2 September 2014

Small Pleasures

Quick Fix

I don't think I've touched my basket of crochet granny circles since we left the UK and last night I had a sudden urge to make some. As it turned out, I had lots of things to do before I had a chance to sit down at the end of the day so I only managed three before bed but I'm quite pleased with them and now I'm inspired to do more. Maybe I'll actually manage enough for a blanket one day after all!

Small Pleasures

I'm still taking the "grab three colours that appeal" approach to making my circles. It involves doing exactly that - reaching into my basket of yarn and quickly taking three colours that catch my eye. It's a very low stress activity.

The yarn in my basket are all left over odds and ends from other projects with the occasional whole ball from my stash that I've relegated to the "scrap" basket. Most is wool although there are some lovely glossy wool/silk blends and fluffy alpaca in there.  I've only included double knitting or yarn around that weight, from sport-weight to worsted. Last night I decided to take out all the little bits of sport weight because it really does make a too-small circle even when the sport is only one colour in the three. The odd bit of worsted I can handle, like the golden corn-coloured wool in my bottom circle, even though those circles are a wee bit bigger, they're not too bad. My intention is to make my circles all more-or-less the same size and when I've got enough for a double bed, I'll join them with something "natural" coloured (I have no idea what yet so that may change!)

If you want to make circles for yourself, you can find fantastic instructions with photos here. I just quickly re-read them and realised that I've been leaving out a few single chains here and there. Oh well, they still look ok! 

My one piece of advice would be: weave in your ends as you go. I actually crochet my first two colours in as I go along - just lay the end along the edge of your work and crochet around it. Any tiny bits that peep out can be snipped off. My outer colour is quickly woven in a the end. Dealing with hundreds of circles with thousands of ends is not something I'd look forward to ....

29 August 2014

Share All The Things Friday

Share All The Things Friday

It's been a bit of a roller coaster of a week. 

Releasing my pattern was super exciting and I've been completely blown away by the wonderful comments and support I've received. Thank you so much - I'm so grateful! But, it's been a tricky week too. I've told you already that my Dad is sick. He had a pretty hefty operation about two and a half weeks ago and he's still in hospital. Things have been a bit complicated and this week he hasn't been so good. I'm really grateful I'm on this side of the world at the moment.

Five things to share? Here we go:

  • The yarn in my picture is almost edible. I adore the colour and it actually sparkles. As yet I'm unsure quite what it'll become but it deserves to be a show-off piece of lace I think. Meraki Studio yarn is dyed by very lovely Jo, right here in Auckland, New Zealand. This skein is a 75% superwash merino/ 20% nylon/ 5% stellina blend (her Dewdrop Sock base) in the Fusion colourway. 

  • I get into breakfast "grooves", eating the same thing day after day while I'm in love with it. My lastest groove involves "porridge" from the fantastic recipe book My Darling Lemon Thyme by Emma Galloway. Emma grew up in Raglan, a place very close to Mr Myrtle's heart (he bought me the book) but she now lives in Australia with her husband and two children. The recipes are all gluten free and mostly dairy free. I love it because the recipes are both delicious and very affordable. Here's my version of her "porridge" (for one):

Half a cup of quinoa cereal (ground up quinoa - Emma uses millet which is also yum)
One chopped up banana
A little sprinkle of sultanas or raisins
A teaspoon of coconut oil
A tablespoon of LSA (ground linseeds, sunflower seeds & almonds)
About half a cup of almond milk
About half a cup of water

Pop everything into a small pot and heat gently stirring quite regularly. Watch it, it only takes about 5 minutes max to cook. Add more water if you like it sloppy.

Then, pour it into your bowl, cover with a bit of almond milk, quickly wash your pot and squeeze an orange into it with about four or five chopped prunes. Sizzle until the prunes have absorbed the juice. Pour these over your porridge.

Eat immediately and enjoy!

  • If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that my new Settler Shawl pattern made it into the "Top 20" on Ravelry this week! It was a brief but fabulous thrill to see it there. Do you check out the "Top 20"? I do. Every day. You need to be a Ravelry member to see it  (but that's free, so if you're not a member, do it now!) and you can find it by clicking the "Patterns" tab then the link in the box on the left of the page under "hot right now". There's a fancy algorithm that gets a pattern into the top 20 and I think it has something to do with the rate at which a particular pattern is "favourited", "queued", looked at and bought. I love checking it out because it's always changing and the patterns that feature there tell you so much. You can see when big name designers release new stuff. You get to know new designers that are getting popular. Lots of free patterns pop up and it's a good way to check out what people are enjoying knitting. Accessories are popular but there are often garments there too. It's also a good way to find out if a designer has a sale or giveaway on. If there are a ton of patterns appearing by one designer, chances are they've got a sale. If one designer pretty much dominates the first two or three rows, my bet would be they're having a giveaway. It was fun to see my shawl up there for a day and that was totally because of you. Thank you so much!!!

  • I am going to make myself a Tolt Folded bag this summer. Tolt is a free pattern that looks as easy as pie and creates such a funky bag. Apparently you knit a rectangle then fold and seam it to create the magic. Knit from super bulky yarn it would whip up in no time.

  • Sezza has released her Modern Princess sock pattern and is discounting it for the weekend (you don't even need a code!). I've knitted several pairs of Sezza's socks now and love them. If princesses aren't your style (although I'm not sure how these wouldn't be) she's got a whole bunch more to choose from - do check them out!

Have a happy weekend!

27 August 2014

Settler Shawl - Pattern Released!

Settler Shawl
Settler Shawl

Whoop! It's out! I've released the Settler Shawl pattern!

Thank you all so much for cheering me along - I've been overwhelmed with the fantastic response to my new pattern and I'm so glad you all love it because I do to! I've been living in my Settler Shawl and I really hope you enjoy making and wearing your Settler's too.

The pattern can be purchased here on Ravelry and you can also get to it by clicking the "Settler Shawl" button on my blog.

Settler Shawl
Settler Shawl

A great big thank you to my lovely tech editor Joeli (Joeli's Kitchen) and my very generous tester knitters Sarah (Sezza Knits), Alice (knitnrun4sanity), Nat (Made in Home), Erin and Jen


22 August 2014

Share All The Things Friday


I'm so pleased that so many of you enjoyed my first Share All The Things Friday last week. A few people thought they might do something similar on their blogs. That'd be fun! Let me know if you do so I can come and be inspired. 

It's been a long week here at Truly Myrtle and I'm glad it's Friday. Here's my five things to share this week:

  • I must confess that I haven't yet used this fabulous book by Natalie Chanin but I have made plans to use it soon. Natalie Chanin founded the fashion line Alabama Chanin (in Alabama, USA) where she and her "skilled artisans" produce stunning clothes from American, organic, custom-dyed cotton jersey, cut, painted, sewn and embellished by hand. Needless to say, the garments are extremely expensive, a fact for which Natalie has been criticised. In fact, her line has been called "elitist". There's a whole other conversation there about the true value of handmade items but for today I want to point you in the direction of her beautiful books. Natalie's whole business is founded on entirely "un-elitist" ideals and, it is for this reason she has embraced the notion of sharing her "trade secrets" with the world so that you and I can learn new skills to create beautiful, hand-crafted garments. Alabama Sewing Studio & Design, her third book, is stunning. There are lift-out patterns for a range of garments such as skirts, tops and dresses and it also includes step-by-step instructions illustrating how to sew stitches, embellish with beads, dye fabric and put together your own clothes. She even includes templates so you can recreate a number of her own patterned fabrics. I'm thrilled that all the garments are simple cotton knit shapes, I'm incredibly inspired by the many, many examples of how to embellish the pieces and I love that all they are all to be sewn by hand. I'm pretty keen on hand-sewing and I'm looking forward to really savouring the experience of sewing myself some bits and pieces really slowly!

Phew! I really like this book, no?!

  • My skin has never been great and needless to say, over the years I've tried all sorts of potions and lotions for cleansing, moisturising and so on. Cutting out gluten and dairy has certainly helped but it led me down another path - trying to find beauty products that are free from gluten, oats and nasty chemicals. I first stumbled across the idea of using oils to clean my face on Amanda's Kitschy Coo blog last year and through her heard about Crunchy Betty and finally, many moons later, gave it a go myself. Now I'm hooked. I use a combination of jojoba, avocado and castor oil which do a good job of washing off makeup, sorting out spots, dealing with wrinkly bits and cleaning my face. My method is simple; each evening I drop three splodges into my palm (an even amount of each), massage my face for a few minutes then wipe it all off with a steaming hot face cloth. Voila and I'm done. Nothing fancy. My face is left soft and clean. I buy my oils from Lotus oils here in New Zealand and they're delivered right to my door. 

  • My favourite podcast of the moment is Curious Handmade produced by the very lovely Helen Stewart. Helen is an Australian, living in London and is the designer of numerous beautiful shawls including the very popular Radiance Shawl which I made earlier in the year. I love listening to Helen for lots of reasons; she's got a very calming voice, her podcasts are just the right length (usually about half an hour I think), she podcasts every Friday which is perfect for a some weekend knitting entertainment, she's interviewed some really cool people, she's always got something on the go but still manages to sound relaxed and I'm totally fascinated at the way she's slowly but surely building her business with such integrity. Do check her out :)

  • I've been spinning for year now but am still to knit up any of my handspun into something that I'd wear. Luckily I may have found just the pattern for my recent green skein: Numilintu by Heidi Alander. Part of my problem is knowing exactly what weight my handspun really is as it's not going to be even all the way through. Numilintu is a very pretty scarf/shawl written for a fingering weight yarn that grows as big as you want. I figure that means a wonky gauge probably isn't the end of the world. It's knitted side to side to form a triangular shawl that can be as lop-sided as you like, depending on how large you make it, so I can keep knitting with my handspun until it's all used up. Perfect.

  • And a quickie to finish: Skein. Scroll down on their homepage and you'll see their gloriously dyed yarn and fibre. (I see they're shipping from their home in Australia all the way to Loop in London - it must be good). One of my lovely readers recommended Skein to me. I'm yet to try it - but I'd love to. Have you?

Have a happy weekend X

21 August 2014

Working Out Shaping

Working Out Shaping

My groovy but long-suffering cardigan got a little love this week and I finally managed to get the back section off the needles. Unfortunately, my evening's work shaping the armhole and knitting a large part of the left side ended up looking less than perfect and I ripped it out the next morning.

Some designers walk you through shaping, row by row so there's no confusion. They tell you to decrease here, knit here and so on. But, it's very time-consuming to work this sort of detail out and often ends up with a "messy" pattern that's complicated to follow for lots of sizes, so many designers don't do it. They either tell you to decrease (or increase) while maintaining the stitch pattern, or they just instruct you to decrease (or increase) and expect you to know that you need to maintain your stitch pattern. Where they do either of the last two, then it's up to you to figure out how to keep your patterned background looking right and how to make sure you keep the correct number of stitches on your needle.

Don't panic, there is a knack to decreasing stitches for shaping on a patterned background so that your stitch pattern stays relatively in tact - but take it from me, it's not something that's easily done late at night. At least, not without having a wee think about it first.

Working Out Shaping

So, after my muddle this week, I thought it would be helpful to remind myself of the tricks to decreasing (and increasing) when you're knitting lace and I thought you might like to be reminded too.

My pattern includes yarn overs to increase stitches and double decreases to decrease stitches. No matter what your pattern, if your stitch count stays the same row to row, the long and the short of it is, the number of yarn overs needs to match the number of decreases so the number of stitches stays the same on each row. Sound easy enough? It sort of is - but it does require a bit of forethought. In fact, a pen and paper and a bit of planning can be really useful if you're really stuck.

When I'm decreasing stitches at the beginning of a right side row several times to make the armhole curve, I'm eating into the yarn overs and double decreases on my row. My job is to keep track of how many are disappearing and where. Also, you don't want to end up with a yarn over or a decrease on the very edge stitch of your knitting so that's something to keep an eye on too. If it looks like that'll happen, switch it out for a plain stitch and adjust the rest of your row accordingly.

Working Out Shaping

In the case of my cardy, my armhole decreases eat into either only one of my two yarn overs at a time or my double decrease, so I have to consider a few things. Firstly, where my shaping takes a single yarn over, I have to change one of my double decreases to a single decrease to even things up. Secondly, I have to whip out two yarn overs where I lose a double decrease to shaping. Thirdly, I have to keep an eye on where my remaining yarn overs and double decreases fall. Will they end up on the edge? Finally, since I'm knitting a cardy and one side of my knitting will form the front edge I'm aiming that all my adjustments to the stitch pattern will be on the armhole side. I want the front edge to stay the same so I can pick up my buttonband nice and neatly up later.

I'm itching to have another bash at my left side now my thoughts are clearer. So I'll head off to do that. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a link to a very eloquent tutorial by the clever Ysolda Teague on this very topic. She's got great graphics to make her point and she also talks about shaping in colourwork patterns too.

Have you got any more tips about shaping while working a patterned stitch? I'm all ears!