Saturday, 27 September 2014

Where do I start?

It has been a while, hasn't it? I've decided to follow the example of Nic of the Yarns from the Plain podcast (which, if you don't already, you really should give a listen!) and do one post where I tell you what's been going on in life, and then use the next one to catch you up with the knitting. I am going to go as far back as April, because that feels like the last time my feet hit the ground, and do it chronologically to make sure I get it all...

1. During the first week in April, I submitted my PhD thesis for examination. I posted about this at the time, and it felt like the culmination of a lot of hard work.

2. In mid-April, I started a new job. The first five months were classroom-based learning with a fab bunch of people :) so it's been pretty hectic socially! also the course had exams :( so work-wise, I've been really busy. These five months were is Devon, too, which meant flying to Aberdeen to get home, or getting the train for 5 hours to get to my parents' in Yorkshire, so my weekends have also been busy and involved a lot of travel.

3. I got married!!! At the end of May :) we had a fantastic day and it was brilliant to see everyone. I knitted my wedding shawl (more on that story, sometime!) and I loved wearing it :) sadly, I couldn't get time off training to go on honeymoon, so was married on Saturday and travelling back to Devon on the Monday. That was quite a wrench.

4. End of June, I passed the midterm exams for the training. After getting married,  I really had to knuckle down but I did it :)

5. Mid-July, I was a bridesmaid for my bridesmaid, which was so much fun and next to no hassle. I just didn't want to have to say that all of July I worked, because...

6. Mid-August saw the final exams for the training, which I also passed (and I did better than I expected!!)

7. During the last week in August,  I successfully defended my PhD thesis. This involved a fair amount of preparation, which just added to my crazy workload, but I am so relieved that it finally paid off.

8. Second week in September saw me finish off the classroom training phase of the new job, which meant I could take annual leave again, hooray! So I did, and we set off to France on honeymoon for just less than two weeks :) got back a couple of days ago. Lovely and relaxed and ready to hit to hit the next few months hard!

So yes, it's been busy but I have managed to do some knitting too :) more on that story later!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

FO: Socks x 2

Once again, thing have been  busy around here - and they're not showing signs of stopping, so reader you have been warned: sadly blogging will remain intermittent for the foreseeable future. Partly I've just been too busy to sit back and take stock of things, and partly I've been too busy to knit :( I have managed to get some bits and bobs done in quiet moments though, and so I'll tell you about some socks I finished.

First off, I knew a long time ago I wasn't going to be able to go to any knitting festivals this summer. Firstly, Woolfest fell right in the middle of my midterms so that was out. Secondly, Unwind Brighton was clearly out as it was the day my bridesmaid was getting married herself [and I returned the favour ;) ]. Harrogate Knitting and Stitching is out as it's going to be too hard to get to come November when I'm back living in Scotland and working full-time. Finally, it's not yet certain that I'll be able to make it to Yarndale, because it's the weekend before my new job starts at the other end of the country so the logistics may be tricky. I love these events: the projects, the yarn, the colours and most importantly, the company. Going to them makes me happy.

I needed a plan that was going to reduce how much I missed going to them. This plan has three stages:
1) Knit with yarn I have previously bought at a festival
2) Knit a pattern inspired by a festival
3) Buy yarn from a vendor I'm missing out on visiting

Parts 1 and 2 are accomplished by these socks:

Pattern: Pavilion by Rachel Coopey [rav link]
Yarn: EasyKnits Deeply Wicked in Crystal Blue bought at Woolfest 2013

Pavilion was a mystery knit-a-long (KAL) intended to coincide with Unwind Brighton, with a design inspired by the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. I have loved the look of a lot of Ms. Coopey's designs, but not quite managed to bite the bullet and make any of them yet. I've also never done a mystery KAL. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to decide if I liked the designer's style and the idea of a mystery KAL and the upshot is: LOVE THEM. Also love the yarn, the colour is delicious and they feel like they will be great socks (not yet tested as it's way too warm for woolly socks!). 

Part 3 of the plan was achieved by some late-night yarn shopping which ended in me getting the yarn to make these guys:

Yarn: Easyknits' Cherish in Hockney.
Pattern: Nutkin by Beth LaPensse [rav link]

Also love these socks. The yarn has a little bit of cashmere in so it feels delicious. It's also bright-flippin'-yellow, there's no two ways about it, and I would challenge anyone to feel less happy after looking at that colour. The pattern is easy enough when you get the hang of it, and has a new-to-me short-row heel plus a toe that involves the (also new-to-me) three needle bind off. While I'm probably never going to do another three-needle bind-off, I'm glad to have had a stab at it. They've gone to a well-deserved home back in Yorkshire where I hope they're well loved :)

Thanks for stopping by x

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

WIP: Purple Thermal

Oopsy! This post has been a bit of a long time coming, hasn't it? I've been really busy and have so much to tell you, but I've decided that the best way to get back on the horse with blogging is to just start with where I am today, and I'll fill in the gaps sometime.

I've been thinking about knitting Thermal for quite a while now, and in need of a big project to get me through watching the World Cup, Wimbledon, Tour de France, and the Commonwealth Games I decided to cast it on when the World Cup started about two weeks ago.

Pattern: Thermal by Laura Chau, pattern from Knitty Winter 2006 [rav link]
Yarn: Jarol Wool Rich Heritage 4ply, bought at Wool for Ewe Aberdeen

At first, it was not true love: 200+ stitches of 1x1 twisted rib ain't my bag. However, now I'm into the main pattern it's racing along and I do love it. Progress has sped up and I feel like I might manage my target of casting off by the end of the Commonwealth Games. Fingers crossed.

The yarn is nice, not a 'particular treat' yarn but something that will be hard-wearing. I love the colour but I'm struggling to capture it - it's really quite a reddy purple. It's great yarn though, and a very apt colour for me :)

PS. Sorry about the quality of the photos; for reasons I will explain, for now and the foreseeable future I will be using my phone camera.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

FO: Skye Light

Oops! I did not mean to leave it that long between blog posts - apologies! This week has been rather hectic; hopefully I'll be able to tell you about that, sometime. But first, I've been looking forward to telling you about a fabulous day I had back in December. My lovely former landlady (Hannah) kindly gave me some undyed sock yarn and also offered a 'dyeing day'; all I needed was an idea for colour. Now, I will be the first to admit that my creativity has limits, and being able to dye my own yarn left me somewhat paralysed by choice.

But then I started thinking about things past – maybe because of the time of year (as I said, December), or the changes that were on the horizon for the then New Year. I thought back to January 2009 (5 years ago!?); ahead of our final term at Uni, a few of us went to visit the Isle of Skye. We got on a bus tour in Edinburgh and drove out into the Highlands – my first time there. The scenery blew me away (definitely figuratively; almost literally given the shocking weather!)

Sadly, all I could find were these two low-resolution, poorly-taken photographs. Despite that, I hope they give you an idea of what this trip was like: beautiful if grey, with a light that seemed kind of ‘wet’. I thought I’d try to capture that in a yarn, if possible.  

Off I trotted to Hannah’s, with all this whirling around in my brain (along with the usual PhD thesis malarkey). We had a lovely day dyeing the yarn, nattering, drinking tea, and going to IKEA to pick up some essential vases and accidental Christmas decorations. I was pretty pleased with the result. 

And what pattern to knit with this little beauty? Why, the Old Man of Storr Shawl [rav link], named after one of Skye’s notable landmarks. Ironically, not one I have seen particularly clearly, because the path was far too wet to walk when we were there, but a fascinating geological feature nonetheless.

I used the pattern as my starting point, but essentially knitted it until I ran out of yarn. I've ended up with a small shawl / large scarf jobby - either way, I love it. 

It now reminds me not only of my first trip to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland (with dear friends), but also of a day’s dyeing yarn (also with dear friends), so I really enjoy wearing it. 

Friday, 11 April 2014

Where I've Been For The Last Three Months

Ooops, that was quite a hiatus! And not an entirely intentional one. Blogger tells me that I last posted on 17th January and since then, I've been concentrating on finishing one big project: my PhD thesis. The culmination of three and a half years of work. A 239-page book containing nearly 54,000 words of novel science research.

Yesterday, I submitted it. While this does not mean I am now a Dr (I have to do a viva before that), it is a very important step on the way. As you can see, it means I can work a little less and enjoy life a little more, starting with tea and cake in the nearest cafe. As far as you, dear reader, are concerned, the important implication is that this means I can blog again :)

See you again soon!
PS. I really will try and shake my academic writing style off. I sound weird, even to me.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Knit the Queue 2013 - Final Review

Looking back to my first post on the matter, it looks like I pretty much hit the nail on the head: 2013 turned out to be pretty darn stressful. I did manage to do a lot of work on The Thesis, pretty much plan our wedding, move cities and job hunt. What I needed was a pool of knitting projects I could more or less grab and go from, and that's what Knit the Queue gave me and I'm thankful for that. Knitting this year has been an oasis of calm in the crazy, and has helped to keep me sane.

I'm happy to report that I had a great year knitting-wise, and made lots of beautiful things. It wasn't exactly what was on the list to start with, but I finished 25 objects in 2013. These were 10 pairs of socks, 5 pairs of gloves, 3 hats, 3 shawlsm 3 cowls and 1 cardigan. Miraculously, there were 25 objects in my queue at the beginning. There are a few things that have a story to tell though....

Things that are still on the needles

These numbered two, both jumpers. I think it's fair enough not to finish a jumper on a deadline - after all, you really don't want to mess it up by knitting it when you're not capable of doing a good job.

Skelf was cast on in July, but I have made little progress on it in the last three months due to house-moving fun (it got left at my parents'). It awaits the dreaded picking up of stitches, which in my head is a daylight job and will get done the next time I have a free hour during the day - so hopefully sometime before 2015.

Spoke is one I've been aspiring to knit for ages, and finally cast on in mid-November, knowing that it would be a big ask to get it done by the end of the year but that it was better to not procrastinate further (I've had the yarn since June 2012). I've progressed pretty well, but for the past couple of weeks it has stalled as we've reached a sewing-up stage before we move on to the sleeves. Also the yarn in that photograph looks totally unlike the yarn in real life - though I've had hours of trying and failing to do it justice! I will try again... sometime....

Things that totally didn't get made

These numbered three: some gloves, some stars and a tea cosy. Each has a different reason for not getting done.

I did try with the gloves. I like knitting gloves, mittens, etc., but when I tried the pattern I first picked out (Susie's Reading Mitts) with the yarn (Rico Design Essentials Cotton DK in Green), they went together like orange juice and toothpaste so I decided to stop. I tried a second pattern that involved cables, thinking cotton yarn would give great stitch definition, but got myself in a twist. I tried again with both patterns, and failed again. Away with ye.

The reason the stars didn't get knitted was much simpler: I planned to knit them over Christmas, being a festive idea, and didn't sit still for long enough to start a new project. I had a lot of sleep to catch up on, and I already had knitting projects on the go (more on that story later), and figured they were a better bet. I'll keep the pattern in my favourites, in case

The tea cosy is a sad story of a missing teapot, that I've searched high and low for and not found. I'm particularly gutted about this as my soon-to-be-husband bought it for me some years ago now. I live in hope that it's around somewhere, and when I find it I will design and make the most fabulous cosy for it. Until then, the idea is getting shelved and removed from the queue to prevent me going on a search for the teapot.

Things I made that weren't on the list

These numbered four: two shawls, one cowl and one pair of gloves. The gloves were the one and only knitted Christmas gift that I made, at the request of my Dad so I could hardly say no. They knitted up quickly and I was so happy with them,  I nearly stole them for myself. The cowl I knitted in an evening for my long-suffering partner, after he got quite panicked when he couldn't find his scarf (handknitted by me), and declared that he would like something that he can fit in a coat pocket. It didn't take much time or effort but he seems happy with the result.

As for those shawls, one I'm not telling you about yet. Sorry about that. It is beautiful but it is still not blocked, so if it weren't top-secret, it wouldn't really be a proper FO. The second shawl I wrote about quite a lot when I did it, because it was my first deviation from the Knit The Queue plan; a project I called Hopeless Wanderer, because I am and I like that song. And who could say no to such a delicious yarn and brilliant pattern? I am so happy with the result that, as far as I'm concerned, this was sweet rebellion. I'll let you have a look and make your own mind up.

Overall, I'm happy I did Knit My Queue, I'm happy with the results. I didn't knit anything that was too hard; I didn't cram at the end; and I made a few things that were off-piste but were all the better for it. Great stuff - now what will 2014 bring?

Sunday, 12 January 2014

FO: Martin's Gloves

First up, I have finally finished these gloves for my other half. According to ravelry, I cast these on in January but the stripes drove me dotty (he chose them - next time he's getting plain). Plus, his hands are not shaped like those in the pattern, so I had to do a lot of ripping back fingers and making them bigger. Oh and I nearly ran out of yarn, which meant I also put off knitting them. However, the pattern is brilliant, straightforward, and free to download off Ravelry; any problems I had were definitely my (or his!) fault. The yarn is Artesano Superwash Merino, so matches the hat I made him.

He's only indulged me in one photo:

He does love them, but they took forever - still under the one-year mark though, hoorah!

Friday, 10 January 2014

FO: Bandana Cowl

I tried to find the time for a quick photoshoot with my poor partner, so I could get some great photos of this. Despite the Christmas holidays, I never managed it. So apologies, but you're going to have to put up with selfies and poor lighting.

The Bandana Cowl was a pattern I clocked yonks ago - probably when it was originally on the Purl Soho blog. I'd been thinking about cowls and scarves; cowls are convenient as they don't have long ends that dangle in things, but with the sort of coats I wear, cowls leave a gap around my clavicle that gets chilly. I was thinking that it couldn't be too hard to make a cowl that covered me up. Then one day on my blog roll: voila! Someone figured it out before me!

The structure is clever, though easy to understand. Cast on at the bottom, work the border in the round, before moving on to some short-row shaping and then work in the round again and do some decreases before the top border. This means it is deeper at the front than at the back, so it fills that gap.

An easy pattern, knitted in the round and it goes very quickly. I made this one in Hayfield Bonus Chunky, which is best described as 'budget', so it was a quick, cheap project. I love the result and use it all.the.time.; in the frozen north where I am now living, it is a useful member of the knitwear family, as I strive to become a knitwear ninja (where you're totally covered in handknits or wool clothing, except your eyes). I'm tempted to make another little cowl to go inside, to be extra snuggly, but maybe I should just knit a second in something that has some actual wool in it.

Great one, would definitely recommend!

Monday, 6 January 2014

Happy New Year!

Hope you all had a great time over the holidays. We had a quiet Christmas, just the two of us in our flat, which we both enjoyed. We needed it too, as the days before Christmas were a whirl of travelling, working and socialising for both of us! New Year was spent at my in-law's, where I get very well looked after! It can be a bit of a whirlwind of family too, but this year it was relatively quiet.

Today I'm back at my desk, getting back to business as usual. My concentration is slipping, so I thought I would stop by and just let you know that I'm not dead. I am still knitting and hoping to get some more coherent blog entries out this month. I've got a couple of FOs to tell you about, and I want to report the progress on a pair of socks and two jumpers, plus review my Knit the Queue 2013 progress before making knitting plans for 2014. Sadly, blogging has become a bit difficult for me lately; as often happens at this time of year, work fills the daylight hours, so photographing things in good light becomes harder. I do like doing things to the best of my ability, but I think that I can't keep it up. I am sorry to do it, but I will have to compromise on photo quality, in order to keep things going.

Now, back to work....