Tuesday, 27 October 2015

My First Spin City UK Spindle

If you are a spinner in the UK, you may have heard of Spin City UK's resin spindles and fibre batts. I never tried them until now and was keen to give them a go. I bought my first spindles some years ago at a wool fair and have since accumulated a few more, including a tiny Turkish spindle and a Russian. I love them all and don't use them nearly enough now that I also have a spinning wheel. Still, this did not stop me from taking part in Plutonium Muffins' giveaway in August - I was just too tempted by the pretty flowers encased in resin.

It really is a pretty whorl and I love looking at it. Sadly, though, that is where it ends. It's not as professionally made a spindle as most others I have. Like a lot of beginner spindles, it is a basic construction consisting of a simple dowel rod, hook and, in this case, a handmade resin whorl. I was looking forward to spinning up the generous sample of John Arbon fibre I received from Plutonium Muffins along with the spindle and Spin City batt. As you can see, I did spin it and there may be photos of it soon. The fibre was fantastic to use and the colours are amazing. The red is not just a single shade, which makes it a very vivid yarn that I wish I had more of. I do love that colour a lot.

Obviously, this is not a spindle made by a woodturner and it is a very basic construction. That alone does not put me off a spindle, but there is an issue with balance here that makes spinning anything nearly impossible. The balance is off and the spindle wobbles excessively no matter what I do, which makes for anything but a smooth spinning experience. I am not sure if shortening the dowel might improve matters, but I may have to try that. As it is, I can't use the spindle so I might as well. Alternatively, I suppose using it as a bottom whorl spindle should work better. I have never had this problem with a spindle before, so I am very disappointed and a bit sad about it.

If you can help me troubleshoot and have any suggestions for improvement, please let me know! Also, if you use spindles from Spin City UK, how are you getting on?

Thursday, 22 October 2015

ChiaoGoo Interchangeable Knitting Needles

There are a few knitting needle brands that I have yet to try and I suppose for most knitters the search for the perfect needles never ends. My last purchase was a pair of fixed circulars from HiyaHiya which I am very happy with and, buoyed by that experience, I decided to make my next purchase a ChiaoGoo one.

I think you will agree that you can never have enough knitting needles. I have realised that even though I have most sizes, I could use more of the same in case I want to knit more things at the same time that do require the same size needles. So now I am gradually expanding my collection and the needles I want to show you today are ChiaoGoo Twist interchangeables. (As you can see above, I also bought their Red Lace fixed circulars, but I won't be writing a separate post about them since most of what I have to say about the interchangeables goes for the fixed circs, too.)

These needles look very slick and sturdy and I like that the cable is a flexible nylon-covered wire cable. I was unconvinced at first, but after trying them I realised the wire makes the cables sturdier and they are less likely to kink. Like Knit Pro interchangeables, ChiaoGoo interchangeables have tips that are screwed into the ends of the cables. You get a T-pin, the kind we use for blocking, to fasten them if necessary. ChiaoGoo sell the fact that the holes in the ends of the cables are meant to be used for lifelines. Mind you, Knit Pro has these holes, too, but they are primarily mentioned in connection with fastening the needle tips. ChiaoGoo cleverly recognised the use for lifelines, though I think the fact that it is sold to us as something new and unique is a bit silly.

As an aside, lifelines are really useful: they mark rows so that if you make a mistake on a later row, you can simply rip back to that point if needed, without losing your stitches along the way. You can use another bit of yarn for this or dental floss or any other kind of string. Check out this tutorial for details:

Right after I bought these needles, I cast on my Blubberblasen hat and try them out. ChiaoGoo needles knit really very well and I am absolutely happy with them. I can't decide whether I prefer HiyaHiya or ChiaoGoo, to be honest. I prefer the slick tips of HiyaHiya, but ChiaGoo cables are better. That said, I have no complaints about the ChiaoGoo tips so far, so all is well. In fact,  I am sure I will buy some more in the future.

The needle tips are pointy, though not quite as pointy as Knit Pro Nova. But again, I do not have any complaints and knitting with ChiaoGoo Twist has been great so far. They are a very good addition to my collection and I definitely recommend them. If you can get your hands on them, give them a go! I have only heard good things about them and, based on my experience with them, agree that they are fantastic to knit with.

Have you got ChiaoGoo needles yourself? Let me know how you like them.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Blubberblasen: A Hat With(out) a Pattern

This has probably been the longest knitting I have ever done for just one hat. Honestly. Whereas it normally takes me just 2-3 days to knit one, my Blubberblasen hat took pretty much a whole month to finish. 

In fact, the whole enterprise was fraught with difficulties right from the start. The pattern is available as a PDF that I wasn't able to download. So I looked up the bubble stitch pattern elsewhere and improvised, thinking that I would check the pattern again later when decreasing for the crown.

The bubble stitch slows you down quite a bit because you have to drop stitches and pick them up again at regular intervals. That's also why I didn't knit every day and only made a few rows' progress when I did sit down to work on my hat.

When I was ready to start decreasing stitches, I tried downloading the pattern again, but no luck. This wasn't going to be easy: How do you do decreases without ruining the stitch pattern? All I could do was have a close look at other people's hats to see what they had done and I just gave it a go. I am very happy with my decreases now. They look neat and haven't broken up the stitch pattern too much.
It could have been worse! I like my new hat even though it is not as wide in the body as I would like. The pattern looks good and the hat is warm enough for our chilly autumn days right now.

Wollmeise "Pure" 100% Merino Superwash
2 mm circular needles

Blubberblasen by Andrea Ludwig

Saturday, 10 October 2015

A First For Me

Even if you have been knitting for a while, there are still a lot of firsts awaiting you on your woolly journey. Maybe it's your first lace project or your first jumper. Maybe it is the first time you tackle Fair Isle or your very first own design.

Last month I tackled a first and hosted a sock knitting KAL (knitalong) over on Twitter, as you will have read here. I really enjoyed it and our little group did manage to knit at least one complete sock by the end of the four weeks it took to send out the pattern in instalments. The participants have told me they enjoyed their KAL and especially those who were afraid of sock knitting were very glad to have taken the plunge. I look forward to seeing them knit more socks now that they have realised that they are not as difficult as they seem. I was happy to hear that the KAL introduced some new techniques, too. You can see some of the finished socks above.

This KAL was a pleasant experience for me as well, which surprised me. I expected many more frantic questions, but the knitters seemed to have little trouble with my pattern. Writing one that is clear enough for beginning sock knitters was a challenge because it is hard to tell what a newbie may be unfamiliar with. It is good to see that I appear to have got it right with my pattern.

As soon as the KAL finished, knitters were eager for a new one already. Everyone seems to be keen to do a shawl KAL next so after a break I will give it some thought and find out what exactly people are expecting from such a knitalong. If you want to stay up-to-date on any KAL news or just talk to fellow-knitters, stop by #knittinghour on Thursdays from 7:30 - 8:30 PM (UK time). We chat about all things knitting and lots of other things, too. Brownie points for anyone who brings virtual cake or cocktails! Mine's a Caipirinha, by the way.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Tag, You're It!

And now for something a little different. My fellow craft blogger and writer Icy tagged me as part of the Blogger Interview Tag, asking four questions about what we do in this little part of the internet.

So let's get started!

How did you get into blogging?

Shortly after I taught myself to knit, I wanted to have a place to record my projects. I thought it would be nice to read back and see what I made since learning the most basic stitches. Back then I wasn't reading blogs and wasn't interested in whether anyone was reading mine. My blog was simply for me. If anyone else read it, that was a bonus. 

Nowadays I still see it the same way, but I am aware that I have readers and I see the blog partly as an extension of my business, too, although I don't want it to turn into a blog set to sell you things. I just want it to be an interesting read about knitting.

What advice would you give to bloggers starting out?

It helps to know what you want from a blog. Do you just want a place to write down your thoughts? Are you looking to connect with people and have discussions? Are you going to focus on a particular topic? Do you want to use your blog to drive sales for your business? Making that decision will help you fill your blog with the right content and find the best tone.

Be aware that nowadays people tend not to leave comments as much as they used to. Instead, they are more active on social media so make it possible for your readers to reach you there, too. Add social media widgets to your blog and don't get disheartened by few people commenting directly on your blog.

What would be your dream campaign?

Since my blog is primarily a private blog rather than a business one, this doesn't really apply to me. I'm happy to keep things small and maybe review products for knitters and spinners once in a while if businesses are interested, but this is very rare, which is a good thing. By the way, very few of my reviews are about things sent to me by businesses and I mention it in the relevant blog posts.

Do you have a plan for your blog?

At this stage I want to keep the blog as it is. I am very happy with it and intend to keep up the regular posts. (That said, this post is later than expected due to illness - sorry about that.) What I post about next depends on what I will be making! 

Let's keep the tag going! I tag: