Moving!

Oh man, it’s coming up for two months since I last posted: all I can say is that the summer has flown by. Lots of camping, a music festival, a large amount of reknitting before I can release my next pattern (why is it so time consuming! when getting ideas down on paper is so quick!) and a bit of a learning curve as I’ve moved my blog to:

bluebluegrey.com

So if you have a bookmark, that’s where it needs to be. Look forward to seeing you there 😉

Skies

Summer this year has been just a small bit better than last year’s. I’ve discovered about myself that although I feel the chill very easily (one of the main reasons why I knit), I don’t need to be in hot weather to feel ok. Which is lucky, since where we live is not hot at all.

The upshot of it not being (too) cold and grey this year is that as a family, we’ve actually done loads so far in the great outdoors. It was kick-started when I went to Harlyn Bay in Cornwall with some knitting pals. Apologies for the messed-about-with photos, I had great fun with Snapseed…

On the last day of the trip, I went for a long ramble with one of my friends. It was one of those days which sort of makes a holiday. The sun shone on us, the rain rained behind us, we chattered the whole way (fantasising about some of the houses…), and ended up sunburnt in the pub, where the rain finally caught up with us. The path around the coast is so easy, it didn’t feel like walking at all. The beaches are all amazing, and though you feel sad to leave one behind, you know there’s another just around a corner or over a headland. All things considered, it was that walk which got me back to my happy self.

I made up my mind that getting out into the countryside is pretty much vital for my wellbeing. Winter was so long. It was good to banish it. So back in Edinburgh with my family, at the first opportunity, we took the bus out to Gullane. It’s a small village, possibly not the most interesting of places, but it has a branch of Falko Konditormeister – a totally fabulous German style bakery – and they do lunch. Great. In theory they do lunch. We did get lunch, and we did get it there, but my god we had to work for it. We counted six members of staff in that tiny shop/restaurant. Let’s just say service is not proactive and leave it at that. Eye contact is not their thing. The sausage, bread, cake, however, was worth it. I do recommend it for quality, but it’s not your usual type of place where people help you and find out what you want and bring it to you in return for money.

We found the beach and sauntered down (in quite a strong wind) and then walked all along…past fossilly rocks and groups of people having (windy) parties, then in glorious sunshine all the way to Aberlady Bay. The route got a bit crazy there as they are keeping people away from nesting birds, but the result was that we ambled along what seemed like an ancient path in the early evening sun. The highlight was a deer, browsing by a thicket as though we didn’t exist.

The following weekend, we went out the same way to Yellowcraigs, near North Berwick. Our friends’ son was having a birthday party. The sun shone, the wind blew, the food was lovely, there was wine and good company and the children played and dug and ran in and out of the sea with buckets: pretty much idyllic. I didn’t take my camera that day, but I did take it…

…Camping! (I haven’t been camping since A and I went on a trip to the West Coast when I was 22. We carried everything. Only, split between two rucksacks, we found that he can carry quite a bit and I get blisters on the soles of my feet if I have to carry the same amount…And the midges and clegs (horseflies) are no joke. Also, call me a lightweight, but I like a loo.)

But this time was different. For one thing, we borrowed a big tent from our friends, plus some über-comfy sleeping mats. And we didn’t have to carry three days’ worth of food and clothes. And the campsite (Pillars of Hercules: I almost don’t want to recommend it in case everyone flocks there) has fab loos, showers, a great shop and a veggie café. It’s not the same as wild camping, but I’m grateful for that, and it was refreshingly cleg-free.

This converted me to camping. Yes it was a bit uncomfortable but ok once I’d stretched in the morning. Yes it rained but only a bit. Yes there were midges but Smidge repellent is very good. I somehow found myself with a smile on my face practically the whole time. I loved being in my tent (mine is the little one, I had it all to myself). I didn’t even mind the smell of woodsmoke or the very bad hair day on Sunday.

I’m so looking forward to the rest of the summer – I feel like I have to store up all this sunshine and outdoorsiness somehow for when the days shorten and the temperature drops and it gets to next May and we’re still surprised that the leaves haven’t opened much. So here’s to a long happy summer 😉 with more camping, most likely.

(More wool in the next post…)

Keep the Sun Off…

It’s really warm and really sunny here in Edinburgh. By ‘really warm’ I mean about 17 degrees C. In my little suntrap garden my thermometer has been up past 30: this is rare! And very welcome! But the downside is that my pale, pale Scottish skin can’t really cope. I’ve just burnt my neck by sitting out without suncream for an hour. Oops. (Actually, that is me not coping: I know I burn within an hour, I just somehow can’t accept it…I’ve slapped on some factor 50 now.)

I like to/have to wear a voluminous cotton scarf in summer, basically to keep from frying in the sunlight, if we’re lucky enough to get any. This year, however, those scarves seem to be made mostly of viscose or polyester, and I’m far more crunchy and natural than that. I read that the price of cotton has soared, so this is why it’s actually pretty hard to find clothes which haven’t got some modal or viscose in the mix, but sadly the fact is that I don’t much like the creasing they bring, or the strange, thin, cold feel of the fabric. Anyway you need a scarf with a bit of heft to it, otherwise it just flubs around your neck like a limp rag.

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So I bought myself a bit of cotton fabric in a cheery stripe with all the blues in it, and a bit of cream and taupe. It’ll basically go with everything I own. As you can see, I’ve been very conscientious and pre-washed the fabric. I then cut the piece in two, perpendicular to the selvages. One of the selvages is noticeably dodgier than the other: I put the pieces together (no right-side/wrong-side issues with this fabric), pinned, and then sewed a French seam to encase that rough-ish edge. Next time I’ll definitely do a flat fell seam, but my sewing machine’s in storage so I was skimping on the amount of hand-sewing I might have to do.

Then I tackled the raw edges down the sides. Some time ago, when we worked together in a yarn shop, Kristen made a fabulous scarf by taking some fabric and giving it a crochet edging. My crochet skills are not fabulous, but I can manage an edging with no shaping or complication. I used some old Yarn Yard cotton/tencel blend, poked through the forgiving fabric with a 2mm hook, then switched to a 3mm for the row which made the ‘ladder’. Kristen’s instructions have a third row, which gives a good scallop to the edge, but I really liked how the ladder and the stripes worked together, so I left it there. It’s so simple, as many of the best things are. I really like it, in a summery, Toast sort of a way.

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It still took aaaages to work all along the two sides. Not that I’m complaining, the result is worth it, but man that first row where you’re rolling the edge of the fabric and poking through…not fast. Fiddly but satisfying when done. I’ve bought more fabric (some plain linen in…ta dah! Teal, like nearly everything I’ve bought this year) so I obviously wasn’t put off the thought of ever doing it again, but it’s kind of a box-set commitment. Link to Kristen’s instructions here. Highly recommended (she has a good blog, too)!

Next up will be my Agnes sweater. Since I began writing this post (a couple of days ago) the weather has, predictably, turned. Go Scotland. I’m going camping very soon and I have a feeling I will need a crunchy, chunky, woolly jumper with pockets, since all self-respecting Scottish people need one pretty much all the time, just in case. (I’m a bit wibbly about camping. First time since I was 22. Hmm.)

Acer

Done! I had a chunk of time yesterday so I got down to the task of ripping out the (too high) neckband, narrowing the button bands, fashioning proper buttonholes, and lengthening the sleeves. You can see the point where I started reknitting the sleeves and just how much longer I needed them to be (a good inch and a half to two inches). I also decreased so they’d be an inch narrower at the cuff. I knew when I made this initially that having flappy, short cuffs was a bad idea, and yes I cursed during the winter when my wrists were cold…I should note that the original pattern didn’t suggest having flappy, short cuffs. It was a combination of using heavier yarn and probably a bit of winging it with the instructions at this point. And underestimating my arm length.

Tidying up all the ribbing has had the effect of making the cardigan much neater all round. The rib is still 2×2, which I marginally prefer to 1×1, but all the same it’s quite chunky and rustic and very handmade. I like that in this yarn, for this particular garment, but I can’t say it looks refined. However, the fit is better, which matters a lot to the finished item.

The main thing I’ve learned is that it’s worth doing surgery like this, even on something you’ve been wearing for nearly a year. I always felt this cardigan was good for throwing over pyjamas on a cold morning, but not much else. I feel a lot better about it now.

 

Surgery

Some time ago, I made this cardigan: Acer by Amy Christoffers.Kinda frumpy

The design is for DK wool, so of course I ignored that, used aran weight, didn’t swatch, winged it totally. I did top down, short row sleeves, and I love the neatness. The result was pretty good and to be honest, I’ve worn it a lot and it’s stood up really well. Turns out Rowan Felted Tweed Aran is hard-wearing and doesn’t pill much at all. It’s quite hairy and not my favourite to knit with, but it definitely does its job and I might be tempted again.

Anyway, there are quite a few things wrong with the finished item and I can see them every time I put it on. Firstly, the ribbing at the neck is too wide. I’m bad at estimating how wide a neckline should be, and this one sits, itchily, slightly too high. I have to take the neckband off completely before I can attack the next problem, which is that…

…Secondly, the button band ribbing is too wide. I made it wide intentionally, as I felt the cardigan would be quite tight and at least I could wear it that way. Well, it loosened, or I lost weight. I think it just relaxed a bit as I wore it, and the thick button bands look wrong. Never a good decision to widen the button band.

Thirdly, the buttons look teeny. Narrowing the button band will sort that. Resewing twelve (vintage bakelite) buttons? Well it has to be done.

Fourthly, I skimped on making proper buttonholes and just did yarn over, k2tog. What a prat. The reason was that I couldn’t be bothered reminding myself how to make lovely buttonholes, and I thought I just couldn’t do them anyway, since I’d always had bad luck. After re-reading the instructions in Ysolda’s book (Little Red In The City: has a great bit on this) I realised I’d completely missed one of the instructions to slip a particular stitch at a particular point, hence why they never worked out. Actually, fabulously neat buttonholes are easy. I am now looking forward to making this bit look perfect.

And fifthly, you’ll have to take my word for it, but the sleeves are about an inch and a half too short. I have looooong arms, I’ve no idea why. I get so very cold in winter, and I need sleeves that do at least cover my wrists. I do try these things on as I knit, I’m not completely lax, it’s just that somehow what seems fine when on the needles ends up too short, every time. I should have sussed this by now. I’ll unravel the ribbing completely, knit down, and do a shorter cuff on a smaller needle. Tidy.

It’s still going to be a chunky cardie for cold days, not the slinky fitted version the pattern suggests, but it should be a bit less, hmm, earthy? And one thing I love about this whole project: you can make these mistakes knowing you’ve made them, knowing you ought not to, knowing what you should have done right, what you should have taken the time to fix. But this will be easy to make good. I really welcome the simplicity of that.

Soothing tones

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New knitting for a new chapter.

Edinburgh Yarn Festival was a giant, massive, all-encompassing success. Linda, Mica and I worked our arses off to organise it, absorb the stresses which come with it, build up our audience, inform everybody who needed to be informed of anything they needed to know, deal with hiccups (mercifully few) and sort little jobs like posters and bags and decoration, which all add up to one huge job somehow, even if they shouldn’t on paper. We’re exhilarated by the overwhelming response and also, exhausted. I keep falling asleep at times other than, you know, night time, which is inconvenient. There’s probably a ton more to say but we haven’t even had time to write on our own blog so I’ll keep it brief here.

(But it was FABULOUS! Buzzing, bright, inspiring, a riot of colour. Come next year!)

Anyway now, I’m in need of something a bit more soothing. I haven’t actually knitted anything for over a week, and even then it was a row or two before bed. The yarn above is 4 skeins (there’s one hiding behind) of various different silk blends. None of them matches but they’re all a variation on pale blue or blue-green. I want to make a cardi which involves stripes of very similar colours working together quite subtly. No pattern. Small needles. A lot of knitting. Nice easy-on-the-eye shades. I need soothing.