Last week our friend Pauline died. Our thoughts are with her family, who have been through so much during her illness.
She was a warm and generous person with time for people. We shared the enjoyment in making knitting, collecting wool and sharing a hobby with others. While the shop has been open she has been a rock, encouraging me, listening to my struggles with commerce and buoying me up when things went wrong. I enjoyed her company. I wish I could have protected her from the cancer that ended her life too soon. I would have liked to get on and do all the things we had talked about doing – visiting the lavender fields and that infamous trip to Shetland in a minibus with all the other ‘mad knitters of Lampeter’. Every time I pick up needles and start a lace pattern I’ll remember her in my stitches. Life is short and sometimes cruel but the memories you leave with others say most about who you are. Many people will miss you Pauline, you are one of life’s lovely ladies.
I have a cowl which gets comments every time I wear it, in this weather it is really toasty so I wear it a lot. It is made from a pattern Ombre Cowl Purl Solo on Ravelry. My copy was free and involved slip stitch rib and three weights of yarn held together at different points in the knitting. It is made with laceweight little grey sheep Gotland, fine dk BFL and DK UK Alpaca. The laceweight goes through all the knitting and adds the flecks of colour.The pattern involved changing weights of yarn and needles size to get the ombre effect.
Purl Solo sell kits for their patterns and lots of lovely US yarns difficult to source in the UK. I couldn’t find the original so revisited the pattern and discovered they are on to version 3 of the cowl. This time using cashmere dk (50g), merino 4ply (100g) and a kid mohair and silk (25g). Ohhhh yummy.
What have we in the shop to give the same effect???? It’s a good exercise for the shop and we do have a gap or too. Shopping list time. I can’t find small amount of lace yarns other than Air and Kidsilk. Finding cashmere from the UK is tricky Johnsons of Elgin do, do a DK. The merino 4ply ….well all the artisan dyers do one from time to time. In the shop an equivalent DK, 4ply and lace. Would be UK Alpaca, Signature Sock and Wendy Air. The mohair next to your face might be a bit itchy so suggest go with Exquisite merino lace instead. I am waiting for John Arbon the revamp their Alpaca Sock yarn for a better 4ply alternative. Colour combos are also a bit limited so fair but that shopping list is getting longer….
I rummaged through my stash for some purples to make another one for me and came up with some alpaca silk from Border Mill (find them here) . Some left over Gotland lace from Little Grey Sheep (find them here) and a skein of BFL from Triskelion (find them here). So with nothing else to do on a non snow, snow day here goes….
Yesterday I went on a little adventure … all the way to Carmarthen to see the Hugh Jackman musical film about PT Barnum. I learnt several things …. that not everyone knows that PT Barnum owned Jumbo the Elephant (the orignal ‘Jumbo’ – ex London Zoo fame) and the largest known elephant of his day. That my preconceived ideas about Barnum and Bailey Circus treating animals and people, not very well in order to make a fast buck – did not take into account of the safe place the circus family gave to people who were shunned in the outside society of its time. And Hugh Jackman can sing and dance and …..anyway go and see it…… and feel better…. I need to find the words to the songs, apparently there is a sing along showing – you have been warned!!!!!!!
Having felt better (Thank you Pips), and today the sun is shining. I realise it is all too easy to do things (anything) to keep busy and still feel bad – for not doing everything. Then to think the something you did do is not good enough, which in my case make me feel worse. So I decided to check on progress since the New Year.
I have decided to tackle a webshop – just the British brand and wool (natural) and attach it to the website. That this is less difficult than I thought, so watch this space.
I have not bought on sale fabric just because! I have bought linen fabric to make trousers and am still looking for the right pattern and yarn for a swing jumper idea.
I have finished:
the sleeves idea – after several attempts to get the shape and grip they work. The cast off edge at the elbow is the most taxing and won’t work for everyone. I want to use the pattern of the colour work again for a cushion. The pattern itself is very easy and looks contemporary. I don’t think the sleeve idea will catch on, but the colour work does produce sleeves with enough grip to stay up on their own.
the Leftie scarf/shawl for the window and have nearly completed the Welsh blanket bag for the St David’s Day window.
the short cardigan in alpaca sock yarn with lots of buttons down it………. see the top photos. That is quite a lot of knitting contemplation. I should get out more……….
Further to my wardrobe revamp – I started by sifting out anything I like into 2 wardrobes I usually have difficulty being ruthless but being ill seemed to help. There are huge piles of discard – The keep criteria was ‘does it look nice on and do I like wearing it’? (summer and winter). There are a lot in purple/damson, some in brown, a bit of mustard and green and a lot of black! I can now find things in my cupboard…. a big plus.
I realised I have lots of nice things I have made and really like but don’t wear and why????………… I want to keep them for ‘best’…. this I think stems from an unbringing on the farm where we wore school uniform, mucky everyday things and visiting Grandma ‘best’. What we learn as children really sticks doesn’t it?………!!!!!!!!!!!
In this cold snap I have also realised I have lots of tops with 3/4 sleeves and mitts which are too short. On one of my wanders round Ravelry I saw sleeves!!!! Traditional women’s clothing involved separate sleeves. These were detachable from jackets and could be fancy for Sunday Best and practical (you can remove to wash just the bits that got dirty). Could be just the thing to use up those nice Wool Show purchases and play and add colours to all that black.
I’ll make long mittens/sleeves and I decided to take a different approach to this project. As advised by Amy Herzog, I am going to swatch and knit to my gauge. She is an advocate of patterns being guides. Swatch – to test if your knitting and the yarn you want to use, will make fabric you want to wear!!
I have almost 100g of John Arbon Harvest Hues in Russet (it’s a little more gold than in the photo) left from another project and my favourite of all time Cambrian Mountains Wool 4ply in slate (as much as I can get!!). The sock projects at Christmas have given me a taste for the fabric 4 ply produces on 2.25mm and 2.75mm needles —- something that has crept up on me. I wanted to make them in simple colourwork. Also note … the Cambrian is a little thicker than the Harvest Hue.
Swatch – to begin with I know that I knit sloppy on stocking st – so I choose 2.25mm (13’s), I know that colourwork reduces the stretch and thickens the fabric. And that can depend on the pattern, I might have to increase and decease the number of st along the way. I had an idea for a simple to follow colourwork, with a 6st repeat and row the same so I could work back and forth….. long floats but the rows repeat help you know where you are. I cast on 60 st and set off , well it’s nearly a mitten anyway, so I intended to knit in all the elements as I went along. Basically I knit a draft mitten!! I have a mitten pattern in my head (cast on rib so much; sts st so much; increase either side of centre st for thumb to 20st; work hand so much; it isn’t written down long hand(!)
Then I measured. The gauge is 3/4″ to 6st (the repeat of the colour pattern) in the st st and the colourwork, but the amount of give varies. I needed a mitten that started at about 9″ in the arm went down to 7″ at the wrist, was 9″ at the thumb base and 7.5″ at the fingers. Blocked and measured the test was 1/2″ too small all the way. The thicker Slate coloured yarn worked on its own in a 2×1 rib needed some stocking st to lengthen the arm. The colourwork brought in the knitting gently as I got a little tighter as I got into the rhythm, then opened out as the float got longer and merged into stocking st and added st for the thumb. The number of rows to the change of pattern works for the sleeve length and by starting the thumb at that point (increasing 2 st every other row) got a thumb of 20st. By reducing the sts by 6 after the thumb I could get top to be snug again. I was also trying to remember to slip the first st of each row to make sewing up easier.
I decided to go for 8″ (between the 9 and 7) for the width of the sleeve rather than try to decease through the pattern. The calculation is 8 divided by 3/4 x 6 = rounded up to the nearest 6st. I cast on 68st. Knit 12 rows of 2×1 rib, 4 rows stst, the pattern is over 10 rows. Should I write that down????? I have got to make another one……………….
2017 has been and is snowly going….. and again at Christmas I have been ill. Something, somebody or the universe is telling me something….
On reflection 2017 has given me some insights into shops and shopping habits, some of which will require further action. It has also provided me with knitting insights which I want to share. I started 2017 wanting to do a group project with the team of rugby dolls (it was not going to work dolls… rugby just well ….was it a good combination)? So….. do I want to knit for those who do not appreciate the skill, love, effort and time that goes into unique one-off hand knits?
Make your own!!! I wanted to knit for me. I enjoy the speed of knitting small things it allows you to try techniques. I enjoy shawl making (and wearing) but there are only so many shawls I can wear and Lampeter does have many other shawl ‘ appreciaters ‘…. Attending the EYF in March with all the yarny people showing off their shawl and jumper creations pointed that yarn appreciation fashion is a little bit geeky. I like shawls, tension doesn’t matter, the patterns are easy to follow and play with repeated themes. I am impatient and have put off garments in fine yarn because it isn’t quick enough – shawls taught me that wasn’t the issue. If the pattern flowed my knitting flowed. So in 2017 I knit and completed several items in 4ply.
This mad a jazzy free ‘design as I went’ A line jumper (knit in patons, woolyknit and eden cottage yarns from shop left overs). Knit gone crazy (it needed tweaking twice and I nearly lost interest). I like to wear it, I have no real idea if it looks OK but it is very comfortable.
The knitting was the easy bit so I decided I needed a pattern to guide me (following a pattern now there’s a novelty) and picked a garter st top down Drops pattern and Harvest yarn from John Arbon (a EYF buy). It is lovely to knit with but this is my 2017 ooooops (it is too small in the bust even though I picked the large size and did swatches).
My conclusion DROPS design for the skinny and flat chested. But there was something in my knitting didn’t help.
I swatched a lot this year I learnt that, especially with fine yarns and circular needles, it gives a guide to needle size (I have to use smaller ) but it is not until I get going with the chosen pattern and volumes of stitches will I know for sure. This holiday I discovered my sock issues were probably due to this too. I have Alice Curtis’s book ‘knit your socks on straight’. And well…. from odd one sock disasters I now have 3 pairs of socks!! And when I perfect the size for me on 2.25mm needles ……..I love wool socks!
I know from sewing all these year that fitting garments is the key to comfort and any design looking good when worn. Being realistic about your shape and size is key to any thing….. I tend toward thinking I am bigger than I am and I can’t remember the last time I measured myself!!! I work from items that already fit, or pick big safe styles.
The Hygge is big and safe, I finished this very quickly it used The Croft aran from WYS and a quick top down technique of a berroco pattern, and it is easy to wear. Whats not to like? (it could be just a little longer and it gives you angel wings so beware of the extra, extra width when you raise your arms but that is the jumper style). The New Lanark damson DK yarn made a smashing square jumper with tight sleeves. A mixed media cardigan in boucle and 4ply cashmere. All were big knits.
If I want to do knitting for me I will have to do some more thinking. The yarns I wanted to use weren’t cheap and I wanted things to fit me. I discovered I had to think hard about what I wanted/needed for my wardrobe. What actually looked Ok on my portly figure. Did I adapt the designs I liked to fit me or more make something to go with the item I wanted to make? The designs that appealed to me as a knitter (with interesting techniques or stitches) were not those I could ‘do’ in the shop. Except the much admired Shanandoah (Melissa Leapman) which proved I can follow patterns almost and well it fits too….
I bought wool (Cambrian Mountains 4ply slate and Triskelion Yarn and Fibre’s Elmet BFL semi solid dyed ) to do Veera Valimaki’s Top Down Breathing Space last year I wasn’t brave enough to think I could get it to fit but……. It combines interesting knitting and good fit. I might make more and I have yarn left for ……..socks? or cuffs.
In 2017 I also made quite a lot of clothes. I have a bad habit of buying fabric and yarn because I like the pattern or colour so I need to review my wardrobe to make outfits out of the jumble sale. I will make more socks and possibly a shawl. Waistcoats or sleeveless tops for over shirts, a neutral go with anything cardigan and I was gifted Marie Wallin’s new book Shetland I really fancy making the jacket cardigan……………….
Lampeter is part of the TotallyLocally movement. Encouraging people to consider how and where they spend what money they have – mindful of how local economics works and how money spent in big companies leaves local communities and doesn’t readily return.
As part of the campaign local shops club together and promote offers just like super markets do to encourage spend locally. See totally locally lambed on face book for the Lampeter deals. As part of one of these offers we have a Fiver Fest Kit. Currently wool (Wendy Ramsdale), needles and pattern for mittens. There is sufficient yarn to make a cowl instead. Same pattern less finishing.
The pattern is so easy I have been making them as presents. Easy for a beginner and mindful for the stressed!!
They make up in any 50g main and small amount of contrast DK, I use 3.75mm needles to get a good 22st to four inches.
The Cowl pattern is:
Cast on 54st in contrast colour and work 1 row K. Change to main colour.
Row 1 (P1,K1) repeat 4 times P to end
Row 2 (K1,P1)repeat 4 times K to end
Work until all main colour yarn is used. By chance I have found this happen at the end of a K row. If your yarn does not please end on/after a k row, or work 1 row in contrast.
The tricky new skill bit is the finish cast off. You can cast off and sew up the seam to avoid this but I have found that by using equivalent of three needle cast off I can finish and sew up at same time, and this gives a nice detail having the cast off edge showing.
To do this – fold knitting with wrong sides together (if you finish with a K row the live stitches will be at the back with cast on edge nearest you). Pick up the first cast on st and knit it together with first st on needle. Repeat and then cast off one. To leave a hole for the thumb cast off 12 st (test fit the length of the top of your mit now add st to cast off if you want the top longer and make a note for the next mit). To leave the hole just cast off 8st from the working needle only. Miss 8 cast on st and begin again knitting cast on edge and needle st continue to Knit the tow together and cast off – work to end.
I have found that it is easy to add some fun to these mitts with simple stranding colour work too. It works for other DK AND adapts for 4ply yarns. I even made Peter some which he like cause they let him fiddle and keep his hands warm!!!
The mitts wear easily with or without the thumb. Make sure your tension gives a stretch to the fabric produced and make the mitt length slightly smaller than the circumference of your hand.
As I crunched through the snow this morning I did wonder how busy the shop will be and tried to: A avoid sliding and B think of a topic to write about here. Its been a while (I have been under the influence of antibiotics as well as …this is well…. supposed to be retails biggest time of year you know!!) since my last rant and well …… less said quickest mended. I am not out to fleece any of my customers and I sell products I think are best quality rather than just a ‘brand’.
To the blog….. I went off to look through my photo images for inspiration and photos of WYS The Croft (above) and Gems (more on that later) when I came across these…..
We have a bit of a week last week. Health was an issue for various people. I hope Pauline is now on the right road to recovery. Both Jacob and Ceri had a few hours in hospital. The later resulted in a few days at ‘work’ in the shop for Peter. We made pompom and coloured, tried and failed to crochet (patience is not his thing), at one point I gave him my camera – there were a number of customers in the shop at the time (their images not included to protect the innocent) and I hadn’t realised he was taking shots. This is a Peter’s eye view of RedAppleYarn!
By Peter aged 4 and 1/4 —- There are some strange views of the fittings and fixtures and the stock, but another perspective…
Onto WYS, as a stockist I get previews and promotional emails from them. It is good to know new products are coming out in advance (look out for new colours in the Signature in the spring). The last one I got made me start. Not because they are up for Awards with the British Craft Council ( vote here). They get nominated because they are good British products, produced with the maker in mind. Modern colours and yarn that is really good to work with. Have to say we have stocked them since we opened because we like the Britishness and they are based in my home town, quite a lot of things to like really……
Nominations for Knitting Brand and Knitting product – The Croft a yarn produced in collaboration with Jamiesons and Smith Shetland, lovely to work with and soft to wear, it is a tweed effect yarn. For Crochet product and best brand. I was a bit taken by the idea of Gems (the new Wensleydale wool yarn) being best crochet product and had to go try it. It crochets well and gives fluffy look to ‘granny squares’ especially after washing (knits nice too)…… there are some lovely bright colours in the range ‘very crochet’!
It was more the promotion encouragement to vote —— does anyone else think it is odd (weird, counter intuitive, cynical, just a sign of the times ……..) that an organisation all about promoting and maintaining individual hand-making skills and crafting should be sponsored by the biggest on-line retailing, commercially motivated, money interested, mega company, juggernaut on the planet? Must be the William Morris in me!!