Monthly Archives: February 2013

WIP Detail Shot #2: Hairpins Save The Day

Having spent the last post talking about some ‘proper’ hobby tools which make life easier, let me present the totally non-specialist accessory which has saved my knitting bacon on many an occasion already:

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Yes, my friends. The humble hair pin*.

Picking up dropped stitches has never been easier. The round bits on the end mean that you don’t snag your yarn, while it’s still slim enough to thread through the next stitch up if you need to.

Observe my latest case in point: one jumper, bound off, finished! But the collar turns out to be too short for my (admittedly long) neck, resulting in more of a jewel neckline than a proper collar. So I need to unpick the bind off and rip back far enough to pick up a row of stitches again, having established that I cannot for the life of me work out how to insert a retrospective lifeline into linen stitch. To add to the difficulties the yarn is 100% wool (= fuzzy) and very loosely plied, meaning that when I pull it sometimes just breaks off.

But hairpins save the day and I’m ready to start knitting again: (please excuse the awful colours in the photo)

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Phew.

Oh, and the best thing about hairpins? I always have at least three on me at any one time. Personal style must sometimes be sacrified for the greater good.

*Hair grip? Kirby grip? Whatever.

Tools of the Trade

The WIPs having been coming on even more slowly than normal. I promised myself that I wouldn’t turn this into a depression blog, so let me present to you some things that I’ve been buying lately…

First up, a ball winder.

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It’s not that it’s not possible to wind skeins of yarn by hand, but it’s a faff, so when I was offered the chance to buy this one second-hand on Ravelry for £10… well, let’s just say it arrived in my pigeonhole at work the following Monday! Ball winders also have the advantage of producing caked yarn, which is immensely satisfying in my opinion:

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(Isn’t that gorgeous? It’s hand-dyed, also from a Ravelry destash, and destined for a Peacock Eyes Cardigan at some point.)

On the sewing front, I spent some birthday Amazon vouchers on a couple of chalk marking tools. Traditional tailors chalk frustrates me at how quickly it bluntens, and it’s not exactly quick and flowing in its application so I decided to try out a Prym double tracing wheel (left) and a Chaco chalk liner pen (right).

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I’m really pleased with both so far, and hope that the double tracing wheel is going to speed up my use of Burda magazine patterns somewhat. Both mark nicely (amusingly using an identical wheel mechanism – guess the same component must have been purchased by both retailers), although with the double tracing wheel you need to make sure that it’s level and that you apply enough pressure on both sides equally – and you really need a hard surface underneath, so I’ve been placing a magazine under my fabric when I want to mark it up at the ironing board.

Not sponsored, etc etc.. Ha, wouldn’t that be nice?!

Swatching Cashmere

At some point in the latter stages of last year, I was browsing about on Ravelry and discovered Colourmart. Colourmart is a UK based company which buys leftover luxury yarn from knitwear companies (predominantly cashmere but also silk, merino, alpaca, a bit of cotton…) and sells them on to knitters on a retail basis.

Let me tell you that my jaw dropped open. The prices are incredibly good for what they’re selling, and the colours… oh the colours…!

I have just closed the browser firmly, not for the first time. I do not need more yarn. I repeat, I do not need more yarn.

Anyway, I decided to take the plunge and after a bit of consideration, splurged and treated myself to 300g-worth of 100% cashmere, in a dark charcoal fingering-weight (3/15NM). My aim is to reproduce a charcoal RTW cardigan that I loved dearly, went with everything, and that I left in a pub or bar somewhere about two years ago now.

The thing about Colourmart yarns, though, is that because their intended original use was machine knitting, they come oiled with machine-knitting lubricant. There is a relatively easy process for removing said oil, but it does make it all the more important to gauge-swatch.

Here is the dry swatch, 24 st. x 8 rows of stockinette on 3.5mm needles: measuring 3.75 in. x 1 in.

dry swatch

And here is the washed swatch, measuring… 3.75 in. x 1 in.! Apologies for the difference in lighting – I was feeling impatient and wanted to take the photo after it had got dark.

washed swatch

After extensive nervous reading on the internet, the swatch had the following things done to it:

  • Soaked for c. 15 mins in hot water with normal Ecover washing-up liquid
  • Rinsed in hot water
  • Scattered liberally with bicarb of soda (well it works for bacon grease…) and then soaked and rinsed again
  • Put through a machine wash on the 40° woollens cycle
  • Allowed to dry flat
  • Given a good steaming with the iron
  • Allowed to dry again

The result is gorgeous. The knitted fabric is sooo soft and the yarn’s really fulled out – yet it feels incredibly light for its size. There’s a teeny tiny hint of biasing going on, but nothing to worry about, I don’t think.

The only slight pain in the backside is that it didn’t grow at all. 24 stitches was meant to give 4 inches across! I could swatch again on 3.75mm needles, but I’m very tempted to just multiply all horizontal numbers in the pattern by 1.07 (= 4 ÷ 3.75, if you were wondering) and carry on my merry way. I want to get knitting!

FO: Knitted Baby Dress

I finished the baby dress/tunic, first shown here.

IMG_6254 (450 x 600)Cute, no?

There isn’t a lot to say about this dress, really, but a couple of notes. The pattern is ‘Button Tunic’, which has a fold up pocket all around the hem secured with buttons. As incredibly sweet as this feature is, I was knitting the one year old size, and buttons near babies are to be treated with caution. Plus, this was an instant gratification project, people! I didn’t want to be futzing around with buttonholes and what have you.

I did take inspiration from the colour-blocking of the original, and knitted the dress as a canvas for this funky multicoloured acrylic (I presume) that I have had in my posession for yeeeears. The cream stripes at the bottom are knit in garter stitch – partly as a design feature, but partly to lend some weight and anti-curling support to the lense dense multicoloured stockinette. There is a single garter row on each sleeve hem, too, as an echo.

As I knitted the dress in the round, I used techknitter’s tutorial for jogless stripes. The result isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot better than obvious spirals would have been! I don’t suppose that anyone will be looking anyway.IMG_6257 (450 x 600)

Another ‘first’ knitting-wise is that this is my first garment knit top-down, with yoke and sleeves as one piece. It will definitely not be my last – it was so satisfying once I’d worked out what was going on! Actually a pattern lingering near to the top of my queue on Ravelry is constructed in the same way, so watch this space…

Now I just have to find a suitably cute recipient. All bar one of the babies that I know of the appropriate age are boys – and the one girl has an elder sister who would also need a knitted present to make it fair. I am not pregnant (nor do I have any wish to be in the immediate future!) and I can’t help feeling that putting the dress into the Bottom Drawer will only provoke Sod’s Law into giving me boys in the years to come. Still, enough of my friends seem to be sprogging that I’m sure the Buttonless Tunic will find a home soon enough 🙂