Thursday, 30 July 2015

Hans Hedgehog, and the Appleton le Moors Back to Back Challenge

May 2015

In 1811 at Newbury, Berkshire, a one thousand pound wager was made to take the wool from a sheep's back and turn it into a coat for a man’s back in one day. Watched by 5,000 people, the coat was completed in thirteen hours. The sheep was eaten and much beer was drunk to celebrate.

In 2015 at Appleton le Moors, North Yorkshire a group of volunteers recreated the event - this time with three Alpacas - in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. They didn't eat the Alpacas afterwards. We live in a more enlightened age, so there was a Chilli and Tortilla night instead. 

The weekend kicked off with the shearing of the alpacas, and their wool was then carded, spun and knitted into a sweater which went on to be raffled-off at the village pub. In total, just over £4,000 was raised over the course of the weekend.

Our own contribution to the process was modest - we visited mid-morning on the Sunday, by which point the knitting was all but done. There was surplus wool to be carded and spun, though, and our 3 year old gamely had a try of all the different machines. 

Luckily the cake stall was still well stocked, and a local accordionist was laying on a few tunes. We visited the three freshly shorn Alpacas and tried to befriend a few of the lambs which seem to wander freely in the village. Well, our little boy did, anyway.

We were given a ball of leftover yarn to take home with us, and it was really nice to work with such a raw, unprocessed fibre for a change. For a little while I was stumped for a pattern that would do it justice.

The unprocessed alpaca yarn was a mottled brown colour and had been spun to what I would guess to be a reasonably chunky weight. Looking at it, it seemed to suggest about 15/16 stitches to 10cm would give a nice fabric.

With this in mind, I scoured that great thief of time, ravelry for projects which would suit 100m or so of chunky brown yarn. And I found Hans. 

The nice thing about hedgehogs is that size isn't really important, and all I needed to worry about was getting a fabric dense enough for the stuffing not to show through. 5.00mm needles seemed to do that fine. 

My version followed the modifications set out here, giving it a tummy which was the same shade of brown as the face. It just seemed truer to life that way, although that may be as much based on cartoon depictions of hedgehogs as real lie ones. Blame Beatrix Potter.

When my little boy is feeling tired or in need of a cuddle he has a habit of telling me "I'm only a little baby hedgehog" and making meeping noises. Where it comes from I have no idea, but I find it very endearing, and so I thought a cuddly hedgehog would make a good gift for him, and a cool keepsake of the back to back challenge.

Pattern: Hans my Hedgehog by Margaret Bloom
Size: Irrelevant
Yarn: John Lane's Alpacas chunky homespun
Needle 5.00mm
On ravelry: here

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Puerperium Cardigan

April 2015

Sometimes, when one of your knitter friends gets pregnant it’s really hard to know what to make for the baby. And sometimes you get a special request. Thank you Lizzy for making life easy.

I modified this a little, using a contrasting colour for the button band, collar and cuffs. This was knitted on as as I went by twisting the two yarns around each other. A really great tip I picked up somewhere is to slip the first stitch purl wise every row when making a garter stitch border. It looks SO much neater.

I loved the Sirdar Crofter. It was really soft and the self striping fair isle effect is really pretty. It doesn’t feel as if it would be warm enough for a British winter, but this little cardigan is for a summer baby, so that’s just fine. I never got around to making one (as other friends had whipped them up already) but I had enough left over for a hat, which is great yarn economy.

Lizzy was expecting a little boy, but didn’t want anything too traditionally blue. Hopefully this fits the bill.

Oliver arrived just per a week ago, weighing just over 10lbs, and his Puerperium fits great - not for long, though!

Pattern: Puerperium Cardigan by Kelly Brooker
Size: Newborn
Yarn: Sirdar Crofter Baby Fair Isle Effect dk
Needle 3.50mm
On ravelry: here

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Chugga Chugga

March 2015

In one of the Thomas the Tank Engine stories, an engine called Percy notices some workmen wearing scarves and decides he would like one himself, to keep his funnel warm.

Repeated readings of that story taught my son the phrase "I want a scarf!" which he took great delight in repeating. Chugga Chugga is the pattern I chose for him.

George even attempted to help knit it (I let him stab at it with a spare DPN under close supervision). In the story, Percy winds up wearing the Fat Controller's trousers as a scarf, but it isn't anywhere near as racy as it sounds.

This was my second double knit project (the first was a Winter is Coming scarf). I love the way double knitting looks - the orientation of the pictures length-ways more than the more traditional width-ways gives a really interesting and elegant result. But man, does it go slowly.

Casting on, casting off, and edging resources are saved in my notes on Winter is Coming.

Now that the scarf is finished George has expressed a certain scepticism about wearing it, but then it is April. I'll give him another chance next winter before I go ahead and unleash hell.

This pattern was written for worsted, but I used 4-ply in order to make it more child sized. It's wide enough, I reckon. The 4-ply was leftover bits from this sweater.

My tension was an unholy mess, which I why I went down to 2.5mm, and even then it wasn't pretty. I might treat myself to a Norwegian Thimble next time I want to double knit something, because I love a gadget and it is supposed to help with tension. Thank goodness I used a yarn which blocked nicely.

My Dad has requested a matching scarf. Cute idea, but he can wait until Christmas.

Pattern: Chugga Chugga by Laura Chamberlain
Size: Toddler
Yarn: DROPS Fabel (blue) / King Cole Zig Zag (white)
Needle 2.50mm
On ravelry: here

Tuesday, 21 July 2015


March 2015

This gorgeous yarn was a Yarndale 2014 purchase, which I had originally intended for Stasis  but on swatching I changed my mind. I think Stasis needs something more tweedy or rustic. Instead I just about managed to my measly 300g into one of these instead.

This project taught me that in generally, but particularly with a slightly variegated yarn like this one, I really must alternate skeins. There’s no pooling but far more white patches in the yoke (first skein) than the rest of it. Well I can see it...

As I was low on yarn, I shortened the sleeves and had to cast off with another grey sock yarn because I ran out. I think it looks alright though.

I’m a total convert to blue faced leicester. It’s amazing. Light and soft as merino, but not so pricey. 

This is a totally gorgeous pattern, though at times the instructions felt slightly more wordy than they needed to be, and I ended up not referring to it very much once I got into the swing of it.

Thunder is a great name for this purpley grey colour. I'd say it's truest in the photo where I have my arm across my chest. I love the purpleness it seems to develop in shady spots, though.

Pattern: Ink by Hanna Maciejewska
Size: 34"
Yarn: Eden Cottage Yarns BFL Sock
Colour: Thunder
Needle 3.25mm
On ravelry: here