Monday, 29 September 2014

Oma's Christmas Bed Socks

This year, my grandmother put in her Christmas wish early. In June she told me she would like a pair of warm bed socks because she always has cold feet at night. So I got to work right away - and then got distracted by knitting for The Big Knit instead. 

Once I reached my goal, I returned to my grandmother's socks with all sorts of fancy ideas for elaborate patterns. As you can see, I abandoned those ideas - and some already knitted frilly edges - in favour of a simple pair of socks with ribbing. I figured these would be the warmest and they wouldn't come off that easily in her sleep. 

I used a mystery yarn that I previously used for a shawl for my grandmother last Christmas too. It is a DK weight or perhaps slightly heavier. Because of this, it was a really quick knit. My grandmother has quite small feet and I hope the socks fit and aren't too floppy. It's still ages to go till Christmas, but now that these are done, I can work on other Christmas knits. I won't be able to post about all of them here since some of the recipients are also readers of this blog. Once the holidays are out of the way, I am sure I will be able to post pictures.

Have you started your Christmas knitting yet? What are you planning to make? Or have you decided not to give any handmade gifts at all this year?

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Big Knit 2014 - Goal Achieved

Are you knitting yet? I have been busy! The deadline for The Big Knit has been pushed back to November and I have just finished knitting and crocheting my lot. My goal was to make 100 of these tiny hats and my final total is 105 because, obviously, I can't count. I only used leftover yarn I already had, both 4-ply and DK. Towards the end I discovered I had bits of cotton yarn in my stash as well, so I crocheted a few hats with it too. Crocheting them is so much faster, I might used that technique more often next year.
Making so many hats does get a little boring at around 70, which is why I slowed down a bit and went a few days without any knitting or crocheting whatsoever. Not good, but it was necessary. I found myself wanting to get on with my Christmas knitting, which I had had to put on hold till the end of the Big Knit. Luckily, though, these hats are quick knits and a pefect accompaniment for TV nights, radio and waiting rooms. They got me through a 2-hour wait in hospital last month, so that's something.
This year, I had particular issues with pompoms and quickly gave up on them. I should really invest in a small pompom maker since I am sure I will be knitting these hats again in the future, and they just look better with little pompoms on top, don't you think? In the end, following my discovery of the cotton yarns, I learned to crochet little hearts that I attached to the top of some hats. I really love how they turned out and enjoyed making these hearts. You can find the free pattern here.
This year some of my hats have intarsia, fairisle, stripes, textured, and some are simply plain. My favourites are the strawberry hat as well as the intarsia and fairisle ones because they just look the most interesting and were fun to knit. To my surprise I really love the crochet hats as as well, which is all down to the little heart tags. Normally I dislike the look of crochet.
I didn't use any particular pattern for the crochet hats and just winged it. I experimented with double and triple crochet, which was fun and fast. As for the knitted hats, at first I knitted them in the round to avoid sewing, but in the end I changed to knitting a flat piece and sewing it up instead. It doesn't take long at all despite the extra step and you are only using two DPNs instead of four or five. Always a bonus!
So here they are, all boxed up and ready to go to my local Age UK branch. How are you knitting your hats? Are you using patterns or making yours up as you go along? Tell me what you're doing.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Bristol Wool Fair 2014

(All photos taken by Mark)

You may have heard of the first Bristol Wool Fair that took place early in September. When I first heard about it, I was very excited because we do need another good wool fair over here in the Southwest. I like going to such events and don't have the chance to do so very often. I don't think I have particularly high expectations of wool fairs, but I do expect good organisation from start to finish. In this repsect, the Bristol Wool Fair was a mixed bag.
My own experience with this particular fair before the event even took place was anything but good. I like to have as much detailed information as possible so I know what to expect and how to get there. After going through their website, social media, and Ravelry group, I was unsure whether to go or not because there was hardly any interaction and too little information - some of it conflicting, some of it wrong. Questions were either answered superficially or not at all and the answers that were given made it seem like the event was not what many had expected it to be. Reactions to constructive criticism was met with hostility by some supporters so that it put off a lot of people, including me.

In the end, I didn't need to make a decision at all because I was ill that weekend and had to stay home. However, Mark and his mother went as planned and supplied me with these photos and feedback about the event. I have to point out that Mark isn't into wool fairs at all and this was actually the first time he went to one. His mother has been to many such events and enjoys them, including her visit to Bristol.
The fair took place on the Clifton Downs, and as you can see from the first photo, there is a lot of space with seemingly very little going on. Mark and his mum were there from 11AM - 3 PM, roughly, and noticed that none of the live music (maybe because the duck herding was late) took place during that time. I am wondering if the knitathon and drop-in lessons took place in the Big Tipi that Saturday, but since I wasn't there myself, I have to rely on what has been relayed to me. Also, there were no owl demos as announced. There were three marquees with vendors, some food stalls (sadly, just one offering savoury food), animal pens and a stage for the sheep shearing demo.
It looks very much like a pleasant event, a nice day out for the family. In my opinion, the entry fee is too high compared to other similar events that have much more to offer. There was a programme with all the details about the fair, vendor list, site maps and 3 or 4 free patterns designed by vendors themselves. The full £1 goes to charity. Visitors were encouraged to bring with them or make on site some knitted, crocheted or felted flowers to decorate a sheep made of willow branches. Sadly, I have no photos of it. However, the picture of the yarn bombed spinning wheel/sheep looks fun as well!
Mark was very interested in the Sheer Sheep Experience. It was a half-hour talk and demo giving information about sheep and shearing. This reminds me a lot of my favourite wool fair and was a nice touch to the event, I think.
The duck herding must have been fun to watch in person as well. I had expected sheep herding, so this was something quite unusual. I would have loved to see that!
It looks like the audience is having a good time watching the spectacle, too, despite the lack of wool involved.
I would like to visit next time, if there is a next time, because some aspects of the fair remind me of my first ever wool fair. I know that a lot of vendors I follow on Twitter had a really good experience throughout the weekend as well. I hope the organisers take to heart the criticism that was voiced elsewhere, particularly since most of the necessary changes, especially to the website and general offering of information, would have been easy to implement on the spot. With more experience in all aspects of event organisation and online presence, I am sure things will get much better. The arguments and accusations that arose amongst potential visitors due to the lack of response became very uncomfortable and put some people off going altogether. I am sure the day itself is great if you know what to expect and what not to expect.

Did you go? What did you get up to? Let me know.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

IST Turkish Spindle

It's here! My tiny Turkish spindle from IST Crafts has arrived after a 45-day wait and I am in love with it. It is made from ancient English bog oak that is over 5000 years old. Excavated from the East Anglian fenland basin, this particular piece of oak has been carbon dated to 3300 BC, according to the website. This long history is what made me choose this wood for my spindle.
Contrary to the photos displayed on the IST website, this spindle is made entirely from the same wood. I love the colour and grain of the oak. Brass weights have been inserted into the arms for a long spin, but the entire spindle only weighs 10 - 14 g. The shaft is 14 cm long and the spindle measures 8 cm across. The craftsmanship is outstanding, which is why this is not my first IST spindle, even though it is my first Turkish design.
The spindle consists of three pieces that you assemble by slotting the arms together and pushing the shaft through.The thicker end at the bottom of the shaft keeps everything in place so there is no need to force everything to fit snugly.
The spindle feels lovely, too. I am very tactile and enjoy the feel of the wood. The shaft is a bit rougher than the smoothly crafted arms, but even those have a texture you can feel under your fingers. Beautiful all round.
The wood is a very dark brown, nearly black. This gives it an attractive warm glow that goes well with the material. (Wood, to me, has always been a warm material as opposed to stone. A little remnant from my sculpture studies.)
All in all, this is a stunningly beautiful spindle and I am very happy I decided on this particular wood. It had been a very difficult decision, but I loved the history of this oak and am glad I have a piece of ancient British history right in my own hands.

Have you got a crafting tool that means a lot to you? Tell me about it in the comments.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Malabrigo Nube Giveaway Winner

Hey, we have a winner! 

I won't let you wait too long, so without further ado, I can announce that the random number generator has picked:


Congratulations! I hope you will spin some great yarn with your Malabrigo fibre.

Please get in touch with me via the contact form on this blog so I can get your prize to you.

Thank you to all who joined in. Better luck next time.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Customer Photo Round-up

I love getting photos from customers who are excited about their new stitch markers. Here are four new pictures from happy knitters and crocheters who bought from Abso-knitting-lutely:
We've got strawberry stitch markers, rainbow-coloured felted crochet markers, a custom order consisting of a mix for crochet, and small macaron stitch markers. Are you tempted?

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Craftsy Class Review: Lace Shawl Design with Miriam Felton

For some time I'd been wanting to join in Miriam Felton's lace shawl design class on Craftsy. In early summer, after reading more about it and hearing from other knitters who took the class, I finally did it. If you are thinking about designing shawl patterns of your own, this may be the class for you, too.

Lace Shawl Design consists of 13 lessons. Three of them are bonus lessons explaining gauge, swatching, yarn overs and cast ons. The main 10 lessons are as follows:

1. Introduction to the class
2. Lace maths
3. Yarn and needles
4. Charting repeats
5. Charting shapes
6. Transitions and flow
7. Embellishing and adapting
8. Starting at the border
9. Bringing it all together
10. Fixing mistakes

While Miriam isn't a natural in front of the camera and appears very self-conscious, which I find very distracting, she is extremely knowledgeable. There is so much information she gives you throughout the class that it is worth sticking around. If it does distract you, the great thing about Craftsy classes is that you can watch them over and over again. The class remains yours forever.

My main interest lay in the maths of triangular shawl construction because I have never been good at it at school and numbers tend to make me nervous. I assumed there would be lots of calculations involved in designing a shawl, and this was the main reason I chose the class. Ultimately, it turned out that there is only a little maths and it is pretty easy. I was surprised and a little disappointed - but also happy because at least there wasn't anything more complicated going on. 

Lesson 3 covers needle and yarn choices, blocking and yardage. If you are an experienced knitter, this is probably nothing new to you, but you never know: you may come across something you hadn't thought about yet.

The lesson about charting repeats is very in-depth and useful. Miriam explains how best to repeat patterns and what you need to keep an eye on (yes, the maths). Lesson 5 then goes on to explain a few different shawl shapes and how designing for them differs from one to the other. This leads to lesson 6 and its focus on how certain stitch patterns flow. This helps you decide which patterns to combine to create just the right look. 

The discussion of pattern flow and transitions then leads to ideas for borders for your shawls and other ways to embellish or alter the design. The focus seemed to be on borders that are knitted on sideways, a method I am not at all fond of. I much prefer a border which transitions from the previous design. It is just less work while knitting, though a knitted-on border may be easier to design as far as the maths is concerned. Still, if you can design the rest of your shawl, adding a transitioning border shouldn't be a problem.

Lesson 8, starting at the border, is all about designing a shawl that is knitted from the bottom up. So you begin with the largest number of stitches and decrease down towards the top of the shawl. This is an interesting way of knitting that I hadn't considered for shawls. The disadvantage is that if you run out of yarn in the process, you can't simply bind off and call it a day whereas knitting top down, you can basically finish whenever you like.

After all that we have learned so far, it is time to bring it all together into a single shawl design with a complete chart before finally knitting your shawl. Before this point you will have knitted a lot of sample swatched already, but this will be the first time you actually get to knit it all and bring all elements of the design together.

The final video before the bonus material is all about how to fix mistakes. This is a valuable lesson. Even though I thought I knew all about the different ways to fix mistakes in lace knitting, I did learn something new. I especially liked how Miriam demonstrated how to undo a pattern repeat over several rows by pinning down the unravelled yarn in a way that you will not lose track of which strand to use when you need it.

The class materials are extremely important and helpful. make sure you go through them - they will be helpful beyond the class as you go on to work on your designs. Personally, epecially the charts you can use for the different triangular shawls are very useful. I have to point out here that the class sets out to focus exclusively on triangular shawls and none of the other shapes. However, to get an understanding of shawl design, this is a very good class that I am glad I took. 

If you have taken any Craftsy classes, let me know. How did you get on and what did you like or dislike about them? Which ones would you recommend?