Cat Basket finished!

So the test knit worked!  Cat basket in dove grey arm knitting yarn, hot off the needles and approved by Larry.

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This yarn is acrylic, so it doesn’t have the woolly scent which attracts the furbags.  So I placed the basket in a high status location – kitchen table – location is everything – and sprayed it with catnip spray.  Took about 5 minutes for Larry to jump in it.

I’ve only knitted these in wool before, so wondered how the acrylic yarn would perform.  Well, it was perfectly easy to knit with, a consistent thickness, and pretty strong.  Like any yarn, you have to be careful not to split the fibres whilst working.

This particular basket was knitted from the top down, so the outer rim is the cast-on edge.  I used the long tail cast on, to make the edge neat and flexible.  Larry will stretch out in his sleep and flatten the sides, but this yarn is happy to be re-shaped afterwards and the sides hold up pretty well.

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Really loving the dove grey colour and find it goes well with the decor in any room in the house.  Grey is the new white!

I’ve listed the Giant Wool Cat Basket, and the pattern, on my website Knittingrev.com, and in my Etsy shop.

The pattern includes 2 sizes, and 2 methods.  You can work top down, as in the grey basket, or from the centre outwards – see white basket below.  If you work from the centre outwards, you start off with 6 stitches, and your cast-off edge is the outer rim.  You might prefer the look of this.

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For both methods, the basket is worked in the round, on circular needles, using the magic loop method.  There is no seaming – hurrah! – and only 2 ends to weave in.

Arm knitting yarn and 25mm circular needles from Woolly Mahoosive.  Many good suppliers for extreme knitting also on Etsy.

 

Cat basket in progress

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For a knitting pattern to be successful, it has to be thoroughly tested.  Just as important, it must be easy to find the tools and materials needed to make it.

My giant wool cat basket is knitted in the round.  I’ve always made it using large 20mm doublepins.  Back in 2012, you couldn’t buy oversized doublepins anywhere, so I asked my Uncle to make some for me.  Many cat basket orders later, and a change of wool supply, I am still happily knitting these on the oversized doublepins.

Since then, extreme knitting has come on in leaps and bounds.  There are lots of giant yarns available from specialist suppliers, in both wool and acrylic.  You can even get giant circular needles for making those eye-popping blankets and throws.  But you still can’t get giant doublepins.  So how was I going to make my pattern appealing to knitters, if the tools for the job were not available?

Then I discovered the Magic Loop method.  This is how you can knit even the smallest circumference on any length of circular needles.  I tried it and found it really simple.  I knitted the whole basket this way and it worked a treat.  Then I knitted the whole basket in reverse – from the outer rim to the centre.  That worked too!

Next is to test knit the basket again, using 1kg of easily available arm knitting yarn.  Step forward Dove Grey acrylic from Woolly Mahoosive!  Let’s see how the basket knits up with this yarn…watch this space!

Giant Wool cat basket pattern

Following many requests over the years, I’ve decided to release the pattern for the Giant Wool cat basket.  Here is Larry modelling one.  He’s pretty good at cat yoga.

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I’ll be working on the pattern over the next few days, making sense of my many notes and different versions.  I’ll also include the Cat Cave – that’s the basket with hood.

Hope everyone is keeping well in these strange times!

Best wishes, Louisa x

Giant Knitting Cat Baskets are here!

…and they’ve been well and truly road-tested by all three crew members.  I think we have the seal of approval.

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It was useful to make two baskets.  One came out a bit tighter than the other, and that turned out to be the best one.  This is because, over a few days’ constant use, they stretch.  So the looser basket has ended up a bit on the floppy side, and the tighter basket is just about right.  Also, as I knitted the base more tightly, the sides appear taller.

The crew spent hours lounging around in their new beds, which enabled us to take lots of scrumptious photos of them.  My partner is a professional photographer (thesheffieldlens.com) – I am sure you can tell which are his pictures and which one is off my iphone!

I am excited to make the next batch.  I might try a different colour, or at least, a different sheep….

Giant Knitting Cat Baskets here soon!

The new yarn is on the needles, and the cat basket is in progress…

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Wow this yarn is even better than I expected.  It’s bigger and thicker than the yarn I used for the original baskets.  And it knits up fine using the needles I already have.  So I don’t have to order a load more knitting needles to be custom-made in bigger sizes.

I have amended my pattern slightly to accommodate the thicker yarn.  I was a bit worried that I hadn’t maintained an even thickness and twist on all of it.  After all, the wet felting was a bit of an experiment.  But working the yarn, it doesn’t seem to matter.  There is enough twist and felting to give it a bit of structure.  In fact, I think it performs even better than the old yarn.

 

It’s easier to get a flatter base.

It’s softer, less like rope.  More like a big, squishy soft strand.

It’s got that characteristic, fleecy scent.

The stitches are massive, with loads more visual impact.

And….the cats love it.

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It’s not finished yet, Monty.

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Make your own giant yarn

Today I wet felted the whole batch of texel wool roving, to make my own version of giant yarn.  If it works, the cat baskets are back on.  This is a very exciting prospect for me, and worth the effort.

And it took quite a bit of effort too, transforming this

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into this

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and hanging it out to dry.

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Three and a half kilos of wet wool is really heavy, as I found when I lugged it down the stairs and into the garden.  It drips a lot, so that was the best place for it.

It took me about 4 hours to process the whole batch, including a couple of false starts and working out the best approach. There is nothing online that shows you how to do this (believe me, I looked!)  So it was a matter of trial and error.  I can see how my technique improved as I went along.  I needed to achieve an even thickness of yarn whilst not disrupting the fibres too much.  From about halfway through, I was happy with the result.

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The new yarn is a lot thicker than the yarn I used before, so I will need to re-write my patterns and possibly use larger doublepins than the set I have now.  Giant wooden knitting needles are easily available, as are giant circulars, but giant doublepins are rare so will probably need to be custom-made….

I’m very excited about getting my new yarn onto some needles soon!  Watch this space…

Wool has arrived…

…and it really is, actual, wool.  One continuous length of clean, combed, white fleece.  I even know the breed of sheep it has come from – the texel.

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A pedigree texel sheep

It feels wonderful and has that typically woolly scent, which is very evocative for me.  I realised as I opened the package and handled the wool, that this is what my Auntie’s house used to smell of, and it took me right back there.

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I adored visiting her as a child and some of my happiest early memories were made at her house.  She was brilliant at most hand crafts, and always had some wool at some stage of processing for me to get involved in.  I remember handling greasy, bitty raw fleece, preparing wool for hand-carding, and even had a go at spinning on her spinning wheel (I was rubbish at it).  I tried to knit up my hand-spun yarn and it was hopelessly uneven.  But such fun to try.  So in a way, embarking on this project feels like a home-coming.

Finding the ends of the strand took a while.  I had to tip the wool out of the bag and run my hands along it until eventually one end appeared, and then another.  I marked each end with a coloured tie.

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Now I have to experiment with preparing the wool for knitting.  Although it’s surprisingly sturdy in its unprocessed state, and I could go ahead and arm-knit with it, the kind of structured pieces I intend to make will need a firmer, more ‘finished’ yarn.

Friction felting is not that effective and takes too long, especially with a large batch of wool.  Wet felting is probably the way to go, but must be done gently by hand.   So I think I’ll be filling the bath tub, swooshing it around, and then trying to get it dry.

The resulting yarn will be thicker than the yarn I used before, so I will have to knit up samples and work out how to adapt my patterns.  There may be other advantages which I haven’t discovered yet.  What’s really exciting is that there are all kinds of wool tops available, from many different breeds of sheep, some of which are different, natural colours.  So I could work with beautiful shades of brown and grey – all undyed, all from the sheep’s natural colour.

If my Auntie was still here, how I’d love to tell her about this!  She was, and still is, my inspiration, and there’s a bit of her in all of this.

Knitted Knitting Bag

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This is my extreme knitting Tote Bag. I just sold one from my shop on Not On the High Street, and received a lovely comment from my customer.  This makes all those hours in the studio worthwhile.

Despite having a drastically reduced income, I am loving working from home.  I am putting a lot of hours in setting up my business. But it’s very satisfying. The OH says I should have done it years ago! And the cats like having me around all day. There is one on my lap right now.

Till next time,

L x