Thursday, April 26, 2012

Knit and Crochet Blog Week: Highlights

When I decided to take part in this year's Knit and Crochet Blog Week, I really wanted to challenge myself to post every day of the week. I looked at the topics in advance and thought about what I'd write for each one, which is the kind of preparation I don't usually do. Unfortunately, Blog Week is happening just before my exams - exams which are entirely in French and in a strange French format which I'm really not used to. I have eight exams, a few hundred pages of revision to get through, and I'm also working a part-time job. So it's tough making time for Blog Week too.

However, I don't want to just abandon it, so I'm goin to give you a summary of what I would have written if I had had the time. 

TUESDAY - Wildcard Topic - Craft your perfect day

My perfect knitting day: I would wake up to the sun shining through my curtains. I would have a lazy breakfast with a pot of tea and would have no commitments all day to rush to. Except maybe meeting friends for a picnic or something, that would be a lovely commitment. I would finish a pair of socks in the morning and wear them straight away (they don't need to be blocked!). Then I would cast on a project I've been excited about for months and knit all day. Simple.

Once my exams are over I'm hoping I'll have plenty of time for a few perfect knitting days.

WEDNESDAY - Day Three - Your Knitting Hero

When I started knitting I had no idea there was such a huge online community of knitters. I had so much to learn. I can't remember how I came across Ravelry, but my goodness it's the best thing I've ever found on the internet! So my first knitting heroes are the founders of Ravelry, Jess and Casey, for making so much information available to us. I think without the huge database of patterns and all that information on different yarns, it would have taken me years to figure out all the stuff I've learned from the website.

My second set of knitting heroes would have to be The Knit Girllls, Leslie and Laura. They keep me company for an hour a week while I focus on my knitting. I have learned so many things from them - from interesting groups on Ravelry to various techniques (such as an Afterthought Heel). I have also become so much more interested in yarn because of them; the way they get so excited about certain yarns makes me want to try them out some day. And they spin. I had no idea that people spun before I watched The Knit Girllls and now I just want to make my own yarn too!

My knitting heroes are knitting heroes because of how easy they've made it for me to keep knitting. Thank you all!

THURSDAY - Day Four - A Knitter for All Seasons

I will most definitely be knitting this summer.

My three-week contract at work is nearly over, and while I thought it was a tester to see how I got on with a view to hiring me for the summer, it's becoming more and more apparent that they have their permanent staff and just hire poor suckers like me for three weeks when it gets busy.

Which means if I'm not re-hired, I'll be spending the summer back home in Ireland. I don't mind so much, I've only been home twice in the past year and it will be lovely to spend some time with my family and friends from home. And summer in Ireland is never too hot, so I'll be knitting comfortably all year round. I really really want an Aidez cardigan for the autumn, so I think that will be my big summer project.

My only problem with year-round knitting is that if you knit something warm and woollen in the spring, you can't wear it until it gets cold again. Which is why this time next year I think I'm going to try my hand at designing a simple motif (like the ethnic prints that are all over the high street), knitting it up in cotton and wearing it all summer long.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Knit and Crochet Blog Week : Day One - Colour Lovers

This week is the 3rd Annual Knit and Crochet Blog Week! This means that every day for an entire week, participating bloggers from all over the world will be blogging about the same topic. You an find the other participating blogs easily by searching the internet for the code of the day.  Today's topic is Colour Lovers and the code is 3KCBWDAY1; the rest of the week's topics and codes can be found here.

Some of the topics will be a challenge this week, so I'm glad to start off on one that's easy for me. I love colour. I especially love the spectacular colour palettes of certain yarn brands: the deep, rich, vibrant colours and the light, bright, fresh colours - I love them all. I could spend hours upon hours searching various online yarn stores deciding what my favourite colours are and imagining what I could make with them, but for some reason (probably the fact that I'm a cash-strapped student) I never actually buy.

What surprises me even more is that as much as I'm taken in by these colours and would love nothing more than to knit with them, when it comes to actually buying yarn for a particular project I lean towards more natural tones. I have the Aidez cardigan in my queue and plan to knit it for the autumn, but I feel like the beautiful textures will be seen so much more clearly if I knit it in beige. And anyway, Aran always looks good in naturals.

I want to buy more of those amazingly coloured yarns I spend all my time looking at, but I don't get to buy yarn often. My "stash" consists of enough Aldi yarn for three pairs of socks, and four skeins of some Bergere de France I picked up in the bargain bin. I only want to buy yarn if I'm ready to cast on for a specific project, which means I'll only buy a colour if it's perfect for a pattern I'm about to knit. The last thing I want to do to a beautiful yarn is to commit to it, then not know what to do with it and leave it sitting idly in the back of my wardrobe. Funnily enough, my unused stashed yarn is all beige or grey - this might be why I'm not so excited to knit with it!

I think this is one reason sock yarns come in more colours than any other type of yarn. It's not such a commitment to the colour if you only need one skein for a project. Also if it doesn't turn out great, the socks won't be on show as much as jumper for example (that means sweater to you Americans). It was with this logic that I took the plunge earlier today and bought my first variegated sock yarn. (If any non-knitting friends have stuck with me this far, a variegated yarn is one that changes from colour to colour as you knit.) I think a variegated yarn is a gamble: while the colours might look gorgeous on the skein, you never know exactly how they are going to look once they knit up.

I'm very cautious about picking the wrong yarn, but as soon as I saw a Three Irish Girls sock yarn in a colourway called "Maeve" I had to buy it: the yarn and my sister have the same name! It also seems to be a much more luxurious yarn than the Aldi stuff I'm used to, so I'm really looking forward to knitting her a pair of Maeve-coloured socks!

Find other Knit and Crochet Blog Week posts about Colour Lovers here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Finished Object Friday!

We've all heard of the sweater curse: you knit a sweater (I'm going to use the word "jumper" from now on because I'm Irish and that's what we call it) for a significant other, and your relationship ends soon afterwards. It's to do with the time, money and effort invested in the jumper going unappreciated rather than us knitters believing that the gods decide the fate of our relationships based on what we knit.

This is why if I decide to knit for someone, be it a friend, boyfriend or family member, I will always always start small, see how much they like it and then decide if they're knit-worthy. Knit something small, like... oh, I don't know, a pair of socks or something?

So, when my boyfriend showed interest in a knitted gift, I told him I'd make just that. A pair of socks. Small, simple, challenging enough to keep me interested, and most importantly, something he'd actually wear.

Today, over a month later, I was finishing up my first pair of socks while browsing Ravelry forums. And just as I was nearing the end of the toe on the second sock I read something astonishing. There are as many stitches in a sock as in a jumper. I don't know how one would go about proving or disproving this claim, but if it's true then no wonder these socks took me so long! If I had known from the outset, I probably would have made some for myself before knitting that many stitches for someone else!

Thankfully, I didn't know when I started, and so I got through my first pair of socks slowly but surely. This evening I was a proud, proud knitting mama when I finished them, and took some photos straight away. It's difficult to take good photos of your own feet, but I did my best.

(One thing I'm not so pleased with is the way the first ball of yarn striped while the colours in the second ball pooled a bit more. Either one is fine, if only the two were the same!)

I was surprised to see that the socks weren't so big on me. I really hope they don't end up too small for my boyfriend's feet or I'll have to make another pair. After knitting that many stitches for someone else I think it's ok to be a selfish knitter until I have a pair of hand-knit socks of my own!

Check out other Finished Object Fridays over at Tami's Amis ad Wisdom Begins in Wonder!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Not much progress...

I can't believe it's been a whole week since the last time I posted! Where has the time gone? I haven't been able to get very much knitting done with my new job, so my boyfriend has been here and gone again without getting the socks I've been working on for so long. I still haven't finished them, so instead of doing a Work-in-Progress post without very much progress, I'll finish the socks and post them in Finished Object Friday instead.

On a side note, my first few days of work have gone quite well. It's only a three-week contract, but I should be able to treat myself to some nice yarn once I'm finished. I'm thinking a skein or two of something slightly expensive that's worth the money, any suggestions?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

WIP Wednesday

What a Wednesday it's been!

I was rushing out to class when a package arrived at my door. I knew  it was the set of interchangeable needles I'd ordered; I expected them to take longer to arrive given the bank holiday weekend, but they got here a day early! I spent that whole class looking forward to getting home and trying out my first pair of circular needles.

The needles are for a shawl I'm knitting as part of a KAL (knit-along for you non-knitters) in the LaLa's Knits group on ravelry. I'm excited to take part in a KAL - it gives me a deadline to work towards so I don't get lazy, I can talk to others who can help me out with any questions I have, and I can see all their projects and compare notes.

I thought the needles might be delivered early, so I picked up some yarn yesterday just in case. I chose an alpaca-wool mix to keep my shoulders warm while I'm sitting at my computer, and decided on a beautiful deep purple. I cast on as soon as I got home from class (of course) and have made it through one pattern repeat. The pattern's really nice to knit, I hope it doesn't get tedious when the rows get longer.

(Note the makeshift safety-pin-and-keyring stitch markers!)

This is the first time I've ever had two WIPs at the same time and I think it'll be nice to be able to alternate if I need a break from one. The socks are coming along nicely, I've turned the heel and am on the home stretch now. Should have them finished in time to give them to the boyfriend when he visits next Wednesday.

I think my knitting will be taking a back seat for the next few days. I got a job which means I can stay in Strasbourg all summer (yay!), but also means I have to work twenty-five-and-a-half hours in the next three days. I AM SO NERVOUS. What if it's a nightmare? What if I can't make it through my ten-hour shift?

However, I think it will be worth it to be able to stay in this beautiful town for the summer:

Check out other people's WIPs over at Tami's Amis!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

It's sometimes sad to be away from home during the holidays, so for Easter Sunday my friends and I are making the biggest and best dinner of our entire year abroad.

(The French love Easter. Baby animal decorations everywhere, they even set up a petting zoo in the shopping centre!)

As our cooking facilities in the student residences aren't great, it's hard to have nice dinners very often. There are four hot plates between the 52 people on my floor, and no oven, no microwave, no toaster, nothing. I love to cook, so I bought a mini-oven for my room, and for the first time, the girls and I are having a Sunday roast together.

Since each person is in charge of one part of the meal, we'll have loads of food without any one person doing too much work. This should give me plenty of time to chill out with my girls and my knitting. And the sun is out for the first time in a week. I can't think of a nicer way to spend my Easter Sunday.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Work in Progress Wednesday

This week I'm working on Kelly Patla's Thermal Textured Socks pattern, which she has kindly put on her website for free. The web page was written in an attempt to help people to understand that it's not that hard to knit socks, so it is a brilliant start for beginner sock knitters. With the diagram of the anatomy of a sock and her lengthy explanation of how a sock is knit, she's definitely succeeded in making sock-knitting less daunting for beginners.

The pattern is very easy to follow, and makes a really lovely sock. I don't have any knitting friends to compare with, but it seems to me that I'm a very slow sock knitter. It took me two weeks to finish the first sock, and that's without any other projects on the needles.

I'm very proud of them so far and I'm sure the more I knit, the faster I'll get. Fingers crossed I'll have them finished in time to start Finished Object Friday next week!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2012

A few weeks ago I found out about the annual Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, where every participating blogger writes about a set topic each day for a week. Yesterday the blogging topics were published and I can't wait to give it a go! I'm really excited about trying out blog week because it will challenge me to write a blog post every day for a week, and because it gives me topics I wouldn't have come up with myself. I'm also looking forward to coming across a few new knitting blogs during the week!

Blog Week 2012 takes place from the 23rd-29th April, which gives me three weeks to get in the habit of posting regularly. I haven't posted for the past two weeks as I was travelling: first to Paris, then to Aix-en-Provence in the south of France for a college football tournament, with an essay to write in between. Paris was incredible, the tournament went well, despite the 12-hour overnight bus journey there and back, and the essay was handed in on time!

Now that I've caught up on sleep I'm ready to start blogging more often, starting with a Work-in-Progress Wednesday post tomorrow. (Thanks to Rachael from for the suggestion!)