, so a great result for me; the other being where poor old Mr Knittingkitten ended up with a rather outsize jumper and as a result, refuses to have another one knit for him, another great result for me (I’m a selfish knitter). So you can understand why I’m not especially motivated to swatch.
Moving on to stonecutter, I have finished the first sleeve:

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It’s looking fab and I have started the back. However, I had to change the increases otherwise I was going to end up with one that was waaay too long. I can’t really work out why, apart from the fact I’m knitting with a different yarn than the one recommended by the pattern….did I mention that I don’t swatch?!?

More Orkney pics

I had meant to add more photos of Orkney, in particular the Italian Chapel to the last post once they had flown from my (new and shiny) camera to my iPad but actually it’s easier to add them to a new post so here they are.

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I think it is simply beautiful and I find it inspirational that the Italian POWs made something so lovely from very little. They used what they could find, the lamps are made from old bully beef tins, for example.

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Once completed, they didn’t have long to use it as they were moved to another camp in England not long after. The people of Orkney promised to maintain the upkeep of the chapel on their behalf, so the spirit of humanity overcame political differences.

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I also like that the British soldiers showed immense grace towards their captives in enabling them to build their place of worship.
Go well.

New project whinge

My mother-in-law is staying with us which has caused great excitement. Partly as being so far north (or at least, that is what we tell ourselves) we have very few visitors from south of the border but also as she is also a knitter so I have a fellow yarn addict to chat to. It gave us a great excuse to have a trip to Orkney and we had a whistle stop tour on Saturday, managing to fit in lots of shopping plus a visit to the Italian chapel, a catholic chapel built by Italian prisoners of war in a Nissen hut with stunning paintings inside (I know there is a proper word for that but it evades me at present), as well as the cathedral in Kirkwall.

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We also saw a pod of porpoise from the ferry and Mr Knittinkitten spotted a minke whale when I was on the loo…typical!
But, best of all was that I found some gorgeous (and very reasonable) New Lanark cream Aran weight and a couple of skeins of North Ronaldsay.
Of course, I just had to cast on immediately! Well, after I had decided on a suitable pattern anyway; this meant that Saturday evening was spent on Ravelry looking for the perfect Aran jumper for my new wool. I found Stonecutter, a Brooklyn Tweed pattern with a large cable panel down the front and back with some interesting bias shaping on the sides. I printed off the PDF and then…gulped…hard. It looks VERY complicated, especially for my fibro fog addled brain. However I was reassured by some of the pattern reports on Rav and decided to cast on… I decided on the first arm and had a little grump about the tubular cast on but actually it’s really easy and very effective (be nice for socks…).
This is my first BT pattern and I have somewhat high expectations, having drooled over their ‘look books’ for some time now.
Hmmm, so far I get the impression that some things seem to be for the sake of doing it a bit differently without having any real merit, for example, there is a weird way of increasing…why not increase using a method more widely known? Also I am not entirely happy with the abbreviations – 3/3 LC rather than C3F, again this seems to be being different for the sake of it. Hey ho, I’m sure it will all become clear…

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The yarn is lovely, soft and with good stitch definition. I am trying not to think about the front and back…
My buttons arrived from Auskerry and were promptly sewn into place. They are perfect and really work with the Jacob yarn.

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I think it will be worn a lot.