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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Episode 112: Attack of the Panto

 

Just in time for the festivities, it’s the annual Electric Sheep Knitter’s Audio Christmas Pantomime! Grab your knitting and some eggnog and settle down for an extremely silly rendition of Snow White & The Seven Dwarves.

If that’s not enough to get you in the Yuletide spirit, or you’re utterly baffled by the whole thing and need to catch up, you can find all the previous Pantos here.

And if you’re still wrestling with your Christmas knitting and need some comfort, good cheer, or pattern suggestions, you can try previous festive podcast episodes, like Elves or Knitting for Others, or you can check out the Sheep’s pattern guide in the Advent 2012 blogposts.

Happy Holidays everyone, and a very Merry Christmas from me & the Sheep.

P.S. I hear iTunes is doing some sort of update and consequently new episodes may not show up for the next week or so. Sadly this is entirely out of my control but if you do have any problems accessing the show through iTunes, you can either use the audio player at the top of this post to play the show, or you can go to the feed for the podcast here and subscribe using the podcatcher of your choice.

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Aidez Again

I’m sure you all remember the disaster that befell my first Aidez cardigan a couple of years ago. Well I’ve been meaning to replace it ever since, and finally got around to it this Autumn.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This time, I decided not to use a luxury yarn, but instead turned to one of my dependable favourites – New Lanark Chunky. And I thought this would be a good opportunity to improve a little on the original pattern, namely to make it a little roomier in the armsyce and a bit longer in the sleeves and body. As with the first, I knit it all in one piece, but kept the selvedge stitches in as I wanted a bit more fabric in the front.

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Once I got to the armsyce and joined the sleeves, I had a whole plan about adding extra stitches under the arms, and extra rows to the yoke. However it quickly became apparent that I was going to end up with a cardigan that would fit the Incredible Hulk – it was enormous. So I ripped back the yoke and followed the pattern as written. And it was still huge. With the extra stitches on the body, I needed to do extra raglan decreases anyway to end up with the right number of stitches for the collar. And what I hadn’t factored in was that my gauge and the fabric were totally different with the New Lanark yarn compared to the Quince & Co. (yeah, I know, big surprise right?). So I ripped yet again. It’s a good job I was doing this on 6.5mm needles, and the going was fairly quick, otherwise I might have just set fire to the thing at this point. Thankfully it was third time lucky.

It’s still pretty big, and feels as though you’re wearing a blanket, but in a good way. It’s exceedingly cosy, and perfect for throwing over pyjamas on a lazy Sunday morning. The New Lanark yarn blocked beautifully and softened, but it’s much more elastic than the Quince & Co. and not as dense. I think if I had gone down to a 6mm needle it would have just tightened up the fabric a little, but that’s a minor quibble really. My only other issue with it is that, as the raglan lines are quite high, the shoulders tend to slip a bit. I might try doing what others have done, and do a crochet chain along the seam at the back of the neck to give it a bit more stability. But all in all I’m really pleased with the result.

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Pigeon Feather

There are various things I’ve been knitting over the last few months which I’ve yet to show you, so I thought I’d start catching up on some of my finished projects. First up, another Featherweight Cardigan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a pattern I’ve used a few times now, and I bought this yarn, Easy Knits’ Deeply Wicked, specifically for it a couple of years ago. The shade is called Battleship, though it reminds me more of London pigeons. This time I tweaked the pattern a little, as I find it tends to slip off the shoulders otherwise. Brief notes about what I changed are on my Ravelry project page. Next time I’d probably amend it further to move the raglan lines a little lower still, but I’m happy with how it turned out. I wanted a plain grey cardigan that could be thrown over summer dresses, and this fit the bill perfectly.

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Comfort Yarn

*clears throat. inhales cobweb. splutters. dusts off keyboard*

This poor website has been rather neglected lately. I had grand plans to go to the lovely Pom Pom Quarterly’s Christmas party, and to do a podcast, and then I came down with a completely boring wretched cold. So instead I spent most of the weekend on the sofa, nursing a Lemsip and working my way through several boxes of tissues.

On Friday night and a fair bit of Saturday, with my red streaming eyes, and red streaming nose, I couldn’t even face knitting (see, I really did feel rotten). But by Sunday I was on the mend, greatly helped by some medicinal yarn.

I’ve been hunting around for the perfect project to use up my delicious treat from New York. Remember that Anzula Squishy yarn I bought at Purl Soho? Well it lives up to the name; it’s a squishy, soft, silky, shiny pile of goodness – just the thing to give a dismal cold the boot.

I only had two skeins totalling 750yds, and my snot-addled brain couldn’t cope with anything too complicated, so a shawl seemed the obvious solution. A trawl through Ravelry and I hit upon this – Line Break. And then I remembered I already own the pattern as I bought the collection it comes in, Follow The Lines, ages ago. Clearly destiny was calling. Garter stitch and eyelets – I can handle that, even when maxed out on paracetamol and decongestant.

Sure enough the Squishy yarn did its work and today I am almost back to my old self, with a growing pile of garter stitch. The rows are getting longer, and I’m nearly through the first skein, but I’m loving the result so far.

The picture doesn’t really do it justice but it’s turning out a lovely soft, drapey, dark grey scarf that will go with everything and be snuggly and warm. Win.

Given the time of year, I expect you’re wondering what I’m doing with all this when obviously I should be Christmas knitting? Tomorrow I will explain all…

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Episode 111: Brooklyn Tweed

 

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So we went to New York for a long weekend and really, not all that much happened except did I mention that I MET BROOKLYN TWEED!

Jared Flood very kindly agreed to be interviewed for the podcast, so you can hear all about how the company evolved from knitting blog to publishing house and yarn brand.

There’s also a rundown of the yarn I found at the wonderful Purl Soho and a real life Duracell bunny.

Brooklyn Tweed

Shelter Yarn

Purl Soho

Anzula Squishy

Bunny Racer

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