Spinning for Fair Isle & A Poorly Cat

I’ve been quietly concerned about my old cat for a while now. Cuddles has just turned 19years old, which is a fantastic age. We’ve been lucky with him day one, with exception of being hit by a car when he was a kitten, he’s never had much need for a vet.
Sadly for the last 2years he’s had random bouts of diarrhoea and loosing weight, then he goes off his food. Each time the vet can find nothing wrong and further tests would require an anaesthetic, but he’s always got better and gained the weight back when his appetite returns. After several episodes like this the vet assumed it was some form of irritable bowel disease.

We had learnt to live with this occasional problem and it didn’t seem to be getting worse.
But over the last 6months he’s got more doddery on his back legs, unable to jump as well, and unable to sit down properly. He’s old and didn’t seem to be in pain with it (though it’s often hard to tell with cats) so we assumed it was old age causing stiffness and maybe arthritis. But in the last 2months those diarrhoea accidents have turned into solid poop accidents. Which from a super clean cat who washes obsessively was very odd. I noticed he was a bit smelly, and put it down to the pooping and washing less. He shows many signs of dementia so we gave him plenty of leeway and again didn’t worry as he seemed happy.
In the last 2 weeks I noticed slightly wet patches in his bed and on the floor (thankfully he’s been shut out of carpeted rooms for a while), saw him do solid poos while walking about and seeming totally surprised. Then when sleeping on my lap he wet himself (or should I say he wet me!!) I knew something was really wrong and off to the vets we went.
The vet didn’t seem sure and ran some full blood tests, wondering about thyroid, kidney disease, urinary infection (and dementia while doesn’t show in blood tests!).

So the last 2days I’ve nervously waited for the results, wondering if his time had come to an end.
I stayed up very late spinning both evenings plying some BFL/silk in yellows and oranges and spinning and plying some Romney fleece I’d dyed purple.

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The plan for these contrasting mini skeins is a fair isle bag from the latest spin off magazine.

More cat news to follow as the results come in.

Stripes

After 2 courses of antibiotics and a week in bed in agony. Did I mention just how bad this toothache was? We are now wondering if it is also neuralgia, this would explain why it’s been so much worse than regular toothache. Yesterday the antibiotics finally started to feel like they are working and the episodes of severe pain stopped. So I recommenced some knitting, which saved my sanity I’m sure. I think I was right on the edge of break down, not being able to knit makes life so hard!
I stayed up late working on my stripes, having slept during the day when I was released from the pain. Going to bed didn’t seem like a priority now I could knit again. I worked 4inches of one front for my cardigan before forcing myself to go to bed and listen to ‘The Hunger Games’ as I fell asleep. I am really enjoying it so far and it’s well read, I’m hoping it’ll be a good use of 3 Audible credits.

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I’m really pleased with the 1 row button holes, they are the method Ysolda describes in ‘Little Red In The City’, they have a good firm edge and don’t feel like they will stretch out over time.

I’ll post more about the simple clean looking Cardigan when I’ve started the back and can post some photos of that.

I didn’t want to speak too soon, but 2 weeks ago a friend welcomed the first ever lambs into her Polworth flock. The ewe had been very sick and we were all very worried about her, even the vet. She eventually squeezed out 3 beautiful pure Polworth lambs. Unfortunately 1 lamb didn’t make it, but the 2 ewe lambs are being bottle fed and getting stronger every day. I was asked to help out with the lambs when my friend has other pressing things to deal with, so I had the pleasure of bottle feeding 2 beautifully 3day old lambs. Polworth’s have wonderfully fine fleece, the breed was originally established by crossing Merino’s with 1/4 Lincoln. This gives them the fineness of Merino with some of the length and lustre of Lincoln. The addition of the Lincoln also makes them slightly more suited to the English climate than purebred Merino sheep.
I’ll dig out a photo of some yarn I spun from English Polworth fleece last year for my next post.

Finish-itus & Unravel

Finishitus* like Startitus* is highly contagious I’m sure, so I feel it’s only fair I warn you that I seem to have caught this wonderful bug. I’ve longed for a case of finishitus for years, as I have recurrent startitus.

So I finished my Mitred Socks (which I cast on in 2010!) Mitred Socks
and finished the first of my Toe Up River Socks

I also finished a pair of leg warmers, but having been a wip for over a year, my gauge had changed so the second is too small. So They are now back on the needles.

Feeling very motivated to finish some projects and I’m managing to resist the urge to cast on new things. I desperately want to finish these socks –Arch Shaped Socks
I literally have 10rounds to go on the second sock, but I can’t find it, which is super frustrating!

I went to Unravel and Farnham Maltings last weekend, it’s a great fibre festival but a little cramped. It was pretty busy and that means tiring for me, but well worth it. I had promised myself no fibre, fleece or yarn, so I happily walked past all that. Until WidowTwanky started looking at sock yarns, then I was doomed! So I came home with a ball of Lang Sock yarn and 2 balls of another sock yarn (I can’t remember the name right now).
This also led the purchase of a ball of solid purple Regia sock yarn from my local yarn shop to use with the variegated yarn I bought.

After a recent #bargainbals splurge (Regia 6-fadig College – 150gram balls of sport weight SW wool/nylon Sock yarn, £3.99 from Kempswoolshop) I really can’t go buying any more yarn for a long time.

I also bought some more Knitpro tips and KnitPro padded crochet hooks from Knitting4Fun, they had the cheapest priced KnitPro’s from the vendors at the show.

I also got 2 new books ‘200 Fair Isle Motifs’ and ‘Blocks, Blankets and Throws’. The first I’ve been meaning to buy for a while and the second is much better than the cover would lead you to believe, it contains lots of techniques and ideas on joining panels/blocks in both knitting and crochet.

Hopefully I will manage to finish a few more projects in the next week or 2, before my finishitus fades.

*Finishitus – a compulsion to finish all works in progress. It is thought to be contagious, but very rare.
*Startitus – the much more common and high infection compulsion to cast on new projects, despite having many projects already.

Change of pace

Since the autumn started the onset of cold weather has left me struggling to manage my ongoing pain. Which has meant a lot less spinning and almost no dyeing.
It has given me a chance to do some Christmas gift knitting and finish a few WIP’s. Here’s a small selection;


Knitted Christmas Baubles (from “55 Christmas Balls to knit” and hanging stars based on a free Ravelry pattern)

Double knit Coasters
Double knitting (2colour, 2sided) Coasters in 4ply wool (based on a free Ravelry pattern for pot holders)

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Cute red hat with reversible ear flaps using the Owls chart, this is to match a Cardigan for Emily. Still needs beads for eyes.

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Simple yet effective lavender favours to keep draws smelly nice.

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Another cute hat, this time with stranded colourwork bunnies and a bunny tail style pompon and earflaps.

Odd Shaped Shawl Calculator

Here’s a little way to calculate the maximum number of rows you can work on a shawl (top down shawls only). You need to have knitted at least 20% of your yarn to do get an accurate answer, it will give you a result as long as you have used more than 10% though.

Odd Shaped shawl
This calculation will work for any shawl pattern that starts at the top and has a consistent rate of increases along the length. (ie. 8increases in 9 rows out of 30 = ( ( 8 * 9) /30 ) = 2.4sts per row)
(ie Teyla Shawl)
The yarn usage and stitches per row won’t be as exact for some patterns, Teyla for example increases every row for several rows, then not at all for several more. So the Stitches per Row and Maximum number of rows will only be truly accurate if they fall on a pattern repeat.
I could alter the script so that you enter the pattern repeat length and it only gives answers for full repeats, but it probably isn’t worth the effort. (Please comment if you think that would be more helpful.)
(Use my triangular shawl calculator for regular triangular shawls like Ishbel, Aeolian, Laminaria, Traveling woman, Gail, Dew Drops, Danish Ripple, etc)

You need to know:

Number of starting stitches: (e.g. Teyla – 33, this is usually how many you cast on.)

Increase rate: (average number of stitches increased per row, (total number of increases within the repeat divided by number of rows in the repeat. e.g. Teyla – 2.4 )

Total yarn weight: (This is the total amount of yarn you have available for the project, works best in grams.)

Used yarn weight used so far: (This is the total minus what you have left un-knitted, works best in grams.)

Number of Rows worked so far:

RESULT:
Maximum Number of Rows:

This result is the number of rows you can work with the yarn you have available, it allows you 3rows worth of yarn to cast off which is sufficient for a very stretchy bind off.
If you pattern has a lot of increases in the final few rows, ie lots of yarn over’s for a pointier edge you will need to subtract a few more rows to allow for that.
If your pattern tells you to cast off with the yarn held double you will need to subtract a few more rows to allow for this.

These other bits of information maybe useful/interesting for you.
Total Number of Stitches in the Last Row:

Total Number of stitches worked so far:

Maximum Number of stitches you can work altogether:

This Calculator requires javascript to be enabled.
I hope you find this page useful, I provide it free for everyone, please link to it here.
Contact me through Raverly, or email me if you have any questions.
P.s. Don’t blame me if the answer doesn’t work out for you, I provide this script working to the best of my knowledge, free to everyone.
(c) Bex Hopkins 2010, please do not attempt to steal this script.
If you would like to know how this is calculated please contact me.

Spinning for a project – Use of colour

I am quite keen on making the most of both the time I spend spinning and the fibre I use, to that end I spin most of my yarns with a project in mind.
Hand dyed spinning fibre is a big temptation, but so many spinners are disappointed with how their yarns knit up. Due to; muddied colours, barber pole effects, length of colour repeats, strong striping, dye lot changes, etc. The list is endless.
So I thought I would write some blog posts addressing these issues.

The first issue I thought I would address is the effect on the length of colour stripes when the width of the knitting fabric changes.
Eg. You spin some beautiful yarn from hand dyed top or graduated batts, and proceed to knit a triangular shawl which starts with a few stitches per row and increases to several hundred per row.
The closer you get to the edge the thinner the bands of colour become, to the extent that the edge doesn’t even have stripes.
The effect may be pleasing, or it might not.

To keep the bands of colour more equal make a simple change to the way you prepare your fibre before you start spinning.

Here is an example:
I have 100grams of hand painted top which has repeats of colour along its length and 100grams of hand dyed top which has very little variation in colour.
I plan to spin both lots of fibre and ply them together to form a 2ply.
I then want to use it to knit a large circular shawl, If I work from the top as I received it, without any splitting the resulting shawl with have a large circular of colour in the middle with the bands of colour getting smaller and smaller towards the edge and even mottled at the far edge.
If I want the bands of colour to have a similar width across the diameter of shawl I can strategicly divide the fibre before I start spinning.
For this example I will just divide the fibre for 1 ply and leave the second more solid fibre as is.

Undivided Top

fig1: Undivided Top

I split the fibre in half length ways as my fibre is a silk brick which is much wider than regular top, so for regular top skip this step or your fibre may be too thin to split further.

Split in half lengthwise

fig2: Split in half lengthwise

fig2 diagram

fig2 diagram

Next comes the strategic dividing of fibre. I broke the top into 5 fairly equal pieces, you can do this based on the colour repeats in your fibre for best results.
The first piece is not split at all (1). The next piece is split in half lengthways to make 2 thinner strips (1/2). The next piece is split into 3 lengthwise for even thinner strips (1/3). The next piece is split into 4 lengthwise (1/4). The last piece is split into 6 lengthwise (1/6) (I can’t manage to get 5 equal strips so I do 6, I do this by spliting in half, then spliting each into 3.) You can see in the photo the piles of fibre getting thinner from left to right.

fig3: Strategic dividing

fig3: Strategic dividing


fig3 diagram

fig3 diagram

I then crochet chain the strips of top in order so that they don’t get mixed up before spinning, if you want the colours to follow in sequence make sure you take note of the ‘start end’ and the ‘end end’.
You can see in this picture that the chain goes from fat, to thin and then thinner, the thinnest I rolled into a ball as it would be messy to chain.

fig4: final chained top

fig4: final chained top


When you have spun and plied your yarn you want to use the end with the short colour changes at the small part of your shawl (centre for round shawls) and the slow colour change end will be for the longer edge of your shawl.
For this fibre I will straight 2 ply with the 2nd solid ply, but you could navajo ply for great colour alignment. Or if you are really confident in your dividing skills divide in the same way for both plies for a matched 2ply.
I’ll update this post with a photo of the shawl when its finished.

Triangular Shawl Calculator

Here’s a little way to calculate the maximum number of rows you can work on a shawl (top down shawls only). You need to have knitted at least 20% of your yarn to do get an accurate answer, though it will return a result with more than 10% yarn used.

Triangular shawl
This calculation will work for any shawl pattern that starts at the top and has a consistent number of increases in each row. (ie. 4increases on every right side row and 2 sts on every wrong side row, or 4increases every other row.)
(Examples of this type of shawl are: ‘Swallowtail’, ‘Ishbel’, ‘Aeolian’, ‘Kiri’, ‘Traveling Woman’, My ‘Dew Drops’ & ‘Danish Ripple’ Shawls)
(I know these shawls have slightly different shapes, but trust me the maths works for all of them.)

You need to know:

Number of Constant stitches in each row: (eg. Swallowtail:5, Ishbel:7, Aeolian:5or7.) (usually edge stitches on each side + centre stitch) (If you don’t know this don’t worry too much as it doesn’t make a huge difference to the result.)

Total yarn weight: (This is how much yarn you have available for the project, in grams is best.)

Used yarn weight so far: (This is the total weight of yarn minus what you have left un-knitted.)

Rows worked so far: (with many shawl you can count the number of holes running up the middle next to the centre st and x2).

RESULT
Maximum Number of Rows:

This result is the number of rows you can work with the yarn you have available, it allows you 3rows worth of yarn to cast off which is sufficient for a very stretchy bind off.
If you pattern has a lot of increases in the final few rows, ie lots of yarn over’s for a pointier edge you will need to subtract a few more rows to allow for that.
If your pattern tells you to cast off with the yarn held double you will need to subtract a few more rows to allow for this.

This calculator requires javascript to be enabled.
I hope you find this page useful, I provide it free for everyone, please link to it here.
Contact me through Raverly, or email me if you have any questions.
P.s. Please don’t blame me if the answer doesn’t work out for you, I provide this script working to the best of my knowledge, free to everyone.
(c) Bex Hopkins 2010, please do not attempt to steal this script.
If you would like to know how this is calculated please contact mes.

Baby Surprise Trousers

I decided that for the Baby Surprise Jacket by EZ to be the perfect baby gift, it needed something to go with it, so I searched ravelry and didn’t really find anything with the same mitred styling.

So I am going to design and knit some Baby Surprise Trousers, with the same mitred styling and knitted in 1 piece!  I have the pattern in my head and I think it works, but I need to cast on and knit through any problems, before giving any more details.

I’m very excited about this!

Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmermann

I recently bought the book ‘The Opinionated Knitter’ by Elizabeth Zimmermann.

For those of you who knit who haven’t heard of EZ, go look her up, she produced some amazing patterns, written in a very simple style, she is no longer alive, but her patterns are still very popular.

The Baby Surprise Jacket is particually popular and is of a very interesting construction.  (On Ravelry)

So today I have started knitting my first one, from the ‘notes’ in her book.  Its very interesting as it is knitting in 1 peice, but not in the round, the only seams are on the top of the arms (none on the under side of the arms or on the body.

I used the 3 needle i-cord cast off for the shoulder seams, and a i-cord edging for the rest.

First Baby Surprise Jacket

First Baby Surprise Jacket

Handspun Swallowtail Shawl

From 200grams of Organic Merino ‘Tea and Roses’ Club fibre to 600m of handspun yarn to 4ft6 Swallowtail shawl.

2ply yarn, spun worsted on my Ladybug, final yarn between 4ply and sport weight.

I only got my first wheel in January this year, and I managed to spin, ply, knit and block this shawl in just 13days, as part of my Tour de Fleece spinning challenge.

Pictures 🙂

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Easy Baby Blanket

I recently knitted an Easy Baby Blanket for a friend who was having a baby. (He was born big and healthy last weekend and both mum and baby are doing well.)

Easy Baby Blanket

Easy Baby Blanket

The pattern is available on the BBC website here.  (On Ravelry here.)
It is a pattern is for a blanket, knitted as a a square starting at the corner, when finished you then knit a lace edging and sew it on.

I used 200grams off DK weight yarn, a full edging all the way around takes about 20% of the yarn.

I am adverse to sewing anything when doing a knitting project, so I made some changes, to enable me to knit the edging on, making for a neater, seamless blanket.

I used a different increase method, a slip stitch edge, knitted the border on with No sewing!

As Follows…

For increases:
Every Row:
Slip 1 purlwise, K into Front and Back of stitch, Knit to last stitch, Knit through back of loop.

For decreases:
Every Row:
Slip 1 purlwise, Slip 1 Knit 1, Pass Slipped stitch over, Knit to last stitch, Knit through back of loop.

This forms 1 stitch on the edge of the blanket for every 2 rows, perfect for attaching the border.

For knitting on the edging, start on a corner, knit the last stitch on the even rows together with 1 slip stitch from the blanket edge.
This will align the edging on the blanket perfectly, without having to measure how much edging is needed and sew it on.

Edging worked as follows:
Cast on 8 stitches
Row 1 ( Wrong side) Slip 1, Knit 1,(Yarn fwd knit 2 tog)twice, Yarn fwd Knit 2 (9sts)
Rows 2, 4, and 6. Slip 1, Knit to last stitch, K last st together with 1 slip stitch from blanket edge.
Row 3. Slip 1, knit 2 (yarn fwd knit 2 tog) twice. Yarn fwd Knit 2 (10sts)
Row 5. Slip 1, knit 3 (yarn fwd knit 2 tog) twice. Yarn fwd Knit 2 (11sts)
Row 7. Slip 1, knit 4 (yarn fwd knit 2 tog)twice . Yarn fwd Knit 2 (12sts)
Row 8. Slip 1, Knit 10 sts, K last st together with 1 slip stitch from blanket edge.
Row 9. Slip 1 Knit 11 sts Row 10 cast off 4 Sts Knit to the end ( 8sts)
These 10 rows form the pattern.

I hope these changes will help anyone who wants to knit this pattern.

Updated Blog Software

I have updated the blog software and things seem to be running smoothly again, so I should be able to post frequent updates with photos again.

I’m going to join in with the Tour de Fleece, which takes place during the Tour de France; bicycle wheels, spinning wheels, you get the jist! So I will hopefully get lots of spinning done!