Monday, 30 June 2014

Knitting on a Jetplane

It's pretty obvious that knitting and air travel were made to go together*. There's the arrival at the airport hours (literally hours) before your scheduled departure time. There's the time spent during the flight itself, where you're obliged to sit still and not make too much noise. And then there's the queues to wait for security, passport checks, customs... to a non-knitter, it must seem like time idly squandered but, for a knitter, this is the chance to focus for hours on a project that would be otherwise impossible with the distractions of every day life.

My favourite travel knitting projects are socks and lace shawls. Projects with a high meterage-to-gram ratio, and something that I can absorb myself in while confined to a seat or a holding bay departure lounge. I knitted Haruni during a trip to the Netherlands and last year made a Swallowtail shawl in Denmark. Each project took less than 50g of laceweight yarn and positively sprinted off the needles as I worked on them whenever I was sitting still!

A Swallowtail shawl can be knitted from less than one 25g ball of Sublime Lace

There is a thorny question that goes hand-in-hand with travel knitting, though: can I take my needles on the plane?

The general consensus here at McA seems to be that it depends entirely on the whims personal convictions of the individual security personnel. And since I've never encountered any objections to my own travel knitting, I'd like to share with you my top tips for getting away with knitting on planes:

1. Don't ask if you're allowed. That question forces the staff to cover their own back and there's a greater chance that they'll say no.

2. Take wooden, bamboo or plastic needles instead of metal. They shouldn't get flagged up on any x-ray machines scanning for metal.

3. Take short double pointed needles, circular needles or crochet hooks and store them in a pencil case along with pens and pencils.

4. If you have really precious needles, take a stamped, self-addressed envelope with you so that you can post your trusty tools back to yourself instead of having to surrender them to the amnesty tubs. You might also want to take some scrap yarn to slide your project onto so that it doesn't unravel.

5. Take as few needles as possible in your hand luggage and store the rest in any suitcases going in the hold.

While I can't promise that this advice will cover every eventuality, I can testify to the fact that I've knitted on flights to Europe and to America on various airlines and it's never been questioned or objected to. And since air travel provides such ideal knitting conditions, I'd recommend tucking a wee project into your holiday bags and making some good knitting progress as you fly off to lands afar.

*I'd just like to say that I've never flown with small children but I get the feeling it's a very different story.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Little Bo Cardigan

For weeks we have been seeing tantalising glimpses of Fair Isle knitting emerging from Susan’s bag.

A sleeve here, half a back there.

Today we arrived to the delightful sight of this little cardigan with all the ends weaved in and the buttons sewn on. And it is SO CUTE!

Little Bo: there are hearts, stripes, a seaside town and a sunshine!

The pattern is from Martin Storey’s Aran and Nordic Knits for Kids, and Susan knitted it on spec in Rowan Fine Tweed. In her words, “it’s quick, it’s lovely and the pattern’s very easy to follow (especially if you do a small size)”.

Rowan Fine Tweed has a rustic look, with little flecks throughout the yarn. It is a thick-and-thin single ply spun from 100% wool and knits up to a standard 4 ply tension. It’s maybe not a good choice if you want a totally even texture, because of the way the yarn goes from thick in one bit to very fine in the next bit, but it looks absolutely wonderful when it’s knit up.

2014-06-05 10.30.46.jpg
This tiny town even has a castle, complete with flag

A word of warning, however: for sewing up, it's an absolute pain in the neck. It keeps breaking. In order to avoid this, or at least to minimise the damage, it’s important not to tug too hard on the yarn when sewing it up.

The red (369 Bainbridge) and cream (376 Bell Busk) shades give Little Bo a traditional Nordic feel, but you could definitely get creative with your colour choices. I think it would also look really cute in yellow with navy contrast, or a dark grey with cream.

Friday, 13 June 2014

What's on the pins in Edinburgh...

First up is this lovely scarf that Kate is working on. This is her first ever knitting project and she was so excited to have just knit her way through her first ever full ball of yarn! Pictured here is ball number two of Rowan Lima - this alpaca scarf will do a fantastic job of keeping her daughter warm this autumn.

Next, we have Sophia's fantastic sweater dress. Sophia has a bit of a reputation for knitting Kim Hargreaves' sweater dresses and particularly admires her clever shaping and attention to detail. This striking pattern is from Indigo and is knitted in Rowan All Seasons Cotton.


Next is a hat that I (Heather) am making. The pattern is from Son of Stitch n Bitch and it's basically my favourite guys' hat pattern ever- I have made so many of these! It takes one ball of Felted Tweed and a tiny bit of scrap DK yarn for the contrast band at the bottom.

This next project is an adorable baby tank top which Susan is working on. The pattern is Sirdar 4443 and the yarn is Snuggly DK in shades 446, 428 and 188. These shades look great together and Susan is such a quick knitter that it'll be done in two shakes of a Bluefaced Leicester lamb's tail.

 Also featured: Susan's trusty row counter (see this post)!

Finally, we have a long-term project from Sarah, who has been crocheting this amazing ripple blanket in Snuggly DK alongside other projects for the past few months. This looks like it could take ages to complete, but it will make a fantastic blanket when it's done!

What are you working on at the minute?

Monday, 9 June 2014

Lost Sheep Competition Winner

We're delighted to bring you the results of our Lost Sheep Competition.  Our winner is Christine McClusky!

Did you find all the sheep and get the right answer?

Thursday, 5 June 2014

To Row Counter or not to Row Counter

I don’t use a row counter. At least, not usually. For some time, I have kept this information under wraps as a dark and terrible secret, anxious that such a devil-may-care attitude might be somewhat frowned upon by my fellow knitters.

It’s not that I object to row counters on principle (I actually think they are a pretty ingenious invention), it’s just that I don’t really trust myself to use them properly. Whenever I attempt to get into the rhythm of turning a wheel or clicking a button at the end of every row, I regularly find myself stopping halfway through a row and thinking, in part-dread, part-frustration “...did I count that last row?”

Clover's classic row counter a.k.a. knitting register

Recently, the topic of row counters came up in the McAree office and the conversation that followed was surprisingly revelatory. Opinions on row counters within our small group of knitters ranged from Sarah’s admission that she never uses one to Susan’s confession that she would be unable to knit without it (“I feel naked without a row counter on my needles!”). Other members of staff, like Brenda, opt for creative alternatives, such as placing a Post-it note under the row they’re currently knitting, and then moving it down to reveal each new row.

An alternative row counter

For Susan, row counters are an essential part of any knitting project because of how they allow you to measure your work accurately. While many patterns simply direct you to knit to a certain length, say 35cm, Susan always uses a row counter to ensure these measurements will be absolutely the same for matching sides. As she puts it, “I like to be exact. The control freak in me needs to know that the two sleeves are exactly the same length!” Control freak? Possibly. Admirable dedication? Absolutely.

George and the baby pandas love row counters

This well-reasoned loyalty to the row counter is no doubt familiar to a lot of knitters. After all, knitting allows you to have absolute control over the colour, texture, length and fit of the garment you are creating. Why would you choose not to be precise when it’s so easily possible?

For me, I know the answer to that is that I will be so distrustful of the number shown on my row counter that, if the length matters, I’ll probably just count the rows of stitches on my knitting anyway. If it doesn’t matter so much (and I usually find it doesn’t), I’m happy to opt for the less-precise-but-still-good-enough method of using a measuring tape. In the words of Brenda, “It doesn’t really bother me if my knitting’s half a millimetre out”. While I very much admire those who can rely on a row counter, I just don’t see one in my own near future. Apparently I like to do things the hard way!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Lost Sheep


Our lovely sheep have gone astray!  Can you help us find them?

8 sheep are hiding on our website.  Rumour has it they were last spotted browsing through the Sirdar and Sublime Booklets...

If you find our sheep, take a note of their letters.  They've obviously got Sirdar Week on their minds - they're thinking about something that happens a lot at Sirdar!

Once you find the correct answer, drop us an email to skim(at) to be entered into our Lost Sheep Competition.  All correct answers will be entered into our prize draw for a chance to win 4 balls of the vibrant Heart & Sole sock yarn.

The competition will close at midnight on Saturday 7th June 2014.  Any answers received after this time will not be entered into the prize draw.  The winner will be announced on Monday 9th June 2014.