Acquisitions at home and abroad

Noodle Soup bruise
Noodle Soup yarn to inspire me

One of my aims this year is to buy yarn as and when I need it, with specific projects in mind. I am trying to be more focused on what I want to knit and the yarn best suited to each project. It turns out that doesn’t preclude the occasional purchase on a whim.

I’ve acquired a couple of yarns since Christmas, the first one being this lovely skein of Noodle Soup Yarns’ Sturdy Sock in the Vivid Firmament colour. The combination of purples and greens often puts me in mind of a bruise, and the addition of steel blue in this yarn is in keeping with that. It’s a colour combination that I adore, although I don’t particularly enjoy being bruised. I think this would be perfect for a pair of elbow-length fingerless gloves.

Vivid Firmament
Up close and personal

The yarn is 75% Superwash Merino, 25% Nylon and, as always, Charley’s dyeing is impeccable.

My second skein is a holiday souvenir from my birthday trip to Finland. I didn’t see any yarn for sale as we walked around Helsinki, but we managed to squeeze in a trip across to Tallinn in Estonia and there were a couple of shops in the Old Town which had a little yarn. The first of the two shops had some very nice Shetland wools, but the only local Estonian wool they had was cream so hardly inspiring. However, just as we were heading back towards the ferry terminal, we saw a shop that had some prettier local wools and I was able to buy 226g of a beautiful rustic 100% wool yarn. Each skein was marked with its weight and they priced it up at the till according to the weight of the skein you bought. The price for 100g or 400g was displayed so you had an idea of the rough figure, and the marked prices had been reduced by 50%. I paid 11 Euros for this skein.

Estonian Wool 1
Aade Long Wool from Estonia

I have no idea what I am going to knit this into, although I can picture it as a lacey panel at the hem of a tunic, with the main body knit in a more skin-friendly wool, perhaps picking up the grey or teal. Ooh, yes, I am liking that idea a lot.

My other souvenirs from the holiday were in the form of chocolate and small decorative items like the postcard below, plus a mysterious extra few pounds in body weight that sneaked onto the plane home. Surely they can’t have been caused by the porridge and jam or the endless crisps and cakes I consumed? As you can see, I managed to colour-co-ordinate my souvenirs nicely.

Yarn, card, mint
Estonian yarn, Finnish Chocolate, card printed in Helsinki

The card, which carries my initial, translates as positive, fearless, refreshing, strong-minded. Not a bad set of characteristics.

What souvenirs do you like to bring back from your travels?

 

Sometimes I knit

Helsinki Colours
Why have just one colour when you can have them all?

I know this blog has been lacking content on its main theme for a while now and it is high time to write about knitting.

About a week before my trip to Helsinki I knew for certain that I would not complete my vintage Aran sweater in time. It wasn’t a sudden realisation and it didn’t feel like a failure, it was just the result of a number of other things being more important than the knitting. I got the back, front, and one sleeve completed then set it aside until my return.

Instead, I used a skein of DK weight yarn hand-dyed by Noodle Soup Yarns to whip up a quick beanie, or watch-cap, to keep my ears warm as I headed north. I guessed the number of stitches and used logic for the decreases and, thanks to the miracle of the rib stitch, I ended up with a warm, lightweight hat that did exactly what was required of it. I still have plenty of wool left so I am considering adding a bobble now the trip is over.

I also took some good old knits with me for my holiday. I had my Cable Front Cardigan which adds warmth at the back of the neck without being too cumbersome. It works really well under a coat because, although it is thick, it is well-fitted around the shoulders and sleeves. On top of my coat I added the Mama Weer All Crazee Cowl; appreciating both the added warmth and the gorgeous pop of colour against the grey of the coat. On the subject of warmth, I still think a calf-length wool coat can’t be beaten.

This weekend I intend to cast on the second sleeve of the aran jumper, even if I only manage to knit a couple of rows. I will keep you updated on my progress.

Starting 2nd sleeve
I’ve made a start on the second sleeve

I hope your knitting is going according to plan.

Back to the future

Aran jumper back
Aran jumper back completed

Hmm, I think “Back to the Future” would be a great name for this project, given how I leapt back several decades to grab the pattern. Didn’t have to use a DeLorean, though, and I don’t think I have caused any major changes to history in my travels.

As you can see, the back is finished and I am really happy with it. The Novita 7 Brothers yarn is pleasant to work with and it is certainly giving good stitch definition. I am totally happy with the colour I chose as well. Sometimes a yarn colour can seem perfect until I start knitting it, then I find it bores me a little. This is good. I can see it becoming a staple item in my wardrobe, teamed with navy trousers or a navy skirt. (Ah, a navy skirt – at the moment I am obsessed by the idea of a really great navy skirt.)

The pattern is a delight to follow and I had it off by heart by the end of the first pattern repeat. There have been a few instances where I’ve crossed a cable incorrectly and had to backtrack a row or two, but no major hiccups. The only slightly difficult row is the one where you purl 5 together to form the bobble, but that is just once in each pattern repeat, so I wouldn’t say it was offputting.

I am currently a quarter of the way up the front and I have plans to be halfway to the beginning of the armhole shaping by the end of today. I also have plans to work on it a bit each evening. We shall have to see whether all these plans come to anything.

It feels wonderful to be back in the knitting routine after the hiatus through the tail end of last year. It is such a lovely hobby, allowing oodles of time to dream about how great life will be when you are wearing this garment that you’re working on and to generate wild ideas about navy blue skirts.

I hope your knitting, sewing, or other hobbies are bringing you pleasure through these early days of 2020.

Once upon a Christmas eve…

Christmas Eve 2019
Peaceful and bright

Christmas Eve is here and, in the spirit of sharing, here is a snapshot of my life today.

Knitting

My Aran jumper is progressing. I have completed two full repeats of the pattern and haven’t needed to resort to checking the printed version for several rows. It’s so easy to see where I am from a combination of memory and reading my knitting (for those unfamiliar with that phrase, it’s where you can look back at the rows you have completed and be able to see what you should be doing on the row you are on). I am already looking forward to wearing this jumper, even though it is barely started.

Reading

I borrowed the first Elly Griffiths novel, The Crossing Places, from my friend at the weekend and galloped through it. My verdict was that the story was gripping, but there was something a little unsatisfying about the novel and I found her relentless use of the present tense wearying. I also found I didn’t care much about the central character, and, in fact, it was the character of the captive girl – barely glimpsed – which held much more promise.

Since finishing that book, I have started my re-read of the second book in the Well World series by Jack L Chalker, Exiles At The Well Of Souls. I love this series from the 1970s and it’s more than time I caught up with it again.

Smelling

On me:
Jo Malone – Jo Loves White Rose and Lemon Leaves

In my home:
Yankee Candle – After Sledding

Eating

Apart from vast quantities of chocolate, my Christmas plans are a simple bacon, eggs and chips meal today, then a lovely joint of pork for tomorrow’s meal followed by Christmas Pudding and Rum Sauce (what Christmas is made of if you ask me).

Listening to

Christmas playlist:
Chris Rea – Winter Song
Michael Ball – As Long As There’s Christmas and Happy New Year
Roy Wood/Wizzard – I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day and Rock’n’Roll Winter
David Essex – Only A Winter’s Tale

In my head:
Michael Jackson – One Day In Your Life

Well, that’s it, apart from a heartfelt hope that every one of you has a chance to pause in the chaos of this life and mark the season with a moment of warmth and light and love.

The gentle art of time travel

2019 – 2009 – 1972

You will recall the last time I spoke of my current knitting project it was the not-pink jumper: a lovely slouchy knit in plain stocking-stitch to ease me back into the knitting habit after my brief hiatus. I think we all know that was going to bore me after ten minutes.

I was already stepping back in time with the pattern I was following; back to 2009 and the Rowan/Martin Storey pattern book “Classic Heartland”, which is a lovely book. Every time I flicked through it to the plain pattern I was using, I would pause at the page with a lovely cabled knit and promise myself I’d do that sometime soon. Very soon, as it turned out, because I quickly unpicked the plain knitting I was doing and cast on for the cabled jumper.

2019 - 2009
A small step back in time

And there I was, still in 2009, studiously following the pattern chart and going along with things, grumbling quietly to myself about hating knitting charts and generally finding the knitting slightly loosey-goosey for my liking. I worked a bit more than you see in the photo, then realised I’d crossed a cable the wrong way and decided to unpick to the point of the mistake and take up from there. And so it sat in my knitting bag for a week whilst I went off to my work and made an effort during the evenings to completely ignore it, coming to the conclusion that I would only be happy once I’d written out the main cable pattern in longhand.

Then yesterday dawned. I had a lovely day, went to see my friends, bought the final gift for Christmas, watched some You Tube videos. In the evening I forced myself to finish translating the pattern chart, yet during that process it occurred to me that it would make much more sense to use a pattern that has the instructions written in accordance with my preferences. My mum’s knitting pattern collection came to my rescue and I abandoned Martin Storey in favour of a Wendy pattern from the early 1970s. I have stabbed at 1972, but that’s just a guess based on the fact that the price is in decimal currency so published in 1971 or after, and the pattern is for adults and children so pre-dates 1976.

2019 - 1972
A giant leap back in time

This is a very simple Aran pattern and I’m loving it. It’s so easy to follow, it is logical enough that I’ve already committed parts of it to memory, and the gauge seems to suit the wool much better than the more recent pattern did. It is so enjoyable to work that there is a danger I will not do much else over my Christmas break. Is that a problem? I’ll leave you to answer that!

The weather this morning is uninspiring and it isn’t helping me in my effort to plan what I shall do today and what I shall leave until tomorrow. My needs are relatively simple: I have to buy a new journal and my groceries, and I would like to do some baking. Oh, actually, I would like to bake some cheese scones. I could do that now, and whilst they are baking I could decide about the shopping. Then I could ignore everything I’ve just decided and choose instead to sit and eat warm cheese scones and drink tea and work on my knitting. Perhaps the weather is just a little bit inspiring after all.

 

That pink sweater

Pink sweater
What pink sweater?

Is that?

Could it possibly be?

Am I knitting?

Oh, yes! I have new wool, and I have a new sweater on the knitting needles. You remember, the pink sweater that I’ve been planning, the replica of the first adult sweater I knitted? And you know what else? The yarn is Finnish and my plan is to be wearing this sweater when I visit Helsinki next February. How perfect is that?

Oh, sorry, none of those were the question you were asking? Your real question was, what?

WHY ISN’T THIS PINK?!!

As the old song says, there are more questions than answers.

Stash crash

Stash crash 1
Little bits of things

I was brushing my teeth when the truth hit me; those yarns in my stash, the ones I have kept every time I have been through a weeding session, are only in my stash because I have not been inspired to knit them.

It’s not that they are bad yarns, and it is not that I don’t like them, although perhaps I do not love them as once I did. Some of them are yarns I like very much indeed, but they are in entirely the wrong quantities, weights, or colours to knit the things I want to knit. Every time I have not used them, but chosen a different yarn instead, has increased the chance that I will never use them.

It may well be that this is the point in my life where I go stash-free. Forget Brexit, it’s time for Yarnxit!

I hope you are feeling happy with your stash this autumn morning. Feel free to point me to lovely pictures of your yarn because I’m counting down the days until I can buy some wool that I do want to knit.

Give an inch

One more inch

I really want to be knitting. I need the soothing, repetitive motion. I need the creative release. I need the warm, woolly goodness. I just don’t really know what to knit. Therefore, instead of knitting consistently on a project, I have descended into knitting an inch of ribbing in various yarns on various needles before changing my mind.

The photo shows my latest attempt which will be the cuff of a sock if it survives that long. The previous attempt at a sock was ripped out completely when I got to the heel because I just wasn’t feeling the love. I spent some time over the weekend looking at the yarns I have and whether I could find a pattern for a garment to suit them, with less than stellar results on both fronts. I did, however, dig out this 100g ball of Botany wool from 21st Century Yarns which I thought would be totally unsuitable for socks, yet cast on anyway. It actually feels quite sturdy so it may work out and at least I like the colours which in daylight tend more towards the pinky-mushroom than the photo suggests.

Next Monday I may have a whole new inch of ribbing to show you, but for now this is my knitting progress. I hope your projects are progressing with rather more enthusiasm.

Bye-bye summer 2019

Berries & Lichen
The fruits of our labours

I can’t remember a year when the arrival of September has coincided so exactly with the arrival of autumnal days. Over the course of the weekend, the temperature here has suddenly dropped from highs of 30℃ to 20℃ and the sun that was scorching on the last day of August seems merely warm and pleasant now that September is here.

I am settling bit by bit into my new work role and letting my routines unfurl themselves in their own time to fit around the new schedule.

I unpicked the socks I was knitting and now I have nothing on the needles. Nothing has grabbed my attention and there are no pressing gaps in my wardrobe that need to be filled. The ice-cream pink jumper will still probably be my next garment, although I don’t know when I will start knitting it; when the mood takes me is my best estimate. I have an idea that I should knit a warm hat for my Helsinki trip next February, but I’m not sure.

It is definitely time to be getting back into a writing routine, not only for my blog posts, but also back to working on my novel. I had a very interesting conversation with a gentleman I met today who is also working on a novel, and it was inspiring in a quiet, comfortable way. It started when he brought out not only his 2019 diary, but also his 2020 diary which he was already carrying around with him – a very impressive action. In fact, if I had not been working at the time, I would have been very interested to delve into his “everyday carry” bag to see exactly what he was toting around; rather like a fully interactive, real-life YouTube video.

All in all, though tangible progress is rather hard to see, when I refer back to my Word of the Year (Establish), I think I am moving in the right direction.

 

Stationary?

Muted socks - back
Back of socks

There has been progress, but it has been slow and this is the total amount of knitting I have done in the past week. I remember the days when I could knit the whole back of a cardigan in that amount of time, but the tides of life dictate my knitting performance. The tides of life, and the weather – over the past few days we have seen the return of the crazy temperatures we had early in the summer and I am not amused.

Muted socks - front
Front of socks on hold

As you may be able to see, I am currently working on the heel flap of the sock, with the stitches for the front on hold across two stitch holders. I have, apparently, chosen to work the heel flap in stocking stitch which is not my usual method. I noticed that after a couple of rows and I couldn’t be bothered to tink back and use a twisted rib which, in itself, indicates to me that I am not investing my accustomed amount of enthusiasm in this project.

When I cast on the sock, I said how soothing the colours are, and I still think that there is a lot to like in the muted shades of green, grey and pinky-purple. However, when I work on it I’m afraid ‘calming’ turns to ‘boring’ and I miss the splendid colours of my lovely golden cable-front cardigan and the bright and cheerful Mama Weer All Crazee Cowl. This sock yarn is the knitting equivalent of zonking out in front of the television, complete with the associated post-nap regret.

Adding to this rather underwhelmed feeling is the fact that I am not even sure if I need this particular pair of socks. I was knitting them as a less obtrusive pair to wear with my work trousers, but now I’ve started my new job I believe the uniform is going to be a dress, leaving socks for my personal life only. Now, in my personal life (“real” life?), I am a firm believer in the brighter the better, which leaves me in an odd position with regard to these socks and, I have to admit, my current stash of sock yarns. I think I may need to reassess, but this is not the time to do so.

I am not at the point where I am considering ditching this sock project, although it might be a different story if I had anything else on my knitting radar for the next couple of months. I might take the opportunity now to tink back those heel rows and do it differently because I know myself, and the fact that I am not loving the yarn now is no indication of how I will feel about the finished socks. They might end up being the favourite ones in my sock drawer. They might end up being incredibly long-wearing and still be taking their place in my rota when prettier ones are just a distant memory. Such is the way of the world, and I love it.


Sock Yarn = Opal Sport Exclusiv
Needles = KnitPro Karbonz 2.25mm