Amandine Lace Stole

Amandine Lace Stole

The days have been so blustery lately, it doesn’t feel like Summer at all. The sun moves in and out of cloud cover with exasperating frequency.

I finally finished this lace stole for my mother-in-law. It should have been done on Sunday, but I managed to completely mess up the second border. Twice. The moral is: don’t attempt lace knitting while watching one of the most exciting tennis matches of all time.

Pattern: Amandine Lace Stole by Carrie Strine (from her etsy store).

Yarn: Posh Yarn ‘Felicity’ in Rose Petal, 100% silk (discontinued, I think).

Needles: 4mm circular.

Mods: None, although the heavier yarn made for a more substantial garment than the original.

(Ravelry link)

Amandine Lace Stole

Amandine Lace Stole

I loved knitting this stole. The stitch pattern is organic and bold, gesturing towards Art Deco; and the fringe border swings perfectly in the breeze. The pattern is very well written and includes charts and photographs. Carrie Strine provides exceptional pattern support, and is a lovely and helpful designer – I’m looking forward to her future patterns! The yarn is soft and lustrous, and a perfect colour for the recipient.

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I’m usually the very definition of knitting monogamy. I can spend weeks thinking about a pattern and planning for it carefully, and then concentrate exclusively on it until it is done. But for some reason I can’t seem to stick to one project these days. I’m avoiding even the urgent deadline garments that I should be working on. Instead I flit from one unfinished piece to the other, without being satisfied.

Still, at least some patterns are quick enough to be finished in a few days. I worked on these little things last week, a couple of dresses for two sisters due to be born very soon.

Twin Vests

  • Yarn: Drops Alpaca (colours 3800 & 7323), about 1.4 balls of each. This yarn is a joy to knit with, and so soft – not to mention good value. I’ve used this colour combination before – how unimaginative! The buttons are mother-of-pearl.
  • Needles: 2.5mm circular needle (magic loop). I bought these from Scandinavian Knitting Design: they seem to be identical to Addi Turbos, except for the price!
  • Mods: I added this flower and this leaf motif for interest.

See project details on Ravelry.

Perhaps it’s best to embrace my current bout of knitting unfaithfulness, and punctuate it with a few quick projects here and there. The brief satisfaction of having actually completed a pattern might spur me on to work on the rest of the queue. I hope!

Spindle and Wool Top

As if I don’t have enough obsessions already… I’ve been trying my hand at a new craft – spindling.

This beautiful high-whorl drop spindle was a gift from my mother a few months ago.

I love this spindle. It’s smooth and beautifully marled, and generally soul-soothing. For months now I’ve been twirling it through my fingers empty of fibre, yearning to try it out properly, but discouraged by the woeful results of my sporadic attempts. It seemed to call to me from its place on the bookshelf behind my desk, urging me impatiently to give it another try – so last Saturday I did.

Spinning is a completely different animal to master… Unlike knitting and crochet – where the end result is more important than how you get there – spinning is all about process. So my first attempts at spinning were unmitigated disasters – I dropped the spindle on my foot and spun it out of my hands and across the room several times, I tangled the fibres irrevocably, or spread them too thin. Then, gradually, I started to produce yarn.

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Glass House - Roath Park

No craft content today, just some still-sharp memories of sunny days in local parks.

I’m always impressed by the range of botanical and flower gardens to be found in this damp and misty country. The sunshine of the past few days has pulled us out of the flat into exploratory walks, lazy lounging on lawns and serial ice-cream feasts. Yesterday we visited the local park’s glasshouse, a tiny affair which nevertheless packs a substantial punch of diverse plant species arranged around a glossy pond in which goldfish and terrapin swim hopefully.

Today the skies are grey again, but when the weather finally turns, we’ll know where to go…

Back to Basics Socks

I started these socks early in the morning on polling day a couple of weeks ago, and had the first one finished by the time the last mayoral election results were announced in London. The second took a little longer – a testament to the difference the adrenalin of politics makes to my knitting output!

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Knitting Bag (detail)
Some days I wake up in a fever of creativity, and clamber over a sleepy R. at ungodly hours of the morning to reach my sewing machine.

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When we moved to Wales last year I was overjoyed – a country in which sheep outnumber humans 4:1 had to be a knitter’s paradise! Unfortunately, it soon became clear not only that the country’s sheep flocks were not interested in producing knittable wool, but that the human population was equally disinterested in knitting. I scoured the local newspapers, yellow pages, and the internet for high-quality, locally produced knitting wool – with negligible results. And then I heard about Glasu – rural development initiative dedicated to developing sustainable communities in rural Wales, and encouraging innovation in the production of food, building materials, and animal products – including fine wool.

Glasu support Wonderwool Wales, a showcase for local Welsh wool production, and a marketplace for UK fibre producers. This year’s festival (which took place over the weekend) hosted over 140 producers and distributors from around the country, selling not only wonderful wool fibre, yarn and clothing, but also alpaca, silk, bamboo, and many more. In its third year, Wonderwool Wales has tripled the number of exhibitors, and is fast establishing itself as one of the leading UK fibre shows.

My husband, mother-in-law and I went up to Builth Wells to attend the show last Sunday – and had a wonderful time! We spent all day looking at all the fantastic products, talking to the producers and finding all the yarns and fibres I had hoped for when I came to Wales. There were yarns and fleeces, spindles and felting kits, natural dyes and exotic fibres – and livestock.

Wonderwool Wales

I broke my yarn fast with gusto!

Swag

Clockwise from top: 200g Garthenor Organic Manx/Wensleydale Laceweight, UK Alpaca shade cards, 200g UK Alpaca 2/12nm black, remnants of UK Alpaca sock yarn in moss and mustard, a crochet flower kit from The House of Hemp, and (barely visible) a pair of felted alpaca shoe inserts for my mother.

Baby Bowmont Braf DK

I also bought a skein of Baby Bowmont Braf DK. Bowmont Braf is the showcase yarn of Wonderwool Wales. The Bowmont Braf project was set up four years ago to test if Wales could produce “fine fibre suitable for high-end quality products”. The yarn is lovely – very soft and lofty, and I couldn’t resist this green colourway. I’m not sure what I’ll use this for – I had reached the end of my budget when I bought this, so I only have a lonely skein – but I’m very glad to be able to buy such a high-quality local product.

I’m also pleased as punch with my Garthenor laceweight! I’ve been dreaming about this yarn for weeks, and in the end I phoned ahead to ask Chris from Garthenor to hold two skeins back for me. It is a very soft and bouncy yarn, and I’m planning a lace stole that incorporates some traditional stitch patterns to compliment its origins.

The best buy by far was the UK Alpaca 2/12 laceweight. The show price was £1.50 for 50g/300m – so my £6 worth bought me a good-sized shawl. I almost bought an equivalent amount of hemp yarn, but in the end I played safe and opted for a little taster crochet kit.

I’m very glad we were able to go to the show. Everyone was friendly and keen to talk about new products and innovative techniques. I saw a huge number of yarns and fibres that I had only ever read about, and made copious notes about equipment that I’d like to invest in. Most of all the show renewed my interest in locally produced wool, and fed my enthusiasm for new fibres and crafts!

I’ll certainly be back next year!

My yarn budget has been limited of late, and I’ve done most of my knitting from my (really already ridiculously inflated) stash. I haven’t bought yarn in many months, and I find that I don’t mind too much. But I have been feeling the lack of yarn exposure. That is, I miss the experience of seeing and feeling unknown yarns, squeezing skeins, comparing new colourways, and wondering to what knitterly purpose they could be put. I don’t have a local yarn store – my nearest one is two train rides and a hilly walk away – so I can’t really justify travelling a long way just to feel up a skein or two.

I had a kind of epiphany recently, though. I realised that there was a way of getting my fill of yarn exposure without breaking the bank – shade cards.

Shade Cards

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Important social events come in waves in my family and friendship group. A few years ago we had a first wave of marriages, a while later the first round of divorces – now everyone I know seems to be spawning. I seem to spend most of my time planning or making small things for small people. And, in fact, I love knitting for babies: the garments are small and take virtually no time to make, they elicit a disproportionate amount of praise for the effort and they allow me to experiment with new techniques without feeling like I’ve wasted a lot of time and materials if something goes wrong.

The only worry I have about knitting baby garments usually relates to colour choices. I wouldn’t hesitate to dress a baby boy in pink, or a baby girl in blue – although I detest most pastel shades and think they make newborns look more blotched than their unfortunate norm – but I feel very uncomfortable foisting my own gender politics on other people. I tend to opt for ‘safe’ colours with people whose views I’m unsure of, and gravitate towards deeper shades of purple or green, or muted neutrals with some interesting accents.

This vest and hat, made for a cousin’s baby, were put together hurriedly in February, so that they could be flown to her before the birth of her son.

Baby Vest and Bonnet

On the left, a baby vest based on the Pebble pattern by Nikol Lohr. Made with 3.75mm Denise needles, using just over one ball of Drops/Garnstudio Karisma Superwash in shade 37, and seven bronze-coloured mother-of-pearl buttons. (Newborn size).

On the right, a Top-Down Bonnet from Adrian Bizila’s pattern (I omitted the anime character stitching, and the ties). Made with a motley collection of dpns approximating 3.75mm, and using less than one ball of Drops/Garnstudio Karisma Superwash in shade 01. (6-month size).

A note on the yarn: this was my first time using Karisma, and I’m converted! The yarn is soft, springy, easy to work with, inexpensive, and available in a range of muted colours. It’s superwash (although I didn’t test this), and – I think – ideal for woollen baby gifts.

It’s just as well I enjoy knitting baby things, as I’ll have at least three small new acquaintances to knit for in the coming year – my cousin’s twins due in late August, and the spawn of some political friends who might be open to risky designs.

This weekend was a festive one here in Wales. Saturday was St David’s Day, and the streets were filled with people carrying daffodils or wearing tiny leeks on their lapels. The next day was Mothering Sunday, and although my family celebrates in May (along with the rest of the world), I used the opportunity to give my mother the completed pair of socks I’ve been working on.

Child's First Sock

I loved knitting these socks – the pattern was straightforward and easily memorised and the construction was logical and instinctive. The variegated yarn detracts from the pattern, and I would probably use a solid or semi-solid colourway if I were to knit these again. Having said that, these sock were so satisfying to knit, I barely thought about how they would look when worn. Luckily, my mother seems to like them!