Monthly Archives: March 2013

Not running but (speed) knitting

Let’s be honest, this March isn’t living up to much. I got all hopeful that spring was coming a couple of weeks ago – had washing out on the line, even went outside without a coat a couple of times. I checked back through photos from the past two years, and I’m definitely not imagining it: March can sometimes be lovely.

This March? This March sucks. This was the weather that the T-boy ran a half marathon in over the weekend. It was bad enough for the spectators; I can’t imagine how nasty the blowing snow was for the runners. The course was altered to miss the worst of the snow drifts (and the worst hill, which apparently was a good thing).

Spectating in snow

Cheering on Dad in the Run Garioch half marathon

The littl’uns both ran too (over rather shorter courses). I am perfecting the art of race support (carrying spare clothes and food) as the perfect excuse for not joining them in the whole running thing, but it hasn’t stopped them asking why I don’t run. ‘Because I’m not very fast’ is my usual answer. ‘You’re quite fast at knitting though, Mum’ they said.

Well, I don’t know. How fast is fast, when it comes to knitting?

Hazel Tindall, a Shetlander, is renowned across Scotland for being amazingly fast, clocked at 262 stitches in 3 minutes – that’s 87 stitches a minute. Wow. She is also a fantastic exponent of fair isle work.

If we’re just talking speed though, Miriam Tegels is in the Guinness Book of Records as doing a mind-boggling 118 stitches in a minute. One hundred and eighteen. Crikey.

The main difference between these two awesome knitters’ styles (go search on You Tube for video of them knitting) is that Hazel’s speed knitting uses English style (yarn in right hand) – the style of knitting I use – whereas Miriam uses Continental style (yarn in left hand).

I couldn’t resist seeing how fast I could go. It wasn’t very impressive; 100 stitches in 3 minutes. That’s a third of the speed of those ladies. I have a feeling the cheapy yarn and nasty plastic needles I used didn’t help, but I don’t think they made that much difference. I am mighty tempted to teach myself Continental and have another go. Everyone needs a challenge, right? I shall go away and practice and report back later.

(Big littl’un would like it noted that she did 30 stitches in 3 minutes, which I think is brilliant.)

The sewing machine is still out

The sewing machine is still out from the superhero episode. We’ve moved on to getting going with the girls scrap quilts. Little littl’un is getting hers first; she wanted squares, Big littl’un wants triangles. Start easy and progress to the more difficult I thought.

IMG_8705So far it’s all going pretty well. Stacking up the squares as I cut up their old clothes was very satisfying. There’s such a mix of print sizes and colours in the fabric that I decided to place the squares completely randomly. It’s not a perfect job – some of the hems don’t line up exactly. I confess I’m not looking forward to quilting it; there’s no way I’ll be able to get it through my sewing machine so it’s going to have to be done by hand which I suspect is going to take a month of sundays. But when it’s done it’ll be pretty, and warm, and full of memories, so I’m happy.

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Blocking

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I properly love blocking knitting. That slightly alchemical process of wetting a crinkly bit of fabric; carefully, carefully spreading it out and pinning it; then going back to admire it, gently touch it and assess how dry it is … magic I tell you. The lovely smell of damp wool too; sure, it’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it as a perfume ingredient, but for me it’s up there with hyacinths and hot bread as one of my most favourite homely smells.

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I got new pins too. Lovely round-headed pretty little things. They don’t just look nice though, they’re much easier to grab from the box and harder to lose if they’re dropped on the carpet. Form and function. Perfect.

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I’ve heard great things about blocking wires. Think I’ll have to put a set on my Christmas list.

This bit of lace is going to be a cowl. I started knitting it over a month ago but ran out of yarn and then had what might be described as issues getting a new ball. Buying the wrong colour once was a bit daft, buying the wrong colour twice was plain idiotic. The third ball I managed to get right though. At the moment it’s just a flat piece of knitting; once it’s dry I’ll decide how to finish it off. I’m thinking a button fastening all down the short edge, but we’ll see how it pans out. I started calling this my snaw-day cowl when I cast it on and it’s forecast snowy here for the next few days at least so it’ll still be a valid name when it’s done.

Wearing pants on the outside

Turn away knitters, there is nothing to see here.

Sewing has been the craft of the week. The littl’uns needed superhero costumes to wear to school for Comic Relief day but our dressing up box wasn’t delivering the goods. I’m not a big fan of bought costumes – the fabric can be cheap and scratchy and the clothes don’t usually get worn very often. Don’t even think about trying to wash them. So we went down the home-made route and turned three long-sleeved t-shirts and two pairs of leggings into costumes which can be worn again as everyday wear (though perhaps not as an ensemble). Much better value for money, which pleases me greatly.

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Big littl’un wanted a lightening bolt on her top, a cape, eye-mask and pants on the outside. What is it with superheros wearing their undies on top? In every other walk of life it would be frowned upon. Give yourself a fancy name and special powers and pants on top becomes obligatory. Her entire costume started out as two t-shirts and a pair of leggings (plus thread, a bit of interfacing and some knicker elastic. New, not used.). Her cape was the back and neckline of one shirt, the pants were made from the front of the same shirt and the eye-mask and lightening bolt started out as the sleeves.

Little littl’un’s superpower was story reading, so she just wanted a book on her top. Once she’d seen her sister’s eye-mask she wanted one of those too.  Her t-shirt design was bits of old fabric I had lying around the house (totally validating my tendency to hoard old clothes rather than recycle them). Her cape previously belonged to Little Red Riding Hood and her pants are half of big littl’un’s bikini.

They proclaimed the results AWESOME and I remembered how much I enjoyed using my sewing machine, so everyone’s a winner. Big littl’un even kept her whole outfit on to go to athletics after school – cape and eye-mask and all.

superhero costumes

Mindless Scarf pattern

Mindless Scarf

Here’s my finished Mindless Scarf. I’ve made mine in cotton so I can wear it through spring (and summer in Scotland) all year round! The cotton gives a good stitch definition too; the fabric is quite crochet-like. It could be made in any yarn you like though; just knit a swatch first to work out your finished size. The colour I used is discontinued (why are my favourite colours always discontinued? Yellow and orange yarns never seem to get shelved).

Mindless Scarf

The details:

Yarn 4 x 50g balls Debbie Bliss Cotton DK; 100% cotton in colour 13003.

Needles 4.25mm straights (approx. US size 6)

Gauge 22 sts, 27 rows to 10 cm in pattern (but gauge not vital)

Cast on 30 sts. (I used a cable cast on.)

Row 1 (and all WS rows): p2, (k2, yo, ssk) x3, p2, (k2, yo, ssk) x3, p2.

Row 2 (and all RS rows): k2, (p2, yo, p2tog) x3, k2, (p2, yo, p2tog) x3, k2.

Continue in pattern to desired length (mine is 1.85m long, 12cm wide). Bind off. Block if necessary/desired. (Mine is unblocked in the photo.) Wear with pride.

(Abbreviations explained in my ‘Knitting Abbreviations’ page.)

Mindless scarf on a banister

So what’s a knitter to do when it’s too dreich* outside to model a finished scarf? Use the banisters of course.

Mindless scarf

This was such an easy knit, it’s been my mindless knitting for the past week; picked up and worked on for a row or two whenever there’s been a spare minute – waiting for the kettle to boil or the bath to fill – all those little bits of time that add up to hours and hours over seven days.

Having yarn-overs and decreases on right- and wrong- sides makes it interesting enough not to become tedious, and a great project for anyone wanting to practise wrong-side lace work (that would be me).

I’ll write up the pattern (all two rows of it) once the weather cheers up enough for a photo shoot without risking hypothermia.

* Driech = Scots term for miserable cold wet weather. Wikipedia calls it “Fit tha wether is like in Ab’rdin. Ispecially whun they hiv haar which is like fog but bluidy worse.” They’re not wrong.