Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Knitter 55 Review

As promised, here is my review of the latest issue of The Knitter magazine. On first glance, I wasn't sure if this issue was really for me despite having loved the preview photos in the previous issue. None of the patterns had that standout wow factor and I wondered whether I would actually knit anything form this issue (given the time!).
And admittedly, there are a couple of garments that are just really not me. The cover project, Winterbloom by Martin Storey, while a pretty jumper, is not my style at all, big roll necks like this tend to make me too hot and uncomfortable and they don't fit under my coat properly. Delft by Judy Furlong is far too fussy and floral for my tastes, and Emma Vining's Sugar Kelp, while classic in its design, is also not for me.
This sounds quite negative for a review, but actually this issue is a grower - the rest of the garments aren't especially statement pieces but you begin to see aspects of each that you like, and sometimes these kinds of designs make the best wardrobe staples.
One such design is Yui by Kyoko Nakayoshi - I'm quite a fan of her designs, and while this is probably one of her least complicated it is quite elegant - in a neutral tone I could imagine this cardigan being a good general throw over. Similarly the Kimono style jacket by Sirdar - I'm a fan of cardigans like this as I always feel the cold, and I like a collection of slightly quirky versions like this.
Curlew, by Twilleys of Stamford, is in the same vein although a little more vintage in style and fitted at the top, so you would not be able to wear any heavy layers beneath.
The Herring Girl Wrap by The Wool Shed is a lovely rustic wrap in organic tones, which could be knit up in pieces as you have the time, though there is part of the pattern missing so be sure to check The Knitter website.
Ravish is a simple tee shape, but with an slash opening down the front. Knit in Kidsilk Haze Glamour it does have an impact, and would look very striking over a plain camisole or something similar, but it is not my favourite Marie Wallin design and I probably wouldn't grab the needles to start it.
My favourite design in the magazine is definitely the Eriskay Gansey by Beth Brown-Reinsel. It is based on traditional ganseys but has such a modern look and shape, I have already been thinking about a substitute for the suggested yarn which is not available in this country. This is one failing of The Knitter - I wish they suggested alternative yarns for garments, particularly where a yarn is especially hard to source or very expensive. Other knitting magazines do this and it is such a useful addition.
An extra booklet of Nordic inspired knits provides some pretty sock and mitt patterns, and there is an interesting article on Estonian knitting traditions, though I'm not a huge fan of this sort of heavily coloured knitwear in general. The Masterclass is on how to avoid RSI, which I don't have as I don't get enough opportunity to knit - most of the advice is pretty obvious, but there may be some tips which help you out if you suffer with this problem.
Overall, not an outstanding issue but a solid one which contains a few 'inoffensive' patterns that would probably suit most wardrobes.

Sunday, 24 February 2013


There can't be many knitters out there, at least those who frequent Ravelry, who haven't heard of Kate Davies' infamous owls jumper. There was even a bit of a furore recently when a certain department store appeared to have copied the design.
Several of my friends had already knitted the pattern, and last year I decided it was about time I had my own version.
I chose Jarol Sweet Briar Chunky, mainly because that is what my friend Rachel had used for hers, in a silver grey colour. The whole knit is more or less seamless, with the body knit in the round and the sleeve stitches picked up and also knit in the round.
The knit took hardly any time at all, but it was a bit of a learning curve for me as a fairly inexperienced knitter. The magic loop sleeves have a very tight column of stitches where I overcompensated at one of the ends by pulling the yarn too tightly. I messed up one section of the short row shaping, leaving a bit of a hole. The cast off neck edge is a little tight. And the less said about the underarm graft the better!
However, for all it's faults, I'm not displeased with how the jumper turned out in the end. It's a little bit tight on me, probably because I failed to check my tension adequately and I know I have a tendency to knit a little tightly, and also because I'm carrying about 10lbs more than I would like since having little J (as these photos testify!). But I love the shaping, and the owls, and the fact that its the first seamless knit I have ever completed!
I'm currently sewing in a vast amount if ends on J's little jacket, and then I just need to sew the arms to the body and it will be done. I'm a little concerned its not going to fit him though - its in the 6-12 month size and although J is not yet 8 months he has been in 9-12 month clothes since January. I might have to squeeze him into it for just a few wears...

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Ruby in the Smoke

I love a good story. Always have. When I was young, I used to lock myself in the bathroom so I could read undisturbed, or smuggle a torch to bed with me to read under the covers. I love the classics of Bronte, Austen and Hardy. I love the fantastical world of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. I love books that are just a little bit quirky or off the wall. The literary world represents true escapism for me
But these days I want to spend my free time doing something creative. I have little enough spare time as it is, so I often feel like time spent simply reading is wasted time. This is why I am a massive audiobook fan. Don't get me wrong, I still think that actually reading a book is not only quicker, but a far more immersive experience that really lets your imagination fly. But listening also requires you to fill in the visual blanks, and often gives a different spin on a story as the narrator puts their unique stamp on a reading.
I have been a member of Audible for several years now. I get a book a month; and that, along with a few extra purchases, have built up to a library of some fifty audiobooks, all of which can be downloaded and listened to on my iPhone. I have discovered some real gems through this subscription.
The latest series to garner my attention is Phillip Pullman's Sally Lockhart series. I bought The Ruby in the Smoke, the first novel, some time ago but only recently got around to listening. They are aimed at young adults, but I never let that put me off a good read - hasn't half the world read Harry Potter after all?
I really enjoyed this novel. Set in Victorian England and ranging from opium dens to a shipping merchant's offices to dockside dosshouses, the book really built up a picture of imperial adventure, burgeoning industry and thriving criminality, as Sally Lockhart tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her father's death, the eponymous ruby and the Seven Blessings, as well as evade the deadly clutches of the evil crone Mrs Holland. I promptly set up the next novel to download, then discovered that back in 2006 the BBC had made an adaptation of The Ruby in the Smoke that had somehow totally passed me by! How had this happened? I'm normally first in line to watch anything with a hint of period drama about it.
So I downloaded the TV programme on iTunes and watched it - quite entertaining it was too. Although Billy Piper was not exactly the best choice in the lead role, I thought that J.J.Feild was the perfect Fred Garland - I had only ever seen him in an Agatha Christie's Marple adaptation before, and I confess in a slightly fangirlish way I headed off to watch Northanger Abbey in which he also stars. Go watch them, if you have an hour or two free and no energy to actually get up and leave the house!

I've now nearly finished listening to The Shadow in the North (why, Phillip Pullman, why?! How could you? So sad!), and have The Tiger in the Well ready and waiting on my Audible app. Plenty more hours of entertainment to come.
In craft related news, I am currently short row shaping the border of J's little stripy jacket, so after a lot of weaving in of ends I should be ready to share that very soon. I'll be back with a review of the latest issue of The Knitter in the next few days.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Hudson on Hold

Last week I made a concerted effort to finish my Hudson hoodie. This project had been hanging round for far too long and I thought it was about time to release it from the doldrums at the bottom of my knitting bag and actually wear the thing!

I worked on it every spare moment, nap times and evenings; the endless moss stitch hood was finally finished, a sleeve edge picked up and knit (apologies for the night time, bad light photos!).

I had a whole ball of yarn left and decided it was time to pick up for the button band, which wraps all the way around the hood and down both sides. There were a mega amount of stitches to pick up, something like 440, but I sat and spent one whole evening picking them up evenly onto a long circular needle.

Each row seemed to take forever as it was all in rib and the hoodie itself was pretty heavy by now. The buttonhole row took extra time - I decided to add in an extra button hole than the pattern suggested, as I wanted one right at the bottom too. I used this Masterclass to help me make my buttonholes as neat as possible - they still aren't perfect, but better than ones I have knit before.

Then the worst happened - I could see I was running out of yarn. I decided to cast off a row early as I really didn't want this button band sitting on the needles, it would be far too easy for stitches to drop off. I had just enough yarn to cast off (and I mean just - there was about a centimetre left!).

But I was left with one sleeve edging and two pocket edgings to knit. I had a feeling I would be in this position as my tension for the project was so drastically wrong, since I discovered part way through that I was knitting in a finer gauge yarn than the pattern specified. Unfortunately, I had used Knit Picks yarn from Great British Yarns which is the only UK supplier and they no longer had the colour in stock. Was I destined never to finish this hoodie?

Fortunately for me, Ravelry exists. After a trawl through the stashed Wool of the Andes yarn, I actually found some in the same dye lot in one lovely person's stash, and we are currently arranging for her to ship it to me all the way from the US. Isn't the Internet a wonderful thing?

Hopefully I will be back to share the finished item very soon!


Sunday, 17 February 2013

A Hat for my Sister

Last Christmas I decided to give yarn related presents to my sister and my brother's girlfriend, but having little time to actually do the knitting since little J was quite rightly dominating my attention, I wanted to find a pattern that was simple and showed off some beautiful yarn.
I found what I thought would be the answer in the pages of Simply Knitting Issue101. It was a simple beanie hat with a lace border above the ribbing, knit in the gorgeous chunky Colinette Calligraphy yarn which comes in a veritable rainbow of different shades. I quickly ordered a skein each in two shades - Monet for my sister, Gaugin for my brother's girlfriend. The colours in this yarn are stunning and beg to be worked up into special accessories.
My brother's girlfriend is quite crafty so I thought she might like to knit up the hat herself, so wrapped up the yarn with a set of DPNs and the pattern. But my sister is not crafty, so I knew I would need to knit hers myself.
The pattern was really easy - I used a long circular needle and the magic loop method rather than DPNs - and the hat flew off the needles in one evening. However, when I tried it on, the hat seemed to be far too small. I know I probably have a larger than average head circumference, but my sister has a lot of hair to fit under a hat and I wanted it to be flattering.
So I ripped back to the end of the lace section and added an extra 9-10 rounds (can't actually remember which it was in the end) then finished off the crown shaping again. As it turned out, I still had yarn left and could have added an extra few rounds, which if I knit it again I would do as I prefer a slightly more slouchy-look hat. But it was fine, so I wrapped it up and gave it to my sister for Christmas.
My sister absolutely loved her hat and wears it all the time, but because I live 100 miles away from her I have only just got some photos! It makes me more inclined to gift a few more knits (which I have always been disinclined to do before in case people feel obliged to wear something they hate!).

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Simply Crochet Issue 2 Review

Last week the second issue of Simply Crochet became available to purchase on Apple Newsstand and I duly downloaded it, taking advantage of a subscription offer that gave you the first issue free which was very welcome!
So how is this fledgling magazine getting on now we have got past the excitement of the introductory issue? I have decided to continue buying it for a while to see how it establishes itself, though there are a few things that I hope will change in the coming issues.
First up, some of the things I liked. There is another lovely blanket, this time by Nicki Trench, which looks very attractive in the beautifully styled photographs. However, there are so many crocheted blanket patterns online, not least the ones on offer at Attic24 that I really wouldn't buy a magazine on the strength of this type of pattern.
One item that really appealed was a crocheted poncho by Joanne Scrace, which worked up in a lovely teal yarn in the photos looks very pretty. However, I wouldn't rush to start making it - so is there anything else that jumps out at me?
Again, the home items are far too twee and cutesy for my tastes - as I've said before, I'm all for a cute cushion or blanket, but jam jar covers and shelf edgings are not for me. I am highly unlikely to hook a lampshade of any kind either.
The Toft Alpaca bunny was incredibly sweet and I could see me making this for a new baby, along with the little baby bootees - they certainly look like a quick project too.
I also like the continued ideas for customising shop bought clothes with crochet elements, this time a pocket - a very quick idea and shown sewn up on affordable clothes for a mum on maternity leave - thank you New Look!
There were several interesting articles such as that on Freeform Crochet which pointed to what look like some really inspiring blogs on the subject.
But perhaps the stand out item for me in the whole magazine is the stunning crochet handbag by Erika Knight, worked up in superchunky yarn using a range of motifs stitched together and lined with a contrasting fabric. I have already priced up the yarn for this (and realised it is out of my current price range and I will have to substitute!). I know I have a hundred other projects to finish (and start!) but this will definitely get made one day.
Overall, the standard of the magazine wasn't quite up to the last issue - I really hope they include a few larger projects, particularly garments, in future issues, and not so much of the cutesy homeware items. Some projects from the Rowan crochet collections would be lovely. But this is of course personal preference as some people really go for that homemade style - I just prefer a more classic/contemporary look in my home.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Work in Progress

Well it's been a while since I've blogged, and that is mainly because I've both been a little more busy than usual and I haven't had any finished objects to share. I've been organising my return to work (which fortunately isn't until June so I have a while to go yet), seeing friends and even visiting the theatre - fancy! Seriously though, me and some friends went to see Birdsong at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, and if you get the chance to see this you should definitely go. I have never really got on with the book and became bored quickly by the recent BBC adaptation with Eddie Redmayne, but I ended up sobbing though half of the stage production, it was really well done. Don't you just love stage sets? Just enough there to set the scene but still plenty for the imagination to do, to make the story your own.

So what is on my needles at the moment?
Firstly, we have my Hudson hoodie.
I started this so long ago, and then got bored because I was knitting what should have been an Aran weight garment in what was closer to a dk weight yarn - it still worked out because basically the whole pattern is done by lengths, but the knitting seemed to go on forever.
I have made a real push to get it finished in the last week and it is starting to look like a hoodie now. Just trying not to lose the will to live while knitting interminable amounts of moss stitch for the hood!
When not knitting my hoodie, I've been trying to add a few rows to my Anniken Allis Lazuli shawl - this is going to be a long term project I can tell, but the yarn is beautiful and I will get it done one day. I've made a small error in one of the pine cone motifs when I dropped a stitch, but I'm hoping it won't notice too much...