Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Trailer: Knitting Peace

You may have seen the spectacularly beautiful trailer for Knitting Peace going round on social media this month. It's stunning and I wanted to share it with you in case you haven't seen it yet. The trailer is already two years old already!

Get more information on Cirkus Cirk├Âr's website (in Spanish, I think).

Thursday, 23 July 2015

HiyaHiya Or: My Quest For the Perfect Fixed Circular Needles

As you will have read in my last blog post, I did not have much luck with my search for the right fixed circulars for sock knitting. While I love Addi's flexible cable, everything else was simply wrong and knitting with the circulars was more like hard work than fun. So when it came to buying some 2.25 mm circs shortly after, I was wary. I couldn't find my favourite brand in that size so I decided to look for HiyaHiya of whom I had only heard good things. Mind you, that hadn't helped me with my Addi purchase, but I was going to risk it anyway.

I am glad I did: I love my HiyaHiya! The cable is flexible, though Addi's is slightly softer, and the needles themselves are nice and slick. I'm enjoying knitting with these and couldn't resist casting on a pair of socks even though I have no idea what design I want yet. I also like that these cables are blue, which makes a nice change from transparent or KnitPro purple.

The join between cable and needles is perfect and stitches glide across it very easily. No snagging, no resistance and no problems. The needles are sharp and therefore great for socks and lace. I will be knitting some delicate cables, I think, and am sure the needles will master them very well.

I thoroughly recommend these needles, so if you want to give a different brand a try, you'll be fine with HiyaHiya. I hope to buy some more of their needles to expand my collection in the future.

Have you got any HiyaHiya needles? What's your opinion on them? Are there any other brands you think I should try next?

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Addi Fixed Circulars: Do They Live Up To the Hype?

You can find these stitch markers at www.absoknittinglutely.com

In one word: no. Sadly, they did not convince me. I had high hopes for them since I had only heard good things about Addi. Of course, they have a range of needles and I have only tried their 2 mm fixed circulars that I bought specifically for sock knitting. The thing about sock knitting with circulars is that the join between the cable and needles needs to be really smooth because you will have to move the stitches back and forth as you work.

While the cables are wonderfully soft and I really love them, the joins spoil all the fun. It does not look like a terribly bad join, but you can certainly feel it. It is very difficult to move stitches across it because it keeps snagging the yarn. That takes away all the pleasure in knitting. I was also less than impressed with the feel of the aluminium needles. The yarn does not glide over them as easily and it feels as though the stitches are being held back all the time. It's like driving with the handbrake on.

Once again, KnitPro Nova remain at the top of my list of favourite needles for ease of knitting, I'm afraid. Keep in mind that my opinion on these Addi circulars is only based on this particular size and there may not be any problem with the join in larger sizes, especially if you are knitting something other than socks. 

I'm curious to hear about your experience with Addi. Which of their needles do you like best, if any?

Monday, 13 July 2015

Tour de Fleece 2015: Slowest Progress Ever

Last year saw me join the Tour de Fleece for the first time and I spun an amazing amount of yarn in those two weeks. But things were different then: I was working from home and could take as much time out of my day to spin as I wanted. This year things are very different: I just started a full-time job which leaves little time for things like knitting and spinning. I notice this especially in the number of WIPs I have cast on that doesn't seem to diminish - in fact, it's growing!

So this time I have not joined a team and only spin when I really have the time. I dusted and oiled my spinning wheel, found 200g of wonderful Falkland dyed by MandaCrafts, and decided to try and finish it during the Tour. Now I am not at all sure I will make it because one week in, I only managed 50g. That's just sad.

Yet, it is a beautiful 50g and I love the colours. I haven't decided if I want to keep the colour progression intact as I usually do or if I want to ply the yarn in such a way that it looks like barber-pole. 

How are you getting on, fellow spinners? 

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Sock Knitting: It's Easier Than You Think

If I could only knit one thing for the rest of my life, it would be socks. I know many knitters think they must be terribly difficult to make and some never try them at all, which is a shame. In fact, if you break them down into sections, you will see that there is very little, if anything, to be afraid of.

I taught myself to knit in 2007 and the first thing I knitted using a pattern was a pair of dragonfly socks that I made in horrible acrylic yarn. I loved those socks even though the heels were wonky. Heels really are the only tricky bit in sock knitting and you get past that sections fairly quickly, so most of sock knitting is very relaxing.

Breaking it down

As I said, breaking a sock down into sections is helpful and makes it less daunting. Knitting Daily has a great photo of what these are. Starting from the top:

1. Cuff
2. Leg
3. Heel flap
4. Heel turn
5. Gusset
6. Instep
7. Sole (knitted at the same time as the instep)
8. Toe

This is the order in which I knit all of my socks now because I really like top down socks. They make the heel easier to knit, in my opinion.

Cuff and leg: knit and purl

As you can see in the picture, the cuff is simple ribbing and the leg is knitted in stocking stitch so all you need to know is how to knit and purl at this stage. These two sections can be knitted easily without you needing to pay too much attention, so socks make great knitting in front of TV or at knit club. 

Heel: knit, purl, decrease, wrap and turn

Once the leg is long enough, that's when you need to focus. Heel flaps are knitted on half of the stitches while leaving the rest for the moment. The trickiest bit is when you need to turn the heel which requires you to decrease stitches and perform a wrap and turn (easier than it sounds, I promise). This is the part I still look up at times just to make sure I get it right.

Gusset: knit and decrease

When you go on to knit the gusset, you still need to focus (and battle with your double pointed needles), but the hardest part is behind you. This is the part where you have a whole lot of stitches on your needles and will have to decrease them in regular intervals. It's easy, but requires some concentration so you do the decreases on the right rows.

Instep and sole: knit

Once that is over, you have a stretch of plain stocking stitch before you until you decrease for the toes. There are no surprises and no challenges, so you can simply relax and be proud of your achievement in tackling that heel.

Toe: decrease and graft

Because the toes are the final thing you will knit, cuff-down socks are a great opportunity to learn grafting with the Kitchener stitch. It is my favourite way to close up socks because it leaves no seam at all and there are many projects you can use it for. If this stitch seems too daunting, there are simpler ways to bind off, though.

The reward

And that's it! Not too bad, don't you think? What I love about socks is that they are a mix of simple and challenging sections and that you can make the patterning as complex as you want it to be by adding stitch patterns you like. The first pattern I ever designed was for my second ever pair of socks, making the leg entirely out of lace. If all else fails, there is always plain stocking stitch. Socks are fairly quick, rewarding knits. You can finish a pair within a week if you knit every day. All your hard work pays off when you put on your spiffy new pair and they actually fit and you know it's because you made them.

Over to you: what do you think about sock knitting? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Knitting & Crochet Inspiration: Cats and Kittens

Lots of knitters and crocheters are cat lovers, too, so it is high time for a selection of cat patterns. Let me know if you have made any of these and share your photos. I'd love to see your cat knits and crochet.

1. I know, I know. It's far too hot in our northern hemisphere for hats, but I could not resist including this Temple Cat hat pattern by Suzanne Frary. The pattern is subtle in this grey and blue colour combination and this hat would work great for knitters who love cats, but don't want cartoonish character in their knitting. If you haven't tried colourwork before, now may be a good time to give it a go.

2. And who can resist this kitty's big eyes? Kate E Hancock's Amigurumi Cat crochet pattern is a very cute addition for all of you who like making toys. As this is crochet, it should be fairly quick to make. Remember that if you have very small children, it is best to embroider the eyes instead of using safety eyes or similar.

3. If the first kitten is not to your liking or seems too complicated, why not try Mari-Liis Lille's Small Cat crochet pattern instead? It is a simpler design and very kawaii. I especially like the little skirt and bow detail. This pattern is great for a little child's toy (minus the bow).

4. Is your cat very patient? Then maybe it will let you put this mane on her without plotting revenge on its human. I have seen this cat's mane pattern in several places and even though I am not a fan of dressing up your pets, there's something very cool about this look. If you try it, please let me know what your cat thought about it! 

Have you got any other cat patterns for crochet or knitting? Feel free to share in the comments.