Saturday, 19 May 2012

Junk and serendipity

Serendipity. One of my favourite things. It makes me sad that in today's get-it-now culture of consumerism, there's very little room for serendipity. If you want something, you can just click a button and buy it, download it, have it delivered the next day, and so on. This is one of the reasons I like second-hand stuff - junk if you will! My house is full to bursting with all sorts of random bits and pieces - things I've bought or cannot bear to part with because I know that one day it will fulfil its purpose. Most of the time it just gets in the way (and it has driven more than a few co-habitators to distraction in the past!), but sometimes I will be fixing something, or making something, or need some makeshift curtains, and a little light goes on in my brain. I'll rifle madly through my piles of treasure until I find the perfect thing I know I stashed away 5 years ago - and the sense of satisfaction is so much better than just going out and buying some soulless, new, plasticky alternative!

Recently I gave up on an ancient grey colourwork cardigan I'd been trying to unravel as it was too complicated, but before I filed it away with the other to-be-felted/sewn sweaters, I removed the cute little grey buttons. In fact, I posted them on Instagram: 

I wondered for a while whether to keep or sell, but then my thoughts turned slowly to the Garter Yoke Cardigan that I've been knitting for about 3 million years and is nearly finished. The question of appropriate buttons had already crossed my mind anxiously, and here - could it be? - was an apparent solution. Surely there would not be enough or the buttonholes would be too big, but it turns out I have the perfect number of buttons, and they are the perfect size - and the grey colour goes beautifully with the light sage green yarn. Wouldyabelieveit. Serendipity.

Last year my sister gave me her old car, which was my mum's old car, and when mum bought it she had been absolutely adamant that she wouldn't have a CD player in it! At the time, aged 17, I was annoyed, but now I am having a great time picking up old cassette tapes in charity shops for 30p a go and taking trips down memory lane every time I go for a drive. Just last week I was humming Alanis Morrisette to myself and wishing I hadn't got rid of my copy (on tape!) of Jagged Little Pill. Two days ago I found it in a massive pile of tapes in a charity warehouse in Mossley. I must have spent 45 minutes meticulously searching through them all, but I was richly rewarded with this and quite a few other gems. Serendipity. I'm actually considering getting a record deck for the house on this basis. Music hasn't really been a great passion of mine since I was a teenager, even though there's about 30gb music on my computer that I never listen to. Perhaps I just needed to rediscover the sense of excitement that finding a new - or old! - album used to give.

So, next time you need a new set of bookshelves, a Garden Party outfit, some yarn or buttons for a project - try doing it the slow way! You never know what you might find.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Navajo plying/knitting

I promised a post about navajo knitting a few weeks ago - let's get started.

Navajo plying is a technique most usually used by spinners to triple a yarn as they go. But you can also navajo ply as you knit - navajo knitting! So let's say you've got 3000 yards of some super-duper gorgeous laceweight cashmere and silk blend that you simply couldn't say no to (we've all done it). You gaze at it for a few blissful weeks before realising: laceweight!? What was I thinking?! I'm never going to knit with that! Or, you've fallen in love with a project that you MUSTSTARTNOW, but you it needs worsted weight and you only have sock yarn and you're dying a little bit inside because you can't cast it on...

Well guess what? Yes you can - navajo ply it!

So cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a fox

The physics of navajo-ing (probably not a word but it is now) begins with the slip knot, the knot we all use at the start of a project to cast on with. Well, unless you're long-tailing, but ignore that. Just to be absolutely clear, here is a slip knot (by the way, you can click on any of these pictures to see them full size):

Knotty but nice.

And here is a quick recap on how you make that knot (I've marked the tail with red and the working yarn with green for clarity - hopefully):

Some yarn.
Position yarn over fingers likeso
Working yarn on top

Grasp tail side
Pull through
Ta da!

 (There are better slip knot tutorials on t'internet if this confuses you, just wanted to retain a tiny smidge of originality!)

Now, as you pull that loop through, see how you have a triple length of yarn?

Yarn is tripled

You've got the two side of the loop, plus the working yarn on the other side. When you pull that loop through, just keep pulling it through a little more... That's where it starts. Normally, to make your slip knot you pass the tail end under the working end, reach through the loop and pull the middle of the tail end through the loop to make your slip knot, or your first stitch (or at least that's how i do it). You use the tail so you can tighten it afterwards by pulling on the tail. When navajo knitting, you use the working end to make that loop. Then you can just keep pulling that loop through until it's the length you need.

Ok, so you've got a nice big loop in front of you - what's next? How do you knit with that? Continuing to work on the slip knot principle, reach through that loop and pull the working yarn through again. (You can tighten up your original knot too if you want by pulling on the tail - makes it neater). Pullpullpull...

Grab that yarn! Make it work!
Pull it again, Sam...
 Making any sense? Looking like a nice piece of tripled yarn yet? I hope so!

Presto chango - tripled yarn!
At this point you should have a decent length tripled. You'll want enough to cast on with - a yard or so ought to do. Now, using the tripled bit (behave like the original tail isn't there and the first knot is the end of your yarn) just like it was one piece of yarn, make an ordinary slip knot. 

More stitches!
Look familiar?
Your first stitch!

Pop it onto a needle and cast on however many stitches you want. I'm just doing a small number as a quick demo. So you're casting on, you're casting on, and... Agh! I've reaching the end of my tripled bit!

Is this the end?
What do you do? Just like before, you just reach through your loop and pull the working yarn through again. Pull it through as long as you like before you start to worry about tangles. And off you go again! Finish your cast on and knit as you please. Whenever you hit the end of the loop - just pull that working yarn through again and carry on.

Here we go loop-y loop...

You do have to be slightly more careful when knitting with more than one ply to make sure you pick up/wrap all the strands, but it's really no more difficult than knitting with any other yarn. Once you get the hang of it you won't even notice it's navajo-ed any more.

The other great thing about using 3 strands is the fabric is just that bit squooshier and warmer. Logically, 3 x 2ply/laceweight = 6ply or somewhere between sport/DK weight, but as with so many things, it often doesn't add up to the sum of its parts. Last time I navajo knitted with laceweight, I got fingering weight. It all depends on your knitting style, the loft/fibre of the yarn, and so on - so, swatch! Not that you wouldn't, of course...


Navajo plying is probably one of the best, simplest, cleverest and most useful things I've learnt in my knitting career. If you're still not 100% clear, and you may not be until you've tried it a few times, this is the video I learned from, by Lucy Neatby:
It may be easier to see how it works in a video.

Thanks for reading and please let me know what you think of my first tutorial!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Lightweight Lolita

Lightweight Lolita is another simple fingerless glove pattern, with matching cowl. There's something so appealing to me about the simplicity of eyelet lace, especially when combined with elegant garter ridges on a stocking stitch background. I've used a lofty angora yarn (reclaimed, of course!) in delicate baby pink, and added black ribbons for a slightly gothic lolita effect.

The prototypes are up for sale in my Etsy shop!

Both pieces are knitted flat, at quite a loose gauge, and then seamed up with mattress stitch. Here's a nice tutorial for the nervous seamers among you! It's a relatively easy pattern; you will need to know how to knit, purl, make decreases and yarn overs - and of course seam up. Perfect for those of you moving on from dishcloths and scarves.



90m DK yarn - preferably something light with a halo
3.25mm needles (I'm a loose knitter so you may need to go up a size or two)
Darning needle

Gauge: 25sts = 4" in stocking stitch

C/O 40sts, leaving a long tail for seaming.
Knit until you have 3 garter ridges.
Knit 2 rows stocking stitch.
Eyelet row: *YO, k2tog* (RS)
Knit 3 rows of stocking stitch.
Repeat eyelet row.
Knit 3 rows of stocking stitch.
Repeat eyelet row, but replace the first and last k2tog with k3tog. 38sts.
Knit 2 rows of stocking stitch.
Knit 1 row (WS).
Knit 2 rows stocking stitch.
Repeat eyelet row.
Knit 2 rows stocking stitch.
Knit 1 row (WS).

Continue to knit in stocking stitch until the piece measures 3.5", or until it reaches just below your knuckles (using the fourth eyelet round as a guide at the narrowest part of your wrist). End on a knit row.
Knit 1 row (WS).
Knit 2 rows stocking stitch.
Repeat eyelet round.
Knit 2 rows stocking stitch.

Knit 5 rows - you should be just one row short of 3 garter bumps, ending with a RS row.
Bind off on the WS in knit stitch, leaving a long-ish tail for seaming up.

Now, thread your darning needle with the bottom tail and seam it up, in mattress stitch, for approximately 4", or until you're at a comfortable point for your thumb hole. Secured the yarn, then with the other tail seam from the top to just below the single garter ridge, or until your thumb fits comfortably.

Then make another one!


170m DK yarn, held double - preferably something light with a halo.
5.5mm needles (I'm a loose knitter so you may need to go up a size or two)
Darning needle

Gauge: 15sts = 4" in stocking stitch

The instructions for the cowl are identical to the gloves, except that the yarn is held double throughout, and there is no decrease. You will also want to adjust the length of the central stocking stitch section according to the length of your neck - mine measured about 2.25" and I have quite a long neck.

To seam up, using your top tail, seam up to the start of the eyelet section. That's it!

If you so wish, add some ribbons or coloured elastic at the wrists and top of the neck to cinch them in and hold them up. And because it looks pretty.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

In which I create some advertising

Making adverts is FUN! Whodathunkit.

I've bought some ad space on Ravelry, in a bid to feel like I have some sort of business strategy. It asks you to upload your 'creative', or image. Oh noes, thinks I, that's going to be hard! But actually... It was fun. Once I'd done one or two I started to enjoy it. And I thought they were pretty good as well.

Am I right? Only time will tell, I suppose...