Monday, 26 May 2014

Conquering Colourwork

Colourwork is beautiful, intricate and scary as all hell to tackle for the first time! But it was next in my knitting hitlist of new techniques I want to teach myself whilst I have a fair amount of free time.

As I am currently working as an au pair in Wellington, New Zealand, I have plenty of time when the baby is asleep to do some knitting homework and teach myself new techniques. I have already discussed how I am an entirely self-taught knitter, and in a world of online video tutorials and knitting blogs, teaching yourself is entirely achievable. And as I am in NZ, there is a great deal of beautiful yarn around for me to play with! 

So far I have conquered-
Various cast offs- Kitchener Stitch, Picot, Three needle

And I want to learn- 
Provisional cast-on
Dare I say it?! Crochet. I've failed at every attempt so far. 

New Zealand yarn is gorgeous (I suppose it should be given the amount of sheep in this country!), especially a unique variety of merino-possum. Super warm but nice and thin, it comes in beautiful colours. Zealana yarn is sooo beautiful, when I saw it I knew it would produce the most beautiful colourwork. 

Then I had to pick my first colourwork project. My mum and dad were coming over to NZ in January, so I hoped to get a pair of colourwork mittens completed in time for my mum to take home to England. Hopefully the English winter wouldn't be too hard to face with merino-possum covered hands! 

I did some research on Ravelry (cue lots of ooohhhs, ahhhhs!) and finally decided on the Freja mitts pattern. Soooo beautiful! Complex enough pattern to look impressive but using only two colours so it didn't terrify me completely. 

So I have my yarn and my pattern, so now I needed to do some technique research. As usual, I read heaps of articles and watched so many videos, but in my opinion the best explanation of stranded work was on the amazing By Gum By Golly website! Tasha goes into detail of various ways of completing stranded colourwork and her tips certainly made it less daunting. 

So, I dived in. Loved every little frustrating and fiddly moment of it! Not an ideal pattern to have to put down and pick up again when the baby woke up, but with my fancy new iPad app (JKnitHDLite) I could easily keep track of what I was doing.

I got them finished in time for my mum's visit (considering it had only been 6 months since I saw her last, it felt like a lifetime! Queue lots of emotional hugs, tears etc).

I think the most satisfying results come from things that take a lot of love to complete! What were your first colourwork experiences and projects?


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Tackling my first socks.

One of the few disadvantages of travelling around New Zealand is that my projects have to be easy to carry (no jumpers!). Of course there are so many advantages to travelling, this pales in significance. I'm so busy seeing the world, meeting new people, trying interesting food, having crazy experiences it is perhaps hard to find time for knitting (ha!). It also means I can challenge myself with knitting projects I probably wouldn't have bothered with otherwise.

So, socks seemed like the perfect small project, complex enough to keep me interested but compact enough to shove in my rucksack. I always said I would never bother with socks, the amount it cost me for the yarn I could have bought myself ten pairs of ready-made socks! But, it's something every knitter should do at least once, and I always like to set myself knitting aims, something to try next to keep me focused. I found the pattern for Hermione Everyday Socks, and I fell for them completely. Admittedly, probably just because they have a link to Harry Potter, but still. They're great, the main pattern is simple enough to memorise and the texture is lovely. My only qualm- they're knitted on tinky 2.25mm needles! They've taken me forever.

 I think the trick to knitting something fiddly and perhaps frustrating, is to set a target for their completion. I wanted mine done by the end of November so I could get them in the post for my sister's birthday. Not unreasonable considering I cast on in October. But I was well aware of the dreaded Second Sock Syndrome. But I also let her know I was making her something for her birthday, no excuse to let a lone sock hibernate in your project basket if it's supposed to be a present! 

So I cast on, the cuff and the leg were just fine. Slow going due to tinky needles, but not a problem. Then a heel flap. That went ok. But then I had to do a heel turn! Jeez, it even sounds complicated. I looked at the instructions and they made no sense to me. A heel turn creates the little cup which holds the heel of your foot in place, creating a 3D piece of knitting. It looks very clever. But the lovely ladies over at Very Pink soon had me turning that heel like a pro! Onto the gusset, which involved picking up stitches, something I mastered when I taught myself Entrelac. Then instep, and finally the toe. No major issues there (but did I mention how slow going 2.25 mm needles are?!), but then the bind off. Kitchener stitch. I bloody hate kitchener stitch. Not because it's difficult, because it really sn't. And it's super cool, creating another row of knitting to join your work together, for use in socks, toys, cushions, all sorts. I hate it mainly because I can never remember it. I've used it so often but it will not stick in my head. The Purl Bee have a lovely clear photo tutorial, which I have to scroll through the whole time.

But I did it! I had one whole sock. Unfortunately, my sister has two feet. Needing two socks. And I could not be bothered with the second one. But like I said, tell someone they're getting a knitted present, you have to deliver, no excuses (even suffering from Second Sock Syndrome). So I cast on the second one. I'm pretty sure it took just as long, if not longer, to knit up then the first one! 

Finally,  I had a beautiful pair of socks, ready in time to post for my sisters birthday. And the best thing? I never have to make another pair of socks again!

I was explaining to the girls at a lovely knit-in in Wellington how happy I was to never have to make socks again, and how I can never remember Kitchener Stitch when the lovely Nanette gave me a little gift to change my mind. A keyring, with instructions for kitchener stitch and a little map of the various parts of the sock on it. In return for this, I have had to promise to make myself another pair of socks. I was promised that I will become a sock knitter yet. I'm not convinced...

So lovely knitters, do you have any sock patterns that will inspire me to become a sock knitter? What was your first experience of sock knitting? 

Oh, and while you're here, check out YarNZ. It's a very lovely shop, I promise.

Much love,

HanaLou x

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Headband obsession

A question for you other knitters out there- do you ever get completely obsessed with one type of project? I know a woman from my knit-night who has only ever knitted socks. Never a hat, or even a scarf. Just socks. Her first project was a sock (Brave? Foolish?), and she's made socks ever since.

Now, I like a variety of projects, I like to think I'm not so obsessed. But yesterday, I finished another one. And then I realised, maybe I am addicted.  I simply cannot get enough knitted headbands. I just love them. I make them for presents, love them so much I make myself another couple in various colours, even though I already have a drawer full of them. 

I make them for people who don't wear them, just to prove they should. I make them in summer, so I don't have to panic-knit come autumn. It's ridiculous! 

So I would love to hear what kind of project you get worked up over. Are you potty for pullovers? Hot for hats? Sexy for socks!? Or do you like to work on a technique- entangled in entrelac? Fussy for fair-isle? 

I'm sure I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Let me know your obsessions, I'd like to think I'm not the only one.

In the meantime, here are my ever growing selection of wooly head-warmers, and where to find the pattern on Ravelry.

Criss cross cable headband, lovely, eh?

Grey gardens entrelac turban. My first entrelac project!

Tidal wave headband (by me!)

Blueleaf Headband, really quick lace project.

So that's it. My recently realised obsession. And this isn't all over them, only the ones I could find pictures of! Dear me. 

I'd love to hear from you, you can find me on Ravelry (HanaLou) and Google+.

Much knitty love,



Saturday, 14 September 2013

Comfy cosy cowl

You may be aware, I'm currently on a gap year, travelling through NZ (the locals call it an OE rather then a gap year but I'm not really sure what that stands for!). So this is my excuse for my woeful lack of posts recently, again, apologies!

Anywho, first thing I did when I finally landed in Christchurch- headed straight to a yarn shop. Yep, the boy went to buy a guitar and I went a few doors down to buy needles and yarn. We'd done a few weeks travelling before getting to NZ, and without my knitting I had to do things like sit still. Not sure about any other knitters out there, but to suddenly find yourself without anything to do apart from sit still was hard. Really hard. I guess my fella felt the same without a guitar to hand, hobbies are just such a part of you it's weird when it's not an option (even for a few weeks!).

Finally, I head lots of pretty, dark grey yarn, and big fat circular needles. I had to think hard about what I wanted to make, we have limited space in the camper (apparently limited for yarn, but not for a guitar, sheesh!), so I didn't want a bulky project, no jumpers or anything. But the South Island is cold this time of year, and with our plan to catch the tail end of winter down by the southern lakes, I figured a big cowl would be perfect. It could go over a shirt or over a coat and still look nice and stylish. And it would be warm, which would be delicious!

The beautiful (cold!) Mt Cook area.

I've not written a pattern in a while, so I wanted to write one for this project. You know, keep the knit-brain ticking over nicely. I hope you like it, it will be perfect for you Northern-Hemispherers to make in time for autumn. If you're Southern Hemisphere, you need to make it sharpish before it warms up too much!

10mm Circular needles 80cm long
Approx 170 metres of super bulky yarn (I used 2 balls of Moda Vera Shiver in colour 20)

K= knit
P= purl
That's it!

Cast on 130 stitches quite loosely and place a stitch marker. Join without twisting and *K2 P2 repeat from * until end of round.

Next round, purl over the knits and knit over the purls. This should happen automatically if you have cast on exactly 130 stitches. You should start the next round with *P2 K2, and repeat from * until end of round. A pattern will begin to emerge and it will look lovely! Repeat rounds 1 and 2 until the piece measures 8 inches long.

Starting at the begining of round, rib in K1 P1. Continue this for 4 rounds (K on top of Ks, P on top of Ps). The piece should now measure 9-10 inches. You can of course make the cowl longer if you wish. 

Now to cast off, we're going to get a little fancy. Have you ever used the picot cast off method? If not, it's really beautiful. I think it looks like the top of pointy crowns, you know the kind you used to make out of cardboard when you were a kid? And it's easy to learn. There's a bunch of tutorials on the internet, I used the HandKnitted Things tute when I first used this cast off, it's well explained with plenty of photos which is always helpful! 

So, cast off with the picot method, snip yarn and weave in ends. And viola! 

I hope it keeps you lovely and snuggled in the cold months. Don't forget to let me know how it goes on Google+, Ravlery or just at the bottom of the post. I love hearing from you!



Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Scary Short Rows

Now, I have heard short rows discussed at my local knit night. It's one of those techniques, like Entrelac, that I hadn't got round to teaching myself. I didn't know what they were, but from the sounds of things, people don't like them. Like, really don't like them.

So, I avoided patterns with short rows like the plague. This was quite easy, there's so many beautiful patterns you can pick and choose which to make. 

But then, disaster. I found Kate Davies wonderful owls pattern.

And I feel in love. I know it's probably the most famous knitting pattern of the moment (6546 projects on Ravelry last time I checked), and almost everyone I know who knits has made at least one of these snuggly and on-trend jumpers. But I still had to make myself one. I'm confident with cables, and although my first jumper was a complete disaster, I was ready for the challenge. 

My first jumper was made in secret for my boyfriends birthday, only working on it on my lunch hour at work. The gauge was miles off, I used needles that were too big. The jumper, whilst it did look like a jumper, was only suitable for a very fat giant. Gutted.

But, lessons were learnt. I wanted to prove to myself I could do it, and the owls jumper was the pattern that spurred me into action.

I bought my yarn, my extra needles, I had a lovely chat with the girl in my local yarn shop who happened to be wearing her own owls that day. I was excited to get home and start knitting. Then, I read the pattern. Short row shaping needed on neck line. Ahhhhhh!

So, I knitted my body, my sleeves, my owls. I was trying not to think about the short rows that were inevitable. But, I could put it off no long, they had to happen.

And, they are genius! I don't know why people don't like them, perhaps it is just one of those myths that keep putting people off. But it shouldn't! It's such a clever way of shaping a garment, be it bust darts or yokes. 
Short rows are inserted just above cabled owls to help with shaping.

Short rows are rows of knitting where you don't knit to the end of the row, instead you do a clever little technique called the 'wrap and turn' and then knit back the way you've just come. It adds more fabric into sections of your garment, making for a more fitted final piece.

I looked up a number of tutorials, the Purl Bee has a nice one with plenty of photographs. However, I wanted someone to explain it to me, so I completely understood. This jumper was not going to fail!

I ended up doing a lovely free class with Caroll Feller on Craftsy, she told me everything I needed to know. Videos, course notes, everything. In fact it told me more then I needed to know, she explained 4 different ways of doing the wrap and turn so you can work out the best method for you. 

I felt confident after watching the video a few times, and I finished my owls that very same evening!

Finished! Happy face.

Short rows are a useful technique to have in your skill set, don't be frightened by what people tell you. And ask for help if you're stuck. We're lucky to live in this age of Google+ and Youtube and Ravelry, everyone likes to help out (everyone has been stuck before!). 

You'll be glad you learnt it, I promise. And now you have all these new pattern possibilities for you to explore.

Let me know how it goes, and what patterns you use this technique on.

Much love,


Sunday, 21 April 2013

Learning to Entrelac.

My finished Entrelac turban, I love it!

As a self-taught knitter I regularly come across patterns that I fall in love with and then freak out because it uses some crazy technique that I haven't even heard of.

Entrelac was just one of those techniques, but I'm quite a determined girl. So I decided to teach myself, just like I have done with other techniques, to begin with basic knits and purls, later cables and then lace. It's just taking things one at a time, and it's so rewarding mastering a new skill. 

I think this new generation of knitters have got such an advantage over previous generations. My Nana tried to teach me to knit when I was small, but I'm left handed and got frustrated when I couldn't immediately knit the same as my Nana did. I gave up. Now I'm a little older, with more patience and the understanding that I can knit how I find it easiest, it doesn't need to be the exact same way as others. 

I can research anything I don't understand on Youtube or Very Pink, or search for tutorials on a few of my favourite sites such as The Purl Bee or Knitty. I'm also a member of a local knit night, and the combined experience there has helped me out of a number of stressful tangles! 

So, I want to write a number of posts discussing different techniques, where to find out how to do them and what patterns you can use them in to test your new skills out!

So, here's the pattern that inspired me to learn entrelac: the Grey Garden Enrelac Turban by Rachel Price and Kate Burge. I'm a sucker for a wooly headband anyway, I much prefer them to hats, they stay on better and they look awesome. I've made a number of cabled headbands already, but entrelac looks wicked- like wovens strands of knitted material but it's actually knitted all in one piece. 

I read the whole pattern before I started, I've been stung enough times before to know you should always read the pattern first. 

However I have to tell you, for an entrelac pattern, I wouldn't waste your time reading the pattern. Seriously I couldn't make head nor tail of it. So I decided it would be best to not try and understand it. Just cast on and blindly follow the instructions. But I'm a curious soul, I don't like magic happening on my knitting needles when I can't understand how it's happening. 

So I watched a couple of tutorials to get my head round it. If you're not a nosey so and so like me, just follow the instructions like I said, you'll be fine. However here's the tutorial I watched, I found it really useful.

This one is by the knitting video geniuses over at Very Pink, I love the videos on here. This tutorial is about how to knit this pretty scarf by Allison LoCicero. But the skills and tips are the same. 

So, here's my tips for following an entrelac pattern: if you want the lovely blocks of colours use a yarn that has long stripes of different colours (Such as King Cole Riot) rather then swapping yarn all the time. If there is anything at all you're unsure of youtube it, I double checked for example how to pick up stitches, as it is used alot throughout entrelac. It is mportant to follow the pattern rigidly, but don't let the long list of instructions put you off. You will get it after a couple of tiers, but it's difficult to understand to begin with. I usually play around with patterns, but I definately wouldn't risk it with entrelac, I don't know it well enough.

Final tip- just go for it! It's wicked fun, and looks so impressive. What have you got to loose? You can always unravel it and start again. So, no more shying away from beautiful patterns because you're unsure of the technique, deal? :)

Here's a few suggestions of follow-up free projects to try out once you've mastered it. 

Entrelac Messenger Bag by Joanne Loh

Tenney Park Jumper by Elizabeth Morrison

Entrelac Hat by Lorraine J Major

Much love,


Thursday, 4 April 2013

Cable-cross my Kindle Heart

I love my kindle. Ever since I was a little child I had my nose in a book, revelling in the adventures of the Famous Five or exploring Hogwarts alongside Harry and his chums. 

I know some old fashioned people out there are against the kindle, but I think it should be embraced. I love books, proper books with a funny smell and creased spines, but reading is a big part of my life. The kindle has made it easy to take hefty books on the train with me, or a number of PDFs to lectures without lugging a folder to campus. I'm going travelling for a year in the summer, and the thought of not being able to take books with me would be awful.

My boyfriend has now also got a kindle, he seems to have never read often, much to my annoyance, but the kindle seems to have changed this. I want this to continue! And that means keeping the kindle safe from harm. Also, chucking it in a rucksack and hauling it around Asia without a cover would just be stupid.

So here is the first of possibly two patterns for a kindle cover. It is written to fit the newer kindle (6 inch screen without the keyboard), however for the older kindle with the keyboard, I will add instructions in brackets throughout.

It has two sides, an intricate cable panel on the front (much easier then it looks I promise, don't panic beginner knitters!), and a cute little heart on the back. Like I said, I heart my kindle! It's made to fit quite snugly so there is no need for a fastener. 

Materials needed:
Skein of DK yarn in desired shade (I used Hayfield bonus dk shade 0891)
3.5 mm dpns, or circular needles
Cable needle
Two stitch markers

Pm= place marker
Sm= slip marker
M1= make one 
Sl=slip stitches
K2tog= knit two stitches together to make one stitch

Cast on 56 stitches

Pm before 1st stitch, K2, P2 rib for 1 inch

Slm k1 m1 k26 m1 k1 pm, k1 m1 k26 m1 k1 (60 stitches)

K 5 rounds (older kindle 10 rounds)

1: P3 *sl3 onto cable (hold in back) k3 k3 off cable repeat from * 4 times p3 slm k30 

2-4: P3 k24 p3 sm k30

5: P3, K3, *Slip 3 to Cable Needle (hold in front) K3, K3 off Cable needle repeat from * 3 more times, K3, P3 sm k30

6-8: P3 k24 p3 sm k30 

Repeat rounds 1-8 twice (older kindle three times)

9: P3, *Slip 3 to Cable Needle and hold in back, K3, K3 off cable needle*, repeat from *  4 times, P3 slm k9 p4 k4 p4 k9

10: p3 k24 p3 slm k8 p6 k2 p6 k8

11: p3 k24 p3 slm k7 p16 k7

12: p3 k24 p3 slm k7 p16 k7

13: P3, K3, *Slip 3 to Cable Needle (hold in front) K3, K3 off Cable needle repeat from * , K3, P3 slm k7 p16 k7

14: p3 k24 p3 slm k7 p16 k7

15: p3 k24 p3 slm k8 p14 k8

16: p3 k24 p3 slm k9 p12 k9

17: P3, *Slip 3 to Cable Needle (hold in back) K3, K3 off cable needle, repeat from * 4 times, P3 slm k10 p10 k10

18: p3 k24 p3 slm k11 p8 k11

19: p3 k24 p3 slm k12 p6 k12 

20: p3 k24 p3 slm k13 p4 k13

21: P3, K3, *Slip 3 to Cable Needle (hold in front) K3, K3 off Cable needle repeat from * twice  K3, P3 slm 14 p2 k14

22: p3 k24 p3 slm k30

23: p3 k24 p3 slm k30

24: p3 k24 p3 slm k30

Repeat rounds 1-8 one more time

K2tog k26 k2tog sm k2tog k26 k2tog

K28 sm k28

K2tog k24 k2tog sm k2tog k24 k2tog

K26 sm k26

K2tog k22 k2 tog sm k2tog k22 k2tog

K24 sm k24

Join edges together using Kitchener stitch.

Fit your kindle inside, and you're good to go! 

Happy Knitting!

Any questions don't hesitate to ask!