Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Birthday Baking and Some Special Socks

It was my birthday on Saturday, and I was astounded to find that my wonderful boyfriend Andrew had gifted me with a camera - exactly what I need in order to make this blog the type of blog I want it to be. I was also fortunate enough to be given a wonderful recipe book by my friends Sam, Alex and Kate - The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook by Tarek Malouf.

As we had the dreaded viva (a kind of oral exam) for our Masters on Tuesday, I decided to make some cakes for the group. I made the Black Bottomed cakes;

and the Peaches and Cream cakes;

For the Peaches and Cream cakes, I made the minor substitution of fresh plums for peaches, and the added sourness was wonderful. The Black Bottomed cakes were supposed to have a lump of baked cheesecake in them, which didn't really happen, but never mind. Considering that both recipes called for plain flour, they rose well and tasted moist and delicious. I think they went down quite well.

In knitting news, I've been meaning to post about my new pair of socks, made from the handspun yarn I blogged about here. I did make them into the Tatami pattern I discussed, and I have to say I love them. As with when I've knitted socks before from this book (Judy Sumner's Knitted Socks East and West) the heel fits perfectly. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the handspun was slightly self striping. Isn't it great when little surprises like that happen?

Friday, 10 September 2010

Dyeing Experiments

After finishing off my yellow socks yesterday I decided the time had come to finally get round to the dyeing I had been putting off. I ultimately had 3 aims. 1) To speckle some rather bland looking Rowan Milk Cotton I had bought in the sale. 2) To do something with a skein of undyed sock yarn I had bought from Tall Yarns way back in March at the Stitch and Craft Fair. 3) To make a bit more progress experimenting and playing with the monster fleece I washed earlier in the summer. The dye I chose was a simple, in theory boring, Dylon handwash in colour Tropical, which had an excited looking Macaw on the packet to indicate the colour. As I knew that both the Milk Cotton and the undyed sock yarn had a high cotton content I was expecting the colour to take quite well.

The milk cotton was laid out on plastic sheeting and concentrated dye was spooned over it. Then any excess was "mopped up" using the yarn (which I had skeined, instead of the centre pull ball it came in). This created a mottled effect.

Sorry for the blurry picture, I must have been excited.

The fleece and the sock yarn were tossed in the dyepot as per the instructions, with a bit less stirring to reduce the felting risk.

After an hour it was time to wash out the dye. First I washed the fleece,
Which has actually taken up a lot more dye than it looks like on this picture (sorry about my finger, again I can only blame my excitement!) but which is bizarrely patchy. At first I thought it might be that the brightly coloured bits were leftover yuck from when I got the fleece (and it was minging), but on closer inspection it seems possible that it's the very base of the fibre that has dyed better. Perhaps this part of the fibre lost more of it's lanolin when scoured, as the whole fleece is still pretty greasy. It looks like a felted mess, but I can promise it isn't nearly as bad as it looks, I've been spinning some of this fleece Andrew dyed black a while back, which is in fact purple, and it's coming out nice and fine.

Next I washed all the yarns individually and hung them to dry in the bathroom;
As is immediately obvious in this picture the sock yarn is not happy macaw green, but a rather putrid lime. Andrew of course found this hilarious. Part of me is excited, I've never seen commercial yarn this colour before. Of course most of me understands that there is a very good reason for that. One upside is that any socks I do make from the yarn will be great for the MODO show, as they'll certainly stand out!!

The milk cotton, despite being a little limier than I would have liked, is pretty much as I wanted it. So a successful day all round!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Yellow Socks

Just a quick post today about some lovely ankle socks I've just finished.

The pattern is Diagonal Rib by Anne Budd, which was published as part of a free e-book by Knitting Daily. I've been meaning to make these for a while, as although the pattern is fairly plain and simple, I think the overall effect is rather classic and fun. The heel flap is fairly short, which I prefer, and the only modification I made was to shorten the toe, making 6 sets of decreases with a rest round between them, then 5 rounds of decreases without rest rounds, then grafting the last 20 stitches. I think I perhaps don't have as pointy feet as the average person, as I always find shorter toes fit and look better.

I've been wanting to use this yarn for ages, it was bought at a craft fair at the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle on Easter Sunday when Andrew and I were visiting my parents. It was bought from Spinning a Yarn, a local indy dyer from the area. In fact, it was bought at the same time as the blue fibre I blogged about spinning last month. I'm 99% sure the yarn is her Walker Sock Yarn, and therefore should be superwash. As our washing machine is currently broken (I'm allowing Andrew the opportunity to stretch his testosterone before calling the landlord, it's only a clogged filter afterall) I won't be washing them just yet, but will let you know if any disasters arise!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Spinning for Socks

I'm very excited to be able to show you some newly completed spinning. My first project using my Knit Nation purchases! I've made 115g of 3-ply sock yarn that I'm very chuffed with. The fibre was Artist's Palette Yarns Superwash BFL, the colourway is not written on the label and is no longer available on the website, but is a gorgeous mix of creams, browns and blues.

The spinning was a dream, the combing of the tops was very open and drafting was very easy. This was by far the finest I have ever spun, and I now feel a lot more like I have control over the fibre I am spinning, rather than the fibre having control over me!

I still haven't learnt how to get 3 singles of even vaguely similar lengths, but fortunately I'd left a bit of fibre just in case, and so lengthened the various singles as they ran out. For this reason the 5 resulting skeins have lengths varying from 141m to 21m, but they seem to be pretty consistent in wpi. The total length of 362m means that the yardage is there for a nice pair of socks.

I'm thinking of making Tatami, from Judy Sumner's Knitted Socks East and West (Ravelry Link here), the pattern was posted on the Etsy How-Tuesday blog here. I've already made Ikebana from this book, a pair of knee high socks with a tree-like pattern. I really like the resulting sock, and the heel fits better than any other sock I've ever made. I'm really hoping that the Tatami socks come out as nice, it will be awesome to have some comfy handspun socks!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Skew Socks

After a frantic last few weeks rushing to finish my shawl in time for the wedding (it's still not perfect, pics once I'm happy with it!), followed by the rush to finish my summer project for my Masters, I've finally got a whole 4 weeks of pretty much holiday time before the start of my PhD! Yay!

I've spent some of the time since finishing on Friday doing some finishing touches to some nearly finished projects. I finally got round to blocking my Skew socks!

I started these in April and finished the knitting for the second sock a couple of weeks ago, but hadn't quite got round to blocking them. Mostly because I was afraid that they would end up different sizes. And I think this picture proves that this is unfortunately the case. I knitted the right sock first, and seemingly have been replaced by a different knitter with a wholly different tension before starting the second sock!

That being said (and I still have faith the fit issue will resolve itself) I do like this pattern.

The whole sock is knit on the bias, with the most amazing heel construction;

The pattern is perfect for self striping yarn (in this case, Lana Grossa Meilenweit 100 Merino) as the pattern of increases/decreases shows this wonderful kink.

And don't they look cute on?