Knit and Natter Group Round up to April 9

It’s been a strange few weeks. The weather is all over the place (four seasons in one day) and as we gradually come out of Lockdown and readjust to yet another “new normal ” it is reassuring to find a few constants in life. Friday Knit and Natter Zoom meetings have become that, though of lately knitting seems to have ground to a halt. Fortunately the other group members have been very productive, whether they fit knitting in between work and family commitments or knit around the clock. I’m always curious (and Inspired) to see what everyone is up to because they produce such range of items. We all have such diverse knitting interests, whether that is participating in a community or charity project or knitting for ourselves and family members. Some prefer to knit smaller items such as hats or baby clothes and others prefer longer term projects like blankets or adult sweaters. There are always so many techniques being used too, whether that is colour work or cable…..and not just knitting but crochet too…and in this selection, embroidery and patchwork! Here are some of the many items they have been completing via screenshots from our weekly Zoom meetings.

LC was inspired by a pattern in a magazine and quickly completed this Fair Isle Cushion cover in bright primary colours.

Y completed her sock knitting challenge and raised money for charity. She also made a boy’s hoodie with a diamond cable panel, a red jacket with a contrasting white design on the yoke and a reverse stocking stitch jumper in pretty pastels with a lacy panel (from her “Knit in a Box” subscription). She even made some mittens at the request of someone with a Bearded Collie – they already had some yarn spun from their dog’s coat and wanted an item made from it. They look super-warm! Both Y and her husband spin yarn – he’s been prepping several different sheep fibres on the drum carder and now Y is knitting him a jumper with the yarn he’s spun. Teamwork!

R finished her aqua ombre scarf and is now working on something completely different. She’s returned to a project she began with her mother some 50 years ago! She’s hand sewing a patchwork of hexagons. It’s been lovely to see all the fabric colours and designs and watch it growing with each week as more sections are added.

Also getting bigger is T’s blanket. We’ve all fallen in love with the raspberry pink/red shades.

LG’s crochet blanket in black and grey with a hint of pink is now finished. It’s a great colour combination….sort of girly goth! She then moved on to a colourful rainbow scarf and is now making a much paler baby pink blanket

The group have made a lot of baby clothes since we began, and these have been sent to good causes at home and abroad. Gill has been busy continuing this and producing some lovely items, including a very pretty multicolour cable jumper.

S has been making baby items too.. These her most recent completions.

She also told us about a project she’s been involved with to create a banner for the Climate Change Summit being held later this year. This will be comprised of many small panels made by participating crafters, each with their own environmental themed designs. S has used some examples of endangered wildlife on her contributions. The finished banner is going to give an amazing depiction of biodiversity under threat from climate change.

Our newest member A has also been making charity baby clothes including, bootees and hats as well as a cuddly bunny. She recently acquired a new book full a patterns for different hats and scarves and made a flowery one – perfect for using up oddments of yarn!. She also made a cabled headband with a Celtic weave design

After some information was circulated round the group about a plan to create a display of knitted poppies for Remembrance Day later in the year , we were all a bit puzzled by the pattern supplied. It included a twist to give the shape but it wasn’t very clear about how to do this. We put our heads together one Friday and Y worked it out, then A found a You Tube video that showed a similar technique. What a collaboration!

No doubt I’ve missed some items out for which I apologise….I really need to keep up to date with my blog!

STOP PRESS

The group met again today and I just had to post about LC’s Fair Isle cushion, now completed with a stylish ribbed edge and button closure as it looks amazing. I didn’t take any other photos as we were enthusiastically discussing potential plans to take part in a yarn bombing project. !

Have you ever done yarn bombing? I’d love to hear about what you did.

Knit and Natter 26 February

We had a lively online get together on Friday and as usual there were some beautiful projects in progress and recently completed.

Pictured above are some silk/mohair socks that Y is making as part of her charity challenge for Versus Arthritis – she’s being sponsored for the number of socks she can make in a given time. The socks are promised to the person who supplied the yarn (I think it is handspun – it looks very warm and cosy). She also just completed this children’s cardigan from materials that arrived as part of her Knit In A Box subscription.

R finished her pink cardigan.

Her next project planned is this lovely Fair Isle design cushion.

L has mastered cable as part of her jacket – the cables run up the front edges.

G just cast on with this pretty variegated yarn she bought recently – It’s going to be a baby top.

Last week T acquired a long, narrow hot water bottle – such a practical shape. It’s going to be so much nicer to use now that she’s crocheted a cover for it.

I just started another alpaca hat with a twisted rib edge.

We are a busy lot!

Are you managing to keep in touch with your knitting friends?

Humpback Throwback

There have been sightings of a humpback whale on the Northumberland Coast recently, which is very exciting. The animal is not too close to the shore and seems to be feeding and behaving normally, which is a good sign that it is not going to beach itself, so fingers crossed that it is ok. The exact location of the sightings is being kept a closely guarded secret by the wildlife groups monitoring the whale, and rightly so. With current lockdown measures here in the UK, only essential journeys are allowed so any visiting would-be whale watchers are being discouraged.

All this brought back memories of a wonderful trip to California some years back. One of the highlights of our trip was a boat trip in Monterey Bay to watch the humpback whales. Today I’ve been looking at the photographs I took at the time.

The first thing you’d see as a whale surfaced would be a puff of white spray from the blowhole

Then a huge dark shape would appear, rolling back under the waves.

Sometimes as the whale dived, its massive tail fluke would become visible

Sometimes we were close enough to hear and smell the whale’s breath and feel the spray.

On a couple of occasions (sadly not caught on camera) a whale completely breached and leapt clear of the water, which was incredibly spectacular. It was such a privilege to see these magnificent creatures at such close quarters – and now one is visiting my part of the world!

Sea and Sunshine

It’s been a glorious day today here in Northumberland. We headed to Howick for a dog walk and there was a parking space by the Coastal Path so K and Buddy headed off for a walk and I sat and knitted and watched the birds.

There were two pairs of eider ducks swimming close to the shore showing some breeding behaviour, throwing their heads up. The females are a nondescript brown (and fairly well camouflaged when they are on the nest) but the males are a striking black and while – you can’t miss them really. My favourite thing about eiders however is the sound they make – they don’t quack, they coo!

There were also lots of fulmars flying about. They nest on the cliffs here. Superficially they look like gulls, but whereas gulls have a “W” shaped outline, with bent wings, the fulmar has straight wings and glides over the water – it is more closely related to the petrels and shearwaters. If disturbed they spit a foul smelling oil. Not nice!

A few oystercatchers flew past emitting their piping call.

I was lucky enough to see a couple of dolphins swim past – all summer when there was loads of dolphin activity along the coast we saw nothing and here were a couple when we hadn’t;t particularly set our to find them. Typical!

Not long before we left, couple of canoes went by. – what a perfect day to be on the water.

Baby Beanie

Some friends of ours have a new baby boy so I knitted this hat from my handspun alpaca. The pattern is the Maine Baby Hat – available free on Ravelry. I’ve made it before, but not this version, which has a central knotted pigtail

After the decreases, when there are just a few stitches left, these are knitted into an i-cord. It’s the first time I’ve used this technique and it’s quite easy to do. The i-cord is cast off when it reaches 4 inches long, then you tie a knot in it.

The alpaca yarn makes it lovely and soft and warm.

Do you have a go to pattern that you knit when there’s a new baby among family or friends?

Signs of Spring: Awakening Frogs

As the weather has turned milder over the last few days, the first of the frogs has appeared in the garden pond. I could hear this one croaking away in the sunshine. It is always one of the first signs of Spring here when they reappear, having spent the winter hibernating in the mud at the bottom of the pond.

Before long this one will be joined by many more as the males jostle arround the females, clinging on to fertilise her eggs as she lays them. Any day now we’ll be seeing clusters of jelly-like frog spawn floating in the pond. With luck there won’t be any hard frosts to damage it.

I rather like having frogs in the garden (though I got quite a fright when one managed to get in the house and jumped into the kitchen – I wasn’t expecting that). In hot weather they hide away in damp places or return to the pond. When it rains after a dry spell they all come out and the lawn is alive with jumping frogs!

Lets hope more arrive soon and we get lots of spawn and a successful year for our resident frogs!

Wildflower of the Week: Snowdrop

It’s time for the first Wildflower of the Week post of 2021. I may not post one of these every week, especially early in the year when flowers are scarce, butI will post as many as I can.

Here in Northumberland the snowdrops are in full bloom. They are a common wildflower here in the woods and verges, though not a native of Britain. Though previously believed to have been brought here by the Romans, it is now thought that they were introduced here in the 16th Century, The Common Snowdrop (Galantthus invalid) is indigenous across Southern and Eastern Europe to the Middle East.

The plants grow from bulbs, which soon multiply to form large clumps, making them a popular plant for gardens or to be naturalised in parkland. They are one of the first flowers of the year to appear, flowering mostly from January to April, though occasionally as early as November.

The flowers are preceded by strap-like leaves and the flowers hang bell-like, singly or in pairs at the ends of the stalk – the plant grows 7-15 cm high.

The flowers have six white petal-like structures known as tepals. The three inner ones are notched and marked with green, surrounding yellow stamens. The three pure white outer tepals are longer.

The plant is not edible – the bulb is toxic. Extracts of the plant have been used in medicine and one chemical component, galanthamine is being used to help in the treatment of Alzheimers Disease.

The plant symbolises hope (for milder weather to come) and purity and is associated with Candlemas, the religious feast of the Purification of the Virgin. Wildflower of the weekThis gives rise to the alternative name, Candlemas Bells. In Victorian times a superstition grew up that it was unlucky to bring snowdrops into the house – earlier accounts said this would cause milk to sour and eggs to turn bad, or even cause death – such unpleasant connotations for such a pretty flower!

It’s always reassuring to see the drifts of nodding white bells at this time of year, both in our garden and growing wild. Spring is on its way.

Knit and Natter 19th Feb

The group met again on Friday . Here are a couple of screenshots of group members’ recent projects.

The beautiful lacy baby blanket is now finished, Last week we were talking about how the maker was going to do the edge and she’s chosen this pretty scalloped crochet design. It works beautifully.

She’s also about to start a knitting challenge to raise funds for the Versus Arthritis charity – this will involve knitting as many socks as possible within a set time period – she’s planning on using a silk yarn, so they are going to be very luxurious socks. She’s got her teeshirt to wear during the challenge!

With her pink cardigan almost done except for the sewing up, this member has returned to the sparkly ombre scarf – up to the pale stripe now.

I’ve been working on a project in handspun undyed alpaca. Can you guess what it is?

Lacy Ladders

I met my friend Vera when she joined our ukelele group, but before long I realised that she’s a serious knitter. She gave me a copy of a sweater pattern after I admired what she was wearing and the margins were full of her very detailed notes: that gave it away! Over a year ago (because it’s that long since the group played together at one of our regular weekly sessions in person) Vera gave me a shawl pattern that she thought I might find interesting to knit and I’ve just completed it.

The pattern (Clapo–Ktus) is available to download free from Ravelry here

It’s a triangular shawl that’s perfect for using up an odd skein – you weigh the yarn, start knitting from one end, increasing every other row and when half the weight is used up you have reached the central point of the shawl – time to start the decreases down to the other end. I had some dark blue lace weight yarn left over from another project which was perfect for it.

Simple to knit in basically a 3/1 rib, the quirky part of the pattern starts when you begin the second (decrease) half of the shawl. At every decrease you drop a stitch and let it run right down to the edge. this gives it a lovely lacy ladder design.

When it came to blocking it out, I tried something different as I can never find a suitable space for blocking a large item like a shawl. I have a homemade skirting table frame that K made for me to prepare raw fleece. I dampened the shawl and blocked it out on this, attaching it to the mesh with clothes pegs – I had to fold it in half, but it worked reasonably well and dried quite quickly – the air could circulate more easily than if it had been pinned to a solid surface.

I think I’ll wear this a lot, either as a shawl of looped round as a scarf – it’s quite versatile

Picture Perfect Pup!

A while ago Daughter came up with the idea of getting a portrait of Buddy the Labrador done. She asked a very talented friend of ours who does beautiful drawings of dogs and horses. Fortunately she was able to work from a photograph, because there’s no way Buddy would sit still, especially over the last couple of weeks. He gets so excited when there is snow on the ground.

Getting a decent photograph of a black dog is not easy! It usually ends up with no detail at all; just the silhouette, but daughter managed to take this one on a sunny day.

We did wonder about making sure his “good side” was pictured. Buddy is a friendly soul, but doesn’t always get it hat other dogs aren’t the same. We adopted him at 11 months old and he hadn’t really been socialised with other dogs up to then. A few years ago he got too close to a very nervous dog that bit off the end of one of his ears. This image includes his torn ear – it’s part of who he is.

And now the picture is complete – we absolutely love it! The artist has captured Buddy perfectly and I can’t stop looking at it. Those eyes just totally draw you in.

Thank you so much Emer Edwards! You have an amazing talent.