Another baby top

Cygnet Denim acrylic DKI found some seconds-quality yarn being sold at a temporary market stall during the summer and couldn’t resist buying a couple of balls of this denim-y acrylic DK. It’s made by Cygnet, which is a “value” brand in any case, but this yarn was priced at only £1 per 100g ball because the dyeing is uneven. Since it’s meant to be a mottled colour that imitates washed denim rather than a flat shade, I figured it wouldn’t matter too much.

I’m knitting an all-in-one, top-down baby cardigan with it. The pattern is Norwegian Fir. It is all garter stitch apart from the raglan “seams”; they are worked in a simple lace pattern which creates the necessary increases by means of yarnovers that are not accompanied by the usual decreases.

Norwegian Fir baby cardiganI’ve followed the advice of myriad other Ravelry members who have made the garment and added extra stitches down the front edges to create an overlap, because the original design is an edge-to-edge cardi. It is supposed to have a single button at the neck, but that would surely pull without any front overlap. I’m creating buttonholes all down the front to make the garment more suitable for winter. And I’ve done an I-cord cast-on for the first time ever, to give a neat neckline, plus I-cord edges down the front, also a first for me. I intend to finish the lower edge and the cuffs with a matching I-cord cast-off, something I have done before (Nanook).

The instructions for the 2-stitch I-cord edging came from The Gift of Knitting, which also covers the slightly bulkier 3-stitch version. For a baby garment, two stitches felt like enough for me. It is certainly giving a lovely opening edge and is not at all difficult to do.

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Using photo transfer paper

I’ve always wanted to have a go at transferring an image onto fabric. It used to mean messing around with screens, squeegees and ink, or else a fairly expensive trip to the local photo processing shop where a limited selection of products was available, perhaps just a T-shirt. But nowadays you can do it yourself up to A4 size at least, thanks to inexpensive photo transfer paper. You just need access to a colour printer, and perhaps some photo editing software such as GIMP (which is excellent and free).

I saw a pack of inkjet-suitable photo transfer paper marked down in a local shop the other day, and I couldn’t resist. But what to do with it? Then I remembered that a bibliophile friend’s birthday was coming up. I know that she always carries a foldable shopping bag with her, in case she sees a second-hand book she wants to buy – or anything else, for that matter. And she once told me that one of her favourite quotations is Groucho Marx’s

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.

How about I make her a bag with that on it? She has a lolloping great Dalmation, so perhaps it ought to have one of those on it too, since Groucho mentions dogs. But not a photo, something simpler would be wise for my first attempt at image transfer.

I set about searching for suitable doggy images online, editing them and adding text. Then I reversed the designs for the front and back of the bag before tackling the scary bit: printing with my rather elderly printer and ironing the images onto each side of a cotton book bag. I did practise on a piece of cotton fabric first, to get a feel for the ironing process.

This is the end result. Please excuse the crumpled appearance. Since transferring the images I have somehow misplaced the iron.

Outside of a dog side of bagInside of a dog side of bagI found it difficult to know how long to keep the hot iron on the transfer paper and I may have slightly scorched the cotton, but I’m pretty pleased with the result. I think my friend will be happy with her totally unique book-hunting bag too. Frankly, if I can do it then anyone can, so I’d urge you to have a go. Just make sure you buy the right type of paper, according to whether you’ll be using an inkjet or laser printer.

Now, what should I do with the other sheets in the pack of paper?

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Floor repairs and a finished hat

Fairy Leaves baby hat

Fairy Leaves hat finishedThe hat I’ve been making, based on the Fairy Leaves baby dress, seems to have worked. It’s turned out the right size anyway.

If I’m being picky, I’d say the crown is a little too pointy. I increased over seven rounds from the 4 cast-on stitches to the number needed to start the lace pattern, and with hindsight it would have been better to have increased every round for five rounds. That way, the crown would have come out smoother. Had this hat been knitted in wool, I’m sure blocking would have eliminated the slight Prussian helmet appearance, but the yarn I used, Drops Cotton Light, is a cotton/polyester mix which has zero blockability. (Is that a word? It ought to be.)

It should look good with the matching dress.

Fairy Leaves Hat and DressFixing the floor

So, what’s next? Well, we have a major house DIY project underway, which is eating into valuable knitting/crafting time. We’ve ripped off the skirting boards and lifted the carpets downstairs for the first time – we bought the carpets with the house – to investigate some bounciness in the floorboards. It turns out that a number of the joists are unsupported for substantial lengths where a brick or two has been removed by a plumber or electrician in the past to make it easier to install a pipe or cable. There are no “sleeper walls” beneath our suspended floor, just individual bricks placed a few feet apart under each joist to support it along its length. The bricks are packed out where necessary with slate or stone, to allow for unevenness in the ground below, and several of these packing pieces had also been displaced.

Unsupported joist

Joist resting on thin air

Packed joist

Joist properly supported

We were a couple of bricks short, but I found a builder’s skip full of old bricks while out on my bike one day. The builder was kind enough to give me an empty plaster sack and some twine, so I could fasten the bundle safely on the rear rack for the ride home. I can tell you, you don’t realise how heavy a house brick is until you try cycling uphill with two of them. It’s a good job we didn’t need any more.

While we had floorboards up to allow access to the underfloor void, we took the opportunity to clear out a lot of rubble, rodent nests and the like, give the airbricks a good cleaning out, and insulate all the heating and drinking water pipework within reach. With the missing bricks replaced and slates knocked in on top of them to make everything tight (and rising damp-proof), we fitted a handful of new floorboards where the old ones were damaged. Now the floor is as firm again as it undoubtedly was when the house was first built in the early years of the 20th Century.

The plan is to put down oak flooring instead of a new carpet. We will get a carpenter/ joiner to lay it – we’ve done tongue-and-groove laminate and bamboo boards before, but this floor needs to be perfect and the rooms in question have all sort of issues, including changes in level, fireplaces, rough stone-faced walls and electrical sockets in the floor. Definitely a job for an expert.

Sand Art socks

The sock pattern I test-knitted recently is now available on Ravelry: Sand Art Socks.

Sand Art Socks

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Sand Art socks test knit

I posted a couple of weeks ago about my first foray into test knitting. I only had to make a single sock to satisfy the completion criteria for this top-down test, but I’ve been very disciplined and made the second sock without delay. It’s all too easy to succumb to the dreaded Second Sock Syndrome and put the project away half-completed because, let’s face it, knitting two identical items one after the other is rather boring.

Here are my completed socks.

Sand Art socks 7I like the way that short rows make a self-striping yarn, or one with even shorter colour changes like this Cozy Toez, more interesting. The contrast with the plain stocking stitch of the foot portion is interesting too. The pattern I tested should appear on Ravelry soon as Sand Art Socks and I think it would be a good introduction to the German Short Rows technique. Knitting lots of little back-and-forth rows can get a bit tedious because of all the stopping and turning – unless you learn to knit backwards, which I never have – the Summit shawl is the prime example of that kind of torture.

Summit shawl

Summit shawl

I knitted it five years ago, and if it hadn’t been for the fact that it was needed for a Very Special Occasion (finally tying the knot after 30+ years of unwedded bliss), I’d have thrown it in a corner and walked away as soon as I realised it’s composed of thousands of very short rows. But in this sock pattern all the fiddling about is over once you reach the heel, albeit the heel is worked with German Short Rows too.

Sand Art socks 5The instructions cover various adult widths and the length is easily adjusted. I don’t think I’d recommend Sand Art for a first socks project – stick with plain stocking stitch or ribbing if you’ve never knitted a sock before – but the pattern is clearly written and anyone who knows their way around a sock shouldn’t have any problems. You don’t even have to graft the toe.

If instead you fancy continuing the short rows onto the instep, there’s a similar pattern called Rainbow Socks that you might like to consider.

This was my first test knit and I’ll certainly do it again. Having an externally-imposed deadline is a good way of ensuring that the project doesn’t languish while others are started, and it was fun to be working through a pattern at the same time as a bunch of other people and exchanging comments with them and the designer. Of course, that’s what knitalongs (KALs) are for too. (For those who don’t know, in a KAL you knit a particular pattern at the same time as others and compare notes via Ravelry, social media or real life meetings.) I’ve never participated in a KAL, maybe it’s time I broke that duck as well.

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The Fairy Leaves hat

Front of baby dressThere was a whole ball of green yarn left over when I knitted this dress for a one-year-old, plus some of the fuchsia pink too. That’s all I need by way of a reason to knit a matching Something. The Something is going to be a hat to keep the little one’s head warm as we go into the Autumn.

I want the hat to match the dress. Conveniently, the lace pattern around the neckline of this top-down, Fairy Leaves design widens from 6 stitches per leaf repeat to 22 stitches over the course of its 30 rows. Which should mean that I don’t have to do much else in the way of shaping if I knit the hat from the crown downwards.

Having the knitted dress to hand has helped the design process enormously, because I’ve been able to measure several repeats of the leafy lace and work out exactly what’s required for a matching hat. The baby’s head measures 41cm, and each leaf is about 9cm at its widest point, so I am working just 4 repeats around the hat – 5 would be far too big and a little negative ease is desirable in a hat to stop it falling off. If, when I get to the bottom of the lace, I find that the hat’s circumference is too tight to stretch to 41cm, I shall just keep increasing for a few rounds of stocking stitch before working a pink moss stitch band.

Start of Fairy Leaves hatTo get to the start of the lace – where I need to have 6 x 4 = 24 stitches – I’ve cast on four stitches and then increased at four places around the hat in four of the first seven rounds. By my reckoning, those seven rounds, plus the 30 lace rounds and the 6 rounds for the band, will give a hat that is the right height. But I’m prepared to pull it all out and start again if necessary, because it won’t take long to make such a small item in DK.

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Testing a new sock pattern

One of the many good things about the knitting and crochet community Ravelry is its forums, and several of those forums are devoted to bringing designers and test-knitters together. The designer gets her draft pattern tested in all the variations and sizes for free, while the testers have the fun of trying something “hot off the press”, again for free.

Blue Selbu hat

Blue Selbu

Before publishing my Blue Selbu hat in 2016 I took advantage of this and had my draft pattern tested by several experienced hat knitters, to whom I shall be forever grateful. While they didn’t find any major flaws, their feedback allowed me to improve the clarity of the instructions in a number of respects. Now, when I look at the Ravelry project notes of those who have made a Blue Selbu, I see that a few have commented that the pattern is well written, which gives me a buzz. There’s nothing more dispiriting than getting halfway through a knitting project and then being stumped by the instructions – apart from finishing a project and finding you went wrong somewhere because the pattern was ambiguously worded.

I’ve never taken on the test-knitting role though, until now. Having recently finished my linen jumper and the Fairy Leaves baby dress, I was looking for a new knitting project to keep my hands busy. It’s not really socks weather, but it will be in another month and I could do with at least one more pair to reach my goal of being able to wear hand-knitted socks every day without having to do a sock wash more than once a week.

Sand Art test knitI had a flick through the latest appeals for test-knitters in the Ravelry forum I belong to and found a design that seemed to call to me. These socks are knitted with short rows, not unlike the Diversion socks I made in the Spring, and the pattern calls for the German Short Rows technique to be used just like my version of Diversion.

They are called Sand Art and you can see why.

Cozy Toez yarnI’m using Cozy Toez, the third time I’ve used this sock yarn. The colour changes are very short and that is producing an interesting effect in the short-row sections. I’m enjoying seeing how it works out, and also keeping the designer updated on progress and any difficulties with her pattern – nothing major so far and the first sock is done so it should be plain sailing from now on.

First Sand Art sock


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