19 December 2014

Share All The Things Friday #17

Share All The Things Friday 17

Things are likely to be a bit quiet on the Truly Myrtle blog over the next week. We're off on a couple of road trips before Christmas and then we're having a big do at our place on Christmas day. I'll not make any promises to pop in and that way, if I do manage a post, it'll be a nice surprise. 

If you would like to see a little of what I'm up to when I'm away from my blog you might like to follow me on Instagram. Are you on Instagram? I love it. It's a fun, friendly community over there. Like a big, happy, virtual craft group. I post pictures almost every day. Little bits and pieces of life behind the scenes at Truly Myrtle. Of course there's an awful lot of knitting but often there's other lovely stuff too. See you there?

This post will be the last "Share All The Things Friday" post. But, never fear! I know some of you have really enjoyed hearing about things that catch my eye, so it's not going for good, just changing a little. I have plans - so keep reading!

  • Although I've never ever mentioned it on this blog, I dabbled in a bit of quilting many many years ago. So far, everything I've tried has been pretty unsuccessful. See my paper pieced hexi's in the left of my photo? I made those when I was about 12. My aunt sent me a packet of paper hexagons from Liberty's in London during the early 1980's and I got started with all the scraps of fabric I could selvage from under the sewing table. I've dragged that motley assortment of hexagons all over the world for a long time now. It's a bit crazy but I can't quite bring myself to throw them away, although I doubt I'll ever finish them. The patchwork piece in the right of the picture is a quilt I started in 1999. I lavishly bought Liberty Tana Lawn at Liberty's and hand stitched every piece with teeny tiny perfect little stitches. It's a little larger than a cot quilt now but I don't think I'll ever finish that either. I knew nothing about choosing colours and patterns and it just doesn't flow. I don't think I'll put any more time into it but again, I can't throw it away. Anyway, lately, slowly but surely, the quilting bug is hitting me again. For years now I've been making vague threats to make each of my children a quilt. Then I stumbled across Debpotteringabout on Instragram and followed her over to her blog. Oh my goodness! Beautiful quilts! Deb lives in Christchurch, New Zealand and is working on making all the quilts in the book Beyond Neutral by John Q Adams. I can't say I've ever heard of him but her quilts are gorgeous. I'm totally inspired. See my Library books? I'm doing this thing! Four quilts for four children in 2015 ...

  • So, I've made plans! I'm starting a free monthly newsletter in 2015. I'm quite excited about it. It'll include articles, bits that have caught my eye, previews, peeks behind the scenes and recap a little of what's been on the blog in case you missed it. It'll all be exclusive to newsletter readers and I'll make sure it's delivered straight to your inbox! I'm hoping it'll be like a mini-mag each month, a nice read with pretty pictures to enjoy with a cuppa. If that sounds like something you'd enjoy you can sign up by popping your email address into the box at the top of my sidebar where it says "subscribe to Truly Myrtle's Handmade Newsletter". Expect the first newsletter in the third week of January!

  • I've been finding Madelinetosh's instagram feed really fascinating lately. Amy (the founder and owner of the very stunning Madelinetosh Hand Dyed Yarns) not only dyes stunning yarn but also takes beautiful photos. Lately she has been exploring natural dyeing with all sorts of materials from avocado stones to black beans. Her photos are stunning and happily, not only is she showing us what she's dyeing but she's also writing long, detailed explanations of her dyeing process. It's pretty cool.

Have a happy weekend! X

16 December 2014

Knitting Problems

Knitting Problems

Sometimes my piles of WIP's gets a little overwhelming. So many bags, so many projects, so many stitches. I doesn't help that some of my project bags are full of yarn matched to patterns that I'm hoping to get to one day ...  Do those actually count as WIP's too? If they do, I'm in more trouble than I thought.

As 2014 draws to an end and my plans for 2015 begin to take shape I'm conscious that I don't want to feel like I'm drowning in half-finished projects for much longer and I've made a decision. I am going to get on top of my WIP's. One by one I'm going to get them done. Finish them. Don't laugh. I'm very serious ...

Knitting Problems

I've started my quest with my "surprise yarn" cardigan. It's been a year since I've touched it. Remember how I ordered the yarn online and it wasn't quite what I was expecting when it arrived? Well, it's grown on me. I'm still a teeny bit nervous of it but mostly I'm thinking it'll be cool.

Do you know the problem with putting knitting down for so long? It takes ages to remember what on earth you're doing when you pick it up. It took me the best part of an evening to figure out what I'd done, where I was in the pattern and to get into a rhythm with the pattern so I didn't have to follow the cable chart stitch by stitch.

Knitting Problems

But look what I've done. Clearly I wasn't on the ball. See that botched square in the sleeve? That's where I started again. A stitch out every row for about five rows, I've mucked up the rice stitch on the back. It's horrible.

I showed a friend today and we agreed that it was on the back of my forearm, no one would notice and I should just keep going. But then I got home, pulled it out again, took my photos and I just can't live with it. I'll know its wonky. I'm worried it'll immediately turn my cardigan into a "home cardy" in my head. Even though no one else will see it, I'll know. It'll bug me. So, I"m going to rip it back and redo it. It'll be a pain but thank goodness I've decided now and not six inches further up my sleeve.

See how I'm using my old metal double pointed needles? I was magic looping with my wooden circular needle but I had to change. Firstly, I'm not a fan of magic loop, I really try hard to get on with it but I just can't. It's dpn's for me I'm afraid. Secondly, I think I'm getting old. I just could not see my dark stitches on my dark needle, especially in the evening. I'd pull my knitting further and further away from my eyes and strain to focus on the stitches but it was no use, they're just invisible. 

Oh well, it might be just the incentive I need to buy some nice metal dpns. Any suggestions? I'm rather loving the Hiya Hiya needles I'm test driving for something else at the moment.

12 December 2014

Share All The Things Friday #16


I'm trying really hard to stick to my new mantra of "keep it simple". It's not easy. Especially with skeins of un-dyed yarn lying around just desperate to be coloured ... No, they'll have to wait. I am determined to keep it simple (even if I am still ordering interesting books from the library which might suggest otherwise).

On with the show - it's Share All The Things Friday time:

  • I have read a fair few books about dyeing yarn but this has to be the best one I've seen so far. Gail Callahan's Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece is fantastic. It's comprehensive; covering a range of different ways to dye wool and offers step-by-step, easily understood instructions including lots of helpful tips. I like it so much I'm thinking of purchasing a copy for myself.

  • For a while now I've been hearing reports of a fantastic new podcast. Then this week, two bloggers that I really enjoy (Abby from While She Naps & Kat from Slugs on the Refrigerator) both said they were avidly listening in. I decided that if they liked it, it was probably worth checking out, so I did. Now I'm hooked. Serial tells just one story, a real story, of a murder committed in 1999 in Baltimore. Each episode follows on from the other and characters and details evolve week on week. It has been released weekly since October 2014 (so you can listen to them back to back now if you like) and the last episode (number 12) is apparently coming Thursday. I'm captivated. If you listen in - start with episode one. You won't be disappointed.

  • It's been so interesting for me to discover how "local" the internet can be. In the UK I read lots of craft and knitting blogs from all over the world but it seems a large number were from UK bloggers. Now I'm down in New Zealand I'm discovering, almost by accident, interesting craft bloggers down this end of the world. I'm not sure why I never found them before? Anyway, one of my new favourites is The Craft Sessions. Felicia knits and sews from Melbourne in Australia and her aesthetic is just lovely. I'm enjoying that she has a hot summer and a short winter like me and she makes crazy rules for herself about her stash and recycling yarn that sound like something I'd do. I'm really enjoying hearing how she's getting on, seeing what she's making and living vicariously. Felicia and a group of other like-minded crafters also run an annual event called The Craft Sessions - a weekend retreat of craft workshops with a good dose of yoga and delicious meals thrown in. One day I'd just love to go. The next one is September 2015 in the Yarra Valley, just out of Melbourne. Doesn't that sound heavenly?

Have a happy weekend! X

11 December 2014

Navajo Plying Lessons

Getting To Grips With Navajo Plying

I absolutely love learning something new. I've tried so many new things over the last few years that I'm past the point of caring whether I'm totally rubbish at first. I'm quite used to putting in a bit of effort to get better, although sometimes I do wonder if I tried fewer things maybe I'd be better at more?! 

My tendency tends to be to go overboard in the beginning; get a bit obsessed and invest a fair bit of time in the early days. I certainly did that when I first got my spinning wheel last year. I think I spun for nearly a full day the first weekend. Maybe almost two! Fortunately I didn't get achy and sore which is apparently a common complaint. Although I'm an avid reader and also remember lots from listening, I tend to learn the very best "on the job". There's nothing like getting down and dirty with something to fully understand how it works and what can go wrong.  

Getting To Grips With Navajo Plying

And so it was with my first shot at Navajo plying. I told you I watched a couple of youtube videos to get me started. Just a couple mind, I was quite keen to get started. Impatient you might say ... 

I'm not sure that my skeins are perfectly plied. They're not. Not even perfectly spun for that matter. But I'm thrilled with them. They are more or less the same weight, give or take a few lumpy bits, they hang straight so are probably fairly well balanced but mostly, since I absolutely loved the fibre I started with, I'm really pleased that I've managed to get the yarn to turn out just as beautifully muted.

Getting To Grips With Navajo Plying

I learnt a few bits and bobs along the way.

1) I didn't stick around a video long enough to figure out what to do if the single breaks mid-ply. Mine broke quite a few times where it was a bit thin and I worked out that I could make a loop with the single and "seal" it in with the twist before carrying on as normal pulling my yarn up and through the loop. It's a bit fiddly but pretty fast and meant I didn't have to fluff about with tying a knot and making a loop that way. I bet it's what everyone learns to do when they watch the videos like you should?! What do you do?

2) As I was plying it felt like I might be adding too much twist to the yarn. Navajo plying is fast and rhythmic so there's no inclination to stop. I tended to keep keep going and pray for no interruptions. As it turns out, it's probably ok to feel like the yarn is quite twisted. After a long soak and a really vigorous "thwacking" (isn't that world great?) where I swung the loop of yarn and really whacked it down onto a towel on the table a whole bunch of times, the twist settled beautifully and it seems just fine.

3) The third thing I really learnt was about how the way you spin your singles affects the look of the final skein. I knew it in theory but it was interesting to see in practice. They are all very similar but see how the top two skeins in the photo above are slightly different in colour to the bottom two? They're creamier and include pops of teal. The other two have more green and olive shades on an apricot base. It might be clearer in the middle photo - the two on the right vs the two on the left.

Well, I started with two very similar braids in the same colourway. I spun the first braid as it came. Started at one end and worked my way to the other. I did mean to spin the second braid the same but after I'd started it I realised I'd split it down the middle. I've no idea why. I guess that's what happens when you take a ridiculously long time spinning the same fibre with big breaks in between spinning. You forget how you started. I'm not sure which skeins are from which braid but I'm guessing that the creamier ones with the vivid teal are from the first and that the long fat sections of cream and the longer stretches of teal affected the overall look.

Now I've got to decide what to knit with it. I haven't measured it but I've got 200g of more-or-less fingering weight so there might be approximately 750 - 800 metres ... Ideas?!

10 December 2014

Scientific Knitting

Scientific Knitting

I recently bought a new book of knitting patterns that I'm excitedly waiting for and while I wait, I thought I'd start swatching for one of the cardigans in the book.  Now, before you get all shaky at the knees because I seem so organised ... let me give you a bit of background. 

I already have three cardigans on my needles. One is my own upcoming pattern and the other two were written by someone else. One of those was started earlier this year with the intention of finishing it for our (just finished) winter. The other hasn't been touched for a year. When I decided to cast on yet another cardigan it was in part due to impulse but also because I desperately need a cardigan that's mostly stockinette. Something I can drag around, pull out and knit on while I'm chatting and something I don't have to constantly be checking against the pattern to make sure it's all working and the numbers make sense. Plus, I'm head over heels in love with the yarn I've chosen, a DK weight Alpaca/Merino blend by Outlaw Yarn; Vanitas and I couldn't help myself. 

I'll tell you all about the book and the pattern when it arrives. In the meantime, back to the story. 

I swatched with my usual needles. Wooden Knitpro interchangable tips on a circular needle. (The long dangling bits are because I swatched in the round, dragging my stitches back to the tip of my left needle at the end of each row and looping the yarn around the back to start the new row. I cut the loops when I block my swatch so it lies nice and flat. If you want more details about swatching in the round, check out Jane Richmond's great post here.) Although I'm making a cardigan, it's knitted in the round and then steeked (cut up the middle!). Anyhow, the pattern requires a gauge of 22 sts and 32 rows per 4 inches or 10cm. I got 22 sts and 30 rows with a 4mm wooden needle. The right width but a bit long. 

Then I remembered a post I read a while ago about different needles creating different gauges with the same yarn. I had a vague recollection that metal needles might make my stitches longer compared to wood. So, I decided to swatch with metal. 

If you're eagle-eyed you'll notice that I got confused. I did indeed. I didn't need longer stitches, I needed shorter stitches. I needed more rows per inch, not less. I don't know if it's just me but the whole longer, shorter, wider, narrower thing with gauge makes me think twice every single time. It seems all very counter-intuitive! 

So, irrelevant of what I was after, I did get quite different gauges with metal tips vs wooden tips even though they were the same size; 4mm. With my metal tips I measured 21 sts and 29 rows over 4 inches/10cm. My stitches were longer although they were also wider which confused me. Surely they should be narrower if they're longer?

Back to the original post I went. It was written by Alexis Winslow on her blog Knit Darling earlier in the year. She has a great graphic comparing plastic resin, carbon fibre, wood and metal.

According to Alex's post, my gauge on metal tips should have been longer and narrower than on my wooden tips. I wondered why mine turned out differently? I think it's because I knit on wooden tips far more often that I do on metal. They're my preferred needle and my gauge is much more even with wood. Just looking at my two swatches tells me that. Even though I should probably try the plastic resin to get perfect gauge, I've decided to stick with wood for my new cardigan. I'm not keen on plastic needles, I like the look of the material that knits up with the wooden needles and my gauge with wood is pretty close to what I need even if it's not perfect. I might have one last go with a slightly smaller needle but if that doesn't work I'll just have to keep an eye on how the yoke is growing with the 4mm needles and adjust it if I need too.

What about you? Have you experimented with different types of needles to try to get gauge, not just the size of your needle? 

My feeling is that many designers will have favourite needles and your choice of needle might have an impact on whether you easily get gauge when using their patterns. I tend to use wooden needles for everything except lace weight yarn for my designs. I wonder if that'd be a helpful thing to note in my patterns?