Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A New Winter Warmer

It seems that in my hands, hot water bottle covers last about 5 years. 5 years ago, I wrote this post about a new cover for my bottle to replace the one I'd made 5 years before that. Now, 5 years on, my bottle needs a new cover again.

Last time, it appears that I didn't make a very good yarn choice. I used Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran which I happened to have in stash and which was a lovely shade of green. Over the years though, repeated exposure to heat had 'killed' the 33% microfibre content in the yarn so that the cover didn't hold it's shape any more and was all baggy and thin.

This time, I wasn't making that mistake again, so I went for a 100% wool yarn. I've had a couple of skeins of Plum Knits 100% cashmere aran in my stash for about 8 years and have never been sure what to use it for.  Early on, I didn't want to use it in case I wasted it, and more recently, I've struggled to find someing I wanted to make that would only use 175 yards of handpainted aran weight. This seemed like perfect match of pattern and yarn and since my hot water bottle gets heavy use in the winter, it's as good a use of a luxury yarn as any.

I used the Jessie pattern as the basis for my cover again, but once again omitted the intarsia heart. I also tweaked the stitch count as my gauge was slightly off and I wanted a snug cover. The biggest modification I used this time was to knit in the round starting with a magic cast on on the bottom edge. This eked my meagre yardage out a bit and meant no seaming. It got really tricky mid-way up the back with the button bands, but I just put the stitches for the bottom (inside) band on a holder, cast on more stitches for the top (outside) band on my working needle and carried on in the round. At the end, I had to go back and rejoin and knit the bottom band and sew it in at the edges which wasn't a big deal.

I reused the buttons from my previous cover as they were a good match. In the end, the neck is a little short but sufficient and I had less than a yard of yarn left over. The colour pooling is a little odd, but I'm happy to live with that as it's something I primarily use while I'm asleep! The cover is soft and squishy and I was thinking that if it felted a little over time with use, it might even last longer than the standard 5 years!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Hexipuffing away...

 Almost exactly a year ago, I caught the beekeeper quilt bug. Since then I've been turning out hexipuffs; sometimes just the odd one to use up a scrap of left-over sock yarn or 4 ply, at other times, churning out 5 or 6 every evening for a week or more as I find myself between larger projects.

Right from the start, I had a clear vision of what I wanted to achieve: a spectrum of colour from one side to the other. I wanted strong shades of colour, nothing too pastel, and I didn't want anything that was strongly variegated or striped. Unlike the other sock yarn blanket I have on the go (4 inch squares knitted on the bias) which is exclusively for the purpose of using up leftovers, I decided that buying yarn for this project was not only acceptable, but was going to be necessary to ensure a good colour balance.

I started off using up yarn in my stash that fitted the critera and wasn't earmarked for other purposes. I used the remains of a cone of plum-coloured merino 4 ply that I'd had from my very earliest knitting days, the ball-ends of many shades of 4 ply alpaca that had been used for mittens, baby gifts and colourwork, the ball-ends of sock yarn that had been used for socks, scarfs and shawls and some very light DK that was left over from a hat. I even navajo-chained some left over laceweight and knitted hexipuffs from that.

Having exhausted my supply of left-overs (though from time to time, more always present themselves), I moved on to small quantitied of merino and merino-silk roving in my spinning stash. I spun these finely and plied to approximately 4 ply weight and used these for more hexipuffs.

Finally I bought some yarn specifically. A few weeks ago, I found some lovely mixed mini-skein sock yarn packs from Rosie Retro and knitted them up into hexipuffs,

and I've just bought some small skeins of the Yarn Yard Bonny that will balance some gaps in my spectrum.

Every so often, I lay the accumulated hexipuffs out (I now have about 170) and take a photo. This is really helpful in identifying where the 'thin' parts of the spectrum are.

I'm about a quarter of the way to where I'd like to finish hexipuffing so this project may take a few more years yet and it may be some time until you see it again!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Little Feet Flannel

Another project for DD, this time because she was so wonderfully generous with something I knitted for her when she was a baby...

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been working on a blanket for the new baby using up my stash of the original Peaches and Creme cotton aran. I have a fairly good amount of this but ran short of light green with a couple of rounds still to go. I seached online and on Ravelry but couldn't source any without stupendous postage from the states and the other greens in my stash just wouldn't work.
Now, before DD was born, I knitted her a blanket and some wash cloths out of this yarn, and one of the cloths was in the green that I was short of. It is her favourite flannel... and despite this, she consented to let me rip it out and use it for the baby's blanket, and then helped me wind it into a little ball.

I offered to knit her a new flannel out of a colour that I had more of to replace the one I'd ripped out and she asked for pink (she's at that age). I ended up using two pinks in broad stripes to make sure I'd have enough.

The pattern is the same as the original - Little Feet Baby Cloth and the colourways are burgundy and shocking pink. The pattern doesn't stand out so well as it did on the original green cloth, but DD likes it (and every time she sees me working on the baby blanket, she points out her flannel in the edge of the green stripe!).

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Lola's Blanket

 DD is a serious fan of Charlie and Lola and was lucky enough to be given a Lola doll by a friend at Christmas. She started putting Lola to bed on the sofa in the evenings under a selection of different 'blankets', so I decided that Lola needed her own special blanket.

DD has been watching me working on a blanket for the new baby recently and admired several of the colours. While the baby blanket itself is still not finished, I've finished with several of the colours involved, so I asked her which colour Lola would like for her blanket. The verdict was light purple and while there wasn't enough of this on its own, I managed to improvise an acceptable blanket.

The yarn is the sadly discontinued original Peaches and Creme cotton aran and I've used the following colourways: Light Grape, Burgundy, Shocking Pink and Rose. The needles were 5mm.

I cast on 30 stitches, and knitted a seed stitch border with a stocking stitch and cable centre panel. 

It has been a great hit with both DD and Lola and Lola rarely gets out of 'bed' these days!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Clearing the backlog - the final installment!

Finally I've caught myself up and am blogging relatively recent projects:

Over the last couple of months, I've been knitting bits and pieces for DD, partly to finish off stash and partly because it's fun. She's really into the idea that 'Mummy made this' at the moment and I can't resist her enthusiasm (and I hold no illusions about how long this phase might last)!
This is a little stocking filler that I made her for Christmas...

The pattern is Ragdoll by Debbie Bliss and I knitted it using Drops Baby Merino on 2.5mm needles.

I made major modifications to this pattern. It is written to be knitted flat and sewn up which would result in a huge number of small pieces and seams, so I started at the top and knitted it in the round, stuffing it as I went. Only the arms and the dress were knitted separately and with hindsight, the arm shaping at the top where they're sewn on would lend itself beautifully to a sort of raglan-style construction.

There are many modifications to the dress that have been made on Ravelry, so I intend to make a few of these in the future to give her a wardrobe. I also wondered about holding the yarn doubled and using larger needles to make a 'big sister' with a different coloured dress and tights.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Clearing the Backlog # 4 - Mittens

 Mittens have been a bit of a theme in my knitting over the last couple of years. I've already blogged about the Calaveras and Chrysanthemum mittens that I knitted way back when, but since then, I've gravitated towards slightly simpler (easier?) designs.

First up are two pairs of fingerless mitts for DD. She has dreadful circulation to her hands so these were knitted with autumn in mind, just to keep her hands warm in the car (or house) or on mild days.

The first pair were knitted with my handspun on 3mm needles.

The second pair were knitted with some Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the Fandango colourway that I had left over from her sock-yarn hat. Also knitted on 3mm needles.

Both pairs were knitted to improvised patterns and had deliberately short cuffs as DD was not very tolerant of mittens at first. Now that she loves putting her mittens on, I'd knit future pairs with much longer cuffs and possibly with flip-over tops.

Moving on to adult mitts, this year I took part in the Yarn Yard Shed Swap on Ravelry. The theme of the swap was hand coverings, with each participant completing a questionnaire on their likes, dislikes and hand-covering preferences.
My recipient requested fingerless mitts, so I got to try out a pattern I've had my eye on for a while - Vancouver Fog Mitts.

I used Dream in Colour Classy yarn in the colourway 'Seaflower'.

I liked these so much that I knitted a second pair for myself using Manos de Uruguay Silk Blend in colourway 'Pisces'.

Both times I knitted the longer versions with the extra repeat of the cable on the cuffs for really warm coverage on the wrists. The pattern is lovely and well-written, but I made a minor modification to move the end of the round to the middle of the palms instead of starting right beside the pattern on the backs.