Wednesday, 15 April 2015

I Love Circular!

Knitting that is… and needles.

I've been using circular needles for years and they just suit the way I knit.  I also find they make your knitting more portable (easier to stuff into a travel or handbag than long straight needles) and I just prefer knitting in the round and not having to sew pieces together afterwards.  It also means you can "knit" all the way, no need to purl - which makes knitting faster for me.

I convert patterns, like the one I'm knitting for my son now so that I can knit them in the round.  It's not difficult really and raglan sleeves are well suited to it.

I was just happily knitting away with a new circular needle today and marvelling at how smooth and pleasant to use it was so I thought I'd make a blogpost about it.  I also started work again on a pair of socks "toe-up-two-at-the-same-time" (first time using that method for me) which had been on the needle for quite some time.  I discovered how much I enjoy knitting with the fine wood tips on the sock needle, they are very smooth and practically silent.

When working something smaller like a sleeve or a sock, you can either use a longer cable length and work using the "magic loop" method (not the same "magic loop" as used in tatting!) or you can use two circular needles.  The advantage I have found with using two needles is that when you start the next round, your first stitch can be tightened against the needle you are no longer using, instead of having to tighten it against the cable (if using only one needle).  Tightening against the cable means your first stitch is a bit tighter than the others and you have to fiddle a bit to push it back onto the needle when you swap sides.  So now I'm using two circulars to complete the sleeve and it's working really well.  Nearly done.

Once you have made the first couple of stitches,
you can pull on the needle not in use and let it dangle until you need it again.

I'm enjoying my "knitting phase" at the moment.  Especially as I'm getting more and more used to my new way of knitting.

How about you?  Are you a fan of circulars?  Or do you prefer straights?  Short ones or long ones?

Best wishes,

Monday, 13 April 2015

Old Dog New Tricks? Yes, yes, yes!

First of all, I will start with tatting.  Ben Fikkert.  :-(  I'm disappointed.  I cannot get this little oval doily to work at all for me.  The first rounds were already frilling a bit though I think I can sort that out with a light pressing… but that outer round!!!  No, no, no!  It doesn't work at all.  Not one bit.

There is no chance this will ever lay flat.  Even with LOTS of coaxing.  The rings are all overlapping.  I looked and looked at the pattern and I have followed it correctly.  I must tat very differently from Mr. Fikkert.  This will take a lot of amending to make it work for me.  It's now on the back burner.  Sad face.

On a positive note, I have finished my red cardigan while on our week's Easter holiday.  But I have not yet attached buttons to it.  Thank you for all your nice comments about the tatted frogs but I'm not convinced I will like the black contrast after all.  It makes it look a little too oriental (nothing wrong with that but I'm not sure that's the look I'm after for this cardigan).  Could be I just use the buttons on their own… or I may try the frogs in a different colour (though I'm limited in the number of size 10 colours I have).  Will update when I make a decision.  For now I'm enjoying wearing it buttonless!

Lastly, I have started a new knitting project.  My youngest (boy) said - to my delight - that he wanted a sweater for his birthday next month.  He came with me to the wool shop and chose the colour - a very bright shade of grass green!  But he wanted me to choose the pattern and surprise him.  He likes nature and bugs so I decided to make a diamond/leaf pattern on the front of the sweater which I thought would suit the bright green colour nicely.

I also decided to knit it in the round (my favourite way to work) and am now up to the armholes so I have put this part aside and have now started on the sleeves.

Now for the title of this post "Old Dog New Tricks"…  I completely changed the way I tat a few years ago when I started tatting again.  More efficient, faster.  Then when I enjoyed making my crochet blankets (and other items), I also changed the way I crochet.  Going from the pencil hold to the knife hold which I find much easier on the wrists and also much more efficient.  So NEXT, I had been revisiting the way I knit.  I tried all sorts of different things (some of you will have seen my musings on this and thank you to all of you for comments and to Megan for sending me knitting pins to try!).  I tried holding the yarn with the right hand and with the left hand.  I have finally come up with what works for me.  Everybody says continental knitting is more efficient… perhaps yes, but for the knit stitch only.  The purl stitch always looks cumbersome and difficult to make.  So I'm now still knitting English style (throwing) but I don't "throw" anymore.  I have modified my hand hold so that I never let go of the needle while I knit.  I now hold closer to the tip of the needle and just do a little flick of the index finger to get the wool around the needle.  It's a much smaller movement, quicker and more efficient.

So there you go.  You may have worked the same way for many many years and think you are completely set in your style and that you can't change.  But you can if you want to.  I like efficiency - in all things.  Needlework projects always involve a lot of time so if I can speed things up a bit, it's a good thing as far as I'm concerned.  I'm happy to have persevered (it felt very awkward at first to change the way I knit - you have to put up with being slower to start with before you get comfortable with a new style) and am now happy this new way of knitting is much better, and getting quicker, for me.

Old Dogs New Tricks?  Definitely.

Best wishes,

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Sleeves? Yes!

I had another go at making the sleeves on my red cardigan.  Fourth try!  But I think it's working out this time.  I'm crocheting both sleeves simultaneously because I am making it up as I go and I want both sleeves to work out the same.  I'm past the elbow now so not too much more to go.

That bright red is incredibly hard to photograph!

So then I thought it was time I contemplated closures…  I made a sample frog closure from Marilee's book "Up and Tat 'Em".  Looking for a button in my box, I found this interesting metal closure.  What do you think?  I think I'm still going to go with the tatted frogs - yes?  Should I try them in a different colour?  Or do you like black?  It needs to be contrasting but I wondered if ecru might look nice as well...

Best wishes,

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Oval Doily

This is what happens when you don't read a pattern properly!

I made the whole second round of chains with four picots… and there should have been three!

"snip, snip, snip"

Start again.

Those chains felt really tight with only three picots but I carried on as written.  Now the third row of chains and rings frill a bit.  This makes me think Mr. Fikkert and I don't tat the same (ie. have a different tension).  But I'll keep going and see how I get on.

Best wishes,

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Fikkert for a Change

I recently got a book from Ben Fikkert… in fact I now own two of his books but had yet to tat anything from them.  So I decided I'd start with this small oval doily.

The centre construction is quite interesting… it's working out a bit tight for me at the moment but I will persevere.  I like the idea of an oval doily for a change.  He has some lovely larger ones too which I would like to tackle eventually but for now I'll start with this small one and see how his patterns work out for me.

Best wishes,

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Hearts & Shamrocks

Today is Saint Patrick's day…  a good occasion to re-visit my trio of clover patterns (available on my patterns page, tab above).  I don't know why I hadn't thought to make a "lucky one" with four leaves before.

Top left was my first try with four leaves but although it was flattened by the scan, this was just too tight with the original stitch count on the centre ring and it frilled a lot.  Second version, top right, has an inside ring of 2-2-2-2-2-2-2 (7 picots separated by 2 ds) and that works well.  Bottom left is the original with three leaves.  But my favourite is still the bottom right one, made without a centre ring.  I think the leaves on that one have the best shape.  But if you were to make that one with four leaves, the space in the centre would end up too big so I think it's best with three leaves.

I think I'll play with this a bit more to improve the shape of the leaf of the version with a centre ring.  Perhaps by just making the leaf ring larger and the chains around it shorter, this will give it a shape more to my liking.

I visited Craftree yesterday.  I must admit I've not been a very frequent visitor since the move over from In Tatters (I miss the old website).  There I found this pattern for a little heart by Brintinpa (can be found under the "Members Patterns" section.  It's called "Kiss Curl Heart"… I rather like the name!

On the bottom version, I changed the small ring to a SCMR which helps give more of a pointy shape.

So if you need a really quick little motif to send on a card to someone, I think this is great.  My thanks to the designer.  It's also good practice to make a nice long smooth chain!  You have to make sure each ds is exactly the same height as the one before if you want the curve to be really smooth.  Mine are not perfect by any means… and I didn't do a very good job of sewing ends in either!  It's good that there's always room for improvement… keeps you on your toes.  :-)

Best wishes,

Friday, 13 March 2015

Spring Flowers & Stawasz Tatting

Out shopping with my daughter yesterday, we spotted this very pretty version of grape hyacinth (Muscari).  I have the darker purpley blue ones in my garden but we both though this pale blue version with frilly edges was lovely.  I bought a pot for our garden and one for my mother-in-law.

It's resting on one of my favourite small mats,
a design by Jan Stawasz

I like to see the gradation of colour
as the flowers open…

I'm still only making very slow progress on this other Jan Stawasz piece.  The way I attached the individual motifs on the diagonal rather than square means I'd have to add quite a few to get to the right shape, if I decided to go with the same orientation as the original, before I can make a border.  

I was not actually planning to make this as big as the one in the book.  So I may carry on with it orientated the other way and improvise slightly for the border.  In the above photo, the small motifs are square to the border.  The way I was making it, the small motifs are diamonds.  I think it might work anyway.  

I think I'll make the next round of larger, eight-sided motifs and then re-assess the situation.  Even then it will work out fairly big I think.

I particularly like the big medallions in this.

Lastly, I'm sad to report that the sleeve of my red crochet cardigan IS NOT WORKING OUT!!  (can you tell I'm getting a bit frustrated with it?)  Still, I have been wearing it sleeveless and it's quite nice that way too.  But I do want it with sleeves.  I'll get there eventually.

Best wishes,