knitting · Patterns

Preppy Shawl

For some time now I’ve been designing and knitting shawls, I like them… a lot. I find shawl knitting therapeutic in a way that for me sock knitting is not.

This shawl is a really special one to me, it’s born from a marriage of many different ideas from a variety of experiences and sources. The cable and lace pattern is similar to that of a pair of ancient leg warmers that my grandmother knitted for me and the ‘preppy’ stripes in the boarder came from a podcast I happened to be watching where they’d added this detail to the cuffs of a pair of socks… I loved this idea and knew I wanted to use it! This shawl design started out as a pair of socks…. one that no matter how hard I tried they just didn’t want to be socks. So after only a small amount of swearing and a large amount of time where they sat unloved in a project bag, I came across the idea of translating the pattern to a shawl.

So here we are… First meetings and introductions….

The Preppy Shawl

Knit in 150g of 4ply fingering weight yarn (100g Sock blank from Stranded Dyeworks & 50g contrasting colour from Coop Knits – Socks Yeah)

This pattern will be sent out to testers later in the year and hopefully released before Christmas.
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knitting

Of Shawls & Single Skeins

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Preppy Shawl – Designed by Nu Shearman (C) June 2017

I’ve been thinking recently about what it is about shawls that keeps drawing me back to them. I enjoy knitting socks but I wouldn’t call myself a sock knitter, I really enjoyed knitting my Pavement Sweater too but I wouldn’t call myself a garment knitter. I tend to gravitate towards shawls and shawl design. I suppose they’re fairly non comital projects that grow quickly enough to keep you interested and only use 1-2 skeins of yarn so I can get through some of the single skeins in my stash.

Why so many single skeins?

Now to that question I have a very very good answer. I like to support indie dyers… I know how difficult it is being self employed and creating, I know how exhausting trade shows are and how absolutely heart breaking it can be if you have a bad show. I love talking to people and if you combine all of the above you develop a single skein habit! Talking to the dyers at Unravel I wanted to support so many of them even if it was just with one skein. Since then I’ve fallen in love with the work of a couple of the dyers in particular and after meeting Renee of East London Knits I just love her designs! You really do meet some of the most wonderful people at shows.

Amy Florence – Stranded Dyeworks. I highly recommend Amy’s podcast if you like a little energy with your morning coffee. She’s funny, very engaging and her yarns are bright and beautiful. I walked away with three of her sock blanks from unravel and they are some of my most treasured stash (I’m knitting with two of them at the moment… So much fun!)

Vykky Macintosh – West Green Loft Yarns – Her first time vending at Unravel this year and Vykky did an amazing job. I bought a skein of her 80/20 Superwash merino / nylon yarn and it was the name that caught me… “Bob” she called the colour way Bob! What’s not to love instantly!! It’s soft and scrummy, the colours are perfect and not ones that I would normally put together, greens with flecks of a pinkish red. I can’t wait to cast on with it!

What is in a Shawl?

Shawls give me the room to express myself, space that socks don’t necessarily do… A shawl design is fairly no committal too… you can design it in a couple of different sizes but it’s not imperative that everything is measured and tested to the letter – Socks and garments have fit… and that scares me a little bit I’m not going to lie! I designed a pair of mittens once and at the testing stage everyone came back with what looked liked dolls gloves… Turned out that my gauge is a lot looser than I thought it was going to be. But I’m older and wiser now… I can do a proper grown up gauge swatch and everything!

The three shawl designs I’m working on at the moment are all different (which I love). One is experimenting with short rows, the second with pattern and the third with shape and texture. One triangle, one half moon and one half hex… Each one is going the way I want them too (now I’ve drawn out a plan) and each one is special to me. Only two of them I’ve written out a pattern for though as I got a little bored with writing the pattern for the third down…. I think I missed an increase and I’m going to reknit it anyway so I’ll sort it out and write it down then…. Or maybe I won’t!!

There is a freedom in knitting a shawl with no pattern, something that is just for you… When you think about designing all the time and how you’re going to try and publish patterns it’s difficult to break the habit of writing everything down religiously and making sure you have detailed notes on how to complete the project. It’s regimented, it’s structured and it can become a little restrictive which really isn’t what designing is about to me, I am trying to find my freedom and movement with the yarn in order to get the design out.

I’ve recently been watching a series of YouTube interviews from Kristy Glass Knits, she has a YouTube channel and has been interviewing some really interesting designers. It fascinates me the way that some people are very structured in their approach and with analytically work out all of the pattern details before knitting… Others like to wing it, to experiment with the yarn and play. I’m not sure where  fit into this category…

knitting · Out & About

How To Adult!

Well these past few days have been an interesting challenge and I am looking forward to making it through to Monday evening when I can relax with a non-alcoholic beer (yay pregnancy) and get a really early night!

I have once again completely underestimated just how exhausting growing a baby is and instead of facing everything I have to do like an adult and just cracking on with it… I be up/wore out my break disks… Our fridge freezer packed up and then I managed to smear dog poo on my hand whilst trying to pick it up with a bag. I am exhausted… I need sleep but I also need to finish the first half of an enormous leather working project…. & so I am knitting.

I can’t help it… I need to clear my head, regroup and start again. I honestly don’t know how people manage to stay on task and unfuzzed.

So this afternoon I have set goals, I have set tasks, I have downloaded the dramatised radio version of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy from the 1970’s ready for a productive afternoon. How is it going to go?

Lock up your knitting? – Yes I think that is the only way! I’ve got several design projects on the moment… I’m not sure if its the huge looming deadline (in another medium) is whats using the creativity out of me through knitting, if its an aversion technique, or if I genuinely have been struck a huge spurt of inspirational genius… Doubtful. I think I’m burying my head in knitting in the hope that the other deadline will disappear… It’s really not happening!

“It must be Thursday, I never could quite get the hang of Thursdays” – Arthur Dent, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

knitting

The Learning Curve

I don’t think with knitting that if you push yourself you never stop learning. This comes from a combination of using other peoples patterns as well as designing and making up your own. Through both methods you start to become acutely aware of your own tastes and what does and doesn’t work for you.

With this in mind and after being fully enabled but Amy’s podcast. I bought my first ever sweater quantity of yarn! She’d just finished knitting the Pavement Sweater and I decided that I would like to give it a go… I mean why not… It’s a 3 skein project (although I used 4 and added length to the sleeves…. best pattern hack decision ever!) If it didn’t work I could rip it out and make a giant shawl that I’ve been planing to design for the last couple of months.

As soon as I cast on I was hooked… It drew me in completely! Watching this garment grow in front of my eyes was so special. I went through a whole range of emotions with it… (Although that might have been down to being pregnant at the time and not realising yet!). I loved the top down construction, I alternated skeins like a boss! This very simple pattern catered to everything for me. It became an addiction.

I had little to no idea what I was doing but that wasn’t a problem, the pattern guided me though everything. I sort of met gauge… In my head it was ‘close enough’ and as it happened it worked out fine for me.

Upon finishing the garment I panicked…. I took it out of the lovely warm bath I’d made for it ready for blocking and it was huge… It looked like some sort of swamp monster! What had I created!! But instead of panicking I trusted the process played it out flat, pinned it… left it and waled away. The next day the yarn had plumped, it was a wearable size and not just wearable it was perfect! the sleeves were amazing and the short row shaping detailing was just wonderful…. I’m smitten!

One minor adjustment. The neck line was a little loose, I consulted the knitting gurus and they kindly came back with a couple of options… The simplest and best was to add a crochet chain around the inside of the neckline to reduce/stop the stretch. so i went for a hook size that was smaller than the needle size I’d used to knit it with and crocheted my little heart out… IT WORKED! such a simple solution and one that I’m going to keep in my arsenal now for future projects…

This is one of the projects that I’m most proud of and just love to wear. I highly recommend this pattern especially if  you’ve been unsure in the past about knitting garments.

For this pattern I used Fyberspates – Vivacious 4 ply – Verdigris – about 340g

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Take Two With Greens & Blues!

So in this trial dying session I tried to take some more detailed (but probably slightly less interesting) photographs of the three step process that I used.

Once again I used Landscape Dyes, this time I used a larger amount of dye per skein so we have stronger and darker results… Which may or mayn’t have worked…. The dye bath is outside on the back step cooling down before the yarn gets a wash!

I decided to give resistance dyeing a try. So the first two colours are set into the hand when its twisted and then for the third and strongest colour I knotted the hank. I may or may not add speckling to the yarn… It’s dependant on a) if there are any large dyed patches that I missed and b) if i’m that bothered about the undyed patches or paler colours if there are any.

I love the way that this hank has turned out, I’m really impressed with how the colours have mixed and bled. I have some white patches but I really like that too, the contrast brings out the depth of the other colours. It all reminds me of some really beautiful long costal walks around the south cost of Cornwall, the deep blue of the sea mixed with the dark greens of the hillsides and the white clouds next to the cliff tops…. I wish I was back there!

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So how did I achieve these colours this time round? Well the hank went into three different colours – pale blue – darker teal blue – dark green. Each time I changed the way that the files would reach the dye so different parts reacted with it.

Bath 1 – pale blue –  quite a high twist hank so that only a small number of the outside areas were penetrated by the dye

Bath 2 – Darker Teal – Low twist hank preserving some of the paler blue on the inside of the hank.

Bath 3 – Dark green – Two large knots were placed at either end to preserve the colour and then the outer and exposed areas were dyed dark green.

I think you’ll agree the results are really fun and interesting. I used a lot more dye this time than I did the first time I dyed so that the colours are more intense.

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Material List:

3 separate acid dye complimentary colours  in varying degrees of intensity.

A mordant if you need it for your dyes to take (I use a premix dye that has everything in)

Gloves

Skeined Yarn – pre soaked for at least an hour

A large metal cooking pot

A heat source

A mask, for when you’re handling dye powder – safety first!

Tongs or a trusty stick to get the yarn out of the warm water

String – to tie round the hanks so they’re easier to fish out of the dye pots and handle

A nice smelling wool soak or wash

Teaspoon or measuring spoon/scales to measure out your dye.

 

 

 

Yarn Dying

First Time Dyer…

This is something that I have wanted to do for years… Years and years, I have wanted to dye my own yarn.

I’ve tried in the past and to be honest the results weren’t terrible, they were un-felted and usable, but hey weren’t perfect. I’ve never had the time to perfect the science. So in my 30th year and for my 30th birthday I bought myself some apparatus, a pack of Australian Landscape dyes and found a great cone of yarn in my local charity shop (it must be fate!)


I’m not unhappy with my first attempt at all actually, I wound two different hanks with a project in mind (little pop socks) so one hand is 50g and the other contrasting colour is 20g for heels and toes.

So last night using a rickety niddy noddy and a very unpredictable set of kitchen scales that likes to randomly select what unit it would like to measure in, I set about making hanks… Then I tied them carefully and then soaking them gently in luke warm water as I prepared my dye vat… Carefully selecting three colours that I wanted to float in the water with the yarn and the two colours that I wanted to use for the speckles was easy enough, mixing the day (with a mask on) and making it up I probably should have gone for more dye in hindsight… I went for the less is more approach BUT having not used these dyes before I didn’t realise that the colour intensity wasn’t quite what I was expecting but thats fine, I know for next time.


I am really happy with the results… For a first time I truly feel like I achieved something really special. The 50g hank has shell taupes, pale blue and a gorgeous coral speckle to it. The 20g hank is just the coral with darker coral speckles. I can’t wait to cast these on and start knitting socks with them!

I’m already planning my next hank and choosing the next technique that I want to use… Resistance dying I think… 3 different colours of varying shades and colour and the yarn dyed in hanks and knots revealing different parts to the dye bath each time you drop it in a new colour!

To Dye this yarn I used:

Landscape trail pack of dyes in the Coastal colourway

70g of Superwash Merino Yarn divided into 50g and 20g skeins.

A large £20 metal pan from Tesco

Disposable rubber gloves

Eucalan Wool Wash with a jasmine scent

Washing up Liquid

A Mask (very important when handling dyes in powder form)

An old teaspoon

A couple of old jam jars I was never going to use for food again

A pokey stick to move the yarn around if I needed to submerge it further.

knitting

Two at a Time

Down the sock knitting rabbit hole!… Again

I have knit socks in the past and I have always struggled when it came to knitting the second one. Not until recently did I discover that this was a problem shared by many knitters and it has a name…

Second Sock Syndrome!!

It is a very real problem and there are many things that one can do to combat this issue. One of these such remedies is to knit both of the socks at the same time… Either in sequence on a long circular needle or concurrently on separate needles. I have found that since getting really excited about the yarn (and using 60cm Hiya Hiya Sharps magic loop) I’ve been using I’ve not been plagued so much by this haunting syndrome! I do however still love the challenge of knitting socks two at a time on the same needles… It’s exciting to see them both grow at the same rate (if a little/much slower than just knitting the one).

With this in mind recently one of the UK wool wholesalers has started supplying sock blanks made from two strands of 4ply so you can have gradient dyed yarn that gives you two perfect 50g balls of exactly the same colour way, stripe for stripe and speckle for speckle.

Always up for trying something new I thought I would treat myself and give one of these new blanks ago.

My first ever sock blank was a “Sushi Roll” that I purchased from Jon at Easy Knits at one of the first ever yarn shows. It was the roll that I made my first ever pair of really colourful rainbow socks from. So when I saw that they had started doing ‘Sushi Twinsie’ sock blanks in the same Zippy colour way to the one that I’d bought my first blank, must be fate!

This blank cost £20 with £2.85 second class postage.

I am no longer a newbie to the sock blank party and have quite a collection now… I love them, can’t get enough of they wonderful way that the colours change when you knit with them, how you can’t quite predict the finished item just by looking at the blank… Great fun!

My yarn has arrived – Sushi Twinsie in the Zippy colour way!

My first observation is that this blank is more variegated than my first, the red isn’t a solid stripe across the bottom of the blank and then with gradual colour changes into orange and yellow, there is a lot more variation and yellow in the middle which will of course cause a striping effect in the socks. My second observation is the colour saturation, some areas of the sock blank appear to look unintentionally to have un-dyed white flecks on them where they’ve missed the dye BUT I will persevere and see what it’s like to knit with. (You can see the white flecks of undyed yarn in the photograph below.)

CAST ON…

It was easy enough to use Judy’s magic cast on (my favourite toe up method) and get the socks started… Really pleased with myself that they’d gone a little smoother than anticipated… Then I realised I’d cast on too many stitches! DOH…. Start again!

So far the socks are going smoothly… As you can see the tonal variation in the toes is really showing though and it’s not something that I encountered in my first single strand blank. I’m undecided if it’s an effect I like at the moment so I’m going to keep going and see how the rest knit up.

SO… WHAT’S IT LIKE KNITTING FROM A DOUBLE STRAND BLANK?

Now this is the question?! It’s taking some getting used to at the moment and I have considered cutting and rejoining the yarn but putting a heavy bead on one of the strands or a big heavy button or something to keep them separate as I’m knitting. While you’re knitting with one strand (if you don’t separate them) the other strand does tend to bunch up behind your finger and then require some attention to untangle.

The yarn isn’t as kinky as when you knit from a single blank, because it’s a larger gauge there is less of a pinked ravioli edge and more of a general spaghetti aspect to the yarn but the strands do like to stick together as a result.

I am currently about two whole inches into the foot of the sock and I will report back soon with an update on whether or not I’ve scrapped the whole lot, split the yarn into two balls and changed back to my two 60cm Hiya Hiya sharp circulars and I’m knitting them concurrently working out where to put the heel and desperate counting rows so that the heal ends up in the right place on both!

I might make it through the whole blank double stranded two at a time… In my day job I’m a saddler/leatherworker as well as a silversmith and I’ve been working on a clip that will act as a yarn guard on the top of your knitting bag… Might have to see if I can speed up that design and make two so the yarn is split before it comes out of my knitting bag.

Watch This Space!

P.S I also need to mention the progress keepers I’m using… I purchased them from Granary knits on Etsy when I started knitting my #christmasevecaston2016 socks. They are so dear and special to me… I can highly recommend buying from Sue. Her service was superb, she packaged them beautifully and they really are an absolute joy to use.

 

 

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Anything But Common

From our small but perfectly untidy (sorry lived in) cottage with a short walk up hill we have access to the most amazing cattle grazed common land. Due to the unique nature of how this land is grazed there is an incredible collection of wild plants and flowers that have become really quite rare in other places in the UK… In particular, the Bee Orchid.

This crazy little orchid appears for only a couple of weeks a year and is just the most joyful little flower… It looks exactly like a belly laughing bee!

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Today Elli and I took Hutch up to a different part of the common with cameras to see what other beautiful flora we could find in amongst the cow pats! Much to Hutch’s disappointment we kept stopping to take pictures (the disciple is good for him honest!).

I am so pleased with all of our finds, there were more orchids out than I thought possible… Fragrant, common spotted, pyramid and even some bee orchids, all in full bloom and scattered throughout the beautiful grassland of Rodbrough and Selsley.

Please excuse the terrible photography I am in no way a professional but I do like my macro shots of flowers!

Snoofin

Luckily today there was no flower based damage caused and as he’s grown up recently he’s less and less interested in following me round and checking out what I’m doing all the time. Today however there were a couple of occasions when he’d run out of doggy friends to sniff and so he thought he would check out these amazing fragrant orchids with us!

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#Poser!

Fragrant

This is the close up of the fragrant orchids I was trying to achieve when I was pounced on by the ginger snoofer with a wet nose!

WhiteSpotted

I am always amazed at the variations of colours and sizes of seemingly one type of orchid… This being the common spotted orchid (although we didn’t see as many of these today as we did the fragrant ones). For the most part they were pale pinky, mauve and purple but this white one really stood out to me… Really striking and so pure!

Landscape

Just the most beautiful example of the orchids, grasses and all sorts of meadow flowers (all of which Elli told me the name of and I promptly forgot!). The commons are so incredibly beautiful at the moment especially this year… I can’t even begin to express the depth of natural beauty that we stumbled across.

I am so so so guilty of being wrapped up in my own thoughts when I walk the dog, I’m usually at the very beginning or end of the working day, tired and I just don’t take the time to have a look around and explore all of the beautiful seasonal changes going on around me. Today was a real treat… A chance to explore at foot level like being a child again.

Bee

One more Bee for good measure from today!

If you would like more information on the commons you can find it on the National Trust Website. It is highly possible that in the process of writing this you will notice spelling mistakes denoting to the wrong name of orchids… I have tried my hardest as the worlds biggest amateur to get them right but am willing to accept I am only scratching the surface of orchid watching!! All I know is that they are incredibly beautiful in a special and really unique way… There is something so captivating in their beauty.

Other interesting plants found on the commons include – Birds Foot Trefoil, Wild Thyme, Fairy Flax, Cowslip, Daisy’s, Early Purple Orchids, Pyramid Orchids (they are out but not quite flowering yet), Red Clover, Rock Rose (which is just beautiful but I couldn’t get a good pic) and so so many more…! It’s worth taking a good book with you if you have the time.

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knitting · Reviews

I Didn’t Know I Was Missing Out… Until Now!

So I’m 30… Well I’ve been 30 for a grand total of 10 days now. I am yet to write the thank you letters that I have promised to send this year and instead I have busied myself with the mountain of work that I need to produce and my knitting.

Why do I mention that I’m 30… Well to treat myself on my birthday I bought myself the most practical of items that I never knew I needed until I bought them… Blocking wires!

I was always of the opinion that I could achieve perfection in blocking by pinning things out on a carpeted floor (preferably one that people and dogs aren’t going to walk/sleep on) and by using hundreds of pins I’d achieve the sweeping elegant shape all patterns call for… Oh how wrong I’ve been. I don’t know how I could have been so wrong!

The Wires have arrived and I have a set of mats (children playing mats that I purchased from Ebay… other shops are available… for the sum total of £10). So Saturday morning and I’m cleaning the kitchen (as one does) scrubbing the sink ready to soak and block a wee baby cardigan that I finished last night, but I can’t just fill the sink with warm water and the gorgeous smell of Soak wash for one tiny weeny baby item… Enter the longest standing project of almost completion.

Walk on the Moon

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Now I honestly can’t tell you why this has been sitting in the back of my stash, completed but unblocked and unloved for a little over 6 years…. 6 YEARS!!! It’s a very well written and truly beautiful pattern. I really enjoyed knitting it… I LOVE knitting with Wollmeise yarn and well I don’t have an excuse.

So I found my shawl and decided that now would be a really good time to block it with my new wires. I wasn’t wrong… It was a good time! I mean honestly how much difference can a few wires make? The make ALL the difference! We now have a quietly blocking shawl with smooth curves not a pointy pin mark in sight! How have I gone so long without them?

For those of you that are interested I used Lazadas – Super flexible knitting blocking wire set. I wanted something that could be kept nice and company when not in use as I like to take up space with yarn rather then notions.

They’ve worked a dream! I bought them lateish one evening from Ysolda’s website and they arrived first thing the next morning…. I mean that is service for you!

Really I’m not a fan of any blocking mat pictures… I don’t like the bright colour mismatch against your projects BUT today is an exception as I have no other way of demonstrating to you the lovely curves! I can’t wait to take it off the mat when it’s all nice and dry.


Have a lovely weekend folks

 

Nu xx

knitting

Maybe I’m a Little More Stroud Than I Care to Admit? 

My Husband is from the Stroud valleys, he grew up here and so when we first started living here I moved up this way. To me leaving behind the rolling hills, cotswold stone and very overpriced houses of the North Cotswolds (Chipping Campden) was a bit of a wrench at first, I moved to a place with little to no pub culture that I could find… A long winding valley with steep hills and Stroud…

Stroud and I have a curious relationship, I’m not going to lie it took me by surprise the first time I ventured forth onto its slightly grubby streets. But the longer I’ve lived here the more I’ve become accustomed to it’s charming idiosyncrasies and some of it’s completely bat shit crazy inhabitants.

For the most part as a creative person, Stroud gives you the opportunity to explore that side of your personality… It’s okay to be creative here and not conform to the freshly pressed chinos and polo shirts of elsewhere in the Cotswolds. If you look a little bed worn and shabby this adds to your artistic chic!

I have come to love Stroud, our little cottage and it’s surrounding areas. Thanks in part to the opening of a local yarn shop in the town centre that I really enjoy visiting and the common land that I walk Hutch on daily. I clearly didn’t realise how much Stroud had weaselled it’s way under my skin though until I started knitting these socks!… Finished and proudly wearing them my husband exclaims – “They’re a bit Stroud”

Yes love I suppose they are!… & while last year I would have been affronted, now I have come to peace with my little corner of the world that no one bats an eyelid if I wear rainbow socks over my skinny jeans. What an interesting place!

 

Ooo as a side note, if you’re planning a visit to Stroud… Visit on a Saturday for the farmers market… the street food vendors are amazing! I’m not a veggie but the Falafel stand is a MUST!!