Tag Archives: Craft

Foci for 2016

I like the idea of having foci rather than resolutions. Mainly because I tend to break resolutions and feel disappointed. With foci, there is a sense of  purpose and direction – but you don’t feel quite so pinned down.

Last year, I didn’t actually to commit to any resolutions until February – looking back, I did OK with them although time got in the way. I definitely improved my work-life balance. The turning point was taking my work email off my phone so I don’t here the constant ping of work nagging at me when I try to relax. As I’ve got more comfortable in my role, I’m more relaxed about it; when things don’t go as I wish them to, I work on making them better but overall, I’ve got better at accepting that somethings are outside my control and my goal is to manage this rather than feel anxious about it.

Walking to work was fun – I found that it slowed the pace of life down and I enjoy listening to books, podcasts etc as I walk. My daughter has joined me (she has started at my school now) and the company is fun. However, too much walking to work proved tiring. Over the course of the year, I’ve realised it’s good to balance the walking with cycling depending on my energy levels.

Knitting wasn’t on the list but that has been a focus- over the year, I’ve learnt lots of new techniques  and become confident and fluent; I’ve completed projects I feel proud of.  However, this brings me to my foci for this year:

1. Make clothes that fit better. Last year, I focused on learning skills and techniques; it wasn’t until towards the end of the year that I started to think about FIT.  But now FIT is starting to become a source of frustration. There’s no point knitting lovely garments that sit in a box because they don’t fit. I’ve finished my pair of sock and yes, I was mindful of fit- I restarted the socks twice, once to knit a smaller size and secondly because the sock was too long when I turned the heel. I still didn’t get it quite right as I didn’t take enough off the heel and this is the result:


A baggy heel- OK for round the house but annoying when you want to     put shoes on. I have been knitting tension squares for jumpers and this has helped but obviously I need to look more carefully at sock sizing and tension.

I’m also going to reknit a jumper I made for my husband earlier in the year – lovely but too big. It’s sat in the wardrobe all winter. The wool was expensive so there’s no point just leaving it sitting there. As you can see, I’ve started  unravelling it. I’m going to go down a needle size this time and check the fit by comparing it against the original.

2. Play the Guitar. There’s been a guitar craze in my family this Christmas. My husband (who plays well) has got his guitar out and started to play again, inspiring my children. Now I’m inspired too. I used to play chords as a teenager and I’m very rusty but if I practice most days, I’m sure I’ll get better. It’s a cheerful activity – good for hygge.

3. Go on more cycling adventures. The highlight of 2015 was cycling the Coast to Coast with my husband. When we came back, I was buzzing with ideas for mini-trips and weekends away. I love cycle touring – seeing little villages and roads you wouldn’t notice in the car and seeing changing landscapes.  I also love camping – either caravan or tent! The appeal is waking up in the landscape. This autumn, my daughter has started to join me on regular bike rides at weekends which has been a great chance to chat as we ride along’ I’m looking forward to more adventures with her. The challenge is to convince my son – he’s younger and gets bored – he prefers sprinting and skidding. Hopefully, we’ll manage an overnight camping trip with the children – a bit ambitious but doable in the summer.








The Joy of Sox

Excuse the title – bit corny. Blame my husband, he suggested it and I couldn’t think of anything better.

The slow pace of jumper knitting made me long for something a bit quicker – like socks…

Not that I wasn’t distracted by a bit of Christmas jumper knitting for my son’s much loved teddies.


These are so cute, I couldn’t resist posting them.

I saw the Fearlas Mor pattern last Spring but wasn’t skilled enough at the time to knit it but now I am ready to have a go.

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The toes are worked in short rows with a helpful tutorial on the website and were easy but interesting to knit. I did find that the pattern was sized a bit generously so I had to restart as the pattern was knitting up too widely for my foot. I also had to rip it back when I’d finished the heel because I’d made the sock too long. Before you ask, I didn’t check the tension gauge – I figured that by the time I’d knitted the swatch I would be a good way on with the sock so it wouldn’t save me time. Also, with magic loop knitting, it’s pretty easy to try your socks on as your go so you can keep a close eye on the fit.

Sock 1 is done; I do like  socks to fit snugly otherwise they bunch up in your shoes which is not comfortable.

Then, for Christmas I was given a sock-knitting book by my daughter (aged 11), this was sweet; she’d gone off in the shops on her own to pick something special out. It was a struggle to keep the secret as she was so excited by this present but she managed, despite dropping a few unsubtle hints.


Not sure which ones to knit yet!

I’ve also bought some lovely hand dyed yarns to knit them with.


School is finished and so is my Epistrophy cardigan. It feels like the end of a work/ knitting marathon. I’m feeling happy!!!

I must confess that all that stocking stitch got a bit tedious; I found myself racing along to get to the colour work section.


The steeking stakes were high. After 5 weeks of knitting, the moment came to cut the opening. As I crocheted the re-enforcement I became aware that it did matter whether or not it worked… all those weeks of knitting could not unravel. Full stop.

It started promisingly. After the cut, all the yarn edges seemed to neatly disappear into the crocheted edge.


So far, so good.

But not for long…   I started to pick up the stitches for the button band and realised I wasn’t picking up enough; I needed to start again. As I pulled the stitches out and started to pick up the new ones, disaster! The steek  was starting to unravel and the re-enforcing stitches hung loosely.


5 weeks of knitting were unravelling before my eyes!

I managed to rescue the situation – carefully I tied any loose ends I could find together and eventually it seemed reasonably stable. If the jumper failed, I was never going to do a steek again.  Then the second side – fortunately this was OK – so steeks are still on the agenda. I think I’ve learnt that you’ve got to pick up the stitches correctly first time – meddling with a steek edge is a bad idea.

Now I’ve tidied it up and  finished it with  ribbon, it looks like this:


The ribbon seems to add even more stability and the cardigan has been saved.I’ve worn it a few times and it isn’t about to fall apart or develop a gaping hole.

It’s cosy and I like the finished effect. The only bit I’m not happy with is the neck – it stands up and looks like a 1980s ruff. I’m guessing that’s a tension issue.

So that’s two cardigans in a row and I’m ready for a break from long projects. I’m going to knit socks!

Steeking – what happened when I took the scissors to my knitting

To me, steeking has been one of the Dark Arts. A mysterious process, only to be attempted by knitting experts. .

However, I like cardigans and I want to make Fair-Isle patterns so steeking is a pre-requisite. Many of the cardigans in Yokes are steeked so maybe this is something I need to learn?

I’ve started Epistrophy and the interest in the pattern is around the steek and the stranded yoke. It’s coming along and I’m in the middle of the stockinette section:

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This is OK in front of the TV but it’s a loooong section.

I decided to practice cutting a steek to see whether or not it worked. I’d planned to do before I started so my tension swatch doubled up as a sample:


I used the contrast yarn to show the steek stitches – there are 7.

Most of the knitting blogs that cover steeking seem to do this. OK, when you are knitting through a pattern but for a plain section, you need to be careful as they could show through from the underside.

This is not going to be a “how to” guide – I looked at Elinor Brown Knits and Kate Davies’ tutorials and the obligatory You Tube tutorials. The blogs were the most useful. This blog is going to look at what happens on a first attempt – and yes, it’s do-able.

Crocheting the reinforcement was straightforward. The thing to consider is that the yarn for the crocheting would ideally be a contrast to make it easier to see where you are cutting in the next step. But you have weight that up against the possibility of the yarn showing through from underneath. My yarn is pale and fine so it’s a bit of an issue.


Cutting was the trickiest part. I think I caught some the the reinforcement stitches which you are not supposed to do. It was hard to stretch the stitches enough to see the ladders clearly as my yarn is fine. I followed You Tube guidance with the crochet stitches which weren’t as thorough as the double crochet stitches suggested in the blogs and this might have made my reinforcement a bit less secure.


You can see a few threads that haven’t been caught into the reinforcement. However, the knitting didn’t fray and was stable and you can see it’s holding. Not likely to pull apart.


At this point, I followed Kate’s tutorials and made a steek sandwich. That was very straightforward and  creates a neat finish. My problem here was that my steek was made with 7 stitches and Kate had made hers with 5. I followed the pattern slavishly, not taking account of this – I realise I should have added more row to the “sandwich’ The consequence was that I had to cram my steek filling into the “bread” and it bulges. I will know better next time.


The finish is neat – as you can see. But notice the hint of blue coming through from the underside.

At this point, I realised that my pattern called for a button band finish so a steek sandwich isn’t needed. The final button band  will look something like this – I got the beaded rib a bit mixed up as I forgot to take account of the fact that I wasn’t working in the round. But this didn’t matter for my sample as you can see the general effect.


It’s neat and secure. Underneath, you can see the edge:


It’s a bit rough but it’s not going to fall apart. Kate’s advice is to cover this with a ribbon – I will do this for my finished cardigan.

Overall, I enjoyed making this. My knitting survived the scissors and a steek was fun to make.

Hygge – my style!

The clocks have gone back. I’m not a fan of winter as I don’t like the long dark evenings. I don’t like going and coming home from work in the dark.

Last week, I finished reading “My year of Living Danishly” – I found it on Amazon as one of those daily download deals. I’m not sure what made me want to read it but now I’m quite converted to many of the ideas about living Danishly – hygge is the way to go for winter.

So what does hygge mean to me?

Knitting – Plenty of cosy, relaxing time. The thing I like about knitting is that mostly, unless I’m doing something tricky, is that I can chat whilst I do it. Reading has to be done on your own…

This week, I’ve finished my acer cardigan and I can’t wait to wear it. It’s blocking now and I’m waiting for it to dry. That would be frustrating except it’s warm here, too hot for winter woolies. I’m pleased with the fit – I made the arms and body a bit longer partly because of my shape and partly because I don’t like jumpers that ride up over the belt of my jeans. I also like that its fitted and not sloppy – that’s a result because I got my tension just right.


I wanted some quirky buttons to individualise it and just to look a bit different. These wooden ones were a good find. I made a button band for the first time and refined my “pick up and knit” technique – I looked up how to do it properly and got a much more even result. So all good!


I also treated myself to Yokes by Kate Davies. For my next project, I wanted to get back to stranded colour work and I wanted another winter woolly. I’ve admired her patterns for a while -but not really had the skill to tackle them. Now my knitting is better, I’m definitely ready for the colour work, however the steeking is going to be more of a challenge – watch this space to see my progress.

I’m going to make her  Epistrophy cardigan. The recommended wool and colours look beautiful but expensive. I calculated about £80 which I didn’t want to spend. So I found this Wesleydale Longwool at Brityarn which is going to be great.


It smells of sheep – Which is good as I like that smell. It’s also very soft.

Family time at home -It’s been half-term this week so we’ve had a week off. We thought going to the Lake District in the caravan would be fun but in reality, it was wet and life in a small white box was not conducive to Hygge – it was cooped up rather than cosy. So we came home and have had fun here.

Christmas cake making is an important family ritual for us:


The children got Halloweentastic..


and we had some bike rides. Not being Danish, I’m not 100% certain about whether or not it would qualify for Hygge as it’s outdoors. Definitely not warm and cosy. However, when the sun has shone, the leaves have been so pretty- all the reds, yellows and oranges seem to be hygge colours to me.


We also went to the Lego show – not sure that it’s very hygge but it’s definitely Danish!

Slowly but surely.

This title sums up both my knitting and my garden!

Slowly, the strawberries are starting to ripen…


…and flowers are appearing on the tomatoes.


So we will get a crop eventually. Summer is definitely cool this year and I think its slowing my garden down.

Knittingwise, my socks are coming along rather slowly as well. I’ve just finished turning the heel.


I got distracted by the arrival of the yarn for Funchal Moebius. It was expensive but is beautiful. I went for a mossy green rather than the blue of the pattern- partly because I like green and also because I wanted to be different (just the sake of it!).


This is is moving along at a rather tortoiselike pace. It took me a while to learn how to do a provisional cast on – thanks YouTube. Also the pattern requires a lot of counting and awareness of detail – neither or which are my strong point. I quickly lose concentration, thinking that I know what I’m doing when I quite clearly don’t. So there has been quite a lot of knitting backwards to make corrections.


I wouldn’t say this is a hard pattern – it just requires your full attention. I like this about it.

9 weeks later….

It’s taken me nine weeks to finish the jumper!!

Whilst I’ve been knitting, my garden has been growing – I have a few flowers now and some healthy looking seedlings.

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It has taken a long time for my jumper to grow too. Work has been busy so not too much knitting time.

Also, it’s a big beast of a jumper, weighing in at 830 grammes. That is heavy!

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The yarn (Aran from West Yorkshire Spinners) is incredibly soft and easy to work with. I enjoyed the pattern too. Once I’d got the hang of the pattern, it was rewarding to see it developing. Up close, the detail of the knitting is intricate and beautiful to touch as well as look at.

Will it be worn? Not for a few months… My timing wasn’t great – a huge aran jumper for the start of June. My husband likes it although he thinks the weight will take a bit of getting used to, but it’s not itchy.

I think it looks great on him.

Out of wool – arghhh!

My daughter and the shawl
My daughter and the shawl
Full view of the shawl in the Spring sunshine

As you can see, I got there in the end but not without a panic..

I knew I was short of yarn so I decided to miss out the final rows of the pattern – the wool is handpainted so I wouldn’t be able to buy a matching skein. Disaster struck about 30 stitches from the final stitch.

At the start of the binding off row, I had a small ball left – there would be plenty, I thought. But as I went along, it quickly unravelled to the point where I could see the point where I wrapped the first few strands wrapped around my finger. I carried on, thinking that if worst came to worst, I would use the loose ends. it was no good though, I had to admit defeat and so I ripped back another 2 rows. So this is a slightly smaller Tornved shawl.


I’m proud of this – I think the detailing in the lace pattern is so pretty.


I finished and blocked it yesterday..


Hut 8 cardigan is finished!

My Hut 8 cardigan is finished, blocked and ready to wear – it’s made in 4ply Milburn rust.  Just in time for Spring!


I’m generally pleased with it. It’s just my colour and really suits me so I will probably wear it a lot. It fits too – crucial of course. I’ve found that my knitting seems to come out correctly widthwise but can be a bit long lengthwise. No, I haven’t knitted a tension swatch- I see the need but haven’t got there yet. I probably have to learn the hard way for this one. On this cardigan, its worked for me, I’m quite long-bodied and my arms were definitely longer than the pattern expected – fortunately, this is an error in my favour.

My family like my Hut 8 cardigan too – this means it must look nice. I have the kind of family who give honest (if sometimes painful) feedback. I like this – it stops me convincing myself that something looks good when it doesn’t. I’m very conscious that, even after blocking, you can still see the unevenness in tension in places and this will always irritate me. However, my family feedback has given the confidence to wear the cardigan. Although I’m aware of its faults, others don’t notice.

I’ve learnt a few things along the way:

1. Blocking – my first go with a bigger garment. It has made a huge difference. It was also easy to do.

Before blocking
Before blocking
During blocking - poor photo but you can see the knitting is smoother
During blocking – poor photo but you can see the knitting is smoother

2. Continental knitting – I’m confident with this now. It has become instinctive and I prefer it to English knitting. My next project is a scarf and I have not even thought of going back to English knitting. The movements are smoother and more efficient for me now, even on purl stitches.

3. Circular needles – More comfortable to hold for continental knitting. I used to tuck my straight needles under my arm and that got a bit scratchy.

4. I can see my knitting improving – the tension is definitely more consistent on the scarf I have just started.

My next project - much more even tension
My next project – much more even tension

My hand hurts…

At school, after a test or a lesson with a lots of writing, my students complain that their hands hurt. Usually, I reply enthusiastically, “That’s a good thing, you’ve worked hard,” or “You are developing writing stamina.” I’m not sure they feel as pleased about this as I do.

Last night, my hands were hurting when I went to bed  (hopefully I am developing some knitting stamina). I was trying to play catch up as the night before, I pulled out my needles and unravelled my project, back to the beginning. That hurt. A week’s worth of knitting unravelled in about five minutes. Even in cycling, the downhills last longer than that.

Earlier in the week, I’d shown my knitting to my daughter, trying to convince her and myself that it was good enough. A few small holes or odd stitches wouldn’t be noticeable when I was wearing it? Would they? But the last straw came when I realised I’d missed two rows from the pattern and it wouldn’t be even. Even then, I urmed and arhhed. People wouldn’t notice would they? I carried on another row…. But no! What was the point in getting to the end and deciding that I wouldn’t wear it after all? The yarn was too lovely and expensive for this. Why would I want a rushed garment that doesn’t look so good? In knitting, which is so slow anyway, what difference does a week make? Particularly if I love and wear the cardigan for years?

So that was that. The cardigan unravelled, I started again. I don’t want to be a week behind (behind what, I don’t know, I have no schedule!) I haven’t regretted the decision. Version 2 is definitely better than version 1 as I get better control of the tension and stitches of continental knitting. The edges are much neater and the stitches are more even. Not perfect  but I don’t think I can do better yet. The knitting has also been faster this time round.

Catching up. The only holes are buttonholes :-)
Catching up. The only holes are buttonholes 🙂