four years and still counting stitches…

What a great anniversary I am celebrating today, my friends! It has been four years, to the day, since I cast on and knitted my first stitch. Wow. How do I know it so accurately, you might ask? Well, pure luck, as that fated day when I first picked up the needles happened to be an Easter Sunday, and was therefore easy to trace back when I realised, a bit later on, what an important role knitting was going to have in my life.

I hadn’t suspected any of it on that slow Sunday. To be honest, I was just bored, like one generally is on most Easter Sunday afternoons, when the whole world (or rather, my whole world) quiets down in order to nurse its overfilled stomach. In addition, I had recently finally completed my undergrad studies (after several years of struggling with parallel full-time work and studying) and was enjoying discovering again what it meant to have free time after coming home from work. Free time that, if I had only known, would soon be completely overtaken by strange things called ‘knits’, ‘purls’, ‘yarnovers’, and lots and lots of counting under my breath.

Today, four years later, I knit avidly almost every day.

Today, four years later, I write a blog about knitting.

Today, four years later, I am pretty damn skillful with my needles.

Today, four years later, I co-organise a social knitting group in a foreign country.

Today, four years later, when I introduce myself to someone new, one of the first things I say is: I’m a knitter.

So, in retrospect, that slow Easter Sunday was definitely one of the best things that has ever happened to me. :)

In order to celebrate this special day, I’d like to offer you a little giveaway. I will shamelessly steal an idea I once saw on another blog: as the prize, I will offer the winner any pattern that can be purchased on Ravelry, of their own choice. To enter, simply comment on this post, and if you remember, tell me about the day you started knitting. It’s one entry per person, and you have until the end of the day on March 30th. I’ll select the winner by random number draw and announce who it is on March 31st.

Happy weekend to all! :)

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the Changing My Mind mittens

After reading through my Ravelry notes for these mittens, I could think of no other title for the post. Indeed, in the roughly five months that it took me to completely finish these, I changed my mind many many times about many many things.

One thing remained the same – I loved the pattern from start to finish and can wholeheartedly recommend it. It’s not one for beginners,  I’ll say that much, and it definitely involved both concentration and deliberate effort, but it was also very clear in instructions and enjoyable. I won’t even mention the awesomeness of the finished product.

But back to the changing of mind.

Habits

At first I thought I would lead a knitting diary for this project – noting when I knitted and how much, and when I did not knit and why (thus remembering not only the good knitting times, but also the good reasons for skipping knitting – like hanging out with my friends). However, the diary idea died out with time. I seem to be as bad at keeping knitting diaries as I am at “real-life” diaries. Too bad, because I really enjoy reading the parts when I was still keeping up – it’s a nice snippet of my life.

I also planned to knit 5 rounds each day and finish this quicker. But in the end I gave up on that and simply followed my natural rhythm. I gave myself time, worked on this when it felt right and dropped it when it seemed smarter to take a break.

Needles

I had originally started this project on 3.5mm needles, but promptly decided that this was going to be too loose and changed my mind to 3mm. In retrospect, this was not the best choice, I am really convinced that the colourwork would have looked much nicer at this slightly looser gauge. However this realisation came far too late to consider ripping – there had already been too much work invested and I was not changing my mind again for anything!

I should also add that I had started knitting on double-pointed needles. At some point, I decided to try magic loop instead (I had never tried it with colourwork before), and this completely changed the whole project for me. It became so much faster, so much less fiddly! Yay! I’m never going back!

Lining

But the most changes of mind concerned the lining.  At first I was convinced that the mittens were too snug to be adding a lining as well, so I considered the project finished when I completed the outer mittens. But then I wore them for a week. And started thinking that a little bit of lining would be ok. Just around the wrist, not all the way around the whole mitten. Then I wore them some more. And it occured to me that, since the yarn I had bought for the lining was a laceweight anyway, the thing would be so thin that it would probably fit easily even if I knit the whole inner mitten. Then I picked up my needles. And thought: man it’s going to be difficult figuring out these lining numbers for a laceweight. Why don’t I just try holding it double like that lady whose notes I saw on Ravelry…

And so we came from “No, no lining at all!” to “A full lining in the yarn weight the pattern called for”. :) Luckily, it seems to have been a good change of mind. I’ve been wearing these for a few weeks now and they are just heaven. So much so that I am even regretting a bit all the warm spring weather – as it just makes no sense to wear mittens with four layers of wool when the sun is shining…

One final observation about making a pair of something. Comparing my left and right mitten, the difference is obvious. The stitches are messier on the first one, the floats are tighter, the thumb has a larger hole which is stitched up awkwardly so that it’s a bit tight when I put it on… None of these problems appear on the second mitten. It is very easy to conclude that the first mitten was the one on which I tested things and figured them out as I went along, while on the second one I successfully applied the lessons learned. I wonder if this is simply inevitable – when I make a pair of something, will the two always be slightly miss-matched, the uglier and the prettier twin? Is it just the fate of making two in a row? Well, it’s impossible to make them at the same time! Or should I make three of everything then? One to test things out and practice, then two ‘for real’.

What are your opinions on and experiences with pairs of handmade things?

another one

After this happened, I had to knit a new one. I used the same yarn, but to make things a tiny bit more interesting I reversed the colours.

Since this was my third time knitting the pattern, I’ve become quite a pro. Thus here are some useful technical tips.

I used this cast-on – it completely and elegantly eliminates the hole at cast-on point and is very easy to work. I love it!

I held the yarn more loosely at colour changes to avoid an ugly “seam”. This seems to work quite well, though with a finer yarn I might need a more sophisticated method.

And I remembered to weave in my ends before doing the decreases. Yay! (If you don’t understand what I’m saying, have a lookie here ;)

It won’t be my last either. The next will go to the fella who was kind enough to take these lovely photos for me.

Have a great weekend everyone! :)

space robot

Space Robot is my first knitted toy! It took about three weeks to knit up, stuff and seam. But the moment it was done, Space Robot started having a life of his own.

First he went for a swim. I came home from work one day and immediately noticed the smell of wet wool. I had no idea where it was coming from, until I wandered over to the kitchen and saw that Space Robot had dived from the counter into the sink and was taking a dip in the leftovers of my morning cereals… He got a proper talking-to, and it seemed to have worked – he avoided swimming afterwards (at least when he could get caught!). This is his guilty face below.

Then he started experimenting with music. And like adults often do, I regretted my actions and started wishing he would go back to swimming. Do you know what space drums sound like when played by a rebellious young toy? If you don’t, trust me on this one – you’re better off for it.

Finally, he tried his hand at modelling. The girls that came with it were nice, but he found them a bit too empty-headed. In the end, he decided it wasn’t quite for him.

And then he announced that he would be packing his suitcases and flying off to Croatia within two days’ notice. I was devastated! Ok, we had had our differences, but he was still my favourite little chubby Space Robot! I would miss him so much. And worry about him too. He told me not to fret and gave me a biiiiiiiiig space hug.

And then he was off. Just like that. I was sad, but also proud. He was going off to make his own place in the world.

He writes to me regularly. He says he’s very happy. He’s taken up house with my nephew and they are working together at a Lego construction site. In their time off they do math homework. And he’s even learning to play football… (I say he’d make a great goalie!)

Space Robot was knitted without any modifications as per Ysolda Teague’s Trinket pattern. I found the knitting to be quite a bit fiddly, but absolutely worth it. The construction is very inventive and it will take you through a large number of different skills on a fairly small project. I had never done intarsia before, for example, and here I had a chance to try it out small scale. I recommend the pattern without hesitation. Some additional technical notes and links to tutorials I used can be found on my project page.

I used Cascade 220 Heathers because I had some lying around in nice colours. I am really a fan of this yarn and think it may be perfect for knitted toys. Before stuffing the toy I wet-blocked it, a process which works wonders for this 100% wool yarn. It helps the stitches blend together, thus making the toy surface smoother (and softer for children’s hands and cheeks) and closing up any holes where the stuffing may leak through.

The photos were taken by a wonderful friend of mine.

two sundays ago

Two Sundays ago, I enjoyed a most gloriously sunny and relaxing day in Edinburgh. Today I had a similarly sunny and relaxing day in Brussels, so maybe that’s why I’m finally ready to face the fact that I’m no longer in Edinburgh (I tell you, I fell head over heels for that city!) and write about it here ;) I’m afraid I didn’t take too many photos, I preferred taking in the sights and breathing in the crisp air – but here is a small selection.

On advice of a very good friend, I wandered around the city in the direction of Water of Leith. It was quite nice wandering, as it took me past places that looked like this.

I was quite proud of myself for managing to find this fairly easily!

But nothing, not even the previous three days in beautiful, beautiful Edinburgh, could prepare me for the magic that awaited me down there. The sound of gurgling water. The feel of unspoilt nature, as if I had walked into a magic forest. The calm of it all. The companionship of buildings and foliage – to such an extent that you feel as if the stone structures weren’t built by man, but simply arose from the ground, or at best were placed there by giants in ancient times. And all in the middle of a living city. Magic, just magic. I have no other words for it.

There were many other things I saw, and loved, in Edinburgh. The city took me completely by surprise. Even though I travel quite a lot, I still adore it and enjoy exploring every new place I go to. But this, the joy it brought me to discover this place – it was so fresh, so inspiring, so exhilarating – I felt as if it had been the first time ever I had left my tiny village and gone to see the big bright world.

I wish I could put it in better words, but I can’t. You’ll just have to trust me on this one: go there. And when you do, take a stroll along that walkway. It was the best piece of travel advice ever given to me.

lining

Sitting among the lines of my rug, knitting a lining…

I spent a lot of time doing just this during the weekend – such a simple pleasure. And good thing I did, because today it snowed in Brussels! But I didn’t complain, because I knew that, very soon, I’ll have the yummiest, toastiest mittens in town – with lining as soft as clouds… :)

thursday threads

After the absolute insanity that was January and February 2012, with several big life changes and a work schedule that only excluded evenings and weekends on a few miraculous occasions, I am now settling back into normality. And I am loving every moment of it. Don’t get me wrong, the last two months held a lot of positive and even exhilarating stuff (moving to my own flat! visiting Edinburgh! my best friends visiting me!), but they sure did not involve a lot of regularity, such as grocery shopping, laundry, peace and quiet, reading, knitting… In the midst of all the excitement, I missed those regular, simple, normal things, and now I am relishing in every bit of them.

One of them – catching up with my Google Reader. When I finally got around to it, I found some jewels, and thought I might share the goodness…

– I’m really enjoying this fun and relaxed little video podcast by Watcha Swatchin –

– can’t get over the beauty of these socks by Ignorant Bliss

– a very sweet story about becoming a knitter by A la Clem fraiche (even in Google Translate you can sense the wonderfulness of it) –

– wherever this is, I want to go, via med pinner

Hugs to all!