Give-away and thank-you’s

Give away: get your chance for a present :)

First things first – my long due thank you going to two really nice ladies who have made for interesting post reads since I joined the blog world: Heather of HKnits and Kate of fashion label Maison Bentley for their kind nominations, respectively for the Liebster Award and the Sunshine Award. I want to apologise for my ‘crappiness’ in not following up – I’m really bad at questions and answering them! I truly appreciated your nominations, it’s just me that I’m no good with those things… ♥

Next, it’s about the announced give away. How this works: post in the comments something about your favourite indie yarn. Alternatively, you can tell about your favourite item (book, vintage, etc). You can participate from any part of the world. Why that: it would be enriching to read stories from other people – by exchanging stories, we celebrate the beauty, variety and uniqueness of each product. And what are the prizes? There is a choice among the items you can find listed below. I tried to include different things, so hopefully the winner can choose the most suitable to her/his taste. Unfortunately, I had to exclude heavy/large ones because those could cause an issue with the shipment. Some of the items are new, others are used or vintage. Prize announcement: A random number generator will proclaim the winner, which will be announced on Saturday 25th May. Please post your comment by Saturday 25th 11am BST (here is a time converter to calculate your local time).

You can pick any one entry among all the bulletpoints listed below (for ease of choice, items have been grouped in categories: yarn, fabric, book, cute thing). Any question, please let me know.

YARN
there is a bit of variety to choose from, starting with local wools and then continuing with some summery colours and sock yarn.

      • Jamieson & Smith Natural Shetland, 100% wool, 3 x 50 gram balls, handwash only. Apparently it’s perfect for colourwork as it blooms nicely while blocking to help with any irregularities in tension; the yarn looks scrumptious and is dye free (colours are made by hand, sorting fleece according to shade).
        Jamieson and Smith, Natural Shetland
      • Shetland 2-ply 100% wool in shades purple, grey, midnight or flintstone blue, a fine 1/9nm yarn that gives ca. 900 metres per 100 grams. You can choose all in one colour or some of each shade. The yarn comes from cone and is oiled but blooms once hand-washed. The total weight will be circa 300 grams (approx. 6 yarn cakes) and will be winded up in yarn cakes, either single or multi-stranded to your choice. You can read more about this yarn in my previous post Shetland
        Shetland 2-ply
      • Wensleydale/Angora (75%/25%), DK weight, naturally processed by a small English producer; suitable for knitting and felting; 4 x 50 grams balls (approx. 120 yards/ball) in a natural creamy colour, handwash only
        Wensleydale-Angora indie English wool
      • Bluefaced Leicester wool, dyed by The Natural Dye Studio, 4-ply sock weight, 100 gram skein (360m/394yds), 2-3.5 mm needles, handwash
        Bluefaced Leicester wool, The Natural Dye Studio
      • Bluefaced Leicester wool mix (85% BFL/15% Donegal nep), dyed by Skein Queen, shade River Pebbles, 4-ply sock weight, 100 gram skein (400m/435yds), handwash
        Bluefaced Leicester wool, Skein Queen
      • Blue Face Leicester, DK worsted spun in Yorkshire, England from 100% British wool, 3 x 50 gram balls
        Blue Face Leicester, locally produced
      • Debbie Bliss Cashmerino DK, 55% wool/33% acrylic/12% cashmere, 50 grams/110 metres, 4mm / US 6 needles, 2 x 50 gram balls, happy shades of apple green and strawberry pink for a summer vibe
        Debbie Bliss Cashmerino
      • Louisa Harding Grace Hand Dyed, 2 x 50 grams skeins, 50% silk 50% wool, 109 yds/100m in each, 4 mm needles, with its silk component is a nice option for spring knitting
        Louisa Harding Grace Hand Dyed
      • Regia sock yarn, 75% wool/25%polyamide, machine washable, made in Italy, 3 x 100 gram balls, each balls is enough for a pair of socks.
        Regia sock yarn

FABRIC

      • set of two fabric cuts: spring flowers motif, approx. 110 cm width x 70 cm length, drapery light material, it would seem suitable for a summery sleeveless top + ethno style motif, approx. 110 cm width x 90 cm length, lightweight, suitable for example for a sleeveless shirt or a light informal skirt. You can also see them in the first picture of this post.
        set of 2 lightweight fabric cuts

BOOK

      • Waking Up in Iceland by Paul Sullivan, an interesting account by an Englishman who visited Iceland for some months, easy to read, it offers a glimpse of the local culture, music and traditions (choice between new print copy or Kindle edition)
        Waking Up in Iceland
      • A World without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Gödel and Einstein by Palle Yourgrau, the book is rooted in a mathematical/logical background, I found it to be an interesting, although not exactly lightweight, account on two 20th-century key figures, who had sharp minds, peculiar characters and shared a singular friendship (new copy)
        A World Without Time - the forgotten legacy of Goedel and Einstein
      • Arthur: Roman Britain’s Last Champion by Beram Saklatvala, 1967 (vintage copy with some ageing)
        Arthur: Roman Britain's Last Champion
      • Cross Stitch Cards and Keepsakes by Jo Verso, containing personalised designs for birthdays, anniversaries, Easter, Christmas and various occasions (copy from my reference collection, that is used but in good condition)
        Cross Stitch Cards and Keepsakes
      • 200 Crochet Blocks by Jan Eaton (copy from my reference collection in very good condition) + 250 Patterns of Crocheting (a quirky vintage pocket paperback book with b/w illustrations, language is Chinese!)
        200 Crochet Blocks & 250 Patterns of Crocheting

CUTE THING

      • sheep stamp Leaping Sheep Border, size ca. 13 x 3 cm, for those who love all things woolly this is a cute new rubber stamp, locally produced by Inca Stamp
        + two little silk pouches (13 x 11 cm)
        Leaping Sheep Border stamplittle silk poaches
      • set of two prints with a natural subject, size 18 x 24 cm each, made on fine paper near Florence, Italy
        Prints on fine paper, made in Italy

This is my first give-away… hopefully I did things ok. I look forward to reading your stories!

Colourwork: circular and flat knitting, my experience with it

A few days ago Martha of After Hours and I were commenting on our experiences with colourwork and she suggested to write about it – which I think it’s a good way to structure (and record) my thoughts about the subject. Thus, today’s post is about the different ways to knit stranded colourwork, that is like you would typically see in Fair Isle garments. I’ll be discussing the subject based on my self-taught experience, so excuse any inaccuracies you may come across.

Stranded colourwork for an argyle pattern An example of colourwork, here done with DPNs

There are three main types of needles that can be used: DPNs (double-pointed needles), SPNs (single-pointed needles) and circular needles (either fix or interchangeable). The following is my account of the experience with each type.

Generally, there are two main approaches to knitting stranded items:

  • colourwork knitted in the round (with DPNs or circular needles);
  • colourwork knitted in the flat (with SPNs).

Also, commonly in each row two colours are used; you could have more, although that would make things a bit more complicate. In any case, don’t feel discouraged, as my very first go at trying colourwork was with three colours – beginner’s mind or Shoshin. Going on a brief tangent, this is an interesting page on one of the secrets of learning anything: Empty Your Cup.

Needle types: circular (left), DPNs (centre), SPNs (right) Needle types: circular (left), DPNs (centre), SPNs (right)

Flat knitting with SPNs: from what I’ve been reading in books, I understand that this may have been more commonly used in the past than it is nowadays. Advantages: it saves you from having to reinforce/steek and gives you freedom in the size of the item, unlike with circular needles where you need to find a suitable circumference. Disadvantages: it may be considered, possibly with some reason, more fiddly and confusing: this because it’s not easy to change colours while purling and it also requires to swap sides when reading the chart (right and wrong side). Workarounds: to ease following the work I made an electronic pattern and, for each row, marked where it should begin to avoid mixing things up (and consequent frogging!); the same can be done on a paper chart. It gets slightly less fiddly if you can at least arrange to have the row with the simplest pattern running on the wrong side.

Knitting in the round with DPNs: it gives you freedom in the size of the garment, but it requires extra attention to avoid different marks and tension in the points of transition from one to the next needle (there are some workarounds but haven’t tried yet, apart from keeping a relatively tight tension when changing between needles); avoiding tension problems should be feasible with certain size yarns (sock weight and upwards) but not sure it would be easy with finer yarns (i.e. 2-ply like I’m using at the moment).

Knitting in the round with circular needles: they are perfect in that it’s all right side knitting, no headaches in reading the pattern and hardly any issues in tension/transitions; the only down sides are that you have to find a matching cable circumference, the steeking when making flat garments, and you have to fiddle with the top end, where there is a little bump due to the spiral knitting (workarounds exist for the latter one); I read that some people had issues with the join between needle and cable, that it didn’t allow for a smooth transition (the yarn got “stuck” at the join point) – though this may depend on the wool type and needle brand used, as they vary in their characteristics.

I don’t think I have an overall preference among those presented. Generally, I prefer to assess each time on a case by case basis, for example depending on the item size, yarn type and size, etc. For finer yarns, like I’ve been trying recently, I’d avoid the DPNs because they may result in variable tension and holes in the join points. If it’s a very small piece that I’m working on, circular needles may not be available in a suitable circumference size, so I’d switch to DPNs. In general, I am striving to try and use all of them in different projects, so that I can practise/experiment and also have alternative options.

There are many books, online tutorials, videos and blog posts. A good online introduction and tutorial is that by Theresa Vinson Stenersen: Color Stranding. If you’re unsure, I suggest starting with some reading or watching and at some point, just dive in.. results may not be optimal at first, but that’s only normal. The more we try and the easier each time it will be! As with each technique, a keen interest in the resulting items will help you get through the inevitable highs and lows of the learning process. I found it definitely worthwhile learning it.

Give-away: a chance to win                    Give-away coming up very soon!

A sneaky hint at the upcoming posts: first there will be some give-away, and then more on books for a crafts reference library… stay tuned!

Weldon's Encyclopedia of Needlework, 1940s                     New books in the crafts reference library

A bit of everything: yarn, history, swatches

Today’s post is about many different things, though still business-as-usual we could say: yarn, history books, swatches.

The first news is that I received some beautiful yarn, that will join the enormous stock that I have by now. Yes, I’m considering sorting and destashing some of it at some point. Anyway, the yarn I received includes some wool (no label but it feels like good quality) in shades of browns, greys, beige and gold yellow, probably a 4 ply, in a cone of over 600 grams. Together with it, some British Wensleydale wool in cream and brown: a little ball is handspun – incredibly soft and with a natural shine; the rest is in 50g regular balls. I’m in love, with all of them. By coincidence, Kate Davies’ last design, Catkin, features a beautiful yarn, Titus, made with a blend of British wools (50% grey Wensleydale, 20% Blue-Faced Leicester, 30% UK alpaca), which thing made me smile, as I ordered the yarn before even reading about it. I must have a ‘good nose’ for good yarns, lol.

handspun British Wensleydale handspun British Wensleydale (not my work!)

wool in shades of browns, greys, beige and gold yellow wool in shades of browns, greys, beige and gold yellow

British Wensleydale British Wensleydale

Other recent deliveries contained some Jamieson and Smith Shetland yarn, some Shetland wool on cone that I mentioned in another post, and some circular 2mm needles in 20, 30 and 40 cm. Now I’d only need an app to keep track of my items, before my memory forgets what’s in my beloved stash.

Jamieson and Smith Jamieson and SmithJamieson and SmithJamieson and Smith

In today’s stroll I stopped at an Oxfam bookshop and availed myself of some history-related books: In Search of England – Journeys into the English Past by my favourite Michael Wood (if you have access to BBC iPlayer seek out for his history documentaries); The Wars of the Roses – a Royal History of England edited by Antonia Fraser (an introduction to the topic can be found  on the Wars of the Roses wikipedia page); Ancient Britain by James Dyer, about the prehistoric life of Britain from the first human occupation 450,000 years ago, until the Roman conquest in AD 43; Diamonds – a Jubilee Celebration by Caroline de Guitaut (I’m no royal fan but the book is interesting in that it presents the story behind the royal jewels). Maybe I ought to start a clear out in my book section, as well…

In Search of England- Journeys into the English Past   The Wars of the Roses   Ancient Britain by James Dyer Diamonds - a Jubilee Celebration

Lastly, I have done some progress on my swatch playground. The first one of this series is completed but ends are still to be sawn in and washing to be done. Here is a preview of the beginning, other pictures will follow once I have done more swatches. It looks nice but requires a loooong time – knitting a fine 2x2ply with a 2mm single-point needles, so it takes forever and especially colourwork knitting on the wrong side… I know, I could have used circular needles but I also wanted to learn colourwork in flat knitting (plus I was lazy at the idea of trying steeking). I was tired and kept having issues with silly colour pattern mistakes (had to unravel about 1/3 of it) and stitches cheekily sticking out their heads here and there without any reason (the stitch count seemed to be still fine?). Anyway, the first test is more or less done. I’m now trying another on an even finer yarn… wish me luck!

Swatch no. 1, 2x2ply on 2 mm flat knitting, Shetland yarn             Swatch no. 1, 2x2ply on 2 mm flat knitting, Shetland yarn

View from the kitchen window                 View from the kitchen window

new members in the reference library

While in the UK it’s a long weekend (May bank holiday), the weather decided to turn its back on us. Yesterday was a lovely early summer day and today, when I woke up at dawn, the sky appeared to promise turning blue. I was good and did some reading for my exams. In the meanwhile, the weather forecast announced chances of rain and the sky turned grey.. sob.

So, the planned visit to the Observatory in Greenwich was postponed. Ok, then I can check for some books online, at least. I hopped through various (web)pages and ordered a few things. I also checked in my wish list if any of the items were available at a reduced price and a few were, indeed. Having found some nice books at a bargain price (and mostly in hardcover, easier to consult when knitting) comforted me from the weather hic-up!

Please let me introduce you to the latest members in my reference library:

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Celtic Animals Charted Designs by Ina Kliffen: the patterns are originally meant for needlework, but apparently can be adapted to a range of other crafts. I liked those intricate animal pictures and finding a cheap new copy, I jumped at the opportunity.

55 Christmas Balls to Knit, Arne and Carlos

55 Christmas Balls to Knit by Arne and Carlos: this is already a classic and very popular among Nordic style lovers. It has been mentioned (and knitted) in many blogs, so you may be already familiar with it. If not, it’s a good reference for Christmas decorations (mainly balls, but not only).  Finding a second hand copy for about £5 including postage, meant that it was inevitable to order it (grin).

The Complete Book of Knitting, Barbara Abbey

The Complete Book of Knitting [hardcover] by Barbara Abbey: I had borrowed this book from the local library and found its final section of 200 pattern stitches (with detailed instructions) not to be missed. I found a used copy at a bargain price, so this was a win-win sit. Already found inspiring things to try, especially for my swatching project.

The Complete Book of Traditional Knitting [Hardcover], Rae Compton

The Complete Book of Traditional Knitting [hardcover] by Rae Compton: its index includes many key words (according to my vocabulary): Shetland and Fair Isle, Britain, Iceland and the Faroe Islands, Sweden, Norway, Central Europe, Northern Lace, Patterns from East and West, Traditional Patterns. Being a relatively old book (early 80s) it’s not one of the many that just came out after the surge of interest in the knitting community… Thus it sounded like a genuine good read. After looking inside the book and finding a(nother) bargain copy, I had to order it.

[disclainer: I’m not earning commissions on the books listed here. I just linked to Amazon because they offer the ‘Look Inside’ preview feature, which can help getting an idea of how the book is like]

The hidden perils of a library trip

Libraries are wonderful places where it is easy to get lost – similarly it is the case with bookshops – at least in my experience. Though, this is not the danger that it is meant in the title: the borough libraries have a great policy of selling withdrawn copies, which means that each time I attend the library there is the risk of me bringing back some purchased books. Usually it’s not much, but today – it was a while I hadn’t gone – there seemed to be more interesting titles than usual and six curious books joined me on my way home… honestly, I can’t tell how that happened! Neither am I able to tell where these will be placed, as there is hardly any inch free on the bookshelves…

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“The hare with amber eyes: a hidden inheritance”, Edmund de Waal

Trying to forget these little troubles, I would like to introduce the latest members joining our family. All of them have an historic theme, be it perhaps due to my curiosity? Anyhow, we can divide them broadly into two sub-sections: the first related to British history and the latter to international topics.

Proceeding in order we start with a small tome, “A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany” by Aubrey Burl. It appears to contain a comprehensive register of prehistoric human-made stone arrangements and some black and white photographs, subdivided in four main regions, from Northern Scotland to the North-West of France. Past visits to stone circles in England were a deeply fascinating experience and so, in the hope of using it in future travels, I took the book.

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The second title is “How we used to live in Victorian Times” by Freda Kelsall, which is an educational book presenting different aspects of life in that age, like work and living conditions, different social classes, technology, law, education and various others. It contains interesting pictures from various sources of the time, which well depict life in the second half of the 19th century. The presentation is concise but fairly informative and pleasant to follow. While this chronicle is not something that I would use every day, it nevertheless constitutes a good reading to learn more about the past culture of Great Britain.

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The last book of the national section is “Blood of the Isles” by Bryan Sykes, which explores the genetic roots of the populations of Britain and Ireland, based on a major research programme that the author and his team at Oxford University carried out on DNA of over 10,000 people from these areas. Such work sought to investigate the relation between the modern genetic composition and that of the tribes and populations – Celts, Romans, Saxons, Vikings and Normans, to name a few – that inhabited these isles. The outcome would appear to challenge common beliefs and conventional historical accounts, and may help improve our understanding of the successive waves of settlers and the traces they left behind.

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The international section starts with “The Hare with Amber Eyes” by Edmund de Waal, a memoir on the journey of a Japanese collection of netsuke (and the family who owned them) across continents and time. A thorough description of the story is presented in this editorial in the Indian’s Telegraph. I had many reasons to buy the book: I recurrently read about it, the title remained impressed in my memory (I loves hares) and also found the cover to be aesthetically interesting.

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I picked up the next book because recently the (American) Civil War has been quite popular in the media, following Spielberg’s latest film “Lincoln“. The title is “Freedom’s Soldiers – The Black Military Experience in the Civil War” and is edited by Ira Berlin, Joseph P. Reidy and Leslie S. Rowland. All editors are professors of history and brought out various related volumes. This work includes many illustrations and a documentary history (letters and other sources from the records of the National Archives) and I thought it may be a good background read on this era.

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The last in this post is not exactly a book to be read… it’s an old French copy of the “Mignon” opera libretto. I neither play an instrument nor sing, but I occasionally go to the opera (if you are in London I recommend visiting the Royal Opera House). And this old print (19th-early 20th century?) was not to be left unloved on that metal bookshelf – it looked so lonely among all the other modern books.

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And what is the strangest book in your collection – or perhaps the one that you like the most?