Thursday, 12 December 2013

Gifts for Knitters

Our little knitting group had their Christmas party the other night. This year we chose to have a potluck house do over a restaurant meal and I think the idea worked really well! It allowed us to bring food we all enjoyed and have a setting where we could easily knit and chat and really catch up with each other.
The lasting impression of the evening I think was one of carbs. Oh so many carbs....oh so tasty...

The concept was a little new to us as a group so organisation wasn't quite fine tuned. Somehow everyone brought doughy, bready or cakey things.  I tried valiantly to add vegetables to my pasta salad but not even those could cut through the general wheaten goldness of it all. Best of all, when organising the party, it seemed like everyone was going to bring hoummous for our token the end, noone did!

Nonetheless, it was all delicious. I parked myself next to these gorgeous Arab pastries and didn't move for the rest of the night. I even squirelled some away to take home and had them for breakfast the next day!

The other great success of the night was our round of Secret Santa. We do try and help our Santas by filling out a little questionnaire beforehand with things like colours we love or hate to work with, our favourite fibres, complete no-nos and non-knitting things we might also like. My tip if you are buying for a knitter? Stay clear of pastels and fun-fur, those made everyones no-no list! My other tip? Ask them if they've got their eye on something in particular. It may seem like less of a surprise then, but it will be something they will definitely use and probably think of you each time they bring that tool or book out for a moment of crafting. Knitting and other crafts are often thought of as a bit of a frivolity and new tools or fancy yarns can fall quite far down the budget priorities in every day life, so receiving something as simple as a cutting mat and roller (as one of the girls asked for, within our £10 budget) as a present is really special.

Here are a few of the other lovely gifts that we exchanged:

Personally hand-dyed yarn for someone with a love of purple:

Bright chunky non-animal yarn and home-made vegan chocolates:
My choice of fibre from Hilltop Cloud fibres, a shop I know my giftee loves....I may or may not have accidentaly bought something for myself while I was there...oops

And the gift that I received and that really took me aback by being the most perfect pick for me from the more obscure section of "non-yarn things I also like": A set of small, hand thrown pottery bowls from St Ives

Most surprisingly of all, the person who gave me these has never been to my house or seen the Shelf Of Brown Pottery!

So there we are. We knitters, we like presents and food, we do.

Friday, 6 December 2013


Here is something that you do not see every day: Mark, wearing an actual warming garment around his neck.

For eleven years, I have offered and begged that he let me knit him something nice and all this time, he has been convinced that anything placed around his bare, freezing neck would result in his immediate strangulation.

So I gave up on the idea and went back to experimenting with my rigid heddle loom. So far, weaving for me has been more about rough, hard wearing textures, like wall hangings or rag rugs, but I've seen lots of really inspiring projects on ravelry and decided to try weaving with nice merino sock yarns. I used two colours of Malabrigo Sock for this - I was hoping to achieve a checkerboard pattern but have found out since that I wasn't using a dense enough reed, so it ended up just stripy. That said, hand dyed colours really come up completely differently when woven instead of knitted, so that was beautiful to see.
The idea was to make myself a cowl that I could loop around twice. I thought I had enough length in the warp but forgot to allow for the springiness of the yarn - once no longer under tension on the loom, the length of fabric shrank considerably to a silly, in between sort of length. Very pretty, but not quite useful. So it stayed draped on the banister for a while. Then I brought it downstairs to try and figure out what I wanted to do with it. And then, one night, Mark started playing with it and *gasp* draping it around his neck, as if to judge its size somehow.

- Honey, would you like a cowl out of that?
- Meh, maybe, if you're not using it for anything else...

Casually, like he was doing me a favour and taking this thing off my hands.
Because I am still new to weaving and every inch of fabric is precious and I can't imagine actually cutting any of it off, I have folded it into all kinds of intricate origami and sewed it up for him.

I, on the other hand, am never shy of wrapping up. One of my favourite buys from this years Wonderwool was some glorious, pure cashmere fibre - at first I thought it was just a natural pale colour, but it was actually a really subtle blend of soft beige, creams and greys. It was so beautiful to spin and even more wondeful to knit....just nothing but fluffy, silky softness, like knitting a cloud.
I wanted something that could fold down in lots of layers, and that reflected the lightness of the yarn, so I chose the super-easy Twist Your Soft Neck Warmer and even challenged myself to knit on larger than needles than the yarn required, something I've never been particularily brave about. I just  kept knitting til I was nearly out of yarn and the thing started to look ridiculously long. It's superb and I love it...I barely take it off when I get home!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Quiet preparations

Happy First of Advent to you all!

For us Swedes, the date marks the beginning of Christmas preparations in earnest - I have been really disappointed to see neighbours around us putting up lights and fully decked Christmas trees half-way through November this year...I know the shops all do it, but seeing it in a residential setting just takes away the magic completely. But as we are now in December for real, I look forward to driving home tonight and discovering all the twinkling lights on the dark way home.
I've even made a stand and brought a little festive cheer into the office this year!

In shop news, I have finally found the formula for my perfect green! Khaki is my favourite colour in the world, yet so far in my yarn dyeing, I've never been quite happy with what's come out of the pan. Until now, that is. As I was developing the different greens for the Woodlands embroidery yarns, I found a simple, reliable khaki....and here it is: Elfyn's Lace in Little Green


I got so excited about it, I also dyed my very private stash of Gower Wool Fibre in it. I'm really enjoying knitting with my own hand spun yarns at the moment, and I've been keeping the fibre for a special project since the rest of it sold out in no time earlier this year, so this is now ready and waiting to be my special Christmas break project. I've been planning a Glacier Sweep for some time - I even started a version last year but wasn't happy with the way it was knitting up.


So there we are. Still all sorts of secret Christmas knitting going on that I can't show you, but the first candle is lit, and the Christmas cake is baked and being copiously fed whisky, so here is wishing you happy and stress-free Christmas preparations!