Saturday 27 November 2010

Knitting and Stitching Show

On Thursday, I went to the first day of the Knitting & Stitching Show in Harrogate, which runs until tomorrow. It was held in the International Centre, which is huge, and the train to Harrogate was full of (mainly) women who were obviously heading for the show. I had not been before and just wanted to see what was happening, rather than buying much - though a lot of buying was going on. It was very busy - in some parts of the exhibition halls, there were just TOO MANY PEOPLE, and I remembered that I really don't like situations where there are too many people trying to move around. Fortunately, there were other areas that were a bit quieter.

Some random things I saw:

Habu Textiles jumper

At the Habu Textiles stand, there was a jumper made of some kind of stiff but very fine yarn. I asked about the yarn, and it is silk and stainless steel. Could be fun to try, though impossible to unravel if you made a mistake.

I did buy a small amount of yarn, from a stand selling cashmere and camel yarns imported from Mongolia. It's a small new company called Noos, which is apparently the Mongolian for 'wool'. The yarn I have is laceweight - they had some beautiful scarves on display which I shall try to emulate.

Much nearer to home, the Wensleydale Longwool Sheepshop had a stand, with some beautiful yarns. It's very soft and lustrous, in some lovely colours. I was tempted by the 4 ply in a soft red. Didn't buy any though. (I'm still practising not buying yarn, even though I didn't succeed altogether.)

The most fun was the Knitting Noras stand.  They are a knitting group in Bolton, Lancashire, who raise money for charity in various ingenious ways, as well as meeting to knit and chat.  They produced a Naked Knitting calendar, maybe last year, and this year are selling Naked Knitting postcards, featuring members of the group. The one I bought features two of the women members wearing just strategically draped shawls - another has a couple wearing just a pair of socks each. From the same stall, I bought two pin badges and a pair of 2mm. wooden needles (to replace a bamboo pair that broke - they are quite fragile).

Note for overseas readers:  once upon a time, not very long ago in fact, schools had a regular programme of inspecting children for  head lice. The woman who did the inspections was called the nit nurse, known to the children as Nitty Nora (or even Nitty Nora the Bug Explorer). Doesn't happen any more, though of course head lice haven't gone away. And the nit nurse is, I assume, commemorated by the Knitting Noras.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Russian Grafting

I came across Russian Grafting in a post by Fiona on her blog and it immediately struck me as a really neat way of joining two pieces of knitting.  I have seen a couple of other tutorials too, since then: for instance, there are two on YouTube, one here that uses a crochet hook, and another here that uses a pair of knitting needles, as in Fiona's tutorial. When I tried following Fiona's tutorial, it seemed to me that the method could be simplified a bit. With the existing methods that I have seen that use a pair of knitting needles, you have to pull one stitch through another, which I find a bit awkward - the advantage (if you think it is an advantage) is that most of the work is done by the right needle.  If you are happy to work with the left needle on stitches that are on the right needle, as well as v.v., I think the method I describe here is simpler.

So suppose you have two pieces of knitting to join together, with the same number of stitches in each. (My two pieces are the samples I was using to practise sloping shoulders in my last post.) You first need to arrange them on the needles so that the  free ends of yarn are at the outside edges, away from the needle points.  (Strictly, you only need one of the yarn ends to be there.)  Because of the free ends, the last stitches on the needles can get very loose as you are working, so I think it is helpful to prevent that by making a slip-knot in each free end, as close as possible to the last stitch.

I'm working with the wrong side of the work facing me, but actually it doesn't matter whether you work on the wrong side or the right side.

The first step is to choose the first stitch on one needle as the working stitch.  (I have borrowed that term from Fiona.) It doesn't matter which one - I'll choose the one on the right. Slip the first stitch on the left needle over to the right needle (purlwise - we don't want to twist the stitch) and pass the working stitch over it. This drops the old working stitch, and the stitch it has passed over becomes the new working stitch.

 The current working stitch is on the right needle.  Slip it and the next stitch on the right needle over to the left needle.

Pass the working stitch over the other stitch, which becomes the new working stitch.

Then you do exactly the same thing, but switching left and right:   The current working stitch is on the left needle.  Slip it and the next stitch on the left needle over to the right needle.    Pass the working stitch over the other stitch, which becomes the new working stitch.

Repeat these two steps until only one stitch is left.

Then undo the slip-knots and secure the graft by threading one or both free ends of yarn through the final stitch. And the graft, finally, is a neat row of zigzagging, interlocking stitches.

You always know which is the current working stitch, except at the very beginning, because it has just had the previous stitch passed over it.  As the graft progresses, the current working stitch  is at the head of a zigzag line of previous working stitches.   

You can see that in the shoulder seam of a cardigan I am just finishing, and will write about later. The complete graft is again very neat, I think.

(The rest of it is not very neat yet - I'm knitting a built-in button band, that is not yet finished.)

I'm really converted to Russian grafting - it gives very good results on many different stitch patterns.  I used it to join together the two halves of the moss stitch collar on my Textured Cardigan. It's much easier than grafting using Kitchener stitch, which I think would be quite tricky on moss stitch. The seam is not at all bulky or stiff, like a sewn seam can be. And you don't need to worry about getting the right tension - it's all taken care of by the knitting you have already done.

Following my last post, minniemoll commented that she had tried grafting shoulder seams, but found that the join wasn't strong enough and so the sleeves stretched under their own weight. I can imagine that that would happen with Kitchener stitch grafting, because it is meant to look and behave exactly like another row of knitting. Russian grafting won't be so elastic, I think. Anyway I shall try it in the cardigan I am finishing, and report back.

Monday 22 November 2010

Neat Shoulder Seams

This post is quite a technical one about knitting, so for any non-knitters who happen to see this - I wouldn't bother reading it.

I recently borrowed a copy of The Principles of Knitting, by June Hemmons Hiatt - a wonderful book.  I learnt such a lot from it, even about simple things that I thought I knew all about. It's unfortunately out of print and secondhand copies are very expensive - I have heard that Simon and Schuster, who published it, have been planning to reissue it, and I wish they would.   It is so useful - she has thought about every little detail involved in knitting, from the basic principles onwards. One of the many, many things that have caught my attention in the book is in the chapter on short rows, where she says that one application of short rows is to make the slope for a shoulder seam, and that it gives a much smoother line than the usual method of casting off in stages.  That seemed an intriguing idea so I have knitted a sample to try it out.

I'm going to describe the technique here, mainly for my own future benefit - I shall forget if I don't write it down. It might be useful to other people too, though of course it's easy to find tutorials on short rows.

I knitted a small sample with 21 stitches, and I'm pretending that the left edge is the armhole edge and the right edge is the neck edge.

The usual method for sloping the shoulder would be something like: cast off 7 stitches at the armhole edge on the next row and following two alternate rows. So the leftmost 7 stitches are worked once, as you cast them off, the middle 7 stitches are worked 3 times, including the casting off row, and the final 7 stitches are worked 5 times including casting off.

Using short rows, we start shaping instead at the neck edge, and knit the first 7 stitches. Then we turn, without knitting the rest of the row. To avoid creating a hole between the 7th and 8th stitches, I use the wrapped method, as described by Hiatt. The yarn is taken round the 8th (unworked) stitch before turning the work to purl the 7 stitches at the neck edge.

Once the work is turned, the first purl stitch should be pulled tightly so that it is as close as possible to the wrapped stitch.

Then purl to the end of the row (the neck edge) and turn to work the next (knit) row.  This time, I am going to knit the first 14 stitches.  But I need to do something about the loop of yarn that is still wrapped around the 8th stitch.

The aim is to hide the extra loop on the inside of the work.  It will be treated as an extra stitch that will be eliminated by a decrease. The 8th stitch is slipped temporarily onto the right needle, and the wrap loop is picked up with the left needle.

The wrap loop and the 8th stitch are knitted together.  Because of the way that 'knit 2 together' works, only the 8th stitch is visible on the outside of the work,  and the wrap loop is hiden behind it.

On this row, I turn after knitting 14 stitches, again wrapping the yarn around the next (15th) stitch to avoid leaving a hole, and then turn to purl these 14 stitches. Finally, the next (knit) row is worked over all 21 stitches, again dealing with the loop of wrapped yarn by picking it up and hiding it on the inside of the work. The final result is that since the start of the shoulder shaping,  I have worked 1 row over the leftmost 7 stitches, 3 rows over the middle 7, and 5 rows over the rightmost 7.   So this is an equivalent slope to the casting-off-in-stages method, but much smoother (and of course, I haven't yet cast off). The places where I turned after working part of the row are hardly visible.

The corresponding shoulder slope that will be joined to this one is done in much the same way except that the wrapping and  subsequent picking up of the wrap loop are both done on a purl row.  To hide the wrap loop on the inside, the wrapped stitch has to be twisted first by slipping it knitwise, and then the loop and the stitch are purled together through the backs of the loops.  ( I can't remember all that  - I just stare at the two stitches that have to be purled together and think about which one has to be in front and then work out how to do it. Sometimes by trial and error. Of course, if you were doing reverse stocking stitch, you would want to hide the wraps on the 'knit' side, so the number of variant rules in quite large.)  

Finally, we have two smooth shoulder slopes to be seamed together somehow.   Of course, you could cast off, front and back, and sew the two pieces together, and the result would be neater than the usual method. But why do that?  Much better to either cast them both off together, using what Hiatt calls a joinery cast-off, or to join them by grafting. Since I found out about Russian grafting, I have been using that technique whenever I can, so I'm going to use it to join my shoulder seams. I'll write about that in the next post, because the way I do it is slightly different to the method in the tutorials I have seen.

Friday 19 November 2010

I want a Knitting Clock!

I was browsing through the Crafts magazine in the library yesterday when I came across a piece on this clock, designed by Siren Elise Wilhelmsen.

 It is based on a larger version of a French knitting/ Knitting Nancy toy, I think, with 48 prongs instead of the common four.  The clock knits a complete round of 48 stitches every 24 hours, and over the course of a year it produces 2 metres of knitting.  At the end of that time, you change the yarn and start again - each ball of yarn is labelled "Mehr Zeit", or "More time".  And you can use the clock's knitting as a scarf, or else hang it up to symbolise Time Past, I suppose.  Probably not very practical for accurate timing, but isn't it cool?

Thursday 18 November 2010

Slow train to Sheffield

On Monday, I went to Sheffield - I had some errands to do in the John Lewis store.  We usually go by car, and  it takes about an hour.  There is a railway line from Huddersfield to Sheffield, and a train about once an hour, so as I was going by myself, I decided to go by train.  You would not go from Huddersfield to Sheffield by train if you were in a hurry - it takes an hour and a quarter, although it's only about 30 miles.   But the train journey allowed me to get lots of knitting done. (I can't write about the knitting yet, because it's for a Christmas present).  It was a brilliantly sunny day, and the line goes through very pretty countryside of woods and fields (and over two viaducts that give you spectacular views).  It's not a bad way to spend an hour or so, as the train trundles slowly along.

Sheffield is my home town, and so I feel that I know it very well, but I haven't been through the station for a long time.  The area in front of it used to be dingy and unattractive, so I was astonished to see a magnificent water feature there.    
It's a clever design - behind the long silvery wall of water on the right is a busy road, which you are hardly aware of as you walk up to the city centre.

I spent some time browsing in the yarn department in John Lewis, which has an extensive range of Rowan and other yarns.  Lots of very enticing things.  But I am practising going into yarn shops and not buying any yarn.  (Unless I really need some, or it's a terrific bargain, of course.)   I ought to start practising not buying patterns as well, to be honest - I bought the book of Rowan Studio Knits by Sarah Hatton, which has several really nice, wearable, attractive designs. But do I need more patterns?  No. I already have quite enough plans for things that I want to knit to keep me busy for a long, long time....

Friday 12 November 2010

Nice Blue Gloves!

In the summer, when my daughter was home, I knitted her a pair of fingerless mitts. Now that it's turned cold enough to want to wear them, she has sent me photos.  The background is Reed College, in Portland, OR.  Looks like a nice autumn day over there.

Monday 8 November 2010


This has been a very good year for fruit of all kinds.  We have just one apple tree, which was already mature when we moved here 20 years ago and it has produced more fruit this year than we have ever had before.  We have been eating apple crumble made from the windfalls for months (it's a Bramley apple, or something like that). About a month ago, J picked as many as he could reach with a step ladder and a fishing net, and we got 4 bucketfuls, and another bucketful which had fallen off in the process and so got bruised.  The best apples are in store in the cellar and I hope will keep - we gave away a lot as well.  Yesterday,  he had another go, because once most of the leaves had gone, we could see a lot more apples still on the tree.  This time, he picked two bucketfuls, and there are about a dozen more bruised ones that we are using straightaway.  I think I need more apple recipes - that's a lot of apple crumble.

I have been making sloe gin,  too - we picked 7 pounds of sloes when we were in Staithes 10 days ago.  It's very easy to make - 1 pound of sloes, pricked with a fork or needle, to 8 oz. sugar and 1 pint of gin.  Those quantities will fill a 1 litre bottle, more or less.  Then you leave it for about 6 weeks minimum (or until Christmas), giving the bottle a shake every day until the sugar is dissolved and then every few days.  I made the first bottle about a week ago, and the gin is already a lovely deep pink colour - it will get much darker and richer as time goes on. The remaining sloes are going to the Knit and Natter group on Wednesday - it's difficult to judge how many you are picking, and we had  more than we need.  The bottle on the right is an experiment - it's the last one I made, and I froze the sloes instead of pricking them.  Some recipes say that works  just as well, and obviously it's easier.

I have only made sloe gin once before, three years ago, when we found the same patch of sloe bushes near Staithes and picked a small bagful, which turned out to be enough for one bottle.  My daughter was home for Christmas, and we tried to recreate the taste of a sloe gin fizz, which she had drunk in a bar in Portland, OR.  I don't think we ever got it exactly right, but we had a good time trying.

Saturday 6 November 2010

Gains and losses

This week my sister came to visit, bringing with her a few copies of old women's magazines from the 20s and 40s to add to my collection.  I have not heard of Woman's Way before, to my knowledge (although M says that it was me that bought them in the first place and gave them to her, so what do I know?).  These copies are from 1928 and 1929, and the magazine was evidently offering the kind of inducements to buy that are common now - special offers and free gifts.  Some of the offers are highly misleading - one cover says "It's the new Chenille Spanish Shawl!  Offered to readers this week", though it turns out to be the first prize in a competition, which is not much of an offer. The other copy advertises "The Golden Talisman - Given to Every Reader Next Week", which is a "lucky magic charm you should have with you always, to bring you good luck every day", and promises a future free gift of  "The Mystic Wheel of Destiny Book".  It's quite cheering that the magazine hasn't survived, in spite of these ploys, whereas Woman's Weekly and Woman and Home are still published.

 While M was here, we went to Holmfirth (in the pouring rain) and had a very nice lunch at Nick's Kitchen.   We visited the Up Country shop, which sells Rowan yarns, as well as Lousia Harding, Noro, Debbie Bliss, ...  It was just a reconnaissance visit, to show M what they sell, but there was a trunk of oddments at £2.50 a ball, and we found 6 balls of Rowan Silk Wool DK there. It's a beautiful soft yarn, 50% merino and 50% silk, and the silk gives it a lovely sheen. The colour is a sort of yellowy-greeny brown, called Sorrel, but the silky sheen makes it look almost metallic, like bronze.  M persuaded me to buy it. I'm not sure what I'll make with 6 balls of DK - maybe a  sort of shrug.  I'll knit it top-down, probably, so that I can stop when the yarn runs out.  But that's not a project for today.

So in spite of my intention not to buy any yarn, I have acquired 6 balls of it.  On the other hand, M has taken off my hands the 4 balls of Rowan Wool Cotton in Verdigris that were left over from my textured jacket, to knit a scarf,  so that almost balances. 

Monday 1 November 2010

Help yourself

Last week we went to the Yorkshire coast for a few days, and stayed in Staithes, a little fishing village.  We rented a tiny cottage for two nights - it's one of the buildings towards the right of the photo.  Our bedroom on the 2nd floor overlooked the harbour.
Staithes is a very attractive place - there are high cliffs all along that part of the coast, so the fishing villages grew up where streams cut steep valleys down to the sea.  There was not much space to build, so the houses are close together, with narrow alleys winding between them.  At night, it is really quiet (though not in summer when there are lots of gulls around, we were told) - there is no public parking in the old part of the village, and no through road, so hardly any cars come down to the harbour.  All you can hear is the sea.

The owner of the cottage is a craftsperson, and there are beautiful carved and painted wooden fish and birds around the place that we think are her work.  She is a knitter too, and had left a basket full of yarn and a bundle of needles, with a note in the visitors' book saying "If anyone feels like knitting, please help yourself to wool from the basket."   I had my own knitting with me, but that was such a friendly and welcoming offer. Knitters are so nice!   
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