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?

Faux Cable Headband

Having seen the cable bobble hat I made with my handspun alpaca last week, daughter asked if I’d make her a headband – she’d seen some similar to this, so we had a look at some patterns and she picked out a few – this one is the Twisting Taffy headband from Drops Yarn (a huge selection of Drops Patterns are available free on their website). She wanted it in natural white undyed alpaca, so I spun a bit more and got started.

The pattern said to use circular needles back and forth, but that always seems a bit pointless to me so I used straight ones. The pattern is not a true cable, but it was fun to do and the pattern repeat is only 4 rows so you don’t lose your place.

The hardest part was the twist, halfway along the strip. – You put half the stitches on a cable needle, knit the rest in pattern, then knit rest off the cable needle. As there are a lot of stitches this is extremely tight so if took me a few attempts (knitting this part more loosely). Once that’s done you just carry on with the second half of the strip, cast off and sew the two ends together.!

Daughter loves it – she wore it for a walk on a very cold day over the weekend and she says it really keeps her ears warm!

Alpaca Cable Hat

I finished this hat last week. The pattern – Hello Yellow – is available as a free download from Ravelry. I’ve now sent it off to our friends who own Wispa and Aero – the alpacas that keep me supplied with gorgeous fibre to spin.

I spun some more yarn especially – a 3 ply (I’m loving playing with my new Christmas presents, especially the ball winder)

The hat has a deep band in twisted rib.

The cable was quite straightforward to do and I love the way it looks.

To finish I used the pompom maker to make a nice fat bobble. I’ve added a press stud to make it detachable.

This is going to be so warm!

New Year Knit and Natter

Friday was the first meeting of the year for our online knit and natter group. As always there were some lovely projects in progress.

My fellow spinner finished these pretty striped socks during the session.

Before Christmas she was running out of yarn for a green sweater she was knitting for her son – she ended up having to spin 200g more, but got it finished. She’s also been crocheting some cute little dolls to go in a dolls house.

She is selling one of her traditional spinning wheels and I am very tempted to buy but I really need to think about space and weight before I buy a traditional wheel – I’ll stick to my little Electric Eel Wheel Nano for now. It easily fits in a drawer so no storage problems.

Having made a load of Christmas decorations in December this member is now back to her waterfall front cardigan in this gorgeous pink shade.

This blanket is progressing well in beautiful vibrant raspberry shades – it’s a really stunning variegated yarn.

I’m finishing off a cabled hat made from my handspun alpaca. I just need to attach the pompom – I’ll used a press-stud so it can be removed for washing. This is going to be lovely and warm to wear.

It was good to see everyone after the Christmas break. We talked about how well the COVID vaccine is being rolled out in this area – local sessions are working really well. Jane from the Social Prescribing team at the GP practice, who runs our Knit and Natter sessions has been helping to run the immunisation sessions. I hope that everything goes to plan and those concerned are able to work through the different age/risk groups and get to me – I can’t wait!

New Year Cast Ons and Knitting with a Rather Different View

No sooner than I’d finished off a couple of projects last week I was itching to get something on the needles so I started a couple of new projects.

The first one is the Hello Yellow hat which is a special request from my lovely friend who keep me supplied with alpaca fibre. It’s a cable beanie with a pompom, knitted of course in undyed alpaca spun from her own alpacas, Wispa and Aero.

I’ve now completed the deep edging band which is knitted using a twisted rib., so now I can start the fun bit – I love cable!

I spun some more yarn for the next bit and had great fun using my new gadgets, especially the ball winder.

I also cast on another pair of socks last week – I couldn’t resist this yarn – it’s one of the limited editions from the West Yorkshire Spinners Signature range – Silent Night, in shades of blue with a subtle metallic silver thread running through it.

Socks are my go to project if I’m going anywhere – I can slip it in a bag if I find myself needing to wait around anywhere – often I’ll sit and knit in the car with a beach view whole K walks the dog. When I cast this sock on I had a rather different view: Alnwick Cricket Club’s Pitch.

It was quite a special occasion. I was waiting in the car while my mother was getting her COVID vaccination. She is in her eighties and therefore in the first priority group to receive the vaccine. The Cricket Club is being used as our local vaccination centre and everything was extremely well organised. As we drove up cars were asked to stop by a steward in ahi-viz jacket – it was so nice to see that it was one of the managers from Alnwick Medical Group who used to attend our Knit and Natter Group. He explained to my mother what would happen and directed us to a colleague who guided us into a parking space. Mum was checked in (she had a pre-booked appointment), temperature taken and directed to a waiting area, with screens between the chairs to maintain COVID safety. She was then called over to a nurse, who administered the injection and after that to a heated marquee at the back of the building, where she was handed a timer and waited for 15 minutes (a precaution in case of adverse reaction). At every stage a member of staff sanitised her seat as she vacated it. Everything was running like clockwork and before long she was back in the car.

I’m so glad Mum has had the vaccine and will have some protection from the virus. An important day indeed!

New Year Resolutions: Looking Back and Looking Forward

The turn of the year is an opportunity to review those resolutions from a year ago and make new ones. Who could have predicted what 2020 would become?

At the beginning of the year my blog was only a couple of months old. I was creating content every day and that was mostly knitting related. I’d started it as part of my plan to learn a new skill every year. I set some knitting and crafting New Year resolutions last January

  1. Make a Santa hat. I completed this last January, though I had fewer occasions to use it with no choir or ukelele gigs this Christmas. I never knitted a Bah Humbug version for K (who I described at the time as my personal Grinch). Maybe this year?

2. Knit a Christmas Jumper. I cast this on in April when the Pandemic had taken hold and it became my lockdown project. I bought the yarn online and remember quarantining the parcel for 72 hours before I opened it. I stopped knitting altogether at times but finally completed it in late August. I’ve loved wearing it this Christmas.

3. Keep on stash-busting. I had set out to use scraps of blue and grey yarn to make a cape/poncho but it didn’t workout. I pulled it out and redesigned it as a jacket which I finally finished a couple of days ago! This has made a smaller impression on the blue and grey parts of the stash than I’d hoped. I need to think about a project that will use another part of the stash.

The other craft materials I’ve accumulated got used too. Quilting fabric was made into masks and I used seaglass to make mosaic coasters and Christmas baubles. I made pheasant feather baubles too, and driftwood candle-shades, wax melts….

I still have piles of material in the craft room, so the stash-busting is ongoing.

4. Finish as many UFOs (Unfinished Objects) as I can . I completed a piece of tapestry during lockdown, which suited my state of mind at the time. Now it’s finished I’m not sure what to do with it as I don’t like it enough to frame or make into a cushion. I also finished a cobwebby scarf, a needlefelted unicorn from a kit among other things. There are still more projects to finish but I’m getting there.

5. Tidy up the craft room. This is ongoing and very much linked to 3 and 4 but at least I don’t have to share it with Son’s drum kit, which has been sold. he’s more of a guitarist these days.

6. Get out more – with my knitting. I had resolved to spend more time sitting in a car with a nice view while K walked the dog, but as lockdown began and there were no essential journeys allowed, driving to the beach stopped – later it was hard to get anywhere near as more and more tourists arrived in the area. I did get out more on my scooter for local dog walks and that reconnected me with nature, particularly wildflowers, and I started regular Wildflower of the Week posts on the blog. As Summer turned into Autumn the blackberries and sloes ripened and I got into preserving and making fruit gin liqueurs.

7. Improve my photography. I began using lenses that clip on to my mobile phone, including a macro lens for close ups of flowers. I also use tripods and remote shutter controls so my pictures are sharper. Still lots of room for improvement though!

8. Learn brioche. This was achieved when I made hand warmers, both 2 and one-coloured versions. I love the soft squishy feel of brioche stitch.

Of course I did other stuff this year. I have learnt a new skill : spinning yarn since I got an e-spinner for my birthday – with more equipment for Christmas I think this will take up a lot of crafting time in 2021, especially with all the gorgeous alpaca fibre I’ve been given.

So here’s my list of crafty intentions for 2021 – they deliberately include more of the same ongoing items, and some new ones.

  1. Make a Bah Humbug hat for K (like a Santa hat but in black).
  2. Continue stash-busting, including another big project, to be decided.
  3. Finish more unfinished projects
  4. Continue to sort and tidy the craft room
  5. Continue spinning, including a jumper for myself
  6. Get out more to knit if and when I can
  7. Keep improving the photography
  8. Learn how to dye yarn and fibre (this could be my new skill for 2021)
  9. Use natural fibres and upcycle/resuse/recycle wherever possible

I think that’s enough to be going on with!

Finally, a very Happy New Year to everyone who reads this. We got through 2020 and what it threw at us so we are well equipped to deal with anything this year sends our way. I remain hopeful that things will improve with the rapid rollout of vaccines. Here’s to a safer, calmer 2021.

Have you made any New Year resolutions?

From Ukraine with Love: My New Drum Carder

Having spent hours hand carding alpaca fibre over the last few weeks I’d been dreaming of owning a drum carder, but it did seem to be something of an extravagance until one of my fellow Knit and Natterers told me about hers. She found it on Etsy and it came from Russia. It was much cheaper than the well known makes and works really well. I looked online and found the seller. Sure enough, full size manual drum carders were available for under £200 plus post and packing and the reviews were excellent, so I took the plunge and ordered one. The only negative stated on the reviews appeared to be delivery time, but I was in no particular hurry. I was delighted when just 16 days later, on Christmas Eve, a large package arrived from Ukraine (not quite Russia). Today I finally unboxed my new drum carder and used it for the first time.

It was certainly well packaged, but after removing plastic, brown paper and two cardboard cartons the drum carder was finally revealed.

It came with a hand card (to clean the drums?) and a doffer (a long spike used to remove the batt of fibre from the drum) – I do love that there is a whole new vocabulary attached to spinning and fibre preparation.

All I needed to do to make the drum carder ready to use was fit the hand crank and the table clamps.

I couldn’t wait to get started so I grabbed some alpaca that I washed the other week, teased it out and gradually fed it in until the large drum was covered.

I used the doffer to remove the fibre and fed it through a second time.

This is the beautiful alpaca batt that resulted. I love my new toy!

Thank you Santa!

I was very lucky with my Christmas presents. There was a definite theme running through many of the gifts I received. Father Christmas obviously wishes to encourage me to continue with fibre and yarn-related hobbies!

This year’s new skill was spinning. I have made a point of learning something new every year, especially since I retired and this one has really got me hooked. I was given a load of accessories for preparing and spinning yarn. I’d asked for this Ikea Variera pot lid rack to use as a Lazy Kate to ply yarn spun on my Electric Eel Wheel Nano e-spinner – the bobbins fit the pins perfectly. For carding and blending I got a pair of Ashford hand cards. Then there is a cute sheep design niddynoddy and some lingerie bags for washing raw fleece.

I also got a yarn swift…

…and a ball winder.

In 2021 I plan to start dyeing fibre. This acid dye starter kit from DT Craft and design includes 12 different colours of dye, along with citric acid to fix the dye, protective gloves and a measuring spoon. There is also a very detailed instruction booklet.

I also got some books. I’m still trying to use up all my oddment of yarn and I got three books for exactly that, including one full of designs for knitted and crocheted flowers. The others are for the dyeing adventure to come: “Dyeing to Knit and Spin” by Felicia Lo and “Wild Colour” by Jenny Dean which is all about natural dyes.

I’m very lucky indeed and can’t wait to start using all this new kit.

Thank you Santa!

Knit and Natter: 4th December

There were more lovely projects on show at Friday’s online Knit and Natter session, which is organised by the social prescribing teams at GP surgeries here in Northumberland. Our big news this week is we’ve had a write up in the UK national knitting press! This follows a request for more information about the group from Simply Knitting magazine.

Meanwhile, back on Zoom, we shared what we are working on. I won’t repeat my current and recently completed projects from yesterday’s post, but fellow knit and natterers are keeping very busy…..

Christmas knits continue with this cute little snowman….

…and a pair of Christmas angels.

This Fair Isle project is getting bigger. I absolutely love the duck egg/teal colour combination here.

If my memory serves me correctly, this next project is a baby jumper. The central panel with its lacy design is just gorgeous.

One of our recently joined members has taken knitting up again after a break and though it took her a while to get hold of needles and yarn during lockdown, she is now steaming ahead with charity knits including these two lovely baby hats.

The

The crocheted elephant that was still in pieces last week is now all done, complete with pink toenails! I think we’ve all fallen in love with him/her, especially having seen him come together over recent weeks.

One of the ladies from the Berwick group joined us on Zoom for the first time this week. She is a keen spinner too. I loved being able to talk to her and her husband (who is also a spinner and joined us briefly). Since I started spinning in September this is the first time I’ve actually had a conversation about my new obsession to a fellow enthusiast! They told me about some great sources of equipment and supplies. She is taking part in a Mystery Knit Along which has been organised by the Macmillan Cancer Support charity. In return for a donation to the charity, sections of a pattern were released gradually over 4 weeks. As the project is well underway now I don’t think it would be spoiling the mystery too much if I show a screenshot of her work on this.

Click on the link above if you’d like access to this lovely pattern by donating to a very worthwhile cause.

I think this was one of the best supported sessions we’ve had since the Zoom group got underway. It’s such a friendly group and I always look forward to Friday lunchtimes and seeing what everyone’s been up to.

A Productive Week

I finished off a couple of projects this week which is always satisfying.

I crocheted this horse – a commission from a friend who will be giving it as a Christmas gift to a horse owner.

He’s a sort of caricature of her actual horse and I’ve replicated the colour and markings. His eyes are glass beads and the details are needle-felted. He’s wearing horseshoes embroidered in metallic thread.

I’ve made several of these over the last few years. One of the hardest things is finding the right colour yarn. I’ve modified the design from a pattern I found online and have refined it a bit more every time I’ve done it.

The second item I completed was a pair of brioche hand warmers for K. They will be part of his Christmas present. He’d requested some similar to some I made for myself a while back, but he wanted them in a much more neutral colour than the bright pink and grey stripes I used last time. He intends to use these for fishing – hopefully his hands will stay warm and his fingers will stay unencumbered for tying on lures and so on. I used this from my stash. It’s lost its band but I think it’s Stylecraft Special DK 100% acrylic. Most importantly it’s machine washable as, depending of how successful the fishing is, could potentially end up slimy, wet and stinking of fish after every wearing!

With a knitted project done I had nothing cast on so I’ve started some socks for myself – the pattern was given to me by a friend at one of my knit and natter groups – I’m using the version with the contrasting welt, heel and toe and using more yarn from the stash – I have a feeling both may be from Flying Tiger. I’ve bought all sorts of crafty things from the Newcastle store in recent years but I hear that this branch has now closed – I’m quite sad about that.

I’ve also been prepping and spinning alpaca fibre. I spun some I prepped a while back. The three larger skeins are 2ply, each about 100 yards. The smaller skeins (the white is more alpaca and the blue is merino) are my first attempt at chain plying, using some singles left over on bobbins after plying. I felt that this got better as I went along, but I must remember not to overtwist next time.

I washed a batch of the alpaca fibre I skirted last week and hand carded it. I’m improvising with pet grooming brushes until I get proper carders (I have it on good authority that Santa Claus is bringing me some…if I’m good). I’ve braided the roving as I intend to dye it eventually. It does look rather messier than the braids of fibre that you buy, but in it’s current undyed state I thought it resembled the hair of Elsa from Frozen. I promise not to put it over my shoulder and start singing Let it Go!