My gran and I started making a patchwork blanket long, long ago – I was enamoured by the idea of having loads of squares to sew together, and she enjoyed having easy garter stitch things to knit in front of the TV. All was going swimmingly.
Until I received a delivery of a bag full of squares. Fifty-five squares, to be exact.
This delivery made its appearance on the first of March in 2008. I only know this because of my Ravelry page, where I recorded the information. I had eight squares of my own, and decided that a 9 x 7 square blanket would do, and that I did not have to make any more.
I had never sewn garter stitch squares together before, and I started using a method I used when I was about 8 and hand-sewing things. This went: needle up and through, space of about 5 mm, needle down and through, space of about 5 mm – repeat. I now use the same stitch for basting things together when I’m sewing…
This was, to be polite, incredibly frustrating, and the project got put away for a while. I then made a pillow for my gran, and learned about the wonders of mattress stitch. Determined to apply the same principles to the patchwork blanket, I unpicked everything and started again.
Success followed! It wasn’t a hard project – it just took a lot of time when I worked on it, and spent even longer amounts of time in a basket sitting in plain sight and waiting for me to pick it up again. The last time I worked on this blanket, in fact, was April 2013…
I am currently watching Breaking Bad, and determined to do something useful while I do so - I am so pleased to say that I have finally, after six years and one day, finished sewing it together.
I think I may still sew a backing fabric on to it, but I have other WIPs that have been languishing for years, and I am going to finish them before I go back to what is essentially, finally, a completed blanket.
Do you have any projects like this? My mum has now asked me to make her a throw for a sofa in this style…argh! Think the knitting machine may make another appearance…
After my long and involved post yesterday about how I am going to be working on Erquy, Garland and a few ‘long-term’ WIPs, you may be surprised to learn that I have cast on a Hitchhiker! Despite the contradictions, I am actually counting this as a long term project – I bought this yarn from America about a year and a half ago, intending to jump in on the Two Knit Lit Chicks gradient shawl knit along. Unfortunately, by the time the yarn actually got to me (cross-continental shipping is a pain in the backside!!) the KAL had actually finished, and I never started.
The yarn has been sitting in the stash trunk ever since, and I am thrilled to say I have finally cast it on!
It seems that most people I know who are seriously into Ravelry, have knit or intend to knit themselves a Hitchhiker. It’s primarily a garter stitch project, with the only other stitches being a single purl on each row, one type of increase, and casting off. I elected to do this shawl after Unravel – one of the girls we met up with there was wearing hers and it was gorgeous. I’d been admiring it from photos online, and I was sold after that.
Isn’t it interesting how a project you’ve been eye-balling for ages can be made or broken once you see it in person?
Anyway, I cast on one evening when I was feeling relaxed and ready for some easy-going mindless knitting. I very quickly realised that this was not mindless knitting. It’s only an eight row repeat pattern, but I got incredibly confused and lost my place very quickly – eventually ripping back the whole thing and actually writing out a chart to keep track.
I recommend doing this (the shawl AND writing out the chart)!
I’m now in Berlin, with plenty of down-time after work and so forth (I am at a trade show), and have brought the Hitchhiker and Garland. I hope to make good progress on both!
The Monthly Resolutions have now officially been running for a year! Happy March, everyone…
You can read the first post here, and find out more about the group on Ravelry here!
March 2014 Resolutions
I am going to take it easy this month. Last month I realised that I was actually restricting myself – for one thing, I didn’t want to actually work on things that weren’t in my resolutions list, and for another, I felt so terrible when I physically couldn’t finish my resolutions because of the RSI.
My two main resolutions this month are thus the same as they were last month:
I have a third resolution which is very vague. On Resolutions Monthly last week, we all spent a week cleaning and tidying, and as a result of this, I rearranged our bedroom, buying a new piece of furniture in the process.
Officially, this is meant to be a ‘laundry box‘ – I got it from Argos for £30, and it holds 55 litres of ‘laundry’. Which in knitting terms, means it holds every WIP that I currently have, and my old WIP basket has been retired. Of course, in the process of doing all of this, I found loads of projects that I love very much, and haven’t worked on for ages.
So, Resolution Number Three for March is:
Work on some long-term projects.
I have already been successful in this endeavour (all will be revealed on Friday) and I’m feeling quite cheerful about the whole thing.
Complete test-knit for Christine from Harmonic Oscillator Knits- I tried so, so hard, but came upon a problem in the pattern which was either me not following instructions properly, or some error which I didn’t pick up on…so I don’t know where this is going.
Finish spinning the roving I started in January - not even a stitch. I am trying to get a stool that will make spinning more comfortable, so on hold for now.
I blame much of this on RSI, because I had a very productive month in February!
Resolutions for 2014
I also set myself resolutions for 2014 in January and thought I might do a two monthly update, so here we are:
Become a runner - errr…injury has prevented this so far. Will get back on it.
Be prepared for events like birthdays and anniversaries - I’ve missed one…not good.
Get into a healthy routine which involves sleeping enough but not napping just because I am bored - yes!
Knit 3 big garments for self - two on the needles and two in preparation…hurrah.
Get out of overdraft by May - errr…
Start Christmas knitting and other prep early enough - this is not valid for at least a few more months.
Listen to less Harry Potter on audio - umm. Big. Fat. Fail.
It’s a good thing I still have ten months to go, right?!
I am incredibly pleased to Announce that I have completed the Weasley Sweater! I was seriously worried that I would not be able to work on it for months after the little RSI episode – but I am pleased to say that I have somehow managed to get rid of most of the symptoms and by knitting for an hour a day, I managed to finish the sweater three days after I was allowed to start knitting again!
I knitted this in Berroco Ultra Alpaca in navy and mustard yellow. This combination of colours was on Craft Bosses request – the sweater was made for her, following a wine-fuelled night of discussion that resulted in her making me a bag, and me agreeing to make the sweater! The yarn was so lovely to work with – alpaca has a lot of drape and it felt rather heavy when it was completed, but I think this is definitely a bonus when it comes to this sweater, as it is designed as an over-large garment which is all about comfort.
The sweater is knitted in pieces and sewn together – I could have amended it to a piece in the round, but I decided not to tempt fate and just go with the written instructions. The “E” was designed on my iPad in the style of the “H” provided in the book (which was Charmed Knits). It was a bit of a challenge getting the proportions right, but I think I managed it.
With miles and miles of stocking stitch, the jumper was a welcome break from all of my other projects, which either have lace in them or complex stitch patterns. I knitted much of it while watching CSI.
I will definitely be making more of these – I may in fact turn into Molly Weasley and make one for everyone for Christmas. Perhaps one per year, so that in 15 years (!!) all of my family will have one. I’m not ambitious enough to try 15 jumpers in 1 year, particularly given that this one took me just under a month…
Following my adventures at Unravel and seeing the amazing work of Ingrid Wagner Rug & Art Designs, I was inspired to start working on the Gigantic Blankie again. I have been sitting in my room in the evenings working away while I wait for a response on an error in another project…I know I should be working on my February Resolutions, but the RSI put paid to me achieving those, so I feel a bit like I’m free!
Resolutions can be a bit restricting, it turns out??
This project has been languishing in my WIP Basket for ages, and it has been so much fun picking it up again! I’m now using my magic ball to knit one of the strands, and a variety of other remnants to finish. I have eight strands going on 15 mm circular needles so the weight doesn’t stay on my wrists (the original post with all the information is here).
I have been finding this project really addictive. It feels really good to be finishing up all of my remnants and balls of yarn I don’t want – there is almost a compulsion to keep going until one ball is finished…oh no wait, just one more…oh no, one more… There is such a good mix of good quality and rubbish yarn in there. The blanket is honestly one of the softest things I have ever made, and I think it will be rather durable too.
I’m not really paying much attention to the colour combinations, and rather just plunging my hand into my basket of available yarns and pulling out the first thing I grab. I can’t wait to finish and have some time to just analyse the colours and have a look at sections that I really like. It might be a fantastic way for me to find colour combos that I have never considered before…
This project is very big and heavy, so completely not portable – but working well with my taming attempts for Pippin, as I can just sit on the bed and wait for Pippin to decide when it is time to play, instead of rushing him because I’m impatient.
That said, I cast on something like 40 stitches (I can’t remember exactly) and it’s too thin. It is just over one person wide – if it was even 20 stitches thicker it would be perfect. I think the solution is to get this to a length that I like, and cast off. Then, I will start a second and sew them together. I suspect this will make it slightly too big for one person and slightly too small for two…so I will probably make a third, sew it all up and end with a fat rectangle that will be just perfect.
It’s an ambitious project – I think the finished blanket will weigh a good few kilograms. Luckily, I have plenty of yarn and plenty of time (I am only 20-something!)…I can’t wait to see the finished object!
If you follow me on Twitter, you will know all about my excitement for Unravel at Farnham Maltings. Well, the festival was this weekend! I went along with one of the girls from Knit Night at Loop; we got the train from London (she brought bacon sandwiches!) and headed on down to Surrey.
I took fewer photos than I did last year – it was a lot bigger, and more overwhelming this time! Anyway, on we go…
The first thing when going to something is you have to get there, right? The wonderful organisers of Unravel had bedecked the route to the Maltings with yarn-bombed signs. These were fantastic, and definitely made me feel like the knitters had taken over Farnham!
We arrived and were greeted by these sensational taxidermy heads by Louise Walker (@sincerelylouise). Aren’t they fabulous?
Word on the grapevine is that these will be available to purchase in kit form from next month…
@plutoniummuffin hello! Thank you :) they will be available as kits next month, I’ll let you know once they’re online
We met a couple of other Loop Knit Night knitters in the entrance hall, and got started.
Farnham Maltings is a large building on the edge of a stream/river/canal (not sure which!) that used to be a brewery and maltings, where barley was roasted. As a result, it has a number of little rooms, as well as a few bigger halls. We started out with the smaller rooms.
Downstairs: East Wing Workshop
We started with a look through the downstairs section where all of the spinning, felting, weaving & machine knitting guilds were displaying their craft, and trying to get to the Sparkle Duck stall. These yarns were fabulous, a fact made completely obvious by the number of people trying to get to them! We found some amazing mohair by New Forest Mohair, and this incredible scarf.
Not sure I would ever buy that particular pink colour…but gorgeous all the same!
Upstairs: The Tannery
We then headed upstairs where we found, amongst others, Wendy & Belinda of True Brit Knits. They have some *amazing* patterns, and were also selling some awesome prefect-style ‘Knitter’ badges and knitters notebooks. They very generously gifted me one of the notebooks, after I entered a giveaway and then spent a lot of time tweeting them. I admired the pattern for “The Highland Bling” with longing.
There was also some amazing mohair up here for £12, which I would have snapped up if I wasn’t on a strict budget. By this point, I had decided that I was going to look at everything first and then buy, so we moved on.
Upstairs: Courtyarn Kiln
The last little room that we looked in held only a few stalls; this is probably where I spent the most time, and I adored every one of the stalls in there.
The first one which caught my eye was Bigwigs Angora – the lady who owns this has around 100 angora bunnies! I tried to persuade JS to let me get one once…but this is well beyond what I thought was even a dream! We had a little chat about bunny-keeping and I fondled some fibre longingly…although after last years roving extravaganza, I had already decided I was not going to buy any fibre…
Tin Can Knits was also there. The girls started trying on all of her samples to decide which patterns they were going to buy, which prompted a flurry of buying by other ladies in the room. It was rather funny! I absolutely love Pop! I am knitting far too many blankets, though, so I decided to admire it from a distance.
The girls had a big discussion about what they were going to get from TCK, while I wandered over to Purlescence and had a chat with the owners about the pompom on my hat. They gave me a free sample of Soak – I would have bought a big bottle there and then, but I was trying so hard to stick to my budget, so I didn’t… They are doing a knitalong of a TCK pattern which you can find out more about here.
We then headed into the big upstairs hall, where Skein Queen and Toft Alpaca (amongst others) were based. I headed straight to Toft Alpaca, intending to buy another pompom (you can never have enough things that feel like heavy air). I got side-tracked by this guy, though.
I bought him immediately and wandered around for the rest of the day showing everyone my alpaca. JS and I decided to call him Mufasa because he looks so regal.
Skein Queen had some really lovely yarns on display, including massive 200g bundles for £20. They were a gorgeous pastel colour and they were immediately put on my ‘possible’ list. We had a quick chat with Debbie – despite having packed as much as she possibly could to take to Unravel, she was already running out by lunchtime on Saturday and was worried about Sunday. It is a great credit to Debbie and her yarn that it is so popular, and I highly recommend that you check her out.
After a bit longer upstairs, including a discussion with the guys from Hedgehog Equipment about drum carders, we headed down to the rest of the show.
By this point, we had been to all of the rooms I went to when I was on my own last year. We wandered down into a room filled with arches and I oohed and ahhed over Jennie Atkinson’sButterfly Dress or Vest. I have enough spare Kidsilk Haze for this, so you will definitely see me knitting it in the near future.
Downstairs: Great Hall
We then walked into a huge hall. It was so enormous that I literally had to stop and take stock for a moment. It was a little overwhelming. The girls immediately got distracted by a stall to the right and I headed into the distance to see what was around. I had a brief chat with the girls from Pompom (I still haven’t told you all how incredible it was when my copy landed in the post wrapped in tissue paper with my name on a little sticker…amazing.)
Opposite their stall was Fyberspates. Despite everything I had seen, these just caught my eye. I popped my wool cherry with Fyberspates, when I bought some absolutely gorgeous deep blue yarn from Hulu to make a pair of socks for my dad. I spent a good long while fondling things here. Delicious! Another few things on my list of things to buy.
Off round the rest of the hall, I popped into Susan Crawford for a bit and admired some of her incredible designs. They are gorgeous on paper – even better in real life. There was a particularly cute little pink flowery number that was very nice indeed!
Then to John Arbon, a Devonshire yarn producer with the most incredible display of yarn I have ever seen. They had a variety of colours, which all ran across the stall. The top shelf was super vibrant colours; each shelf below was the same colour with less intensity, right down to the bottom where it was light pastel. For each colour. I was captivated.
We wandered around a little bit more – the last two stalls that really stuck out for me were Purl Alpaca Designs and Ingrid Wagner Rug & Art Designs. While I was admiring the Purl Alpaca stuff, I realised that I had already bought a dress pattern from them at a previous show, and the Ingrid Wagner display reminded me about the Gigantic Blankie that I’ve been working on for a while.
Suffering from overload, we went to lunch and admired each others purchases. This is not saying much on my side, I had bought only Mufasa by this point, but the others all had some beautiful yarns and patterns. It left us itching to cast on some projects! A glass of wine later, we were ready to head back to Unravel, and I had made the big decision about how I was going to spend my money.
ALL the money
I headed straight back to Purl Alpaca and checked the yardage required on the dress pattern I had, then on to John Arbon for the purchase. I went for an orange that was one shade below the most vibrant in their incredible display, and parted with my cash triumphantly. I also decided to go back to True Brit Knits and buy the Highland Bling. Because, it is incredible and I must have one! Finally, and sneakily, I went to Bigwigs Angora and bought some fluff. Shhh I know I said I wasn’t going to, but I needed it.
We were very tired by this point, and decided to catch the train home. I almost fell asleep. I couldn’t even work on the project I had brought with me, and spent a lot of time in a bit of a daze. It was all incredible and overwhelmingly beautiful. I went to bed as soon as I got home (8 pm!) because I was so taken by it all.
I had a glorious day, and I am already looking forward to next year! I’m not going to start the dress just yet, as I still have a few projects on the needles that I want to finish…but I am itching to get on with it!
Right, that’s it from me for now. There were so many other exhibitors and there is no way I could name them all – you can find out who they all were here.
For Christmas a few years ago I got Sew! by Cath Kidston from one of my friends. I’ve made several projects from the book – but I hadn’t yet tackled the giveaway as I never seemed to have the time! To explain, this book normally comes with the fabric pre-cut for one of the projects within the book – mine was an adorable little handbag.
As I have not been able to knit for a while, I got my sewing machine out last week and the bag finally emerged. It is, of course, a new project bag. I love it!
Cath Kidston Bag
The pattern was easy to follow, and I like the fabric. I probably would not have chosen something so obviously CK…but I guess there was no way of getting out of that! I have received many compliments from people, all saying “It looks like a Cath Kidston bag!” You know a brand has made it when…
It has been a while since I sewed on my machine, so the control of my seam lines went a bit awry and it’s not exactly straight in places. It’s all about practice…the only aspect of it that I’m very unhappy with are the button holes, which are extremely untidy. More care required…and more practice, right?
I’m now in the process of doing a Craftsy tutorial using a dress, and I’ve gone a bit Great British Sewing bee mad too…don’t worry, sewing won’t take over my heart, but I’m definitely enjoying diversifying my crafting a bit. Hopefully you will all be seeing me wearing dodgily stitched dresses and accessories soon!
That’s it from me for now. Pippin has got his own blog so that Plutonium Muffins doesn’t become a ‘knitting and hamsters’ blog, and you can check him out here. I can’t resist posting one last photo of him for you all…look at that FACE!
I did a little bit of knitting on The Sands of Time this morning with no pain! I feel like this is major progress…and I feel proud that I’m trying to be sensible about RSI.
Before you read more, I have an announcement to make… I have gone GifBoom crazy! You can see all of the gifs I have been creating of Pippin here. We had our first cuddle last night! I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
The Sands of Time
This pattern is a test-knit that I am doing for Christine from Harmonic Oscilator Knits. The pattern will be a pair of mitts – I do not know if I’m going to get these finished by my deadline, which is the beginning of March, because of the RSI – but I’m going to give it a good go anyway!
The super-talented designer has made this a reversible pattern – you can see just from my swatch that this is coming out very clearly. The way it has been written allows the whole mitt to be reversible as well. Isn’t that clever?!
I am swatching in Regia Sock Yarn; I think the colour is Marrakech by Kaffe Fassett. I would never normally do something like this in a self-striping yarn, but I have been keeping all of my swatches recently and I don’t have enough of the yarn I intend to use for the mitts to swatch with as well, nor do I have enough of the Marrakech for a standalone project.
The mitts themselves will be done in ‘self-striping’ in shades of grey that I hope will be a lot more subtle than this, and will not overcrowd the stitch-pattern. This is also a Regia sock yarn that I have had for absolutely ages.
Just a note on Regia yarns – I used to absolutely love them, but have recently gone off them in a big way. I find that my finished objects in these yarns are never as well-received as I would hope them to be, given the cost of the yarn! I have made several pairs of socks as gifts in Regia, and each recipient has loved the effort…but not really the socks, as they have been quite uncomfortable to wear.
I’m hoping that on the hands, when the knitting won’t be squeezed between a pair of shoes and the skin, this will not be a problem – especially as I intend this to be a gift for my brother’s next birthday. (When he will officially be in his LATE-TWENTIES…I feel like I’m getting old!)
Good news – as of today, my RSI treatment plan dictates that I can knit again! OK, in theory, although I do have some pain as I type this and should probably not knit for a few more days, so that’s actually the plan.
Before I get into the meat of this post, I’d like to introduce you to Pippin d’Artagnan the Dire-Hamster*. He is my new furry boy! JS got him for me this weekend, and although he is not yet tame enough to cuddle me, I love him and the amount of attitude he has so much. I’m updating his Facebook album everyday, and this is public, so feel free to have a gander!
Dealing with RSI
So in my last post on this subject, I talked about what RSI is and how to prevent getting it (mostly). I had so many people offering advice on actually coping with it, including an osteopath, that I thought it would be a good thing to post a follow-up article on how to deal with it once you actually have it.
The first thing to say is if you suddenly notice any of the symptoms I described last time, you must stop knitting immediately. Don’t even finish your row – I did, and by the end of the row I was in so much pain I was almost in tears. Even if the symptom is a just a throb, or a tiny bit of cramp that goes away, don’t take any chances; stop immediately.
Then, take a rest day. That’s right, a day where you don’t even pick your needles up. If it still hurts the next day, take another day. You want to keep resting until you have had at least a day symptom-free. This is hard, trust me, I know all about it. But, in the long run, it is for the better.
When you do go back to your knitting, don’t just go straight back into hours and hours of hard-core work. Let’s face it – you haven’t got RSI because you do a few minutes here and there; but to ensure a good recovery, you need to pretend that you are a person who can knit a row, then put it down and wander off to do something else.
So, while you are resting, what strategies can you employ to aid your recovery and ease discomfort? In this photo, straight after the diagnosis, you can see I am wearing a wrist brace. In general, this is actually inadvisable unless you are asleep – if you brace your wrist during the day, you cut down on the blood flow and activity in the muscles, which is essential for healing, and you can cause more damage than good. It does provide some immediate comfort though, so if the pain is really almost unbearable, I do recommend it. I had to wear it for two days (and this was all because I refused to stop in the middle of a VERY LONG row when my fingers started seizing up).
Sleeping with a brace can help, as it stops your wrist getting bent into funny positions while you sleep.
Icing the area also helps. The most drastic solution that I found on Ravelry came from Joshua Tucker. This is outlined below:
Freeze several two litre bottles of ice.
Fill kitchen sink with water and put frozen bottles in it.
Over several hours, dip your pained arm in the ice-bath up to the elbow, for five to ten seconds.
Do this at least ten times over the course of two hours.
Do this for seven days at least.
Having spoken to my new osteopath friend, another recommendation was that you can buy a spray to keep the affected area cool. You can get these anywhere – UK readers will be able to find them in Boots – and they are fab for using at work. I will ‘fess up and say that I did not go straight out and buy one – but that has a lot to do with the state of my bank account, rather than my desire to heal myself!
My new osteopath friend also recommended yoga! I was doing yoga, but the aforementioned bank account has been stopping that. I will get back into it, I will. A large part of this is posture, and ensuring you have the best posture for your spine, muscles and circulation. Mine is terrible. I slouch, I hang my head off my shoulders, my back is never in the correct position…and I am trying to sort it out.
To sort it out, I have new lumbar support in my chair at work and everytime I think about my shoulders, I pull them back a bit. I need to pull my tummy in and just think about it a bit more. A few days of increased awareness has made some difference, I am pleased to report…
Lynda from the Kettle Yarn Co sent me this link, which has the below diagram from Interweave Crochet in it. A simple few stretches which make a huge difference. I don’t know why, but they just work.
I have personally found doing things other than knitting very helpful. I did some sewing this weekend, on my machine to prevent any pains, and made a bag. I did some cooking. I watched some Olympics. Anything and everything to distract myself from not being able to knit, especially when I have deadlines looming. It has been so tempting to give in temptation and just knit, but I am proud to say that I haven’t.
I’m not through this just yet, as much as I wish I could say I am. I might try doing some crochet to see if that is pain-free…I have read somewhere that arnica gel can help, and that sugar in your diet can exacerbate the condition. Rubber bands can be used to strengthen muscles and hot massage can help. How much of this is actually true, and how much is just internet hearsay, I am not entirely sure – so my option at this point is to go back to the doctor tomorrow and see what he thinks.
That’s all from me for now. Keep letting me know if you have any ideas!
* Pippin (Lord of the Rings) d’Artagnan (the Three Musketeers) the Dire-Hamster (A Song of Ice and Fire). I’m a true geek, me.
Welcome to Plutonium Muffins; a blog about knitting, spinning, some general craft, and life as a twenty-something year old trying to figure out how vintage and traditional pursuits fit into the twenty-first century.
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