Knitted mittens

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So Broadchurch is back on ITV, and it seems to be more or less back on form. Half-decent TV means I like to have something to knit, and it’s still pretty cold on the pre-school run at the moment, so I thought I’d have a go at some mittens to match my pink hat.

I used another pattern from the Knitty Gritty book, and the same merino wool as for the hat. Using 5mm needles, as suggested in the book, they’ve come out fairly narrow. But they are stretchy, so I can get them on, and the snugness should help keep my hands warm while we see out the last of the winter weather.

If I were making these again (there’s no gauge guide in the book – the author thinks beginners wouldn’t be bothered with swatching, or that their tension wouldn’t be consistent enough for it to help much), I’d size up to a fractionally larger needle, and I wouldn’t make them quite as long as suggested by the measurements in the pattern. (Really unusual for me – my hands are fairly large,  and I always buy a large in Marigolds!)

They knit up quickly on straight needles, and my sewing up has improved a bit so the side seams have come out quite tidily this time. The book also includes pattern variations for children and babies (the babies’ mittens don’t have a thumb section.) And if you’re looking for an alternative mitten pattern, I’ve also spotted this free one from Tin Can Knits.

 

 

Sewing Christmas presents haul!

p1150503I was lucky enough to receive one or two sewing-related presents, so I thought I’d share a few pictures. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours?

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My in-laws gave me a whole selection of sewing tools and goodies. The double tracing wheel is going to make tracing Burda and Ottobre patterns a whole lot easier – I can use it to add the seam allowances straightaway. The London-themed pattern weights have already been pressed into service.

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My sister got me these scary-looking applique scissors, which I’m hoping will be just the thing for grading seam allowances. (Although presumably they’re also useful for applique? I just need to ponder that for a bit.

My parents got my the knitting roll (shown in the first picture) to store my rapidly expanding and very unwieldy collection of  knitting needles.

Did Father Christmas bring you anything for your stash?

Is knitting really booming?

knitting_parlour_closingI was dismayed to learn this week that my local yarn shop is closing down.

There are other places you can buy yarn in Malvern – there’s The Wool Shack, and several other local shops do sell bits and pieces of wool. But The Knitting Parlour‘s my favourite.

I only started knitting a year ago, and I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent there browsing through pattern books and investigating all the different yarns. There’s something special about squidging yarn in your hands, isn’t there?

Sadly, the shop isn’t closing because the owner is retiring, but because she isn’t making enough money to sustain her business. I’m not exactly a prolific knitter so I don’t buy a lot, but I prefer to knit with real wool and I’ll willingly spend £5 on 50g of soft merino wool. So when you account for rent, rates, staff costs, taxes at a rough guess, the shop probably needs something like 1,000 customers like me to sustain a livelihood for its owner, Jackie.

For beginners, local brick-and-mortar shops are vital: you can see and touch the wool; you can buy just a little to get started; you can get advice from experienced staff; and there are often classes and social sessions to help you improve. If you keep visiting, they can become a place to meet other people who share your interests and, especially if they’re independent, they can help to revitalise a whole high street.

So while I love the way that online knit kit retailers like Wool and the Gang, and Stitch and Story have shaken up knitting to appeal to a younger, hipper set, I would hate for them to squeeze out local yarn shops altogether. Is knitting really booming, or is it just that the same people are knitting different things?

It’s Sew Saturday this weekend (15 October), so let’s pledge to visit our local fabric shops, yarn shops and haberdasheries this week and ensure that they’ll still be there when we need them.

If you’ve got a fantastic fabric shop or wonderful wool shop near you, I’d love to know what you like best about it, and how you go about supporting them.

 

 

Big Alps Beanie hat

Winter’s on the way, so I’ve tucked into some knitting over the past few weeks. My first jumper is still two sleeves short of a full set, so I switched to something easier just to get something off the needles and sewn up.

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This is the Big Alps Beanie hat, made using a kit from Stitch and Story. (It was a limited edition tie-in with Icelandic film Rams, so it may not still be on sale if you’re reading this down the line a bit.)

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The 12mm needles and superchunky merino wool meant it was really quick to knit up, once I’d sussed out how to cable… (Experienced knitters look away now.) This was my first attempt at cables. I love the way cable knitting looks – simultaneously intricate, outdoorsy, mysterious and intimidating.

It turns out it’s not really that hard. This pattern’s a good choice for a beginner cabler, because you only have to do the cabling part six times. The rest is all knit, purl and rib stitches in different sized chunks.

So this is definitely the simpler end of cable knitting. Browsing Ravelry, and the blogs of experienced knitters, can make me feel a bit queasy sometimes when I realise just how much there is to learn. (If you want to see some intricate and beautiful knitting online, may I recommend Kate Davies’ blog? Her colourwork patterns are incredible, and I would love to work up to a Braid Hills cardigan. Perhaps in my dotage.)

This hat came together pretty quickly, and I only struggled with my usual problem areas – garter mattress stitch for sewing up and attaching the pom pom securely.

My gauge was spot on, and my head is definitely not small, so be warned that this pattern comes out pretty large. Were I making it again, I think I’d make the rib section two rows shorter. But it feels lovely next to the skin and it’s very warm so I think this’ll be getting plenty of wear this winter.

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Are you knitting up a storm this autumn? Or can you point me to a great tutorial on sewing up?

 

 

 

 

What’s on my sewing table?

This hasn’t been a productive month so far. I’d been putting off a blog post until I’d finished something, but that hasn’t happened, so here’s a peek into what’s happening in my sewing space at the moment.

Nearly finished: a second toile for the Thread Theory Fairfield shirt.

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This is turning into a bit of a labour of love. In fact, I’m not sure if shirtmaking and I are going to become the fast friends I thought we might. The tiny seam allowances and fiddly pressing needed to achieve neat flat-felled seams are driving me up the wall, and I’ve just discovered that the collar is too small. Again. (I’m still scratching my head to try to work out how this has happened. I could swear I took all the measurements and followed the size chart correctly.) And of course, this is only a toile – there’s then the actual shirt to do.

Cut out and ready to sew: Ottobre bicycle print pyjama top

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I made the bottoms last month, and they’ve turned out well, so my son has requested the matching top too. This looks like a fairly quick make, so I’m looking forward to starting this one. Because it’s a knit fabric, hopefully there won’t be much fitting to do.

Next in the queue: Tilly and the Buttons Fifi set

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This looks like a lot of fun. Finally something that will fit on my cutting table in one go, and made from Liberty print cotton, too. Although I’ll need to learn french seams and work out how to fit the top, so it probably won’t be an express make.

Knitting: Big Alps Beanie and Flax jumper

I’ve also got two knitting projects on the go at the moment. The Flax jumper I started back in May (!) only has the sleeves to go. I’ve got the sleeve stitches onto double pointed needles (my first go at this), now I just need to pluck up the courage to dive in and knit them.

And because I wanted something I could knit up quickly – OK, and also because the kit was in the sale – I’m making the Big Alps Beanie hat from Stitch & Story. 12mm needles make this very quick, and I’m also learning how to do a basic cable knit.

What have you got on the go at the moment? Do you usually work on more than one project at a time, or do you always finish one before you start the next?

Supersized knitting

You know how sometimes you just want to finish a project quickly? It almost doesn’t matter what it is, you just need something that’ll be finished soon, rather than in three months’ time?

If you knit, or if you want to knit, have you tried knitting on enormous needles? I had my hair highlighted this week, and even I managed to knit up a good four inches of this hat in the time it took for my highlights to take.

This is the Big Alps Beanie kit from Stitch and Story. It comes with 12mm bamboo needles, which feel ginormous after knitting on 5mm circulars for the last few months. The wool is so soft because it’s merino, so it all feels lovely.

The kit was created as a tie-in with the film Rams. It tells the story of two brothers who have neighbouring sheep farms in rural Iceland. They haven’t spoken for years, but when a virulent disease strikes local flocks, they have to find a way to resolve their differences. It’s a slow burner, granted, but there’s something fabulous about knitting in front of a film about sheep’s wool.

I’d recommend it – and you might even have the whole hat done before the finale.

If 12mm needles aren’t extreme enough for you, have you seen these 40mm needles and kits from Wool Couture?

 

Supersoft pink beanie hat

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It’s definitely turned wintry here in Worcestershire this week. All the leaves have gone from the trees (revealing this year’s mistletoe) and the wind’s got up. All of which means it’s time to don a warm, woolly hat for my regular walks on the Malvern Hills. And this year, for the first time, I’ve made my winter hat myself!

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This was taken on the Worcestershire Beacon – you can see the southern Malverns behind me.

This is the third project I’ve made from Knitty Gritty. It’s quite simple for beginners  – there’s some rib stitch, lots of garter stitch and then a straightforward decreasing section to shape the hat. I used straight needles, so there’s a seam up the back of the hat (not my finest moment, but I have found a better technique for weaving in the ends this time).

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I really need to get better at sewing up!

I’d been eyeing up similar hats I’d seen in ME + EM, so I decided to make this one in pale pink wool. (And I decided yesterday that I’ll also add a grey fake fur pom pom on the top.) The wool is Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran in colour 300603, and I love it. I can see myself prancing around in the snow or ice skating in this hat. OK, maybe not, but you get the idea.

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Costs:

Pattern book £14.99 – used for six projects so far

Needles £4.50 – used for four projects so far

Wool £10

Fake fur pom pom (ordered but not yet arrived) £7

So I estimate this project cost me £20. Yes, cheaper hats are available, but ME + EM are charging £98 for their version, so I’m pretty happy with that.

Knitting seems to be becoming a regular habit with me, so I’ve also signed up to Ravelry

Broadening the mind

Wilkommen aus Berlin!  

I’m in Germany this week. Sewing isn’t the ideal hobby to take around with you: scissors are often banned in your hand luggage, you can’t fit 3m of fabric onto a tray table, and try as I might I cannot get my sewing machine into my suitcase. 

I have hemmed a sleeve on a trip before now, and I’ve dabbled in embroidery but for this trip I thought I’d make my first foray into the wonderfully woolly world of knitting…

Great idea, it turns out. Mr Wardrobe and I took the train with our two-year old son, and it turns out toddlers are fascinated by knitting. Admittedly he mainly just wants to unwind the yarn and poke the needles into things (luckily he’s not yet thought to shove it up his nose), but still. 

I can knit just one or two rows at a time; keep knitting while reading to him/admiring his latest Lego creation; and he’s requested a ‘blue scarf please Mummy’ so that’s my next project sorted too. 

I’m a complete beginner, so I’m using this book as my guide:  

Knitty Gritty by Aneeta Patel

The yarn is big wool colour by Rowan, and it’s so soft I could sleep on it. And I’m using 10mm bamboo needles by Pony, all bought from The Knitting Parlour in Malvern. 

Here’s how I’m getting on so far.   

Back to reality next week!