reading

The shocking emptiness of my blog-reader today had me puzzling for a few moments, and then brought home the realisation that most of the knitting blogs I read are (still) US-based. Happy Thanksgiving to you, my bloggy American friends!

As for the rest of you, if you have no turkey or pumpkin pie to keep your stomachs busy and no family debates to do the same with your brain, I’ve dug out a few all-time best reads from some of my favourite bloggers, just to give you something to do… ;)

A loving story about a stash from
Knitting to Stay Sane.

One of my favourite yarn portraits ever by
Sorella and Company.

A great tutorial on something most sweater-knitters dread by
Amy Herzog Designs.

Another great tutorial on something completely different by
tentenknits.

Some photography tips for the Blogger Vulgaris, by
Etsy UK.

And after you’re done with all that learning and skill-enhancement, some wonderful and thoughtful book and movie recommendations, from a blogger I truly miss,
cobblestonesea.

Have a wonderful Thursday, everyone!

WIP week: blocking mittens

I finished the colourwork on my first Fiddlehead mitten a few weeks ago, but given the fact that the mittens come with a lining (which I haven’t knit yet), I was unsure about the size and wanted to see how they would react to blocking. And since colourwork, especially by inexperienced colourworkers, requires heavy blocking, I found myself in a kerfuffle. How to block this thing and make sure everything is stretched well and stays like that until dried and set? I thought and thought and thought, and then I remembered this tutorial.

So I went and found some plastic placemats. I bought three because I thought they were kind of thin and wouldn’t be sturdy enough to resist the pull of the knitted item. I was wrong, one was more than enough. Turns out that wool is not that strong in the end! ;)

I didn’t exactly bother to pull up the tutorial before I started cutting, but worked from memory (and of course forgot some things). I also thought I’d be a smartass and go “why on earth should the thumb be separate?” (and of course found out exactly why when trying to put the mitten on the blocker). In retrospect, holes (which I forgot) would’ve made the drying much faster, and a separate thumb (which I ignored), would have resolved the issue of plastic being slightly less flexible than human fingers. I guess what I’m saying is: follow the freakin’ tutorial, if you’re smarter than me.

In the future, I do plan to improve my ‘prototype’ by adding the holes, making the shape smoother, and making the wrist part longer, so that it sticks out of the mitten. Ok, and maybe even separating the thumb. ;) Luckily, I have enough placemats left to experiment.

Oh, and one more thing. Consider it Fridica’s bonus advice: be careful with where you’re cutting the mat. You wouldn’t want your scalpel to slash into the surface of your desk, for example. Purely hypothetical. Purely. :/

Here’s the blocker in action.

Not bad for a placemat!

WIP week: baby socks

I have a confession to make: I think I’ve become a sock addict. Ever since I finished up and sent off my Mom’s socks (which she adooores, by the way, yay!), I’ve been itching to start a new pair. I’ve been looking at patterns, scheming, dreaming… Unfortunately, those socks also convinced me that the only way to go is to knit socks with Proper Sock Yarn, preferably one of those wonderfully soft yet sturdy wool-nylon blends. Why unfortunately? Well, because I have no such yarn in my stash, nor easily available in my surroundings. At least to my knowledge.

So I am appealing to the European sock knitters out there: please tell me, which sock yarns do you use? When I think of sock yarn, most things that come to mind are US-based, and quite difficult to access from Belgium. Can you recommend some UK or European-based brands? And secondly, where do you get them? I am notoriously bad with online shopping (I confine it to Amazon and Etsy – yes I am still living in the dark ages), and I know absolutely nothing about buying yarn online. Please enlighten me with your links!

In the meantime, I’ll get whatever quantum of solace I can find. For example, these baby socks in the leftovers of Malabrigo Sock from my Whippoorwill. Just holding the 2mm needles in my hands again made me all giddy! The only problem with newborn socks is – they’ll be done in no time at all… So hurry up with your advice, please! :)

seasonal

Yarn shops here in Brussels seem to take a very seasonal approach to yarn. A few weeks ago, I found myself walking into one particular shop with the intention of getting a few more skeins of Malabrigo sock, which had been overflowing on its shelves the last time I had been there, in the summer. I was in for a surprise, though. All the shelves which had been full of Malabrigo in the summer were now tipping over with Cascade 220. The remainders of Malabrigo were huddling sadly in one little corner. I remembered then that back in the summer I had noticed out of the corner of my eye some Cascade, itself peeking out of the sales basket then.

Now I won’t get into the story about how summer here was freaking cold and how there is really no reason to be seasonal about yarn when seasons don’t really exist here anyway. Let’s leave that frustration about my adopted country for some other day… ;)

But I think it’s pretty obvious that I had no choice but to give Cascade 220 Heathers a try. And so I did (if you define “giving a try” as “buying tons of”, as you may have seen in my last post). This little sweetie (a true gem by Jared Flood) is the result, and I couldn’t be happier with it. I won’t waste too many words on the pattern, I think its loveliness is fairly self-evident.

As for the yarn, I was pretty happy. The price is reasonable. It is pleasant to knit with. It’s not necessarily the softest (my ears do itch a bit when I wear it), but it doesn’t bother me too much. The colours are nice. The only real objection I have is that I’d like the colours to be a bit more heathery, a bit more tweedy. As it is, this colour at least, looks pretty much like a sturdy solid, which is not what I want from a yarn called “Heathers”. But all in all, I like this yarn, and I’m more than happy to have tons of it at home waiting for more projects! :)

How about your countries? Do yarn shops exhibit seasonal behaviour there as well?