Friday, 25 July 2014

A Quick Win - Rikke Hat

I've been spinning like a demon of late, and interspersing that with socks and BIG shawls. It felt like ages since I finished a knit, so I felt like I needed a win. I went to my queue and looked at what was near the top of my queue. I found the perfect project, Rikke Hat by Sarah Young. This is a free pattern and I'd seen quite a few people on podcasts and blogs who had made the pattern and really liked it. It also ticked my current hat requirement boxes; squishy and slouchy. I queued this pattern after buying some lovely yarn that seemed to be suitable for it. That yarn was from Posh Yarn and was Francesca DK, which is a 40% merino/40% alpaca/20% silk singles yarn, and it is as lovely as it sounds. This means I used some more from my older stash, which is always a good thing.

This yarn was so incredibly soft, every stitch of this hat was pure bliss.  The hat is knit in the round and is garter stitch, which actually means knitting one row and then purling the next. Some people haven't enjoyed this so have either knit flat and seamed up or done wrap and turns at the back seam. Personally, purling doesn't bother me at all because of the way purling is done in combined knitting, which is almost as easy as the knit stitch. I just love the way this yarn looks in garter stitch.

Rikke Hat 04

I love the way Tony dyes yarn. There is such subtle layering of tones in his semi-solid colours. This hat is unbelievable soft. I just want to wear it and it's WAY to warm for this kind of yarn to be on my head right now.

This pattern was the first time I'd tried a German Twisted Cast On. I really like the way it looks. I must remember it. I used the book Cast On, Bind Off by Leslie Ann Bestor, and the instructions are on page 41, where it is referred to as The Old Norwegian Cast On. I also started with the recommended needle 3.5mm and really liked the fabric, but the gauge was way too loose. I decided to reduce the cast on numbers to 96.

Rikke Hat 02

You work the brim and then go up to a larger needle for the body of the hat and then reduce at the top. I do like the way the crown looks too. The reduced number of stitches meant that the crown decrease instructions were a simple adjustment to make, just reducing the number of stitches between decreases by one.

Rikke Hat 03

I adore this hat. It is soft and flattering and unbelievably warm and light. It sheds like nobody's business, but I don't think I care!


I don't think I'll ever get tired of how slouchy hats look and feel! They also take no time at all to make. This took all of two days, from start to finish. It really was a quick win, exactly what I needed!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Tour de Fleece 2014 - Skein 1

You know how when I went on holiday in June, I wrote blog posts in advance so you wouldn't even notice I was gone? Well I should have done the same for the last week. I didn't think I needed to, because I wasn't going anywhere. However, as it turns out when my Other Half is on holiday and we don't plan to go anywhere, I still don't blog! After having such a lovely time in Suffolk, we decided that this week at home could be much more fun if we actually went somewhere! So we went places we wouldn't normally go to and I got as tired and sore as if we had gone on an actual holiday. But it was worth it because we had a lovely time. He's got another week's stay at home holiday planned for August. I need to plan in advance for that one so I can have at least one blog post scheduled for the week he is at home! I'm pretty sure none of you mind when I don't post for 10 days, but it does get me behind in my crafting updates!

One of my main occupations of the last 10 days has been my spinning for the Tour de Fleece 2014. If you've never heard of this marvellous event, you weren't reading my blog this time last year! Essentially, it's an event for spinners to follow along with the Tour de France and challenge themselves to try and push themselves a little further than they would usually go. It's our small tribute to the incredible feats of the cyclists in the Tour de France. This year I decided I wanted to make sock yarn, that I could actually be made into socks. I chose some fibre from Hilltop Cloud, that was designed to make good sock yarn, 70% Superwash Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) and 30% nylon. It was dyed in the Hipster Rainbow colour and I was really hopeful that with my Spanish Peacock Tibetan spindle I could achieve sock weight in a three ply without too many problems.

As the nylon content is 30% I was surprised that I couldn't really feel it in the fibre. I think it was slightly more sticky than it would be spin to BFL alone, but it was still really smooth. I'm not surprised as all of Katie's fibre is beautifully prepared for spinners.

With such a jumble of colours, I knew that unless I wanted to spend a very long time sorting fibre I would just spin a mixed variegated yarn. I decided to make it easier on myself and spent some time making little strips of pre-drafted fibre into small nests, before weighing out three separate bags of the nests to form equal amounts for each ply. I tried to make the colour distribution as even as possible.

Pre-Drafted Nests

I then proceeded to spin up three singles and wind them into three plying balls over the course of the week.

Hilltop Cloud BFL Nylon 02

I loved spinning this fibre, as the colours were like jewels and the pre-drafted nests made the process much quicker than if it had been spun from the end of the braid. The singles were worsted spun, in what, if it were spun on a wheel, would be a short forward draw. I put quite a lot of twist into the singles as I wanted the yarn to be for knitting socks, so I wanted the yarn to have no chance of fibre escaping to pill!

When I had three plying balls I wound them into one large plying ball by winding all three singles together onto the ball. I then plyed the singles, again adding a decent amount of twist. This means that the fibre is dense, but I think very sturdy, and balanced.

Hilltop Cloud BFL Nylon 03

I really love how the finished skein looks. I think it will knit into really lovely socks, provided I have enough meterage.  I only managed to spin this 120g braid into 272m, and whilst it is a heavy sock weight yarn, I'm not sure if I'll have enough to knit my usual 5" leg and 2" cuff. The last socks I knit used 317m, but the ones before that only used 249m, so I could be ok, especially if I do a shorter leg. I shall have to swatch and see what gauge I get.

Hilltop Cloud BFL Nylon 04

I was a bit scared that my tight spinning was going to make the yarn too dense and that the socks would probably stand up on their own, but I think there is enough softness in it, from the BFL, to make the socks ok to wear.

Hilltop Cloud BFL Nylon 05

I think knitting with this yarn will be a real pleasure and an education. I love the subtle shifting of the colours through the yarn and I think it will knit up to create a lovely effect.

I'm itching to wind this into a cake of yarn and start knitting straight away, but as I already have two pairs of socks on my needles already, I think this will have to wait until I've finished at least one pair! Spinning the yarn has excited me about knitting lots of handspun socks, but I think I should wait until I've finished the first pair before I decide to carry on with that excitement! I might find I need to put less twist in next time!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Socks Off The Needles Means More Socks Go On The Needles

You won't be surprised to hear that the socks I started knitting on holiday are now finished. You won't be surprised, because of the picture I showed you of the socks being nearly finished! Well, now they are finished and I have pictures to prove it.

Desert Visa Socks 03

You will be bored of hearing that I used my own personal vanilla sock pattern, designed to shape each toe as a mirror image, making the right foot 1/4" longer than the left and the Fish Lips Kiss Heel thrown in for good measure. You will also probably remember that there is some calf shaping 4" after the heel is turned, which followed by working 2" of a 1x1 ribbed cuff, finished by binding off with Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off.

I love how brainless this plain vanilla sock pattern has become for me. The only thing I have to look up is the shaped toe, and to be honest that is almost known off by heart now, I just check to make sure. This sock pattern is perfect for my feet, ankles and legs. I don't like to mess with things that work and fit so well.

Desert Visa Socks 02

The yarn, if you can't be bothered to look at my initial post about these socks, is from Desert Vista Dyeworks, and is the Viso base, 75% merino and 25% nylon, 4 ply weight, but with a good yardage of 462yds/422m. The colourway is Peter Max. I really love this colour. It feels kind of Autumnal to me. The yarn is very squishy and soft, so the socks feel gorgeous on. If ever I get another discount code, or sale, I will get this yarn again, provided I don't have to pay the customs charges!

Of course, with my nice vanilla striped socks finished, I had to put some more socks on those sad and lonely needles. I decided to use something a little different, Superwash BFL (Blue Faced Leicester) yarn, with no nylon! It feels like a bit of a risk, but BFL is a sturdy fibre and I am not hard on my socks. It's because I don't go out very much, so the socks are really used mainly as slippers. The yarn is from The Wool Barn and is in the Goth Girl Rehab colourway. It weighs 100g and measures 400m/437yds.  I've not come across this dyer before and I can't remember how I discovered her shop. It might have been a random search for self striping sock yarn, or a recommendation from someone else's favourites. I don't know, but this yarn is very pretty.

The bag it came in is gorgeous! Look at the little sheep having it's fleece unravelled! It's a really nice touch to get a hand wound ball in a little fabric bag, that has been hand stamped.  The colours are lovely and knitting with this yarn is a lot of fun. It feels silky, but strong, and I think it's going to make great sock yarn. Even if I only have a toe, for now.

I shall pick this pair up when I need some mindless knitting. There is no hurry to get it done, but I do like to have a toe cast on, so I can just pick up the project bag and walk out of the door, knowing I have something mindless to work on. Of course, I have a lot of socks, this is the 13th pair I've cast on this year! Who knows, maybe I might be persuaded to cast on for someone else at some point, but I'm not holding my breath. You can never have too many socks, in my humble opinion, especially if they are hand knit, designed to fit perfectly and in lovely yarn!


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