Noblin activity of the knitting variety.

Including Noblin Designs, How to identify Noblins,
Advice on how to catch a Noblin, and How to keep your Noblin happy.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Back from holiday

How marvellous!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I'm going on holiday tomorrow and I'm so excited. I've got the whole day to pack and it's already been an eye-opener. I've found clothes I thought I'd lost (granted I knew they must be somewhere in my cupboard but never bothered looking for them), clothes I'd forgotten about and enough toiletries to last me until Christmas 2015. I think I might be spending the bank holiday weekend after I get back sorting through my entire flat to get a grip on what I have and where all my money has been leaking to.

Something I'm also finding very enjoyable is deciding what knitting to pack. I definitely want something fun and have already given up on the idea of taking any of the socks on the needles. I've narrowed it down to the four items below.

As it's going to be warm on the beach, I searched for something non-wool to at least consider. I've had problems in the past knitting with pure plant fibres as I'm a tense, tight, speedy knitter so I'm left with arm ache and messy stitches. However, I found a bunch of Cotton Rope that I had in mind for a summer top. It's a cotton acrylic blend with 6mm needles recommended so I can't see this causing me too much agro. However, I don't have a pattern in mind and it might not prove to be relaxed and mindless enough to win a place in the suitcase.
Case For: suits hot weather knitting
Case Against: am not struck by inspiration

Mmmmm, alpaca. I am mildly obsessed with wool to the point where my colleague yesterday suggested I was a sheep in a previous life. I responded, Yes, an alpaca. This Puppy Alpaca Rimisto was purchased in a previous lifetime when I visited Japan for a someone to knit for another. Well, the someone's not around anymore and I'm thinking this should become some wristwarmers for me with plenty leftover for another pair or a scarf or hat or socks ...
Case For: I really fancy this yarn
Case Against: not suited for summer knitting

Um, I've just talked myself out of bringing this. I'm not really a fan of the colour of this Noro Cash Iroha so it will become a gift so I'll need to decide who and then take measurements so it's not suitable.

This one's a definite. Compact to pack, no risk of finishing it halfway through the holiday, interesting enough to not get bored. I don't think it's one for the beach though so I'll need another project.

So, I'll be back in just over a week, hopefully with something to show for my time away.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Socks with issues

I'm stalling on two different pairs of socks at the moment because they have issues. Most of the socks I've knit before have been stocking stitch or rib. They are very easy, very quick and can be made to fit my feet without too much effort. It's no hassle to decrease or increase a few stitches where necessary and as they are so quick, if they don't fit perfectly it doesn't bother me. I don't feel I've wasted any time and enjoy wearing them anyway. I love handknitted socks as they keep my feet much warmer than shop bought socks. It's a combination of the wool contecnt and they don't dig into my calf the way elasticated socks do. The blood can keep flowing and my toes stay toasty.

However, after all these simple socks, I was ready for a fresh challenge. Who isn't tempted by all the stunning designs on offer by Cookie A and Stephanie van der Linden for example in Twist Collective, or Knitty or all over the web. Well I've yielded to temptation but also severely slowed my sock output. There seems to be a trade off between a pattern being great to look at, fun to knit and fun to wear. I know when I'm finished both these patterns I will love how they look (as long as I can persuade them to fit) but will I ever get that far?

I've finished the first of Blossom. The yarn is beautiful, the colour beautiful, the pattern beautiful also. But the fit?

Well, it's not dreadful but the heel is wrong and the ankle saggy and the calf was too tight so I reknit it - now a bit sloppy.

I started Blossom months ago, in the beginning of March, but it's always been slow progress. A simple pair of socks would only take me two weeks. The construction is fascinating but makes altering the fit more complicated and the pattern is a blessing and a curse. I'll see if the second sock is more successful before I make decisions about altering the first.

Vilai: looks stunning.
But I've got too many stitches on the foot and now have to make a decision. Do I decrease some more or switch to smaller needles or both? Otherwise, I'll be left with about an inch of extra material around the foot.
Oh, I know the real problem: I'm too impatient to finish to take time to make sure the socks fit properly. It's not really a fault of either design. I'm just too impatient to figure out a solution.

Countdown to holiday: 4 days to go!

Labels: , ,

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A bag of mouldy bagels

I was very hungry on Wednesday but my lunch was a disappointment. All my own fault - I knew I should have frozen some of the bagels and put the rest in the fridge. I was cheered up by the parcel that I had been waiting nearly 5 weeks for:

A huge bundle of Biggan Design DK Merino First Cross for some commissions which will be published in the winter. Well, they'll be published as long as I've actually committed the pattern to paper and had a sample knitted and the idea that is idling in my brain actually works out well.

I have two different methods when it comes to having patterns published in a magazine*. Method 1 was used for Miho and is my preferred method although it is not the most practical and is not always possible. This is when I have some yarn and an idea for the yarn and I actually make the item, taking notes as I go. Then I write up the notes, make any relevant alterations and give the pattern to someone, usually my mum or my sister, to test knit. I take a few photos and send them to a magazine saying please publish my pattern. All being well, they say yes, I make any corrections that are needed and send off the finished garments and complete pattern for their official photography and editing. This can all be done at my own pace but is also at my initial expense.

Here is my striped version. Notice it's a bit short.


Here is my sister's version with a modified length and a lovely crochet and bead edging. My sister is my crochet consultant.

single colour hanging

I'll also own up to my sister being a neater knitter than me. We had to buy the yarn ourselves and take the risk that we wouldn't have this pattern published at all. Fortunately, it all worked out.

The other method I use, which I find quite stressful, is that I suggest an idea to the magazine and ask for the yarn to be sent to me. I have to make a guess at how much I need, so I always over-estimate because running short would be as much fun as a poke in the eye. I then get given a deadline to translate the idea into a real item, such as Aster.


I do love this pattern now. There was a time when I did not. It began as an idea for a blanket made with three colours and one large, detailed, illusion pattern. It then had several versions until it ended as a 4 panelled, two colour blanket, with a slightly demonic looking flower and a colour scheme that wasn't 100% what I first imagined. You see, it's all very well designing something in your head but if the colours aren't available you have to adapt. And if the pattern doesn't do what you want it to then you have to adapt again. My sister-the-crochet-consultant was a bit mean about the scary flowers (she said they should be smiling) but by this stage I was committed and the deadline was looming. My mum did a great job knitting this up, combining chart reading and intarsia techniques and knitting it up in super quick time. I'm so relieved to see someone else on Ravelry is knitting this pattern using their own colour scheme and it looks fab.

Is it okay to be pleased with my own designs? I hope so. I don't have that many ideas so the ones I do have are important to me. Like these little chaps:

Group 3

This was another joint project with the crochet consultant - mine on the right, hers on the left. I was very hurt on their behalf when they were rejected from the first place they were submitted to but I learnt a lesson. Each publication has its own style so it's worth familiarising yourself with a magazine before you approach them. If you make a mistake the first time, then have a another try somewhere else. Present you design with a little bit of self-promoting blurb ("A whimsical, stash-busting, fun knit" works better than "well, it might appeal to someone but I'm not sure I'd have it on my Christmas Tree). If you still can't find someone, then Ravelry are a fantastic resource for publishing your own work and (hopefully) getting paid for it.

I love knitting and I love the fact that I can share it with so many other like-minded people. I also love chocolate but I don't share that so easily.

*ok, so it's only really been Let's Knit but I'm really please to be working with them.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, August 10, 2009


I like to knit socks using 5 double pointed needles. I've had a go at magic loop, two circulars and a combination of dpns and circulars but really, 5 needles is best for me. So when a pattern calls for two cable needles and I've already got 5 needles on the go, I call that excessive.

Vilai is one such pattern. Actually, I've never seen a cable that called for two cable needles before but these are very gorgeous socks so you can forgive them for being demanding. I've devised a method for knitting this specific cable within this pattern without using any cable needles and thought I'd share it. It's nothing new and not the most elegent of solutions but I'm rather fond of it. It's not an introduction to cabling without a cable needle (jeez, there's got to be a quicker way of saying that) so if you're not familiar with the technique you might want to have a read of this and a little practise before you embark on my method.

Step 1: I split the sts evenly over the four dpns, 18 on each.

Step 2: Work to the last three stitches on the first dpn. This dpn becomes a surrogate cable needle (see, not terribly elegant as the dpn is a bit long and pokey, but it gets the job done). Move this dpn to the front of the work.

Step 3: With yarn in front, slip the next stitch purlwise. This is the purl stitch that would have gone on the second cable needle.

Step 4: Work the next three stitches, k1tbl, p1, k1tbl. They are the purple ones below and the slipped purl stitch is the pink one.
Step 5: Slip the three stitches from the "cable" needle to the LH dpn. You now have a free dpn.

Step 6: This is the arrangement of stitches so far.

Step 7: This is where you use the cabling without the cable needle technique. WYIF insert the free dpn into the back of the slipped purl stitch. (I forgot to WYIF at this stage so the photo isn't completely accurate.)

Step 8: Hold on tight to the first four stitches and slip them right off the RH dpn. If you don't hold on, all kinds of chaos can spring forth (that didn't make it into any photos because it's hard to rescue knitting and photograph it at the same time).

Step 9: Quick as you like, slide the RH needle back into the three left most stitches only, i.e. the stitches that were waving around in the air and not the purl stitch already on a dpn.

Step 10: Purl the stitch on the back needle. Nearly there! You now have a free dpn again.

Step 11: Continue with the free dpn, working the rest of the stitches. Voila!

I have to admit, that after the previous post, I couldn't face tinking. I'd already had the socks on hold for several days while I had to find my camera and then charge it's battery and then find my circular needle/secret weapon so I really wanted to get moving again.
After two pattern repeats, it seems to fit well so I'm sticking with the 2.5mm dpns. If anything, it's slightly tight at the top edge.
Such a pretty pattern!

Labels: , , ,

Friday, August 07, 2009


*Warning - this is a very wiffly and self indulgent post. It started out as an honest attempt to be something useful but has become bloated, lethargic and a prime example of poor editing. The author takes no responsibility for anyone falling asleep whilst reading. Just don't operate any heavy machinery.

After being in a huff with work on Wednesday, I had a bad dream about it and went to work on Thursday very tense. I was running through my mind things I would say in my defense if necessary. It wasn't necessary - everyone was friendly and kind as usual. I had a dream the night before where Matthew McConaughey stabbed me several times but then I told him I loved him, just didn't think he should be king, and eventually we lived happily ever after (albeit with a few extra scars). That one didn't come true either.

I have very vivid dreams that I tend to remember. I also daydream frequently, which sometimes leads to a bit of trouble. See exhibit A:

Exhibit A: One extra stitch
1 extra stitch

I was knitting Vilai late into the evening (about 9.30pm), my mind wandering off the chart pattern into the realms of knitting fantasy. It went something like this...

I'm really getting the hang of this pattern, gosh, I'm so good, I understand it really well, what a pro, I don't really need the chart anymore, ooh look, I got that bit right without even thinking about it, well done me, I wonder if anyone else manages it as easily as I do, perhaps they would like some encouragement, maybe I should blog about the pattern and deconstruct it for people, then I'd be really popular, I'd tell them pattern has several distinct sections which reduces the need to look at the chart, quick look at the chart, yup am right again, hooray for me, I'm the king of knitting these socks, it's a great pattern, really well written, (should I go do the washing up?), practically knits itself but people might be put off by the chart, it looks complex but really it's easy, I could be the bridge between this pattern and the world, I would be a hero...oh...I've got an extra I forget a SSK two rounds back?.

So instead of blogging about the actual pattern, I'm now thinking about how to correct the mistake. I can't just ignore it as the pattern is detailed and beautiful and eventually the mistake will cause bigger problems. Like me not wanting to finish the sock ever.

I see myself has having three options of varying ease and effect.
Option 1: Throw in an extra decrease right now. This is the easiest thing to do and as a decrease is next anyway, it won't look too out of place in the pattern.
Option 2: Drop the stitches down and correct the pattern. This is a bit more involved and there is a payoff to be had. Although the pattern will be technically correct, the stitches will be looser as where there were two stitches, there will only be one, with extra yarn making it look sloppy.
Option 3: Rip back several rows and knit it properly. This involves the most work and isn't foolproof although would give the best result. I've frogged patterns before and I seem to have a marvellous capacity to drop extra stitches, pull the needle out at the wrong point and generally make a simple extra stitch into ladders, lost patterning and all sorts of ensuing chaos.

To better decide which path to choose, I thought I'd compare them, scientifically. That means with photos.

Here's what Option 1 looks like:
Option 1: SSSK instead of SSK

This doesn't look out of place and would be unnoticable to most eyes. It's in the style of the pattern and would probably be perfectly acceptable. However, it breaks up the line of the decreases, which should be smooth and even. Instead, there is a vertical section then an abrupt left turn.

I didn't want to judge it just on that row, so worked the next plain and patterned row.

I know what you're thinking - it looks fine, stop time wasting. Well I decided to forge ahead and try Option 2. In two varieties.

First: dropping down one round instead of two, adding in a SSK thus correcting the stitch count and reducing the abrupness of the left lean.

Dropping the stitches one row
My tip is to hold on to the knitting and don't let the stitches run any further than you intended. Then get them back onto a needle as quickly as you can.

Back on the needle, loop of yarn visible in front

Minor rearranging, yarn loop ready at the back
If I had been about to purl, this stage wouldn't have been necessary but when you're about to recreate a knit based stitch, you need the yarn at the back.

Needles ready in the SSK position

Hooking the loop of yarn around the RH needle

SSK knit corrected on round below, one purl stitch not two

Current round knitted
Yeah, yeah looks great. There is sloppiness on the row below but it's minor and would probably correct itself over time. But why stop now???

Dropping stitches down two rounds

Stitches on needle, two yarn loops visible
At this stage, it's very helpful that the yarn is slightly different colours on the different rounds. This helps you keep track of which loop to use first.

SSK corrected on the correct round

Following round corrected - Um lookout sloppy stitches

Stop now - you have to go see your Mum
This is where I stopped. I had to go out and frankly, was worried about doing more damage. This correction is my least favourite, nasty sloppy stitches, but there is potential for fiddling a bit more with it and spreading out the extra stitch worth of yarn over more than one stitch. Anyway, there comes a time when you have to just put the knitting down and step away from the sock.

What did we learn from this experience?
When you make a mistake you have several options where you have to make a personal decision about speed, simplicity, final appearance, can you live with yourself, and does it really matter. I couldn't have lived with option 1, am not happy with option 2 so I can see where I'm talking myself into. Option 3 and The Dangerous World of TINKing.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

A herd of unicorns

I left work today in a bad mood, huffing and puffing to myself about the difficulty of having to work with people. I caught myself doing exactly what I had just told a colleague not to do - let it bother me. So I huffed and puffed a bit more and took a deep breath and cheered myself up with showing off my sock yarn drawer.

I've been trying to add up how much sock yarn I have. Would you believe, I've actually tried it twice already and still can't figure out how much I have. So I've gone back to the beginning and tried again. I've had to set a few rules to help me as there are some issues when it comes to what is stash:
1) Only full hanks can be counted
2) Only hanks that have not been wound into cakes can be counted
3) Anything on the needles does not count
4) 100g is considered one pair of socks unless they will be super long stockings in which case 150g is one pair
5) Yarn has to be specifically marketed as sock yarn. Other 4ply yarn does not count.

So this is the list of the pure, untouched sock yarn that I have.

Here is my little herd of unicorns:

The two on the left came from The Natural Dye Studio and the other three are from Fyberspates. I'll own up to having another skein of this that has already been used to make a prototype for a new design but as per rule 2) it doesn't count, although it will almost certainly end up as a pair of socks. The idea of the Unicorn Sock Club is to buy yarn each month, from either of the two shops and solve all the riddles that are included. At the end of the club run, you use all your answers to solve the biggest riddle - what are the Unicorns made from?

The two Unicorn sellers also sell lots of other lovely sock yarn including the ones below:

100grams of Tangerine Sparkle Sock from Fyberspates and 100g of Mirage (Merino/Tencel) from TNDS. I was put off buying the sparkle sock yarn for ages at the thought of cheap, scratchy glitter socks I bought from Topshop years ago. However, I finally caved on the advice that the sparkles aren't scratchy, they are lovely. Mmmmmmmmmmmm. It's entirely possible the Mirage will not be made into socks but I'm following the rules so it's included here.

Here's a shot of the other guys hanking out in the sock drawer:

From top to bottom there is Pink Artyarns Ultramerino 4, Blue, Rainbow and Grey Stripe Koigu, Purple/Red Plushness by Skein Queen and Blue/Grey Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock. I like to think of Koigu and Lorna's Laces as the big boys of the sock yarn world as they are well established, readily available unless you live somewhere uselesss (like the UK) and have a ton of year round available colourways.

Hello little bag of leftovers. Per the rules, the leftovers don't get included even though there may be enough for more than one sock. Rules is rules.

And there's everything packed neatly away with a smellybag of sandalwood. Just because.
So what's the tally?
Unicorn - 500g = 5 pairs
Sparkle - 100g = 1 pair
Mirage - 100g = 1 pair
Big boys - 450 g = 4 pairs including some stockings in the LL
Plushness - 100g = 1 pair

So I have enough to start 12 new pairs of socks. Phew. Wasn't so hard. The rules really helped. I started off with only three rules but added two more in the name of transparency. I'm not cheating here. Just because lots and lots of 4ply alpaca could be made into socks doesn't mean it has to be included in the tally. I have three pairs of socks on the needles at the moment but one of those will probably get ripped (again) as it's just not working for me.

My sister guessed I had enough for 20 pairs. Pah! I guessed 15 which is about right as I was very sneaky and finished a pair then cast on a new pair inbetween counting attempts.

Well that yarn therapy was very successful. I feel ready to go away and face the world again...and knit some more sock.

Labels: , ,

Monday, August 03, 2009

Vilai socks

I caved and decided to join the August Sock Innovation Knitalong. Did I tell you, I love, love, love this book. Yeah, big deal, so what's new. Well, I have a new project.

First, the yarn:

I know I purchased it at Ally Pally last year and I know it's from Fyberspates. I'm guessing it is Blue Faced Leceister but I wonder if there is something else in there too as it is really shiny.

Look at all the different colours! It is mostly blue and purple but then every so often some greeny-brown sneaks in. Having wound it and started knitting with it, I'm so much more in love with it than when I bought it. It was a bit of a guilt purchase - I really wanted to buy from Jeni as I knew her yarn is high quality and pretty ethical and I'd just bought loads of Koigu and didn't really like any of the colours at Jeni's stall but oh, I'm so glad I went with the guilt/impulse/need to spend.

Hello toes!
The two shots show the beginnings of the two different patterns - a lace lattice section and a cable section with columns of twisted knit stitches. Given that with the Rick socks, I did the gauge and calculations thing and ended ripping out the sock three times, I just cast on knit the pattern. So far so good as it fits over my (wide) feet.

I love knitting socks on 5 dpns but have had several breakages when trying socks on so here I reveal my cunning secret weapon for making socks that fit: a cable needle of the same size.
OK, not exactly earth shattering, especially for anyone who magic loops anyway, but a definite must-have for dpn-ers. I used to slip the whole sock to scrap yarn, try it on, then spend ages fiddling hundreds of tiny stitches back onto the needles. Now, is simples! When I fancy trying them on, I work the next round on the circular needle, try them on and admire, then work the next round back onto the dpns. Exaclty zero wasted time and lots of sock trying on action. I love it when a plan comes together.

Ooh look, is that a pink, mythical, horse like creature on the horizon?

Labels: , , ,