Magicians pull rabbits from their hats. Me, I pull yarn. I don’t have a yarn bowl you see, and to stop my ball of wool from from rolling around the floor gathering bits that I’ve yet to hoover up, it occurred to me that my cap could be a decent substitute. And in this, if nothing else, I was astute! I tried using a bowl from the kitchen, but glass is slippery and the yarn would jump out onto the floor if I was too exuberant in my pulling technique. The cap is more effective as the fabric grips the yarn slightly, and the sides of the hat also collapse in a bit, helping keep the yarn in situ.
Yarn bowls are marvellous inventions though – the slit in the side of the basin manages the yarn so that it doesn’t ever bounce out. I gifted one to a friend, and tried it out before I wrapped it, and realised just how ingenious the yarn bowl is. Another friend has a neighbour who is a talented ceramicist and the next time I see her, I will suggest she make some and sell them at our local yarn store. I would certainly buy one, as I like her work. Meanwhile, I will continue using my hat.
There is a poem I like by Robert Frost in which he addresses an orchard, saying:
“How often already you’ve had to be told,
Keep cold, young orchard. Good-by and keep cold.
Dread fifty above more than fifty below.”
Well, the same can’t be said for us gardeners! Earlier in the autumn I heard various reports that this is going to be a gelid winter, so I figured I’d better make me a hat for work, as I lost the plastic-fleece one I had before. And having read that plastic-fleece is bad for the environment¹ (even though it’s a creative way of recycling), I decided against getting another one like it.
My first attempt was the Twisted Toque designed by Helen Sharp in the book 60 Quick Knits (20 hats, 20 scarves, 20 mittens in Cascade 220) which I didn’t end up liking when I finished it. It made me look like Compo from Last of the Summer Wine! I made a hat for a friend as a Christmas gift which I liked so much I nearly kept it.. but then I decided to make one for myself, in Purpuras rather than Jupiter. I didn’t want to write about it until after Christmas, incase the friend in question saw the post and knew what I was giving her. The pattern is Tanis Gray’s Isla Cloche available free from tanisknits.com. I added a few extra rows to make the hats slouchier. All three hats were made using Malabrigo Rios.
Apart from a brief frosty spell in November, it’s been too mild for a woolly hat so far this winter. Needless to say, when Jack Frost was about (and “after our fingers and toes”) I hadn’t finished my hat! Still, there’s a couple of months left before spring, time enough for the snow that fell in the Sahara to migrate to London!
¹ I first read about this in the following post:
I’ve written previously about the faff of DPNs, and how this drove me to pick up the hook to fulfil my desire to make socks. Having sported the pair I crocheted a couple of times, I’m not convinced they wear comfortably. The structure of crochet stitches is more bumpy than knitted stitches and though I’ve read methods to lessen this, I’ve returned to attempts to knit socks. And I’m pleased to report I’ve had success…
More importantly, I don’t need thick-soled hobbit feet to don them with a smile.
It’s taken me a while to get to this point. I got as far as decreasing for the toe on one sock, and put it down as I was quite busy and felt I shouldn’t rush it. I didn’t pick it up again for ages and by then had forgotten how I did things. So in the interest of making socks that match, I ripped back to the beginning… and lost my way again somehow. So my sock yarn looked like this for a time..
My successful attempt happened after the decision to work two socks simultaneously – or as synchronously as possible with DPNs. This meant knitting part of one sock, stopping, then knitting the same part of the second sock before continuing. In this way, the process of each section remained fresh in my mind and I was more likely to match tension etc. Things went quite smoothly… but I misread the heel flap instructions: on each row, I did sl1 K1 (or P1) across, rather than alternate a row of sl1 K1 with a row of purl across. It made the heel shorter and tighter than it should’ve been, but I only noticed when I reached the toe of the second sock. Well of course there was no way I was going back and re-doing the heels! Grafting the toe was a bit of a problem too. It didn’t help that I was venturing this late in the evening (never a good time to try something new!) and I ended up crocheting a graft rather than use Kitchener stitch. It worked okay, but each graft had an ‘ear’ on the left hand side.
Despite the heel mishap, this first completed pair of knitted socks has proved comfy – definitely more so than those I hooked up. I’ve now got a long list of socks I want to make. I’m close to completing a top down pair in aran, and I think I will try a toe-up pair next…
Now, I know I said I was having a ‘hook hiatus’ but a few things have come up recently to bring my mind back to crochet, if not hands and wool yet. One is an article commission which regrettably hasn’t come together in time due to problems with images, but hopefully will go ahead this time next year when all that is sorted out..
The others were spotted on a trip to the Midlands to visit a friend for an all too brief couple of days. We tootled over to Stratford Upon Avon and couldn’t resist the lure of a secondhand bookshop where I spied a publication that I knew I’d regret not getting. Of course I bought it! Quite a rare find, I think.
The other was a piece of filet crochet in the Mission Church (or the ‘Tin Church’ as it was also known) at the Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings – where historic buildings retire when in danger of being pulled down! It’s worth a visit if you’re ever in Worcestershire. The tin church originally stood in Bringsty Common, Herefordshire, and was moved to the museum in 1995. I’m not sure if the crochet was also original – the information stated that the church had been maintained well after it had closed: the interior of the church was complete and that the font, lectern, pulpit, pews and vestments were rescued before dismantling, but the organ had to be restored.
It just goes to show… crochet pops up even when you’re not looking for it (or trying to ignore it!)
I’ve never been a big fan of Fair Isle and other stranded knitting. For some reason, the ‘floats’ on the reverse side put me off. But I really enjoy Kate Davies’ blog and have been inspired by some of her designs to give the technique a go.
Yesterday, I took part in Juju Vail’s Fair Isle workshop at Loop down here in London. It was an all day event and by 5pm, my mind was spinning like a whirligig beetle. We covered a lot, so there is much to practise in order to fix processes in my muscle memory. To start with, there was magic loop knitting, then continental knitting, then the Fair Isle method, and to round it all off, a look at steeking. Phew! I have to say, I’m not very fond of this magic loop malarkey. It seems very faffy, and all that extra length of cable doesn’t half get itself in the way. Annoying! But I’m not giving up on it just yet, and the Fair Isle itself was not as tricky as you might think.
I’m glad I attended a workshop – any problems or “eek!” moments are dealt with before too much frustration sets in. We all know how much this can hinder progress and motivation! For instance, someone in the class said she tried to teach herself magic loop, but the ‘ladder’ that appeared when switching back and forth between needles put her off. Juju assured us this was a temporary problem which would sort itself out as the piece of work grows, and blocking would help even this all out (unlike with dpns? I didn’t think to ask this..)
If you’re new to stranded knitting and live in London – or not too much further afield (like America! One woman on the workshop was from “the left side” of the States, and was in the UK for as much holiday crafting as she could squeeze in) – I recommend a workshop with Juju. She’s dynamic, patient, encouraging and positive.. as all good teachers are!
As for those Fair Isle patterns by Kate Davies that I’ve idly had my eye on for a while.. I’m that little bit closer to being able to make one. But there is a queue. Isn’t there always?!
First attempts at magic loop, continental and Fair Isle knitting
… when an F.O. becomes an enemy!
It’s taken me a while to get around to this pattern. It’s Dora Ohrenstein’s Perfect Fit Raglan from issue 27 of Inside Crochet (way back in March 2012). I’ve finally hooked it up. and the result is a massive disappointment! It doesn’t fit, though I thought I’d swatched and taken correct measurements. Plus the seaming isn’t up to scratch – it ain’t easy sewing together lacy pieces, and I’m beginning to realise why people work seamlessly! I never really minded seaming before.. So this Finished Object became a Failed Object, thus a Fo(e)!
Phooey to it!
Okay, so ya win some ya lose some, right? Failure is an opportunity to learn and develop. However, I’ve also encountered obstacles in part 2 of the International Diploma in Crochet – namely, communication difficulties with my tutor. She just doesn’t ‘get’ what I’m saying or asking. I know communication is a two-way thing, but I don’t know how to make myself any clearer! It’s very dispiriting. So after raising the subject with said tutor, I’ve decided to have a ‘hook hiatus’. I’m returning to (ssh!) knitting for a while. Prior to the IDC, I knitted and crocheted in fairly equal measure, but have rarely picked up the needles since registering. I have a long-neglected queue of knit projects to be getting on with. This isn’t to say that I’ve outgrown crochet or that I think knitting is the better craft. I just require an interlude. My crochet will undoubtedly be better off for it.
What to do with a forsaken crocheted sock experiment? Turn it into a cover for my new phone, that’s what!
I decided to get with the times and obtain a smartphone, seeing as the knackered old Nokia that I’d had for yonks had given up the ghost. In an attempt to be socially responsible, I went for the FairPhone 2 developed by the Phone Co-operative. Looking to the future, I thought a smartphone might be good when (if!) I eventually set up shop, and I now have the option of Instagram.
My new purchase just so happens to fit snuggly into a top-down sock design I was working on a few months ago. I stopped at the heel, and this sock leg conveniently formed a woolly envelope to protect the phone from grime etc – I’m a gardener for a living, and have noticed that bits of nature find their way into the guts of gadgets surprisingly easily!
It’s pleasing to re-purpose a UFO, utilizing something that has been hanging around for a while. Now to think of some good use for all those swatches I have sitting around being a nuisance…