Something Completely Different

It doesn’t feel much like Easter here in Sheffield, what with all the snow and ice and not a single crocus or daffodil in sight. But making some clothes for a toy bunny is quite appropriately festive for the time of year.

After spending weeks working on the extreme knitting cat basket, it was time for a change. So I put the giant needles away and  started to think about Mrs Bunny’s new wardrobe.

Mrs Bunny belongs to the daughter of a very dear friend. She has been so loved that she has lost all of her fur and looks quite undressed. A new set of clothes is in order.

This is such a fun project for me. I don’t have to try to be stylish or subtle.  Pink, fluffy, and cute is my design brief. Of course, Mrs Bunny isn’t here for me to constantly check the fit, so I am working from detailed measurements and hoping for the best.

First I thought I would make a dress. I had a look through my stash and settled on a dusky pink DK, with a slubby, fluffy white contrast. My design included some pearly beads and a couple of heart motifs.

As always, minimal sewing is my aim so I started at the hem on double pins and worked upwards in the round. I divided for the armholes and left one shoulder open for getting the dress over Bunny’s head.

That was the plan, anyway. But the first attempt threw up some issues. The lacy heart motifs were supposed to be topped with a small bobble, so that they looked like rosebuds. But my bobbles were so messy that they had to go. Omitted, the rosebud became a heart.

I found I was working in the round with the wrong side facing, so every row was a P row. This meant I had to convert the pattern for the lacy rosebud/heart from knit-based to purl-based.  I managed to do this OK, but why make it this hard? Why not just work with the right side facing?

The other problem with working purl rounds with the wrong side facing, was that my decreases were untidy. I was placing some decreases as I progressed up the skirt to the waist, to create a flared shape.  I found that P2 together was not as neat and subtle a decrease as K2 together. I also had not placed the decreases evenly between the heart motifs.

Then I checked the measurements and realised that Mrs Bunny’s dress was far too big. Time to unpick the whole thing, address all of these issues and start again.

For some reason I found it really hard to cast on 88 stitches, join in the round and have the right side facing. So I knit one row first, then joined in the round. That did the trick and I was away. The lacy heart motifs read easily off the page for K rows.  I found the optimal spot for my decreases and worked them beautifully with K2tog.

Mrs Bunny's new dress

Mrs Bunny’s new dress

I found a pearly button to finish off the shoulder fastening. Ain’t it pretty?

Now I’m making a tweedy jacket to go with the dress. Fingers crossed that they fit!

Till next time,

L x

Extreme Knitting Basket is Finished! And Snow.

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I finally got this project finished! I’m very happy with it and so are my crew. Now I have a firm pattern in 3 different sizes. I’m also thinking of what else I can make with this fibre. I love its bold, sculptural quality which could lend itself to other projects.

We had a lot of snow yesterday and a ton more overnight. This was the view from our window this morning.

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There was no chance of getting the car out so I tackled Saturday shopping on foot with a rucksack. Fortunately I didn’t need anything ridiculously heavy, like cat litter. And there are lots of really good shops fairly nearby.

There was up to a foot of snow, and it was still coming down. There were no buses running and only a few cars sliding about on the main roads. I decided to take a small detour to Ken’s to see if he wanted me to take the dogs out. They were delighted and he got Harry and Dixie ready with their smart brown overcoats on.

We headed to the park down the road from Ken’s house, and my goodness, the snow was deep! It was heavy going for the two little dogs but they were up for it. They hadn’t been out for a walk since Tuesday.

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They had to leap over the snow in order to get across it. It was quite comical but then I realised the poor things were dragging great big snowballs around after them. So I gave them a couple of treats and pulled the worst of it out of their fur. We found the path and passed a family having a great time building an igloo. An igloo, in Sheffield, on 23rd of March. They were using their plastic recycling box as a mould for the ‘bricks’, and making a very good job of it.

I took the boys back home and walked home myself, laden with shopping. We thought it was time Larry went in the garden. He is a Maine Coon after all.

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He made it down to the gate and back. Meanwhile, Herbie and Monty discovered that the new cat basket is big enough to share.

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Till next time,

L x

New double pins are here!

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My hand-turned double pins have finally arrived! Two different sizes, each 40 cm long. Now for the first time I can make seamless baskets and containers using thick semi-felted wool.

So I set off knitting the base according to my existing pattern which I wrote for the seamed baskets. Here’s Larry checking out my progress.

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The old basket is nowhere near big enough but it was as large as I could go on two pairs of ordinary 20 mm needles.

A convenient facet of working on this large scale is that it’s easy to pull the needles out without losing track of the stitches. Every few rounds I would pull out the double pins and check the lie of the circle so far. I wanted it to be as flat as possible. A basket needs a nice flat base. Unfortunately, I appeared to be knitting a dome.

I unpicked my work a few times and tried different patterns of increases. But the dome would not go away. Hours went by and I wasn’t getting anywhere. Why was working this pattern in the round so much harder than on two needles? Was the puckering caused by too many increases, or too few? I looked at my work again, and realised I was reading it incorrectly. I had to take a completely different approach to working the increases. Keeping the unsatisfactory domed circle as a guide, I found the other end of my yarn and started again.

Exhibit A: the dome. Exhibit B: the circle.

Exhibit A: the dome. Exhibit B: the circle.

We met some friends for dinner at a restaurant. Even then I was thinking, ‘maybe I should have started off with 4 stitches instead of 6. I’ll try it tonight before I go to bed’. I was determined to get a better result, to the point of obsession. I started to completely remove the double pins after every round, so that I could press my circle out flat and see how flat it really was. Here’s Larry helping me with my assessment.

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Through all the hours of trial and error, I was learning a lot about the fibre and the way it behaves on those needles. All good experience, and good experience is never wasted. The basket base is not completely flat, but it is definitely no longer a dome. And in the finished article, the fibres will settle, and the base will flatten with use. My basket base now measures half a metre (20 inches) in diameter, and I’m halfway up the sides.

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I am hoping that I will have enough wool left to complete it, without having to unpick my former prototype. But I won’t be working on it tonight, because at this moment Herbie is settled down in it, having a good wash and a stretch, framed by the five double pins, and Monty is making do with squeezing himself into the little basket alongside.

Till next time,

L x

Waiting for new needles…

I just heard from my lovely Uncle that he has made me the two sets of oversized double pins I need to make the biggest and best possible wool baskets. According to my many prototypes and pattern re-writes, this is the way forward. My Uncle is retired and doesn’t  do much woodworking any more, but just for me he sourced the wood and turned the needles to my measurements. I am a very, very lucky knitter.

Monty has been asking for a bigger basket for some time.

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Now Monty is able to fold himself up quite small, but even so, this basket is a tight fit for him.  Larry on the other hand, just spills out of  it.

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Herbie would like his own basket too. He sleeps on top of it, rather than in it…

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…when he gets the chance!

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Till next time,

L x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking the Dogs

Sunday is my dog-walking day. I walk Harry and Dixie, a pair of West Highland terriers, for their owner Ken. I like to give them a good 2 hours off the lead, so we take a short drive to where we can have a good run away from any roads. Here we are on a jaunt around Endcliffe Park in Sheffield.

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Just for fun we like to have a game of chase where I run away from them, and they run after me, round in circles.  It’s good for me to have a run as well.  Simple pleasures!

Ken is a very experienced dog owner having had dogs all his life. He’s had Harry and Dixie from puppies and now they are 7 years old. They are extremely well-trained, well-socialised and great company. Ken relies totally on volunteer dog walkers, so sadly  this means that the lads don’t get out every day. They only get walked 3 or 4 times a week, sometimes less. Sometimes it’s only a quick stroll around the block. So on Sundays I give them as much time as possible. It’s wonderful to see them run free in open spaces.

Wyming Brook

Wyming Brook

There’s a nature reserve near us called Wyming Brook. The brook runs down a steep wooded hillside. There’s a wide, winding track which leads through the trees down to the reservoir.  Alternatively there’s a steep rocky footpath running alongside and criss-crossing the brook itself. Here you have to jump from rock to rock and cross rustic wooden bridges as you go, with the constant roar of the water around you, shaded by tall trees. You can go down the rocky footpath, and back up the track, or vice-versa, making a round walk. The footpath is exciting, but the track has its own charms. The trees and their alpine scent make you feel you are up a mountain, with the occasional glimpse of distant Sheffield.

Harry and Dixie are game little dogs who will tackle any terrain. I don’t have to worry about them: they always come back to me when called and they are relaxed around other dogs. However, I do have to watch out for horse or fox manure because Harry is a roller. Dog walkers, you know what I mean. When this happens we divert to the nearest stream or brook to wash the worst off. Harry doesn’t much like getting wet. His brother Dixie jumps straight in, even if he’s not dirty, but Harry needs persuading. Fortunately Ken isn’t in the least bothered if I come back with two filthy dogs. As far as he’s concerned, they should be out all afternoon getting mucky. He gives me a dog blanket for the car and baths them before teatime.

Harry asking ever so nicely for a crisp in the beer garden.

Harry asking ever so nicely for a crisp in the beer garden.

Ken is full of appreciation for his dog-walkers. It was the Cinnamon Trust who put us in touch. They are always looking for new volunteers, particularly for dog-walking and fostering cats. If you live in the UK and if you are a pet lover with a bit of spare time, do get in touch with them.

I am looking forward to this Sunday’s outing, especially now the weather is improving! We might have company, in the form of my friend, her daughter, and their little terrier Daisy. Woof!

Till next time,

L x