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Isolation Project #1

As we approach the end of week 4 of the lockdown in the UK I’ve found myself turning more and more to knitting and crochet.

My Ravelry page tells me I’ve got about 10 projects on the go at the moment, but none of them were jumping out to me to get finished, and the bigger projects on the needles are definitely weeks away from being done.

So what to do… cast-on a new project of course!

We’ve been setting up a home office over the last few months (little did we know how handy that would come in!) so I thought a cushion for the chair would be a nice woolly edition. I found a pattern from Rowan Yarns which was designed by Martin Storey and I ordered some super chunky wool from Ammonite Yarns in a dark grey (Filanda Again). With the lockdown there are so many businesses who will be impacted so it’s great to be able to support as many as we can at this time. Ammonite Yarns’ physical bricks and mortar shop is closed, but the online shop is open and parcels are being sent out for as long as the Post Office remains open.

Worked up on 10mm needles I really enjoyed seeing the way the cables and bubbles emerged and I managed to finish the front in just two days!

The back is simple stocking stitch which worked up equally as quickly, but if I’m honest I’m not really a fan of big needles it turns out… I think it’s quicker to knit on smaller needles even if the fabric doesn’t grow as quick!

The longest part of this project was waiting for the cushion inner to arrive so I could sew it up, but I made use of that time to block it to get those crisp edges! To finish the project I used mattress stitch to sew three of the edges together and then close the final seam when the cushion was in place.

I’m really pleased with the finished object and I’m sure there will be a few other finished projects during the lockdown.

What are you working on while you’re safe at home?

Until next time, happy crafting.

All the bubbles…

My last post was in January… where has the time gone?

It’s April 2020 and like most of the World we’re in lockdown. Not only is this the best way to stay safe it also means I’m getting lots of extra hours of crafting done – more on that in future blogs.

Today’s post is all about the bubbles (as the title suggests!) and my first big project completed this year was my Bubble Cowl by Stephen West. Those that have been reading for a while know of my love for a West Knits pattern, so moving on from the Bubble Sweater I made last year I added this straight to my queue when it was released.

The pattern is the same as for the jumper, elongated stitches every seven rows create the bubbles, the only difference was this was the entire cowl rather than just the top of a colour work jumper – a mammoth effort and one I’ll admit to tiring of towards the end.

Mark chose the colours which match a hat and glove set he brought from Burberry a few years ago. The cowl is double thickness as it was knit in the round and then seamed together at the end. I used Cascade 220 100% wool which means it is super snug and warming, perfect for a Nordic winter (and hopefully a cold UK one too!). The other perfect thing about this project for a knitter is it’s just a big tube – so no need to sew I many ends, just tie them securely and leave them! (The inside is almost as pretty as the outside I think!)

I finished this in March just in time for a trip to Kraków with great friends, the last time we really went out before the lockdown.

This was one of my ‘9 for 2020‘ projects so a great start to the year!

Until next time, happy crafting.

New projects, lots of planning!

2020 started with a click of the needles and another new cast-on!

So on top of the six projects I started over the Christmas break I now have another item on the needles – and there are another eight to come too. I spent some time over the last week looking through patterns for projects I’d like to make in 2020 if I was to look back at the end of the year and feel pretty darn chuffed with myself!

I came up with my ‘nine for 2020’ which is going to be no mean feat to tackle… but hey, there’s nothing like a challenge. My 9 projects contain no less than 7 jumpers and cardigans which on their own will be a challenge, plus a cowl and a shawl. Nine projects in 12 months sounds achievable at the start of the year, that’s just over a month per project.

“But what about the projects you cast-on over Christmas I hear you ask?” well they’re still in the background and if you read back over the ‘Christmas cast-on’ blogs you’ll see they’re all smaller projects which are perfect for out and about knitting.

At the end of the day this is a bit of fun, as you know from some of my recent blogs I want 2020 to be no fuss and focused on the knitting. But if I can work up even half of this list I’ll be really happy!

So…. with that in mind I’ve already cast-on one of these and I’ve brought the wool for a 2nd!

The Bubble Cowl (middle left)

Being a sucker for a Stephen West pattern as soon as I saw the new Bubble Cowl I wanted to start it straightaway and fortunately I already had the required wool in my stash – what are the chances!? Mark had picked the wool up for another project which was quickly repurposed – I need to do 59 bubbles and am currently on 14, my plan is to finish this in January so I’m on track!

Marled Mania Sweater (middle bottom)

Another Stephen West pattern and this one is definitely going to happen. I’m so excited about this project it’s been a while in the planning – there will be a separate blog about this one and perhaps even my first vlog, but in the meantime check out the bright colours that I’m going to be using for the body using hand dyed yarn from Carolien who is Colourful Creativity over on Instagram.

What projects have you got in plan for 2020? Let me know!

Until next time, happy crafting.

2019 – my year in review

Where did 2019 go?

One minute I’m knitting in a coffee shop in Manchester and planning a blog, next minute I’m trying to work out if I need to sleep in order to finish some projects to hit my target!

I’m really pleased with my crafting efforts in 2019 despite not hitting both of my self-imposed goals!

2019 objectives:

As well as knitting (or crocheting) every day I’ve set myself three challenges for new projects:

  1. A top down yoke jumper

  2. An “Aran” style jumper

  3. Steeking

1. A top down yoke jumper was a big tick, in fact I did three top down jumpers in 2019 – how good is that!

2. An ‘Aran’ style jumper – well I cast one on and knit the first 2 rows of the cable pattern, realised that it wasn’t easy TV knitting and put it in the hibernation corner. It is still an objective though so returns on the 2020 plan!

3. Steeking. I’m half ticking this goal off… I did a steeking course, and I’ve learnt the basics, I feel confident enough to tackle a full project now – there is steeking on my 2020 plan too!

Finished Object target

I wanted to knit or crochet 31 items in 2019 which was basically my 2018 tally + 10%. I ended the year on 26. I’m not disheartened. There were some turbulent personal times during the year and I didn’t do much crafting, I didn’t have the headspace to knit!

Check out my Ravelry page for a complete listing of all my 2019 #FOs.

But I pushed myself on projects and some of my finished objects are amazing (if I say so myself!) with a particular highlight joining in with a Stephen West KAL and learning how to Brioche!

2020 objectives

So I’ve set my plan for 2020 with three objectives again:

  1. An “Aran” style jumper (it’s already cast-on, I just need to knit it!)
  2. Steeking (a full project – I’ve got a cardigan pattern already in mind!)
  3. Design my own pattern and publish it on Ravelry.

All of these are achievable, there will be a few separate blog posts for the 2nd one as I’m taking a jumper pattern and steeking it into a cardigan – I’m so excited about this it’s one of my January projects! For the 3rd one it’s something I’d like to do to tick off my knitting bucket list, I’ve got some ideas already and I’m doing a ‘designing colour work’ course in February so watch this space!

As for a number? It’s 2020 so would seem remiss of me not to go for a round 20!

What are your plans? Whatever you’re up to, happy crafting!

Christmas cast-on day 6

We made it – day 6, and the final day of my cast-on adventure!

I’ve really enjoyed starting some small projects that have been hanging around in my stash for quite some time, I’m a big fan of knitting ‘out and about’ so these will be perfect for taking to coffee shops (and also perfect for TV knitting!).

No cast-on adventure though would be complete without some crochet so it’s only right and proper that day 6 is a crochet pattern and of course, it has to be something from Toft!

I’m a huge fan of the Edward’s Menagerie collection and have a few already sitting up around the flat. My youngest niece (20 months) loves playing with them and after a visit there’s usually a collection of cuddly critters scattered around the living room.

So today we’re starting to hook up Winston the Aardvark. Winston looks like a studious animal so will have top billing on our work desk at home – I think I’m going to try and find some modelling wire and make him a pair of glasses!

I didn’t get too much crafting time today, but have managed to do his body and head already! The Ed’s kits really are quick to whip up and Winston is being made entirely from my stash of Toft wool so it’s even better that I get to use up some wool I already have!

I don’t think he’ll take long to finish, perhaps he’ll be my first #FO (finished object) of 2020…

And that’s it for now. My cast-ons are done and it’s time to get working on some projects. I’ve got some big knits planned for the next few months and I’m finally making some things for me – more on that in a future blog!

Until next time, happy crafting.

Christmas cast-on day 5

My final knitted cast-on and it’s another pair of mittens using more wool from the Countess!

I’m a visual learner and much prefer to see someone demonstrate a technique if I’ve not done it before. I’m also quite happy getting lost down a YouTube hole watching different videos/podcasts/tutorials. My go-to knitting help on YouTube is the brilliant Very Pink Knits and after seeing a tutorial video for the Knock Knock Convertible Mitts I added it to my queue.

The mittens are very similar to making socks (at least to begin with) and have the option of a cover/pouch that comes over the fingers – my current plan is to do the optional cover but we’ll see when I finish the main part of the mitten…

The yarn for this project was the first Brexshit special colourway from Countess Ablaze and I picked this skein up whilst at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival earlier in the year. It’s a fingering weight yarn on the Lady Persephone base which is made from a Bluefaced Leicester/Nylon mix. This soft and squishy yarn for socks is going to make the perfect pair of mittens!

As directed in the pattern when I wound the skein into a cake I split it into two smaller 50g cakes which will mean I know I won’t run out on the 2nd mitten!

When they’re done I’m going to have a matching mitten and cowl combo (see day two’s blog!), both in Countess yarn and whilst different bases, they have the flash of fluorescent colours which attracted me to the yarn.

I didn’t get much knitting time on this project but I’ve cast-on and knit the cuff, and then started the main body. I’ve got a few more inches to go before starting to think about the thumb shaping.

Tomorrow is a crochet project and my final ‘cast-on’ so until then, Happy Crafting.

Christmas cast-on day 4

After yesterday’s coloured adventure I decided to continue the rainbow theme today with these awesome mittens from Ysolda.

Ysolda describes the idea behind the pattern…

Receiving them might be a welcome acknowledgement of their own identity (do be sensitive about outing someone at a family gathering though!), or perhaps you know someone in a position like healthcare or teaching where wearing them will be a subtle way to signal that everyone is welcome.”

I was lucky to visit the Edinburgh Yarn Festival at the start of the year where I met Ysolda on her stand and the subtle rainbow design on these Joy mittens to show my own identity as a gay man, as well as a public show of support for others meant these were an instant purchase!

But after reading the pattern and realising the mittens include both intarsia and double knitting I will confess to being a little put-off and they sat in my stash until now… I needn’t have worried as just following the pattern one row at a time meant I knew exactly what to do. The pattern is really well written and also has a diagram to help with the double knitting section.

In a first for me there’s a provisional cast-on to start which then becomes a folded brim, I was really chuffed when I got this step completed!

After the brim is finished on straight needles you join in the round and then the double knitting starts in earnest! It was a bit fiddly to get going as I had lots of different ends on the go but after a few rounds I was underway. Again I’m really pleased and the double knitting looks great with the rainbow on the outside and grey on the inside. It’s not perfect but for my first attempt I’m happy with any small design features.

I’ve finished the cuff so now it’s over to some plain stocking stitch and adding the rainbow colours into the pattern whilst also adding in the thumb.

There are no rainbows on my next pattern but there are pops of colour again so until tomorrow, happy crafting.

Christmas cast-on day 3

Today is all about colour.

Mark (my boyfriend, for new readers!) is an enabler of my hobby and regularly encourages me to buy wool… best of all he often sends me links to patterns he’s seen and asks me to make them for him (he’s a keeper!).

Mark is also great when it comes to birthdays and Christmas as he hunts around for wooly gifts and this Christmas he brought me a skein of this awesome wool from Kralalien Colourful Creative. I’d seen the wool mentioned in a YouTube vlog from the lovely Angela and we went to buy the yarn a few weeks ago at one of my LYS, Yarn n Yarns in Penarth.

Check out those colours!

Angela had a pair of socks knit up in the shop using this yarn and the pops of colour against the grey background really jumped out at me. I’ve got a kit for some mittens (tomorrows project!) and this yarn will be the perfect accompaniment for a matching hat.

Whilst in the shop buying the wool Angela recommended a simple hat pattern for me to look at which uses fingering weight yarn which I downloaded and away we go. The Sockhead Slouch Hat pattern by Kelly McClure is a free pattern and has many options to help you customise the fit.

It’s been a productive day where I finished the ribbing and started on the stocking stitch, another pattern which is just rounds of knit stitch but again the perfect portable project for out and about knitting. I’ve taken a bit of inspiration from Carolien’s sock pattern and every time the coloured sections of the yarn come up I’m purling them which is giving me a bit of texture.

I’ve enjoyed today’s project so much I don’t really want to stop and cast-on something new. But the rainbow theme continues tomorrow, although this time it’s a bit more tricky… watch this space!

Until then, happy crafting.

Christmas cast-on day 2

It happened again…

Lovely pattern, gorgeous yarn – not a good match together!

My day 2 cast-on was the Coffee Break cowl by Louise Tilbrook which has a lovely texture effect. The yarn I chose is a Grande Merino DK weight from Countess Ablaze in the BoJo’s Brexshit Bonanza colourway. The blue base is so vibrant and the pops of colour drew my attention when I was buying it.

So I’m on the 2nd round of the pattern and I’m not feeling the vibe. The variegated yarn is muddied through the pattern – I can’t believe it’s happened two days running!

Right – PLAN B!

Stocking stitch! Yes, stocking stitch is the saviour for all yarn in my eyes… I want this yarn to be a cowl and I have a similar colourway that’s lined up later in the week for matching mittens. To add a bit of interest I decided to do an infinity cowl, a simple design that I’ll twist before joining the ends together.

The yarn looks so different in simple stocking stitch than in the patterned version – and I’ve got more solid colour yarn in my stash which means another stash busting project for the New Year as I really want to make the Coffee Break cowl.

I’m really pleased I stopped when I did and whilst I’ve got rounds and rounds of knit stitch to go, I think it’s going to look great when it’s finished.

So onto day 3 and I’m über excited about this cast-on! More tomorrow.

Happy crafting!

Christmas cast-on day 1

Well my Christmas cast-on party has started and it’s with mixed results on day 1!

First up on my needles was planned to be the Mindfulness Cowl by Louise Tilbrook, but a few inches into the pattern and I’ve decided the wool I chose isn’t right for the pattern.

The wool is by the awesome Countess Ablaze, it’s the Space Cadet super bulky which is 90% merino and 10% stellina. The colourway is called ‘Sexy Times’ and it jumped out at me on a trip to the Countess’s studio in January when I was in Manchester to watch the musical Wicked – the perfect colour for the show!

So… the pattern looks like a series of clusters and in the Space Cadet just looked too muddy, you couldn’t see the definition of the stitch due to the changing colours.

I was enjoying the pattern and have some other chunky wool in my stash in a solid colour which will really show off the pattern. So that’s a stash busting project planned for 2020.

Back to this festive project and the more I looked at the wool yesterday the more I decided a really simple pattern structure would show off the great colours – et voila!

I’ve made a good start and have cast-on 43 stitches with a provisional cast-on and I’m working in 2×2 rib. This is still going to be a cowl and when I get to the desired length I’ll graft the stitches together to make it seamless. I’ve already got two cowls in this wool and it’s gloriously squishy and warm to wear!

Looking at the two projects side by side I’m really happy that I stopped when I did as I think the rib shows off the Countess’s awesome dyeing!

Hope you’re all managing to get some crafting done in this weird bit between Christmas and New Year. Next up on my cast-on journey is the Coffee Break cowl!