The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Early Christmas Present from Me to Me

I don't think I have ever had an internet yarn delivery that has been so beautifully packaged - thank you Addicted 2 Knitting!

I decided I needed new needles to replace some of my cheap bamboo circulars. The cable/join on a few of them had become dodgy - coming apart with 300+ stitches on the go is not funny. To be fair they have had a LOT of use in the last 4 years or so, and since the complete set cost less than a fiver they had more than earned their keep.

So when I found the Addi Basic Interchangeable set (and everything actually) was 50% off for Black Friday-Cyber Monday sales it was too good to resist.

Happy, happy, happy :)

Monday, November 03, 2014

Indie Design Gift-a-long 2014

I am very excited to be participating in this year's Indie Design Gift-a-long on Ravelry.

I have wasted far too many hours sorting out my design collage...

I guess I should be happy that I actually have enough designs now to actually have a choice on which ones to feature.

It all kicks off on the 13th November, at 8 p.m. US-EST - early hours of 14th November here.

Back to knitting now...

Tuesday, August 05, 2014


After several false starts I got there in the end.

I decided to do a mini version to try out my edging, both at the top and the bottom of the shawl. I didn't like the top edge - it looked untidy but the bottom edge was a success...

So back to the real prototype - I was concerned that the top edge would not lie straight as was with the cables, although it looked really good. I still wasn't sure what to do to fix it. I pulled the whole thing off the needles. I was well over half way so was not overly happy about starting again...

And decided I would measure it before I ripped it back again.

And when I laid it on the table the top edge lay straight. Oh happy day! Now all I had to do was get it back on the needle - not so easy with over 150 stitches including yarn overs.Why hadn't I had faith or even put in a lifeline? I picked up the stitches as best I could and found I only needed to go back a row and a half to get it back on track.

I finished knitting it on Saturday morning and blocked it over the weekend.

I attempted some better photos yesterday but yet another blustery day...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Iolaire Takes Flight

I published my Iolaire scarf pattern last night - 25% off at the checkout until the end of  this month (sunny Scotland time).

I spent quite some time taking more photos yesterday afternoon. Fought with the rotary drier, and then wrapped my scarf artistically from it. I wanted to get some shots with the clear blue skies as the backdrop to show up both the fagot lace and cables (and to prove we do sometimes get good weather). Unfortunately nearly every time I lay down on the grass to get the angle right a breeze blew up. I eventually managed this...

And then decided to stick with my original photo as the main one that Paul took weeks ago...

And asked one of my testers if I could feature her beautiful test knit scarf which puts mine to shame :)

I did take the opportunity to get some more shots of my next scarf (Iolair-Iasgaich) (with similar breeze issues) - testing is due to finish at the end of this month.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Is It A Bird?

It started out as a bottom-up triangle.

However, it became apparent last night when I switched to a longer circular needle that it was morphing...

Why I carried on and knit another one and a half repeats I don't know...

In the cold light of day, having laid it flat and given it it's freedom it is clear that it wants to be a semi-circle...

Unfortunately I had started out with a sharp point for my 'triangle' but then changed my increases to try to achieve a flatter triangle for a wider shallower shawl.

 Tonight, Matthew, I want to be a stealth fighter plane...

However, not a total waste of time. I like the way the cables and lace interact and I have charted it. Just need to get rid of the pointy tail... Also gets over the problem of deciding what to do at the top of the triangle to get a nice, clean straight edge that fitted in with the stitch pattern. Many more options to finish off a semi-circle.

So, for a bit of nostalgia rip it up and start again...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Shawl With No Name

So I now have 4 tests running...

I don't know about other people but I suffer a bit of a downer once the initial excitement of getting a design completed and written up. Especially if I am really excited about it, post it for testing, and expect everyone to rush to want to make it. And then wait... and wait... Again, maybe it is the time of year. I have lots of love but only two testers for my Monet Sunset shawl. And again ran into the problem of 4-ply/fingering/sock yarn covering such a wide range of yards/gramme. Wollmeise is beautiful yarn but is on the heavy end of this category. But my lovely testers are going to order new yarn that is nearer this weight...

Talking of new yarn, this came in the post yesterday :)

Three lighter weight sock yarns, Fyberspates Sheila's sock in scarlet/pink that I just couldn't resist and my first foray of actively buying lace weight (just 50 g for trying out). I am no longer cold sheeping, but being a lot more discerning about the yarn I buy. And sticking to the rule that I cannot buy more yardage than I have used year to date.

Anyway, back to the downer. I mope around for a few days. I stare at my stash. I may wind a skein or two to make it feel as if I have done something. I stare at them some more. I stare into space trying to visualise what they would make. I cast on and start a swatch. I don't like it. I rip it back. Repeat...

I normally resort to knitting socks at this point. But not this time.My original choice of yarn was wrong - variegated and a bit knobbly but good enough to prove the maths, show me what I did and didn't like with the idea, and jot down the bare bones before I ripped it out and started again. So I have reverted back to my Wollmeise. So far so good... No name for it yet...

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Monet Sunset Shawl

I am still at the point of designing out of stash. This is very noticeable if you look at my pattern page on Ravelry... My socks will have a matching (or half matching) scarf.

Helagon short = It's Stripes Jim
Helagon long = Boing Boing socks + Stripes - TNG

And my new shawl is no exception.

Thriller - the other half of my Helagon short - is an in-your-face variegated colourway, and it was quite hard to decide what else to use with it. Black would be an obvious choice, but I wanted stripes so it wouldn't work as the skein contains black, so sections would 'disappear'. And I don't actually have any black...

As I laid out my remaining skeins and partials of Wollmeise I had a mad idea. The WD Fritzi Frizzante that my Stripe Me Up socks used may just work. A sort of blazing sunset at sea...

So I knew I wanted stripes, but not boring regular stripes. And I knew I wanted stocking stitch. And I knew I wanted wide but not too deep. And I knew I didn't want paired yarn overs down the spine. And I knew I wanted vaguely triangular but not an actual triangle...

I did get myself into a bit of a pickle wrt left and right leaning increases on purl rows but I now have these completely sussed:

Knit :
M1R = back front front; leans to the right as you look at it - logical,
M1L = front back back; leans to the left as you look at it - logical
Purl:  and here is the confusion
M1PR = back front front; leans to the left as you are looking at it - illogical
M1PL = front back back; leans to the right as you are looking at - illogical

Whoever came up with naming the purl increases the wrong way round to my thinking deserves to be shot!
If you know which edge you want the stitch to point at 'as you are looking at it' then do the requisite increase stitch no matter if you are on the right side, wrong side, knit or purl...

I will get some better photographs once it has finished blocking, but this was it as I started to pin it out:

Approximately 70" wide and 27" deep at the tip...

I have got a couple of changes to the pattern for the placement of some increases to stop them stacking, but apart from that I am really happy with the design.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

I'm Not Stalking, Honest!

I currently have three tests threads all on 'Watch' in the Free Pattern Testers group - my two scarves and the Stripe Me Up socks.

So I am checking the threads fairly frequently as I sit watching Wimbledon with laptop in front of me...

And it is with alarming regularity that someone has just posted the minute or so before I check...

So I am responding pretty quickly to a lot of posts...

Iolaire is due to finish on the 16th July. All has been quiet for a couple of days. A few errors have been caught and also a few good suggestions on making things easier/clearer that have been incorporated into the pattern. I am really looking forward to seeing the finished scarves :)

Iolaire-Iasgaich test started last Sunday and I am very pleased to say that all the places were taken a couple of days later. It was very useful having the gap between starting the two tests as I could check and correct things that were picked up on the first test that also applied to this one before my testers started. A few minor errors have been trapped so far, but nothing to cause me to pull my hair out... I am awaiting with interest how the testers using the charts get on with the table I have used once all the shaping has been done. I had originally charted it all but due to the nature of the changing cables and lace starting at different points the charts for this section were almost longer than the scarf itself!

Stripe Me Up socks has been a little more interesting...

Now, I am a one at a time toe-up kind of girl. And this design is certainly best suited to knitting them that way. Cuff down one at a time is also very doable - they will start off more difficult as the strands used to make the stripes will be longer than toe-up for the leg, but once the leg is done the foot will feel like a breeze. I was very pleased to get five testers. Unfortunately I am now down to three. One has withdrawn as she has injured her hand, which I hope recovers soon. I don't think it was due to this test... And another has withdrawn as she couldn't cope cuff-down with keeping the strands untangled. I have put tips in the techniques on ways to aid this, but maybe there was a language barrier. My three remaining testers are all doing two-at-a-time... I did put a warning in the test request:

I would be happy for testers who wish to make a pair taat to do so at their own peril :)

And I only asked for one sock for the test needed to be completed...

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Playing with Banners

I am toying with the idea of starting my own Ravelry group sometime in the future.

As if that wasn't scary enough I need to design a group banner and a badge image.

So I have had a play around with a couple of free banner sites.

And then Paul said I could use LibreOffice Draw.

My first attempt is up above.

This could take longer to decide on than knitting a sweater...

Paul's attempt to be arty is below... I think simple is better.

He insists I put up his second effort

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Murray Mania Promotion

I posted a promotion in the Patterns group on Ravelry for my sock patterns at the start of Wimbledon, based on how well Andy Murray does.

Starting at 10% off for Round 1 and going up another 10% for each further round he wins. BUT, if he loses the promotion ends at that last point.

Currently at 40% off.

Dimitrov in the QF seems to be the tipping point for a few people... It will be a tough match and I think it could go either way depending upon which version of Andy Murray turns up. I will certainly be cheering him on...

I will be over the moon if the promotion gets to 70%, especially as I missed seeing the final last year as I was travelling back from Penang to Bangkok.

Alas, the sale is over :(

Monday, June 30, 2014

Stripe Me Up

I finished the prototype of my new sock design just over a week ago.

It achieved its purpose

Proved that the double stripe technique worked
My idea of only applying the stripes to two thirds of the sock didn't look as good as I hoped
I had a much better idea of how long I needed to cut the strands
I knew that I don't really like the variegated yarn for the stripes
I knew to use the same weight yarn for the colourwork
I solved the mystery of the difference in strand lengths - I am pulling the yarn tight on the first stripe of the needle
And I still have a perfectly wearable new pair of socks :)

So on to the next version - double stripes all round. And another lesson learned - the double stripes are at a tighter tension than the rest of the sock and while this did not make much difference when I was not striping all the way round it made a significant difference now. Half an inch and slightly less stretchy made for a tight sock for me but perfect for 'Small'.

So that was 'frogged' and on to working on a pair of 'Medium' sized for me. Maths done, pattern updated and cast on again. And my calculation for strand lengths is pretty accurate but I have added a little contingency in to the pattern (better slightly too long than too short).

Really pleased with how they turned out. And unlike my other 'stripe' sock patterns these can also be made cuff down. I wouldn't recommend two-at-a-time but I already have a tester lined up who wants to try :)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Scratching My Head

After yesterday's post I have filled all my testing places! I put an appeal in the Budding Designers group - not sure whether that was what drummed up responses. Anyway, yesterday evening within an hour of the first new response I had 4 more testers on board :)

And now to the sock...
I got as far as turning the heel last night and have completed the gusset decreases this morning. This is a good point to measure how much of each contrast colour I had used so far to determine how much the stripes on the back of the sock will need.
They should all measure the same within reason - they have all done the same number/placement of stitches. I had started with equal lengths... But no!
Okay, one was thicker than the other two so possibly would have used slightly more. This strand had used the least (91 inches). The other two strands were the same brand (98 inches and 107 inches). A variation of 16 inches from least to most!

I have cut the strands for the back of the leg based on the worst case scenario. I may have had a complete mental aberration on step 1...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer Scarves and Socks

I was trying to make an effort to post more frequently again, but time just seems to fly by.

Nearly 2 weeks in Malta for scrabble last month unsuccessfully defending my Malta Open and European Open titles - I came third and second respectively, so not a total disaster. (Unlike my BEST match on Saturday).

Visitors when I got back over the long weekend of the Jim Clark rally. We were very lucky with the weather for a change - glorious sunshine so everyone was outside in the garden rather than crammed in to the sun room for the barbecue. This may have been the last rally after the unfortunate turn of events.

Garden needed some TLC and still does, but it has actually been too hot the last few days!

And knitting...

I took the new scarf design I was working on to Malta but very little progress was made. Too tired when we got back from playing, and the two days off we had were easily filled with other activities.

But I knuckled back down when I got home and completed version 1 (Iolair-iasgaich - osprey):

and immediately started on version 2 (Iolaire - eagle) - thinner and longer with different placements of the cables and lace:

I wrote the second version up first as it was the easier of the two, and the charted instructions are currently being tested. A little disappointed that I have had no takers for the written instructions - lots of 'love' on the post. Maybe it is the time of year - school holidays, hot weather...

I finished writing up the other one yesterday. For something that was so easy to design and knit, it was amazingly difficult to write up the pattern! I am now torn about putting it in for testing at the moment because of the lack of testers for version 1.

And now I am back to socks...

Started working on the prototype of my third variant of stripes to use up left overs. I am still trying to come up with a name... currently Stripes - The Final Frontier. If I come up with a fourth stripes variant they would have to be Never Say Never Again...

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

How to Waste A Day

I published Its Stripes, Jim on Saturday evening.

Posted my new design in the designer forums I am in.

And then looked on my designer page. I had a few favourite hearts already.

It must have been a slow time for other people publishing as my pattern thumbprint stayed on the front page of the Pattern tab for quite a while.

On Sunday morning I logged in. More hearts :)

It was on the front page of the 'Hot right now' patterns!

And then I spent the rest of the day checking... and checking my User Activity... And rechecking the pattern pages... I got up to position 24.

I must admit to being a little sad when it was higher up than the cutest knitapotamus you could ever wish for.

It has now slipped back into obscurity, but it was good while it lasted :)

Friday, May 02, 2014

Curb Your Enthusiasm

I can't help myself. I have no patience.

I finished my latest pair of socks, really excited and happy with them, but it was raining so I could not get any good photographs. But I post my finished project with bad photos taken indoors in poor light anyway.

And two people ask if I am going to be wanting the pattern to be tested within a few minutes of sharing my project.

And I really do want to get a test set up sooner rather than later.  So I use those photos and finish writing up the pattern and start a test...

It is now sunny but Paul is away until Tuesday...

So I have been outside contorting myself to try to get some better photos that don't include my shadow of holding the camera. And don't show a gap of white leg between my pulled up jeans and the top of the sock. And avoid the bird poo on the patio wall. And don't have a shrub growing out of my feet. I took about thirty and got three that are not too bad...

It is lucky we don't have neighbours nearby :)

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Elliptic Cowl

My test for It's Stripes, Jim is drawing to a close. The test was actually for completing a single right-to-left striped sock, but five out of six testers like the pattern enough to make a pair (and the sixth implied that a pair will be made once she has completed another test but not before my deadline). This makes me happy :) The general opinion so far is that it is a fun knit - enough going on to not be boring and not difficult.

I have a second test running for a quick knit cowl in bulky yarn. I came up with the design after scanning the database for something to use up some araucania copihue yarn I had bought in 2011 and couldn't find what I had in mind. I wanted a cowl that was fitted to my neck and also covered my shoulders.

I wanted some texture so played around with spiralling ribs for the neck. Some research into determining the circumference of ellipses to work out the increases required to get the collar shape I wanted for my stitch and row gauge. Short rows with increases to build the ellipse shape either side after the neck, and then back to spiralling ribs with increases to keep the ellipse shape and get to  the required finished size.

I liked it - in fact I kept it on for the whole day as it was quite chilly here - but could see a couple of improvements that I could make. No problem, it used just under two skeins and I still had another four... so I made another one with the changes :)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Back to the Garden

Spurred on by some good 'gardening' weather - warm, dry and not blowing a gale - I have made good progress in getting parts of the garden under control.

I started with the veggie patch - and have hopefully got out all the remaining potatoes, some of which were still edible!

Two of my three rhubarb plants are thriving, and the eagle-eyed will spot a few leeks that I have excavated around.

I then moved on to the long bank extension. I am really pleased with how the new bit is doing. The bulbs I put in have given a splash of colour. The day lilies have put on strong growth, and a week on I can see the irises are coming through. The rather sad looking heucheras that I split are now also putting on strong growth and hopefully I will have a nice zig-zag of interesting foliage later in the year. Even the tiny bits of veronica that I popped in more from hope than expectation are doing well - one is even flowering.

I then moved on to the fruit tree bed - two days and I have cleared the carpet of weeds. I rescued a very pretty pansy that was flowering gamely in amongst them and given it a new home. I really wanted to get this done as the ground is very dry and we were promised rain, so I wanted the trees to get the water rather than the weeds. I also got another bag's worth of potatoes out...

A few days ago I also weeded the herb patch, and have got the first raised planter back under control. Unlike the rest of the garden the planters are quite damp and muddy, being north facing alongside the high wall.

My packet of parsley seed said that parsley can be difficult to germinate - I don't think this is true. As well as all the baby plants in the herb patch I have it growing in the path, three very large healthy plants in the corner of the fruit tree bed and one has made it across the lawn to the planter above...

We eventually got the much needed steady rain yesterday.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What's In a Name?

I am finding naming my patterns is quite a difficult thing.

You want something fairly unique or descriptive.

For my Helagon scarf/wrap this came out of a FB plea for whether or not there was a proper (and preferably single word) name for a 6-sided 2-D shape with 3 pairs of parallel but unequal length sides. The answer appeared to be no. So I came up with Helagon as Helen's hexagon. The design changed but the name stuck...

For my ribbed/cabled socks the name Boing Boing seemed to obvious to me - they were knit in a yarn colour called Fruehling that means Spring and the socks are springy...

For my latest socks I called my own project (Tyger Tyger) Burning Bright but that would not be a good name for the pattern unless everyone wanted to make them in bright orange!

They feature stripes using an idea I first used in some socks back in 2012, but at that time I hadn't come up with a good method of making the stripes move right to left so I never published the design. However, I decided to revisit them and analysed why they were problematical. And in these socks - It's Stripes, Jim (but not as we know them) - I hope I have overcome the problem. They are currently being tested so I should find out if the solution I came up with is worth pursuing...

Sunday, April 06, 2014


There is one week left until my Helagon scarf/wrap design test finishes.

I have been very lucky in getting a tester for each length for both weight yarns being tested.

 I am really enjoying seeing all the progress photographs.

Some beautiful scarves are being made in wonderful colour combinations. Red seems popular - red and black, red and white, and red and grey, and they all look stunning. Two different shades of blue and a blue and green. White is also popular, being combined with blue, purple and black as well as the aforementioned red. Finally a blue with a contrasting red/orange variegated yarn with small sections of blue to 'join' the two together.

I have had several comments on how fun this pattern is :)

I think my one tester who was having problems with the changing of yarn colour has now "got it". A bit of a language barrier, but I have several German testers and I think between us we managed to explain what to do.

So far only one error has been found but I have re-written a couple of sections for clarity after comments from my testers and done a few other tweaks.

Once the content is finalised (hopefully no more changes) I still need to convert it into my template.

And I want to get some more photographs of the longer version when it isn't blowing a gale.

I asked for advice on the Designers forum on whether to put a collage photograph as my pattern 'hero' shot to show the different ways it can be worn but the overwhelming response was to use the above photograph.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

More Love for My Old Sock Patterns

After releasing my "for sale" pattern I noticed that my other two socks patterns have had some renewed interest.

They are really cute sock patterns and deserve some more love. Both from me and knitters...

So I have put in quite a lot of time and effort in getting them into my new layout and adding more sizing options/information.

I got my Xmas Tree Socks pattern updated yesterday:

Not only have I updated the style but I have included instructions for other stitch counts (widths) and row counts (foot/leg length), and updated the gusset/heel instructions for the different stitch counts.

And have just finished updating my Interlock Socks pattern:

This one I have found harder to do. I don't want to be too prescriptive - the design will work with any sensible stitch count that is a multiple of four. I have provided the finished foot lengths for 3 different row gauges if worked exactly as it is written and leave it up to the knitter to add extra rows if needed for their row gauge in either the main colour rows or the pattern chart rows. When the pattern was originally tested back in 2012 this did not seem to be a problem for my testers - socks were made in UK shoe sizes 4-8 and 60/64/68/72 stitch counts, toe up and cuff down without any issues in a wonderful mix of colours and yarns.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Taking the Designing Plunge

I like designing many of my own patterns. And if I like the end result other people may too.

I have published a couple of free sock patterns on Ravelry already. It is hard to tell how many people have actually made them as not everybody makes a project page but of those that do I have hit double figures. The patterns have been downloaded an order of magnitude times more.

And one group actually picked my Xmas Trees pattern for their KAL at the end of last year.

But if I want to do this more seriously I need to do things properly. I joined the Designers, Budding Designers and the Ravelry Shopkeepers groups and started reading a lot of invaluable advice.

So for my first "pay for" sock pattern, Boing Boing socks, I went through the following steps:

1. Write up the pattern
2. Take photographs
3. Put in a testing request to the Free Pattern Testers group
4. Monitor and respond to the testing thread
5. Make any required corrections/clarifications to the pattern
6. Take better photographs!
Photographing your own feet is not easy. I now drafted in Paul to get some much better photographs outside in natural light. Out of about two dozen I got four I liked!
7. Got it tech edited.
Paul performed this task admirably. He knows nothing about knitting, but give him a document and he is in his element ensuring consistency in layout and style!

And now all the prep has been done it is time to actually take the step over the precipice...

8. Add the pattern to the Ravelry database
9. Link the pattern to your store
10. Activate!

And very importantly, send your pattern as a gift to your testers so they can add it to their library and link their projects.

Advertising and promotion are another matter that I may need to get into at a later date. Maybe when I have a decent portfolio of patterns.

Things I will do differently going forward:
Get good photographs at the outset! The better it looks the more likely you will attract testers.
Create a template from this pattern for follow on patterns so that they all have the same look and feel.

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