Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer update

Hi there,

It took a bit longer than usual to get back to the blog after my last post. As many of you probably assumed, my final exam and thesis got intense in the past month and I didn't even have time to give you an update of what was going on... Oops, sorry!

To top off the stress, I had to deal with computer that was tumbling down, a replacement that wasn't working properly and an external HDD that decided this was the perfect time to die as well. I was naively thinking that these kind of situations were only reserved for cartoons and sitcoms. The lesson to be taken from this it that you cannot back up your documents enough. Luckily, I backed up most of my uni-related documents, and today I managed to find a SD-disk with my holiday pictures!

Nimue helped with re-cataloguing my yarn-stash.

 Earlier this week I handed in my last paper for uni. If all goes well, I'll have some spare time ahead, but you never know. I am now slowly emerging out of my carefully crafted study cave, feeling like the first amphibian slowly taking its first steps on solid ground. I want to thank all of you for the good luck messages and comments I got here and on other platforms! They did the trick when I was bogged down with work and stress.

Nimue did, however, insist on taking regular breaks to enjoy the 30 °C sun through the window.

I have been planning what I hope will be an avalanche of summer crafting projects; mainly knitting and sewing. The length of my summer read-knit-and-sew list is marvellously unrealistic, but for me making the list was already lots of fun and it savours that small window of the summer in which everything still seems possible. I've been reorganising my yarn and (modest) fabric stash as well, as my documentation was all lost in the HDD-crash, and combined what I have with projects I want to make. So many possibilities. Wonderful, not a bad place to stand at at all!

I will be back in a couple of days to show you one of my new makes.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

My First Socks

I just finished my first socks. My first hand knitted socks, ever. After almost a decade of knitting  (what, really?)  I've taken my needles on a trip to ground level. I know knitted socks are quite popular; There are people who solely knit socks. I never was one of those knitters: I did enjoy seeing knitter's socks and their enthusiasm for different methods, but I've never had the urge to cast on any myself. This changed around a week ago, when I was browsing through my Istex books and a little sock pattern caught my eye. The urge to cast on for one right away hit me hard.What better time to teach myself new things, and knit my first socks than just before my final exams and (gasp) thesis writing... right?

The socks are made using a combination of Alafoss lopi, for the main portion of the socks, and Lett lopi for the contrasting colours. For the stripes, two strands of different colours are held together to create a marbled effect. I just loved the effect that produced. I might try it with Plotulopi for a different project. I almost squeezed this pair out of one ball of Alafoss lopi, but had to break into a second ball for the final two or three rows of the second sock. All in all, good value for a pair of socks. It will be interesting to see how they will hold up to wear and tear. I'm pretty confident that they will hold up well, because it is Icelandic wool, but you never know.

The day the yarn arrived was a happy day. I had anticipated that it would take me quite a while to finish the socks, because there were new techniques to learn and the aforementioned thesis demanded so much of my time. It turns out that Icelandic wool puts my knitting speed into turbo mode. Okay, maybe the relatively thick yarn and needles had something to do with the speed as well. I knit most of my projects on needle sizes 3-4-5, so knitting Alafoss lopi on needle size 6 was something new for me. I didn't even have the right needle size. I was pretty shocked! I sort of assumed that I probably had multiple versions of any size of needle by this time. I was wrong. Some days of looking for the mail man later, and my new wooden dpn's and I were finally on my way.

I know they are not the most elegant socks, but I really like them. They are the kind of socks that I wear a lot during the colder months. Taking sock pictures was something new. I'm used to taking finished project pictures, but sock pictures are a whole different kettle of fish all together. That's one of the fun parts about learning how to knit socks: There is a whole new world of knitting and styling to explore. Second-sock-syndrome has always been some mythical term that I heard of but never experienced for myself (and still haven't!). There are shelves of self striping and patterning yarn that need to be examined. A dazzling amount of different heel methods that so far have gone untried in the Treehouse. There's a whole lot more to sock knitting that I still have to discover.

It will be interesting to see where my sock knitting career will lead me. I don't suspect that it will make a large dent in the sweater, shawls and hats hegemony but you never know. Are you a sock knitter? What are your favourite sock yarns/patterns? Do tell! I've got lots to learn. 

Have a great week! 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Something colourful

Something colourful arrived at the Treehouse last week. Due to my considerable enthusiasm and anticipation in the wake of its arrival my boyfriend expected that an unruly amount of yarn was coming the Treehouse's way. But no, this time a very different, and curiously flat package arrived my way. It was packed with a wealth of  cardboard rectangles with colourful pieces of string tied to them: Shade cards!

I only relatively recently discovered how practical these cards are, especially for planning colourwork projects. Ravelry is great for getting an idea of how the colours will look, and I can easily spend days on end musing about different colours from behind a screen, but the cards are perfect for more thorough colour planning. These are shade cards for the different Istex Icelandic yarn ranges. I bought the Lett Lopi card a couple a months ago, At the time I didn't think I would get much use of the other cards, but as of late I've been itching to trying their other yarns.  Plotulopi and Alafoss particularly had been on my radar, so this week I completed the set. 

Do you use shade cards often? Who knows, if these are a success I might go and source cards for other brands I use often. Now however, I'm off to do some serious colour plotting for a lopapeysa wardrobe...

Friday, May 15, 2015

Shilasdair Shawlette

When I went to Scotland last year I brought home some great yarn gifts to myself. Some have been knitted up already, others are still waiting in the yarn treasury for their turn. However, I did not only bring yarn back for myself. I brought my mum some wool as well. The choice went to two pretty Shilasdair fingering weight skeins. Shilasdair, hails from the Herbrides, the Isle of Skye. Shilasdair yarns are naturally dyed with locally sourced dye materials. The yarn is a mix  of 10% cashmere, 10% baby camel, 40% angora, and 40% lambswool, an interesting mix of different fibres. I wasn't sure how it would hold up, but my mum says it holds up very well. The colourway of the skeins I picked for her is moss, naturally dyed with meadowsweet, tansy, onion skins and indigo.

 My mum made it into a simple shawlette to show off the colours of the yarn. She used an old pattern from a Dutch magazine. Over here, these types of shawls are called "kippendoekje", or "Chicken cloth". These types of small shawls were worn by Dutch farmer's wives when working around the farm. There was quite some buzz about them in the Dutch knitting community earlier this year when a well known not knitting related Dutch magazine had a special about these shawls. There were a lot of different variations of "kippendoekjes" around, some incorporated a simple lace or texture, or a special border at the edge of the shawl, but first and foremost these were practical items, so they weren't too fussy, except for the ones for Sundays and special occasions. My mum knitted a basic version of this old tradition. She is very happy with the outcome, and is already planning to make a similar shawl in one of the red Shilasdair colourways.

I love wearing shawls, in all shapes and sizes. Small shawls are perfect for this time of the year, when the weather is starting to warm up, but it is not quite there yet.

In other news, my computer is crumbling down. On the one hand, she's an old cat so it was about time to find a replacement, on the other hand the thing was working perfectly fine until last week, so it has come as quite a surprise. Not the best timing, with the thesis writing going on, but I guess these things happen. If I'm around less, you know what to point fingers to!


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mullspice Hat

Ah, the start of Spring. It marks the beginning of a time in which every self respecting knit blogger will present their readers with at least some out-of-season projects. I will kick things off here with a worsted weight cable hat. I started this project because I needed a quick and fun project for in between working on my thesis. As you read in my last post my knit time is fairly limited at the moment, as I juggle regular uni work with thesis writing. A fast, cable project was just what the doctor order to distract me from my 'meh'-feelings about my limited knit time (or time for anything not uni related for that matter).

Pattern: Mullspice
Designer: Alicia Plummer
Yarn: Malabrigo Rios
Colourway: Glitter

I fell for the rustic feel of the pattern. I had one skein of Malabrigo Rios in my stash which,while being a heavier weight, suited the pattern very much. Because Rios is a heavier weigh than asked for, I cast on fewer stitches. I didn’t do the folded brim, again because I’m using a heavier weight yarn and thought a folded brim would be a bit too bulky for my taste. I wanted to give Rios a try after my disappointment with Malabrigo Worsted. I have to say the yarn seems to hold up a lot better. I can only tell for sure when I have been wearing it for a while, but it looks a lot more promising than the worsted.

The pattern is a bit unclear about the decreases, specifically on what to do with the cables as you decrease. You can sort of intuitively figure it out, especially if you’ve knitted cabled projects before. I think most people expect that part in the pattern. I tried to keep the cable as it starts for as long as I could then I decreased the cables evenly from 3/3 to 2/2 cables and finally to 1/1. Other than that I had no issues with the pattern.

This was my first pattern by Alicia Plummer. Though not everything she makes is completely my style, I do like the rustic feel of her designs. I also think she has quite a recognisable aesthetics to her designs, which is admirable. While I liked some of her other designs, I'm not sure if I will start one soon. For one, I can only handle so many non-colourwork projects before I cave in and cast on an avalanche of stranded projects, and I'm not sure if her pattern writing style suits me. Perhaps Mullspice was not the best pattern as a first encounter, or to judge her patterns on. Mullspice was not a badly written pattern, but some information was lacking.

Overall I'm quite happy with the end result. The hat came out a bit bigger after a blocking. I have a small head, and think I could have gone for the smaller size, but it doesn't bother me much.I think I will get a lot of use out of my Mullspice when the cold sets in again.


Monday, April 27, 2015

A Promise

The months since January began have been trying. Combining and balancing research, thesis writing and all my regular course work has been hard. Really hard. I do love my research topic and enjoy discovering more and more about it. It is just that the balance between uni work and "other stuff" has had the scales completely tipping over in favour of the former. I feel like the only things I've done since 2015 started is work for uni and sleep. Some of my class mates spread the work over 2 years instead of trying to do it all in one year, and to be honest I don't blame them. My personal life is virtually non existent at the moment. Weeks have past in which I have not knitted a stitch (seriously I don't think I knit at all during the whole of February and March). I used to write in a personal diary at least a bit every day, now weeks can pass without me having even opened my notebook. And let's not even mention my sewing machine. Now if you know me, you know that this is really unusual. I've had busy periods before, and complained about them, but this is insanity on a whole new level.

This blog post is to remind myself, and people in a similar situation, that these things do not last. Even though sometimes it may seem like it doesn't. It is also a promise to myself. A promise of all the good things to come when things, eventually, ease up. When it does, I plan to make the most of it.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Foxglove Cardigan

The Foxglove is a flower I associate with my childhood. I grew up, knowing it as 'Vingerhoedskruid', the Dutch word for Foxglove. 'Vingerhoed' is Dutch for thimble, which is a very apt name I think. 

I associate the flower with home, bumblebees and with my mum. My mother is a garden person. When I think about my childhood and my mum, images of her making a mess in our garden spring to mind. She wanted a garden where birds had trees to sit and make nests in, where hedgehogs had woodpiles to crawl under, and where bees and other insects had flowers to feed on. My dad used to joke about our garden and how wild it must have looked to our neighbours' eyes. My mum spend a lot of time in that garden, as did we as children for we had lots of grass to play on and trees to climb in. I made my first modest Treehouse in that garden.

 My mum planted specific flowers to attract bees, especially bumblebees, which she is very fond of. One of those flowers was the foxglove, a flower bumblebees are apparently especially attracted to. From late spring to early autumn these flowers coloured our garden. Incidentally, I was born and grew up in one of the few places in the Netherlands were the wild variety of the foxglove can still be found. Beware though, while these flowers look beautiful, they are also incredibly toxic, and can be fatal when eaten by humans.

When Kate's book arrived at the Treehouse, it was not hard to decide which project to make first. I loved many of the designs, but I thought it fitting to knit this one first. The design asks for 2ply Shetland yarn, which has become one of my favourite yarns to knit with since first trying it. I've used a similar colour scheme, but not exactly the same colours as Kate. I used Jamieson & Smith Jumperweight colour FC55, which from afar is a purple shade but when surveyed from up close it is revealed to be a complex mix with purple, pink, blue and even yellow fibres. I simply love such a complexity of colour. I've shoved my work-in-progress under many a friend's and family-member's eyes to  make sure each of them got to see the explosion of colours up close.

I knitted the sleeves first and then the body, as to save the best for last. While I was knitting the yoke, I noticed that the last row of the chart was different from the pictures of Kate's Cardigan. Incidentally, at the same time someone on Kate's Ravelry forum noticed it as well, and mailed Kate about it. I'm not sure if this is an actual errata, or just something Kate changed her mind about. In accordance with the project photos it should be an entirely white row, instead of a purple and white row. It does not make a huge difference in the yoke, so do whatever you like. I went with the photos and knitted an entirely white row. Other than that I had breezed through the pattern.

Not to long now, and spring will cause foxgloves to colour our gardens, forests and fields again. Can't say I'm looking forward to warm temperatures, having to pack away my woollen jumpers and the accompanying hay fever, but even I can't deny the joys of more daylight and more colour outside. 

Enjoy the weather!