Not Just For Woolfest

I don’t think you’re ever too old for friendship bracelets. Definitely not yarny ones. Absolutely definitely not Woolfest yarny ones.

I made these for the four of us who went to Woolfest last weekend. They were very simple, just a straightforward cable with a single stocking stitch at the ends of each row. I got the inspiration from A la Sascha’s Cabled Bracelets, a series of free patterns I found on Ravelry. They were so quick to make; I managed three in one evening and hurriedly finished the final one the night before the Woolfest expedition.

The yarn is Louisa Harding Grace hand-dyed double knitting (proper posh!) in the colourway ‘Merry’.

I’m so happy to report that I’ve seen all of us wearing our bracelets subsequently. Proof that retro bracelets are definitely not just for Woolfest.

Wool Fest!

Some friends and I went to a festival this weekend. Nope, not Glastonbury. This one was more wooly than muddy. It was the Woolfest event held in Cockermouth, Cumbria (yep, it’s shot to the top of my all-time list of favourite place names). The drive up through the Lake District was so lovely, and we even did a bit of knitting in the car on the way.

None of us had ever been to a wool or fibre festival before, and to be honest I don’t think any of us knew what to expect. In reality, it was a bit like a County Show, but every stall sold or displayed wool-related things. I think for the first hour, we were a bit dazed, and just wandered around ooo-ing at everything.

We soon discovered that we were four very different shoppers. One of my friends spent the whole day restrained and not buying, until it came to the final hour when she went mad and bought more wool than the rest of us combined. Another friend went round making some pretty risque noises at particularly soft yarn but was quite reserved in her purchases. We had a non-knitter with us (gasp!) who humoured the rest of us in our yarn buying but was really just there for the animals.

And me? Well, I bought a bit…

As you can see, I bought a small selection of the gorgeous yarns that I spotted on the day. Our favourite stall by a mile was Easy Knits, whose self-striping sock yarn is easily the most colourful I’ve ever seen!

My favourite purchase of the day, though, was this.

An umbrella swift. There were a few to choose from, but in the end I decided on one made in Sweden by Glimåkra. It’s beautifully made, and was by far the most reasonable despite being a genuine quality product.

We were all so excited about finally being able to wind skeins into cakes properly that as soon as we got back home, we reached for the wine and the chocolate and began to wind all of our new purchases. Five and a half kilometres of yarn – and a few glasses of wine – later, we’d properly tested the swift and can report that it works fantastically. No more skeins-around-feet (or skeins-around-boyfriends’-hands) for us!

Socks on a Train

As last week was Worldwide Knit in Public Week, I took my knitting on a road (train) trip down to London. I plugged myself in to music, and worked away on my sock for the Socks with Sarah May challenge.

I’m absolutely loving this Malabrigo sock yarn – it’s slightly elastic so it creates a very snug, tight knitted texture that should be very durable.

I’m getting on quite well with the magic loop method. I seem to be knitting far tighter with it than I do with my usual DPNs, possibly because it’s new and therefore scary, or possibly because I can pull to slightly firmer tension with larger needles. I’m not sure it’s any quicker than the DPN method, but it is definitely easier to transport. So far, I haven’t punctured a single bag with the needles, which is a regular (and sometimes very painful) problem with my DPNs.

My goal is to finish by the end of June. One month late is fashionable, two months late just seems gratuitous. I’ve got four days. Pass me that midnight oil…!

Tour de Fox

The daughter of some friends of ours turns one this month, and I wanted to make something crafty for her gift. Her mum’s a crafter, and I’ve no doubt this little girl will be introduced to needles and sewing before too long!

I found some fabric in my Local Yarn Store with little foxes cycling on it (it also had foxes driving cars, but that’s just ridiculous, I mean, who’s ever seen a fox driving a car!?). Of course, with Yorkshire about to welcome the Tour de France for the Grand Depart, including in my very own city of York, I thought this pattern was particularly appropriate. I chose some contrasting fabric and ribbon, and planned to make a cushion for this little girl’s playroom. It’s maybe a bit of a strange present for a one-year-old, but this particular little girl has so many gorgeous clothes and toys that I really wanted to gift her something homemade and a bit different.

Alongside my subscription to The Golden Skein, my wonderful boyfriend also bought me a sewing machine for my birthday, and I was definitely eager to start using it!

I’m almost completely new to sewing machines – I’ve used my mum’s to make curtains before, but only under her supervision and ability to correct all my mistakes! So I wanted a machine that was quite easy to use, had a limited number of knobs and whistles, and could just be used for very simple accessories and clothes. I dropped hints about this machine from John Lewis – it’s their basic own brand machine, with ten stitch settings and a simple mechanism that I can learn quite quickly.

The cushion was relatively simple to make. I already had a cushion pad, so I just measured the material to fit the pad. The front is all one piece; thankfully the fox pattern fits perfectly onto the cushion pad with a small border on the top and bottom. I used a ribbon as a contrasting trim around the edge. With a bit more practice, I might be able to sew the ribbon on at the same time as sewing the front and back together, but for now I had to do the ribbon separately and then add the back pieces.

I didn’t want to cope with zips just yet, so I made a simple overlap on the back of the cushion cover so that it can be easily removed and washed (vital for a small person’s cushion, I would imagine). Some of the seams look like they’ve had a couple of drinks too many and aren’t quite straight lines, and the ribbon trim that I sewed around the edge is a little uneven in places, but as a first attempt I don’t think it’s too bad. I only hope the Birthday Girl approves!

45 Birds, but a Bullfinch Ain’t One

Meet Socks with Sarah pair of socks number 5, ‘Bullfinch‘. I used another colourway of the West Yorkshire Spinners DK Blue-Faced Leicester from the ‘Country Birds Collection’ – I was so happy with the result from my previous pair of socks in ‘Blue Tit’ that I wanted to try another self-patterning colour combination.

This pair are knitted in ‘Bullfinch’, which is mainly quite subtle grey tones and then these bright splashes of bright red every inch or so. These socks are for my boyfriend, and not only do the colours represent bullfinches, but they’re also sort-of the colours of his football team, Liverpool. So, he’s pretty chuffed with them all round. And they actually fit on his feet, unlike the Blue Tit socks I made last time, so that’s a bonus.

The bird theme was actually very fitting, since we’ve just got back from a weekend away with my boyfriends parents in Bamburgh in Northumberland. We visited the Farne Islands, which are a national Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and a large wild bird reserve.

As well as fresh sea air and bracing walks, we saw a lot of wildlife – including a grey seal colony -  and a huge number of sea birds. In all honesty, I can’t say I was that enthusiastic about the birds. Yes, puffins are very cute, but past that one sea gull looks much the same to another to me. To try to get into the spirit, I bought a couple of bird guides. While I still don’t think I’ll be spending all day in a bird hide any time soon, I did enjoy being able to at least identify what birds we could see, and we kept a list of all the different species we managed to spot on the trip. At the last count, it was 45 different species, with the prize for the cutest definitely going to the puffins.

Despite seeing so many different birds however, the bullfinches of Northumberland remained elusive, and we didn’t spot a single one. Oh well. The socks will have to make up for it!

Shawly The Best Thing I’ve Knitted This Week

My ‘Follow Your Arrow’ mystery-knit-along shawl is finally complete. The KAL was only supposed to last from January until mid-February, but I had a few problems with some of the lace so I had to frog the whole thing and start again somewhere in early March, and things have been slow since then. Not that the KAL patterns were extremely difficult – some were challenging, but nothing some caffeine and concentration wouldn’t sort out. It was just that, when rows became 380 stitches long and then some, setting out to complete a single row felt a bit like seeing a mountain you’ve got to climb and realising you’re only wearing flip flops. Well, not quite, but I reckon you know what I mean. So basically, it got to the stage where I’d only work on the shawl if I had a few hours to spend and a lot of concentration to spare, which never really happened. Eventually, I started setting myself a target of two rows per evening, which took about twenty minutes and seemed much more manageable.

Going at that rate, the shawl seemed to be completed quite quickly – and I’m so glad I finally got it finished! The lace patterns are gorgeous – I love the references to arrow heads and fletching that appear all the way through the design.

I used Araucania Ranco, which gives slight variation in the colourway. Some rows are pale, while others are much more of a sky blue. I was worried that the lace designs and the colourway variations would be too much and might overwhelm one another, but in the finished shawl I think they work well together. The yarn was lovely to work with – defined enough to bring out the lace pattern while still being soft and reasonably thick.

While the shawl isn’t the usual shape I wear – it’s quite traditional, and I tend to wear larger rectangular scarves when I’m out – I’m sure that it will come in useful for evenings outside in summer when I might want to pull something on to keep my shoulders a bit warmer. In fact, we’re going out for dinner tomorrow evening… maybe it will get its first outing then!?


The Golden Skein is Mine!

Warning: this post contains spoilers for the June edition of The Golden Skein!

It was my birthday a couple of weeks ago, and being the amazing boyfriend that he is, Graeme bought me a quarter’s subscription to The Golden Skein‘s ‘Power of Three’ yarn club. Every three months, they send a pack containing three skeins of yarn from indie dyers and small-scale producers from all over the world, each of which has been inspired from a single seasonal image. As such, all the colourways are entirely unique to the yarn club. Alongside this, The Golden Skein tell you all about how the yarn was produced, including interviews with the dyers and spinners. In short, it’s an absolutely fantastic idea and I was so thrilled to be a member of the club for the summer quarter!

The inspiration for this quarter is this photo, ‘Harvest’ by Lorna Rande. I absolutely love the colours in this image – purple has been a favourite of mine since I was little. The despatch date was 2 June, so I was eagerly anticipating the arrival of my parcel for a fortnight since my birthday, when suddenly on Saturday morning there came a knock at the door… and a shining golden parcel was waiting for me at breakfast! And boy, what amazing goodness waited inside:

This yarn is produced by Desert Vista Dyeworks based in Arizona, USA. It’s Viso fingering weight yarn, and is ideal for socks as it’s composed of 75% superwash merino wool and 25% nylon. The colourway is called ‘The Fruits of Summer’, which just makes me hum that Don Henley song ‘Boys of Summer’ to myself all the time.

This skein is from Ginger Twist Studio in Edinburgh, Scotland. The yarn is called Sturdy Splendor 4-ply, and is a blend I’ve never tried before: 75% organic merino and 25% mulberry silk. It’s so gorgeously soft, far too good for anything but the softest and silkiest project, like maybe a shawl or snood to snuggle your chin into. This image isn’t a fantastic representation of the true colourway, called ‘Samhradh’ (Irish and Scottish Gaelic for ‘summer’). It’s actually a lot less ‘hot’ than it looks here, and is a soft, pale pink that will look quite delicate when knitted up into something, perhaps featuring a bit of lace… .

Talking of lace, this is the final skein in this quarter’s selection, from Sparkleduck based in Cambridge, England. The name of this colourway makes me smile every time – ‘Plumbleberry Compote’. It’s a yarn base called Nimbus, and wraps like laceweight with a blend of 60% superwash merino wool, 20% silk, and 20% yak. Yes, yak. Again, this is a blend I’ve never encountered before and I’m so excited to find a gorgeous delicate lace pattern to try this on. It would also make gorgeous delicate mittens, maybe with a little lace pattern around the cuffs… .

As you can tell, I’m having a lot of fun dreaming up what to do with these. Do you have any ideas? I’m open to all suggestions!