Tuesday, 20 January 2015

New Year: New Skills

We often start a new year hoping to kick-start some new habits along with it. These are usually motivated by reasons like “because it’s good for you” rather than reasons like “because it’s good fun”. And those reasons are very admirable but not always, ultimately, very motivating. With that in mind, here are some lovely projects for the new year, which will be fun enough to motivate you to learn some new knitting skills in 2015:

Fair Isle Skills
Why not introduce some more colour to your knitting and use up some of your stash? There are some beautiful small projects in Nicki Trench’s Fair Isle & Nordic Knits to inspire you:




Chart Reading Skills

If the look of lace or colourwork knitting has always tempted you, but you fear the charts and symbols, Charts Made Simple is definitely the book for you. This book is very clearly written, covering charts for lace, cables and Fair Isle. It features all commonly used chart symbols, pictured alongside written explanations and photographs of how each stitch looks knitted in a pattern.


Charts Made Simple:  Understanding Knitting  Charts Visually by JC Briar

This book also covers a wide number of less commonly used symbols, and tells you what their standard equivalent would be. It also lists things to watch out for, such as when shaping symbols are omitted in colourwork charts, and is chock-full of handy tips for diagnosing your knitting and figuring out where you are in a pattern. Charts Made Simple is a gem of a book, and an invaluable resource for tackling charts.

Lace Knitting Skills



With it’s feather-light look, and balls of yarn with 400m per 50g (like Rowan Fine Lace, Artesano Alpaca Silk Lace and Sublime Merino Lace to name but a few yarns with marvellous meterage), lace knitting has a lot going for it. As for resources, The Magic of Shetland Lace Knitting is as useful as it is beautiful.

   

This book is a great introduction to the history and the methodology of lace knitting, and doubles as a stitch directory featuring photographs and instructions for dozens of lace stitches. Each stitch has both charted and written instructions, so you can pick whichever you find easiest, and there is a lot of useful advice about combining different lace patterns to create larger pieces of work.

So why not challenge yourself to learn a new knitting skill this year? It will open up new patterns and yarns to you, so your knitting can be even more fun!

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Socks and Blocks

I’ve almost finished these beautiful Artesano Definition socks and could not resist taking them out and modeling them on our new Knit Pro sock blockers!


One of the nice things about socks is that they are such versatile little projects. If you want simple knitting, a plain sock in a self-patterning yarn will provide you with (literally) hours of entertainment. If you want a project that’s a bit more of a challenge, socks have you covered there too. This has been one of my favourite ever ‘fancy sock’ knitting projects, and I would say that it’s basically all down to the cleverness of the pattern.


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Firstly, look at the way the ribbing merges seamlessly into the stitch pattern! That’s the sort of thoughtful detail that really endears a pattern to me. Not to mention the way that it separates itself out again for the heel flap, and leaves the sole of the sock flat for walking on comfortably.


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Extreme close-up! Woahh!


The pattern is called Azure and can be found in the Artesano Definition Sock Booklet. There are a couple of other really nice patterns in there too, so it’s worth having a look. The Definition Sock yarn was lovely to knit with, with a handle very similar to our much loved Regia 4 Ply.



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Artesano Sock Yarn


The socks look particularly impressive on the sock blockers - the lace pattern stretches to give a much better idea of how the socks will look when they are actually worn. The blockers are made of a very smooth plastic, so there's no risk of them catching on the knitting, and they have a hole in the top to hang them up for storage or for display.


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Left: on a sock blocker, Centre: sock in progress, Right: future pair of socks?

I used Clover bamboo double pointed knitting needles (my current favourite sock needles as they have a less ‘grippy’ nature than the Brittany Birch and softer, more rounded tips than the Pony Bamboo) in a size 2.25mm. This is a size smaller than I would usually use for socks, and helps to avoid loose stitches in the lace pattern, as well is making the tight little stitches stand out.

As you can see, I'm very pleased with the results and cannot wait to wear these socks!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Yarns We Love: Adriafil Cristallo


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This yarn looks fairly unassuming in its ball: muted colours with just a hint of sparkle. Now that I’ve actually cast it on and knitted up a cosy cabled hat, however, I can say that Adriafil Cristallo is a yarn that you overlook at your peril!


It is very soft to knit with, and the little tinsel strands do not add any hint of scratchiness. The most fun part is definitely the subtle colour changes that this yarn undergoes as you knit with it. Every colour within the ball contains little flecky hints of other shades (this is captured really nicely in the above photo), and the colours fade gradually into one another to create a soft, ombre effect rather than strong stripes.

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I’ve used my Cristallo to knit Sirdar pattern 7182 (below, bottom right), and it took about a ball and a half to make, including the pom pom. For the pom pom, I used the blue pom pom maker from Clover 3126.


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The completed hat has a nice, loose fit without being too large, and it can stretch to fit most adult head sizes. The shade I used (51 Multicolour) is lovely: it’s colourful without being bright, and the sparkle adds a festive accent to the hat. Cristallo’s other colourways are equally understated, so this hat project would make a wonderful gift for anyone who is looking for a new winter hat that's extra soft with a touch of sparkle!


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