Tag Archives: knitting

All of the knitting.

home-grown socks

It is six years since I knitted my first pair of socks.

Holy crap.

Literally holy crap, I need to do some darning. But I don’t really know how to do that so I’ve spent the past couple of months verrryyy slllooowwwly addressing the issue and restocking my hand-knit sock drawer.

I got this skein of MadTosh Sock as a reward for joining Team MURDERPIG in LSGRRG2014. Knitting some socks with it was my ‘reward’ for finishing my MURDERPIGS cardigan.

MadTosh stash photo

I picked a random lace & cable pattern, tweaked it a bit because my stitch dictionary is a bit suspect and doesn’t properly mirror decreases (tsk).

half-knit socks on the beach

I’ve been experimenting with cuff techniques – for this one I increased in some proportion or other before doing my usual tubular cast-off. It was… ok. A bit loose, even, so if I do it again I will do fewer increases.

hand-knit socks in a pleasing shade of lilac

I also made a pair with this rather lovely skein of merino from Mollycoddle Yarns. The colours are totally gorgeous and it’s soft and merino-y and delicious.

MollycoddleYarns stash photo

I thought it deserved more than a plain stockinette because that would be boring, right? So I started a sort of random-ish offset slipstitch pattern.

knitted socks, half-knitted

Sadly this was both boring and demanded constant attention because counting rows when slipped stitches are involved is annoying, slipped stitches pull the rows together so it takes even longer to get anywhere, and I misplaced my second set of slipped stitches so I had to do them every three rows instead of every four. This bothered me but I went along with the mistake for long enough to make it irreversible. As I have a nasty habit of doing.

knitted socks, the colour of tears and sadness

They are warm and cosy and a very pretty colour but I still feel slightly irritable whenever I look at them. Ha! It’s for the best that they’re hidden away under my boots.

NB I will probably forgive them. I forgive anything that keeps my toes warm. On every cold day I am thankful for discovering the joy of knitting socks. I look out of the window at a frosty world and I smile because YAY HAND-KNIT SOCK DAY, probably to go with YAY HAND-KNIT CARDIGAN DAY and YAY HAND-KNIT GLOVE DAY. It’s actually gotten to the point that I am buying non-knit scarves because another bit of knitwear would be Too Much.

What a problem to have, eh, too much knitwear to wear all at once? 😀

black death - a knitted shawl

Black Death

Naming a knitted shawl after a devastating plague? These are the depths to which inspiration takes us. You should read the designer’s story, but not until you’ve finished reading this post. 😉

When I moved to Brighton, I was very excited to find that there was a yarn shop within walking distance. It took me a month or so to get down there, what with the move, the job-hunting, and the usual lazy. I finally managed to trot down there on a fine Tuesday, and was greeted by a large sign in the window saying CLOSING DOWN.

Well, shit.

I consoled myself by buying a couple of skeins of Noro Yuzen, a blend of wool, silk, and mohair, in a sort of pleasingly grungy mix of pink, gold, and teal.

cake of Noro
om nom cake

I knew almost immediately what I wanted to do with it; I wanted a triangular scarfy-shawly thing, relatively plain in the body, but with lacy pointy edges. I left it to brew in my stash until such a time as I could be bothered to do the maths.

casting on for black death, from a lovely cake of Noro
casting on for black death

But then Black Death broke out. I mean, it appeared as part of a make-along in one of my groups. I immediately drew the connection between the pattern and the skeins of Noro in my stash; I also made the pleasing mental connection between Black Death, the plague that wiped out 20% of the world’s population in the 14th century, and Norovirus, devastator of cruises in the 21st century.

Noro – the yarn – is also the devastator of knitters. It’s self-striping, with long stretches of colour that blend smoothly into the next. Except for when they don’t.

knot in a skein of Noro
My first Noro knot.

I was forewarned. I had seen many a CAPSLOCK wail of frustration from a knitter finding a knot in the middle of their skein, and tales of complicated jigsaw puzzles with multiple skeins, trying to get the colours to match and preserve the stripe pattern.

Limited as I was to the two skeins, I didn’t bother with this. There were knots in both skeins, but one of them meant the colour transitions skipped the colour I liked least, so I figured I wasn’t in so bad a situation.

knitting on the beach
black death on the beach. no not like that.

I spent some quality time knitting on the beach with Black Death. I finally made another mental connection; a triangular piece of fabric attached to a sturdy but flexible wire doesn’t half catch the wind. Fortunately, knitting does not resemble food, so I was at least safe from the gulls while I fought against the wind.

black death, knitted shawl, unblocked
Black Death, unblocked

I did have some struggles with the pattern, mainly because I was a bit blasé and didn’t swatch or really pay attention to anything as I was knitting. As the silk content in Yuzen is so high (34%?), it’s not very flexible. This meant I was knitting very loosely (as I’d killed my hands on teeny needles for murderpigs), so my gauge was huge and I my skeins began to look very stringy before I was anywhere near finished.

I mention a lot how I am stupid and stubborn when I don’t want to think about things. I knew I didn’t have enough for the border, but I went ahead and knitted the whole main section, and then acted surprised when the skein ran out half-way through the border. Then I half-heartedly thought about it, ripped back, and knitted it again. This time I ran out of yarn half-way through the bind-off. I think I had another false finish due to a yarn-hungry bind-off before I finally managed to get the damn thing off the needles.

flipping the bird at a blocking shawl
“Block aggressively”

The instructions said “block aggressively” so I hurled a few expletives for good measure. First outing for the blocking wires; verdict is that they are GREAT. I’ve got some really nice sharp corners on the… uh… corners, and being somewhat violent with the blocking is much kinder on the freshly knitted object as the stress is spread through the wire instead of yanking on a few stitches.

black death - a knitted shawl
black death shawl

And so, the finished object. It’s a very simple pattern, which is exactly what you need for a self-striping or variegated yarn. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the Noro, and it will look terribly with my tweedy winter coat, but I can see it working really well in autumn when we’re still having office air-conditioning battles and I need something, anything, to preserve some warmth.

Black Death
Pattern: Black Death, by Hoxton Handmade
Yarn: Noro Yuzen
Black Death project page on Ravelry

MURDERPIGS: a knitted cardigan


When I took up knitting, I never imagined I’d end up making a cardigan inspired by unorthodox methods of corpse disposal. Then MURDERPIGS happened.

MURDERPIGS was my entry for the 2014 LSG Raveldacted Renegade Games, under the banner of Team Murderpig. Team Murderpig was inspired by the tale of a spurned lover posting his ex-partner’s yarn stash on Craigslist. We couldn’t believe that a knitter would voluntarily part with her stash, and came up with various theories about her disappearance, not least of which was corpse disposal by murderpigs.

(Note: A member of LSG actually claimed this stash, and was not murdered and disposed of by pigs. This is only one datapoint and does not necessarily disprove the murderpig theory.)

Thus Team Murderpig was started, and served as more of an archive of pig and boar gifs than a home for a knitting team. Such is the internet. But LSG knitalong rules are thus: do what you like, take as long as you like, just post about it before the demise of society and someone’ll be along to mash ‘love’ eventually. So we all had plenty of time.

Tweasel, my very own murderpig, acting as mascot, Ravatar, and inspiration for this cardigan.

The idea popped into my head fully formed: stranded colourwork pigs & crossbones, v-necked, steeked front because I was feeling bullish after Little Birds, sleeve setting borrowed from Little Birds. It was one of those moments of beautiful sparkly inspiration when you see the thing in your mind and are just YES THIS IS THE THING I WILL MAKE AND THIS IS HOW TO DO IT AND IT WILL BE PERFECT.

unravelled sleeve

Knitting it wasn’t quite such a smooth process. It was fine for a while, the body took no time at all, but then I moved onto the sleeves. I don’t know if I got the numbers wrong, if I picked up the wrong needle, or if some atmospheric change affected my tension, but I ended up with two sleeves that were Very Wrong. It took me some time to come to terms with the reality of ripping them back, and then even longer to get round to redoing the maths and trying again.

By the time I got back to it, recalculated the sleeves, and got myself back to where I was before The Realisation, I had lost my original notes. I can only guess what I was thinking about at the start of the V-neck shaping. I don’t think the slight curve where the two sides join is intentional, but it works and I like it so I’m not going to argue. Past-me strikes again.

murderpigs on the flat

I didn’t bother to reinforce my steek before cutting it. Live dangerously. It was fine; the Shetland yarn is super-sticky and didn’t give me any trouble at all. The only minor difficulty I got into was that it was harder to trim the steek back before finishing it. I did crochet reinforcements on the last steek, which made it easier to hold on to and to see where to trim. Black yarn possibly not the smartest choice, there.

I didn’t think carefully enough about my pattern positioning, so I have a stray murderpig butt disappearing off the left front, though the piggies do (completely accidentally) line up between body and sleeves. Well, on the front, anyway. And if I’d thought about it and not been all OMGPIGGEH!!!1! I wouldn’t have gone for the black seam stitch.

And finally,


recalculated sleeve

Pattern: my own
Yarn: Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift
MURDERPIGS project page on Ravelry

Finished Object: Capucine

Still not quite ready to get back to MURDERPIGS, but basking in the warm glow of a completed paulie, I was in need of a new project.

Instead of breaking into a new unit of stash, I decided to do a bit of stash-busting and clear out some leftover skeins from older projects. Enter Capucine, a hat pattern that had been in my Ravelry favourites for years, actually, without finding the right yarn to make it. In a moment of clarity, I realised that leftover aran alpaca/wool blend from my open cardigan and DK wool from lace and cables would make a nice variegated bulky-weight yarn and free up a bit of space in the stash box.

capucine in progress

I have trouble with hats. I have a weirdly-shaped head, of prodigious size, and too much hair. It’s not only hard to find hats that fit, but damn near impossible to find ones that stay on through such dangerous manoeuvres as looking to one side or going out in a breeze. You’d think I’d have more luck making them but no; I trust patterns, I fail at maths, and I end up with a novelty miniature bonnet that pings three feet in the air if I raise my eyebrows.

But, I’m not one to let experience teach me any lessons, so it came time to make another dumb hat. 😀

I did my preparatory maths and I did at least four rows of ‘swatch’. I went up a size in needles, I kept my tension nice and loose, and it actually came out *almost* the right size, pre-blocking.

capucine hat, pre-blocking

I waited until the next day to start the tassels because tassels require concentration and steady hands, and my hands were killing me after such a knitting binge. I did briefly consider yarn plaits and a pompom but in the end, tassels won out for the longer silhouette. Or something. This is also where using two yarns really came good, because the tassels would have required more work if I’d started with a bulky yarn.

capucine, complete with tassels

A distinctly unseasonal project… that got even worse. 😀

Despite my stash-busting intentions, I ended up with half a ball of each yarn still left over. “Well,” I said to myself, “I don’t really want to put this back, and perhaps there’s enough to scrape some mittens?”


Well, as it turns out, there wasn’t, but I worked that out pretty quickly. I figured I could at least get some fingers (not-fingers?), maybe some thumbs, and then worry about the cuffs later. I did have to go on a panic-search for some more of the grey alpaca, but luckily, past-me had stored an extra 5m in a bag in a bag in the bottom of a box I don’t even use for stash. I would question past-me’s logic but I did find it, so it can’t have been that crazy. Right?

Capucine – project page on Ravelry

paulie cardigan - finished

Finished Object: Paulie cardigan

What to do while one cardigan project is sitting in the corner, refusing to behave?

Easy. Cast on another one. 😀

So. Misbehaving murderpigs were in the naughty corner, and I needed something to help me back on the horse. In last week’s post I believe I termed it a knitting palate cleanser. No nonsense, pick a pattern, follow the instructions, profit.

I needed a change of texture from the scrubby Shetland yarn, so I dug out some lovely soft Drops baby alpaca/silk blend, and a pattern I’d had my eye on for a while. I was so keen to follow the instructions and do as I was told that I even swatched.

gauge swatch for Drops baby alpaca/silk

The pattern is Paulie, by Isabell Kramer. It crossed my radar a little while ago, and I thought it would be perfect for the alpaca/silk which I already had in stash from a moment of weakness faced with an online store sale. I got myself a couple of balls of contrast colour (not on sale, sadly) and it officially went into my queue.

Paulie is a top-down, seamless raglan cardigan, with garter stitch yoke and a simple stripe pattern.

crumpled paulie wip

The pattern’s easy to follow and it knits up fast for a 4-ply. The body came together really quickly, then I had to steel myself for sleeves. Luckily, as it was top-down, they would get faster as I went along.

sleeveless paulie

Paulie was my faithful companion on the beach for lunch and evening drinks with friends and colleagues. It provided some entertainment for the local wildlife too.

seagull staring at my knitting

Of course, the disadvantage of stripes is weaving in all the ends. I was a bit daft – if I’d been thinking straight, I’d have done as I did for my Little Birds cardigan and woven in the ends as I was going along. But I didn’t. I spent a night in the pub – after the garter button band (hate) and i-cord bind-off (haaate), with this carnage:

weaving in ends

But, I was on the home straight, and I had some super-cute buttons with which to finish Paulie, so I forged on.

finished paulie


cat buttons

Like I said, I had forgotten that Etsy was a thing. Now I have an app and oh dear.

True to form, despite wanting to follow a pattern blindly to the end, I did not end up following the instructions to the letter. I increased the number of sleeve decreases, and replaced the garter waist and wristbands with 1×1 rib. Tiny wrists ruin patterns. The yarn is possibly a little bit too drape-y for it – it doesn’t look great in garter stitch – but it’s so lovely and soft I forgive it everything.

Now it’s done, I feel revitalised and ready to face murderpigs again.



Paulie – project page on Ravelry

Checking in

Six months into the year. Half way through. Have I been making more? Do I care less?


If nothing else, I’m still happy with my lunchroom.

At the beginning of the year, I set myself some goals. Run more, read more, make more. The goals were modest, achievable, and I started really well.

Running went marvellously. I started a 10k training plan and blasted through 70% of my 240 mile goal by about April. So I can afford the current hiatus due to a stunning combination of wonky hip, work stress, and It’s Far Too Hot To Go For A Run Let’s Just Drink Beer At Home syndrome. Also, douchebags on the prom who resent allowing runners any space. Nice weather brings out the worst in people.

Reading also has been proceeding at a good pace. I’m six books ahead of schedule, and my e-book queue is down to 77 books. cough. I’ve only ditched three books unfinished due to awfulness, and actually genuinely enjoyed a few extremely random choices from Before I Learned Not To Trust Amazon Reviews. I keep meaning to take a book and a couple of beers down to the beach and just hang out on my own but it’s like eight minutes away and I am a terrible lazy lump. Slumping on the futon and open a window is almost the same thing, right?

The only thing I feel slightly shamefaced about is the making. I stormed in with Galaxy and Little Birds, but then I got a mental block on the next project, MURDERPIGS.

(There is a story behind MURDERPIGS. It is long and complicated, and I will tell you one day. For now, you only need to know that it is a cardigan.)

Anyway, I made a slight miscalculation with gauge and ended up with sleeves wide enough to make off-colour jokes relating to wizards. Worse, I ended up with one sleeve wide enough etc etc and then made another one. Sigh. So it got screwed up and stuffed in the corner for a couple of months while I spent my time very industriously replaying Skyrim.


I did eventually manage to kick myself into action and frog those sleeves. I then put the whole project in the knitting naughty corner so it could think about what it had done, and allowed myself to make some other things. To cleanse the palate, as it were. I may also have allowed myself to replenish my stash.


Just a little.


Yeah. I kinda remembered that Etsy exists. And then there was a sale in a local yarn store and now I’ve found out about Unwind Brighton and soon I’m going to need a bigger house, let alone stash box.

As of right now, I’m on four FOs and three WIPs, which puts me just about on target for 12 items this year, if I ignore how much I have left on the WIPs. And the sewing project which is also sitting looking balefully at me from the corner. So actually, I think this has been quite a successful half-a-year. I hope you lot have been having a nice time of it, too.

enough with the tiny sweaters already

Cute as said tiny sweaters may be, I’ve had about enough of the whole ‘coerce knitters into making stuff’ thing. I had an article pop up in my feeds this morning that made me LOL and tut with knitterly ire at the same time.

The Tour de France will be passing through Cambridge in July this year, as part of the UK leg of the event. A cycling enthusiast wants to decorate the streets of Cambridge with miniature knitted jerseys as bunting. BBC News story here.

When pressed further he admits that a) he doesn’t knit, b) it’s not an original idea, and c) it’s not even an original idea for this Tour because Harrogate have already arranged the exact same thing.

So, let me get this straight. He wants 3000 hand-knit jerseys by July. He doesn’t knit. It’s not even his idea. And this will ‘show how different Cambridge is’.

oh yeah, sure

He claims that “knitting is in Cambridge’s DNA”. I am from Cambridge. Knitting is not a thing. Cycling is a thing. Punting is a thing. The uneasy coexistence of town and gown with occasional outbreaks of violence is a thing. But not knitting, not any more than anywhere else in the country. It’s nice that he wants to do a thing but surely you’d pick something that was actually relevant to your town?

The Harrogate campaign was launched in November, at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show, with plenty of time to get things knit and sent in. They received items from at least 15 countries, enlisted the help of multiple shops and community centres to collect the jerseys, and even designed their own pattern. They received 16,000 jerseys and are now starting to string them together. A well-planned and relevant campaign.

Cambridge guy is only just thinking about this, four months before the event. He doesn’t have the council on board (they said they were ‘interested’, which in councilspeak normally means ‘please never mention this again’), he can’t do any of it himself, and he has no idea how long it will take.

I mean, it’s one thing to be all ‘oh hey, you’re a knitter, can you knit me *massively complicated or huge item*, I’ll pay you for the yarn’ and be blithely ignorant of the time investment but to want three thousand items is really pushing it. It’s not like people go oh, ‘you work in IT, I’m sure you’ll be willing to spend hours helping me set up a website for no pay.’

Oh no wait.

This isn’t even charity. People love to knit for charity, almost as much as people love to tell people that they should be knitting for charity. See the knitted penguin sweater debate that’s flying around at the moment; every knitter in existence must by now have been harangued by a well-meaning friend to knit a penguin sweater, even though sticking acrylic yarn on an oil-soaked penguin virtually guarantees spontaneous combustion. In fact that should be the new motto for the campaign:

If you wouldn’t put it on a baby, don’t put it on an oil-soaked penguin.

Hint: actually don’t put a sweater on an oil-soaked penguin. It can lead to burns, and not just because you made it out of acrylic because ‘what’s the point in using good yarn, penguins won’t appreciate Wollmeise’

Moral of the story: If you want to be different, be different. And if you want to save penguins from oil spills, don’t rush to the cutesy option of tiny sweaters, do an actual helpful thing and give the cleaning crew some cash.

Finished Object: Little Birds

In the grand tradition of knitting bloggers trying out new knitting techniques for the first time, I present to you My First Steeked Project, In Pictures.

I started knitting the Little Birds cardigan in September. For a short while it went everywhere with me, including the beach.

Little Birds on the beach. #knitting

I even took it to a work do, to cope with a sudden and intense bout of social anxiety. As I sat there, alone, Little Birds in my lap, strand of yarn in each hand, I felt like a god. Eventually I even managed to separate myself from my knitting and Have A Conversation. I was proud.

Then I noticed that I was running out of yarn. I panicked about the problem, then I ignored the problem, and eventually pulled myself together and did something about the problem. This is my usual way to deal with problems. This particular problem took three months to get from realisation -> resolution, which in comparison to how long crafting problems normally sit around being ignored is a pretty speedy turnaround.

Little Birds is coming together, into a misshapen pre-steek point.

Lots of panicking in this post so far. Don’t worry, it doesn’t last for long.

Eventually the remaining yarn turned up, and I could finish the knitting. I re-discovered the technique of steam blocking, which had an absolutely magical effect on my previously uneven, puckered colour work. I carried my floats like a boss, but you know how knitting likes to misbehave.

it is amazing, the difference that a tiny bit of steam blocking makes. nearly steek o'clock!

I read around a bit, researching my steeking technique. Probably the most useful post I found was this one from Elinor Brown, which has lots of pictures and instructions for various steeking techniques.

Supposedly, with Spindrift, you can just cut away and not worry about reinforcing the steek, but since it was my first time steeking I decided to go for a row of crochet, and take the obligatory ‘scissors on my knitting to terrify my knitter friends’ picture.

deep breaths. #steekoclock

I had poured myself a nice strong V&T in case of need, but it turned out that cutting it wasn’t a big deal at all. The crochet edge held it nicely and what was previously a misshapen lump of knitting began to look like an actual cardigan.

et voilà! #steekoclock

Then I got to add the border, tidy up the steek with some oversewing, and do some more steam blocking to finish it all off.

Steam blocking is my new favourite thing. No damp cardigan sat on the floor for weeks!

Then, buttons.


Ta-daa! All done. Steeking was actually the least stressful part of the whole project. Now the biggest problem is finding an outfit with which to wear it. But, until that point, I am 2 for 12 on my 2014 crafting goal, and feeling good.

First knitting project of the year.

On Friday, for the first time this year, I decided to sit on the beach to have my lunch. It was a lovely sunny day, the sea was relatively calm, and it was just the right temperature to sit, stare blankly at the sea for a while, and retreat inside when the cold started to seep inside my coat. I looked up mid-sandwich, and found that I was being watched.

A variation on the usual beach lunch monitor.

Ever since the storms, there have been large numbers of crows hanging around the beach. Murders, even. Presumably there’s some good eating to be had among the piles of washed-up seaweed (I know I’ve seen a lot of very happy labradors eating everything in sight). But this one has obviously been taking lessons from the seagulls, and was giving my sandwich a very close look. I decided it was a sign that I needed to a) eat faster and b) crack on with Little Birds.

First project of the year complete!

First, though, to get the gloves out of the way. I finished knitting the fingers while chain-watching Farscape (keeping with the space theme) and just wove in the ends this morning. These will now go to live in my work bag to be ready for when it’s actually cold enough for knitted gloves. That’s going to happen, right? And I’m not going to have a breakdown when I find I can’t use my phone with them on?

In the meantime, back to Little Birds. The additional Sprindrift I needed has turned up, along with *cough* a bit extra that may have accidentally fallen into my basket because it seems frivolous to only buy two balls of yarn when it’s effectively coming from overseas, right? I’m not ashamed to say I whooped with joy when this package turned up at my desk. I already have the pattern planned, now I just need to decide whether it needs to be bumped up the queue or if I can be patient.

My favourite kind of delivery.  :huffs yarn:

:drums fingers impatiently:

increasing the making

Step one towards making 12 things in year is making one thing.

Little Birds is coming along nicely, but as you may remember, I’m nearly out of yarn. I put in an order, but at present my yarns are still sitting in the Shetlands, probably waiting for a plane. So it sits, shoulderless, hibernating. Roosting, even.

One sleeve... #knitting

But I can’t sit idle; I have a goal to work towards. So I found a nice quick project to get me off to a good start – Galaxy.

Galaxy is a super-cute glove pattern by Satta Designs, with beeeeaaaaads and faux cabling. When I saw it, I knew it would be perfect for one of my home-dye-jobs – a black sparkly merino sock yarn. I figured that that and some clear rocaille beads would be a striking and spacey combination, particularly appropriate as we’re currently chain-watching TNG on Netflix.

It is, indeed, a quick project; I’ve already finished one and am already to the fingers on the second one. I haven’t done much beadwork before but I do really like it – these beads are attached using a crochet hook, which means I had to spend half an hour searching for my teeniest tiniest crochet hook (1.00!) and a pot to store all the beads with holes too small to use.


I do have some quibbles with the pattern – all the fingers start in the same row, which is not how my hands are shaped. And there’s a bit too much scrolling between instructions and charts, but I suppose that’s the price of technology. But the charts are flawless and it’s a great speed-knitting pattern and augh it is beautiful.

One glove.

whoopscareless’ Galaxy Gloves on Ravelry

Have you got your New Year’s making off to a strong start? What have you got on the needles (or craft-appropriate equivalent)?