Here’s One I Made Earlier….

So, if you’ve been wondering just where on earth the Sheep and I have been this year, I can finally reveal the answer:

AdaThe littlest sheep arrived last weekend, and needless to say Mr Hoxton and I are completely smitten. The Sheep, meanwhile, is already keen to get her into some good habits; at barely a day old, here she is modelling some Brooklyn Tweed (it’s the Quill shawl pattern, in Quince & Co Finch yarn, shade Petal). And as if you needed to ask, yes, she may have one or two other handknits in her wardrobe ready for winter. However I’ve told the Sheep that the trebuchet is strictly off-limits, at least until she’s old enough to know how to call the fire brigade.

So I hope my radio silence makes a little more sense now. As you know, I don’t talk a lot about my personal life on here. And what with morning sickness, generally being exhausted, some thankfully minor medical complications that required a lot of extra hospital check-ups, and the stress of trying to sort out work before starting my maternity leave and prepare for our new arrival, I’m afraid my spare time didn’t have a lot of room for podcasting.

As for the future of the show, all I can say is that I’ll see how I go. But for now I’m going to make the most of my maternity leave, enjoy this special time with my daughter, and maybe squeeze in a little knitting here and there.

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Melting

My brain is a little fuggy these days, which is why another weekend has gone by without me photographing my recent knitwear FOs. But it’s not because I’m addled in my old(er) age, nor because of any illicit substances (the Sheep’s moonshine excepted), but rather because WEATHER.

It is hot in London. Not that hot, admittedly, not compared to Dubai or Texas but really quite hot for a country whose inhabitants are mostly accustomed to a forecast of chilly drizzle and that doesn’t have a lot of air conditioning. As well as being hot, it is also humid, and thunderstorms are a regular occurrence these days. So I’m languishing in air that seems to have taken on the consistency of soup, and not really feeling all that woolly.

World events now reaching a point where I can hardly bear to check the headlines, it’s also tricky to escape the feeling that whatever I blather on about here is even more irrelevant than usual. Nevertheless, for those looking for a quiet corner of the internet not filled with death and destruction, I can heartily recommend this video of the Queen’s Guard playing the Game of Thrones theme song. NB That’s the real Queen’s Guard, as opposed to the fictitious one with the dragons and and the improbable amount of nude bathing (very important not to mix those two up. Awkward mental images for all concerned otherwise).

On a slightly more cultured note, the most productive thing I did this weekend was to finish reading The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Although I’m not entirely sure the mystery element of the plot entirely paid off (I felt it was a bit over-sold in the blurb and actually not really the point of the book), it’s a brilliant portrait of the era and the characters are fantastic. An ideal choice if you like historical fiction like Girl With A Pearl Earring.

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Dusting

Hello everyo- eughhh, snghkwlrchc! *sneezes violently, clears dust bunnies and tumbleweeds out of poor neglected blog*

My goodness it’s been a while. Rather than offer explanations excuses, I’ll simply crack on and get back on the proverbial horse, in spite of the fact that blogging is apparently dead and I am a rusting old fogey of a bygone era.

Many exciting things have been happening in my absence, which I hope you’ve all read about/joined in/drooled over. Brooklyn Tweed released a pattern booklet for kids – oh dear lord, the cute factor just exploded my brain. Although even I have to admit that I would not consider Brooklyn Tweed yarns to be the most child-friendly. Anything with a scratchy sheepy texture that requires careful handwashing is not perhaps ideal for the younger folk, but some judicious substitutions should solve that problem.

Speaking of Brooklyn Tweed, I have been knitting Quill. Of course I’m not organised enough to have a photo to show you, but I’ll see if I can sort one out and do a proper post about it. I’ve loved this pattern for ages, and decided that, although woolly, it would make a good summer knitting project, when the prospect of knitting a jumper in this weather feels preposterous (and potentially a heat stroke health hazard). I haven’t made a hap shawl before, but the construction so far has been relatively simple. The garter stitch centre square is not the most exciting of knits, and the final rounds of the first lace section get reaaalllly long, but overall I’ve enjoyed it, and I’m on the knitted border now. Which is going to take forever, so I’m just doing it a little at a time, eating up 6 stitches with each repeat of the chart and slowly working my way around.

Unwind Brighton happened, and sounded completely awesome. I’m gutted I couldn’t go, but delighted it all seems to have gone so well. The equally awesome A Playful Day was instrumental in making it happen, so do keep an eye on her blog and podcast if you want to hear more about it.

I have been eyeing up some delicious patterns, including the Deep End shawl by Heidi Kirrmaier, this lovely stripey number, A Hint of Summer, from Isabell Kraemer, and the beautiful Madder collection by Carrie Bostick Hoge.

We headed off to Brittany for a lovely holiday along the stunning coastline there, and stayed opposite a house that was home to several chickens, two horses, one donkey and a goat that had three kids. I am now utterly smitten with small fluffy goats and offer you this video of Buttermilk, the somewhat hyperactive, jumping goat, as a pretty speedy way for you to feel the same. (I love how overexcited he is and how utterly unimpressed the rest of them are. To be fair, I’m not sure I’d enjoy being jumped on all that much either but still, what he lacks in social graces he makes up for in enthusiasm).

I’m hoping to do a podcast in the next weekend or two, and will endeavour to keep the blog dust-free in the meantime, so watch this space…

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Moth Morgue

So, the Wool and Fencing room, as the spare room/dumping ground is known in our house, is currently something of a moth morgue.

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I attempted to count the little corpses and stopped when I got to 141. When I said I had a moth problem, I wasn’t kidding. Although I should point out that these have accumulated over about 3 months. But then as the pheromone traps only catch the male moths, I suppose this is actually only half the problem.

We see the odd moth flitting about other areas of the house most days (and sometimes nestling in amongst my stash, the little horrors) but the main culprit is the old carpet in this room. It has some huge holes in it from the critters working their way through the wool pile. Luckily we’ll be redecorating upstairs over the summer, and the whole carpet will be removed, which should make a big difference. In the meantime, I’m stocking up on the traps, hoovering regularly, and getting in some moth killing strips etc too. You pesky little wool munchers have been warned…

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Episode 114: Peak Beard

 

Yes it’s that time of year again when our senses are assaulted by the over-the-top wonder that is the Eurovision Song Contest. If you missed the live event last night, fear not, the Sheep and I are here to guide you through the highlights.

Eurovision 2014 – UkraineIceland, Poland, Austria, France, Switzerland, UK.

Brooklyn Tweed – Wool People Vol.7

Unwind Brighton

Cute conservation

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Episode 113: Sharknado

 

Yes it’s time for the Electric Sheep review of a film that needs no introduction (warning: contains spoilers). Plus there’s an update on what I’ve been knitting, some knitting plans for the future, and a very determined, rather confused, squirrel.

Sharknado – a brilliant four and a half minute version is available here.

GrettirBlue Sand Cardigan, Baby Vertebrae Cardigan, In Threes Cardigan, Adriana, Belle.

Squirrel video.

 

 

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Tea

I suppose there’s some part of my British DNA that creates a Pavlovian response to anything withe the word ‘tea’ in it, but nevertheless I was smitten with this pattern when it came out. Tea With Jam & Bread by Heidi Kirrmaier is a roomy raglan, perfect for mooching round the house on a chilly weekend. The stripes add a little interest and as for pockets, well who doesn’t love pockets?! (Is it just me, but all my favourite dresses and skirts have pockets in them).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I was planning to make Mr Hoxton his Grettir sweater, I ordered lots of yarn from New Lanark to work out my colour palette, but I thought I had the base colour sorted with aran Donegal Silk Tweed in Light Graphite. On the website it’s described as grey with light flecks, but when it arrived it was decidedly beige looking, especially with its orange flecks, which didn’t work with my greyscale colour scheme.  So I put it away, and ordered yarn in Pebble instead.

But what to do with seven skeins of Light Graphite? Over the last few years I’ve worn my Cobblestone jumper constantly. Knit in the smallest men’s size, it’s big, and just the thing to throw on over pyjamas in the morning, or layering with other sweaters when it’s freezing cold. Having an alternate big jumper seemed a good idea, and Tea With Jam & Bread was just the ticket.

I wanted a matching tone for the first stripe, and I still had some pale grey leftover from Grettir. For the second, I wanted something a bit more bold and striking. My original plan was to go with the sample in the pattern, and use a mustard colour, but it didn’t quite work with the brownish tone of the Light Graphite. I had a lovely deep orange Russett, which matched the brown and the orange flecks, but it was a bit too matchy. Then I remembered I had a few skeins of an alpaca blend aran yarn, in a rich purple. As soon as I lined them up, I knew I had the combination I wanted.

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The tweed is not quite as soft as the regular aran from New Lanark, and even though I love sheepy yarns, I wouldn’t wear it next to my skin. But in a big jumper like this, it’s perfect. It also holds it’s shape well, which is important for a top-down raglan with a fairly wide neckline and a lot of positive ease. The purple yarn is from Little Houndales Knits and is a lovely blend of 50% Yorkshire Wolds Suffolk Cross wool and 50% alpaca.

I can see myself making this again and it’s a great basis for a top-down raglan which you could adapt for different versions. I think it would work really well for men, you can just remove the pockets and if they’re not keen on stripes, knit it all in one colour.  But this one is all mine, and now I’m snug and cosy I’m off to put the kettle on.

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Mr Hoxton

As many of you know, I have laughed in the face of the Boyfriend Sweater Curse, but now that I’m married it seemed only fair to provide some more knitwear for the Mr without the threat of bad mojo. He had made it clear that he would appreciate another jumper, and I wanted to try and knit him something a little more refined than my last attempt. This was the result:

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Searching through Ravelry, I’m always a little disappointed by the scant number of good modern sweater patterns available for men. But although the choice may not be that extensive, there are some really good designs, so I made a shortlist and took my husband on a Ravelry tour to see what took his fancy. In the end, we settled on Grettir. Appropriately enough, after our trip to New York a couple of months ago, this is a pattern by Jared Flood. It’s a gorgeous Icelandic style yoke sweater, with enough interest to be an entertaining knit and something a bit different for his wardrobe, but not so crazy as to make him run for the hills.

I decided to follow the original colour scheme in the men’s sample, and use a greyscale palette, though my budget and the limited supply available in the UK didn’t allow me to use Shelter yarn. So I turned to, you guessed it, New Lanark aran. There are other yarns available, and I promise you I’m not being paid to keep mentioning them, I just find it’s a really good classic, affordable woollen yarn. Jamieson’s would have also been a good substitute I think. It has enough texture to give some grip to the stranded colourwork, and it softens nicely after blocking.

So, I had lots of yarn, I had a 14 page pattern (Brooklyn Tweed patterns do not scrimp on detail) and I had a two week break over Christmas to get stuck in. The bulk of it is simply stocking stitch in the round – perfect for sitting on the sofa watching movies, chatting to relatives, or nursing a glass of mulled wine. Which meant I could break the back of it quite quickly, and then settle into the fun of the colourwork. But before I did any of that I was exceedingly good and SWATCHED! Yes really. Because in spite of my usual slap-dash attitude, there was no way I want to knit a 42″ aran sweater only to have it turn out completely the wrong size.

This is where I ran into difficulty. There was no way round the fact that, no matter how tightly I tried to knit, I was not getting gauge on 4.5mm needles. Even going down to a 4mm didn’t help, and I couldn’t go any smaller without the fabric getting too dense and stiff. So I had a gauge of 18.5 instead of 20. Now my husband’s chest measurement is about 40 inches, so I was going to aim to make the size 42 and maybe squeeze in an extra half inch with blocking, but with my gauge I’d have ended up with more like a size 45.5.

For about an hour, I wrestled with some fairly elementary maths that made my head hurt. The things we do for love and knitwear. But after much wrangling of numbers and measuring everything a dozen times, I had a solution. The colourwork pattern around the yoke is a multiple of 8 stitches. If I removed one repeat then I’d cut about 1.7 inches from the chest. And if I made the sleeves according to the size 38 instructions, rather than the 42, that would knock out another 8 stitches. Overall, I worked out that I could knit a size inbetween the 42 and the 46, ending up with about a 43.

As my row gauge was also off, I had to rip back the first sleeve and skip the last couple of increases or they would have been far too long. This was ok because I was still working in multiples of 8 and could just take out another repeat at the yoke. And although I did the short rows around the chest, I only did two short rows at the back of the neck, instead of six, as I worried it would end up being too deep and make a funny collar stick up at the back.

After fudging the numbers and measuring everything over and over I was still a bit worried about the fit, but it turned out perfectly!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe pattern is very well written with lots of thoughtful details. The increases at the chest make a more flattering shape around the body, the tubular cast on gives a neat edge, and the shaping in the yoke is really cleverly done, so it’s pretty much invisible.

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All in all this was a fairly quick knit and I’m really happy with how it turned it. A non-knitting friend said it looked like it came from a shop – high praise indeed!

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Pebble

You may remember I knitted a beast of a cardigan for my brother? Well, I had a few skeins of New Lanark DK yarn in Pebble leftover, and I had a hankering for a grey cardigan of my own. My Driven cardigan has proved to be one of my most useful knits and I wear it all the time, so I wanted something in a similar shape in a neutral colour that could be thrown on over lots of different outfits. In the end I settled on using Featherweight as a template.

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However I knew I didn’t have enough of the Pebble for the whole cardigan, so I dived into the stash to see what else I could find, and came up with some lovely Shetland yarn from Well Manor Farm (now The Little Grey Sheep) which I decided to use for a little colour blocking.

I kept to 4mm needles and pretty much followed the pattern as written (with a few tweaks to the first row to start with more stitches in the sleeves) although I knew that using a heavier yarn would result in a larger cardigan. The Shetland yarn is a good match with the Lanark in terms of texture, though it is slightly lighter in weight. But given that the shape of the cardigan is very simple and I wasn’t worried about the sizing, that wasn’t a problem.

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I was pleased with the end result, especially as it turned into an excellent stash-busting project, but I’m not sure that my expectations were very high. So I’ve been happily surprised by how much I’ve worn it. Although the Lanark yarn remains sheepy and not as soft as some of my sweaters, the fabric is dense without being too heavy, and is so fantastically warm and cosy that I find myself reaching for it all the time. The over-sized shape makes it easy to throw on, like a wearable blanket, but the hip-length stops it being too sloppy.  I’ll definitely be returning to the Lanark DK before long.

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Lacking in visual aides

I am trying to get my arse in gear and actually post something on a regular basis, in spite of the fact that my recent days seem to consist entirely of rain, commuter rage, and procrastination. But someone brought donuts into the office today and perhaps the resulting sugar high is deluding me into thinking any of this is interesting. So here’s some stuff:

  • I have knitted things. In particular I have knitted an EPIC jumper of awesomeness, but I do not have pictures yet. So there’s not much point in going on about it here.
  • I have also knitted an excellent shawl, which is not only fulfilling my Holy Grail shawl requirements (unfussy, big enough to loop around neck, simple but not boring to knit, practical shape) but which is made of Pixie Dust and doing a brilliant job of staving off the dank January gloom. Again, I don’t have a picture of it yet. In fact I don’t have pictures of the last four things I made. Sigh.
  • I have watched things. In particular a film of such mind-boggling awfulness that I can’t be certain I didn’t hallucinate the whole thing in a pudding-induced coma over Christmas. But no, it really happened, and therefore this will be coming to a podcast near you so that you can all share in the joyful horror.
  • I am trying to read more. Between knitting and work my reading time has been shrinking to the few brief moments in bed before I pass out from exhaustion. My Kindle is fully loaded. We’ll see how I do…
  • I am going through one of my periodic phases of trying to put on weight. Which is not so bad, I just have to stuff my face with Greek yoghurt, peanut butter and avocados every couple of hours, but it is somewhat tedious. As pretty much all diet-based things are. If anyone has any brilliant ideas of how I can sneak in extra calories, please jot them below. The Sheep’s suggestion, of a barrel of clotted cream and Guinness, was not helpful.

Right, next on the to-do list, take some pictures of my knitting…

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Posted in Knitting | 15 Comments