Being productive?

So all 3 cats have ‘had a go’ in the new giant wool cat beds.  They don’t need much persuading, especially if I place the bed in a high status location, like in front of the radiator or on top of the piano.  Uncle Herbert was pretty happy about his snooze here.

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Early on in lockdown I got a bit frustrated with being being unproductive, when I suddenly had all this time on my hands.  There are lots of articles in the news about how to use this strange gift of time, if you’re not doing your day job.  Some people even suggest that, hey, don’t feel under pressure to be productive, just enjoy your unproductiveness, you’ll never get another chance.   Well that didn’t sit well with me.  So after doing all the obvious lockdown activities like clearing the garden and re-acquainting myself with home baking, I refreshed this blog and set up knittingrev.com.  Time well spent!

Then, over the last 2 weeks I’ve been focussing on my art print business, Go To Design.  Wow, it really needed a re-vamp.  I have a website but most of my sales & traffic is on Etsy, Ebay and Amazon.  It’s been great to have the time and the head space to really think about the images I’m listing and adding new ones.  Categories, tags and descriptions have been spruced up, and 150 new images are now live, with another 100 to come.

I select images based on well known artists who are out of copyright.  I have to decide which artworks would make a good piece of framed wall art.  I get such a buzz when one of the new images sells!  It’s not always the image I would expect.  For example, floral still life pictures aren’t the greatest sellers, but this one sold straight away.  ‘Peonies, 1920’ by Charles Rennie Mackitnosh.

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To take a break from all this at-the-computer time, I am doing a Zoom pilates class but best of all I get to walk Meggie and Badger 3 times a week.  The weather has been sunny and the bluebells are glorious right now!  Here is Megs in our local woods, with her happy collie face.  She’s the most beautiful girl in the world!

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I can’t mention Meggie & Badger without giving a shout-out to The Cinnamon Trust.  I am a registered volunteer with them, and they do the most amazing work to help the elderly and terminally ill to keep their pets.  They celebrate and promote the special bond between people and their companion animals, recognising the benefits to physical and mental health.  Taking the dogs for a romp through the woods is a joy and a wonderful mood lift!

Hope you are all keeping well and finding ways to get through,

L x

 

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.

I just took the plunge…

…back into knitting, big time.  I had a word with myself, and went and ordered a load of natural wool tops from World of Wool.  I don’t know if it’s right for my project, so I will need to experiment, but this is the start of a creative journey, something that’s been missing for too long.

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Why on earth I chose to do it now, when I am busier than ever, I don’t know.  I checked back at my last knitting notes, when I was trying to source some alternative giant natural yarns, and I was shocked to find that I wrote them two years ago.  The article I stumbled across the other day, about knitting being really good for you, was undoubtedly needling away at my subconscious.

I can’t wait for my new yarn to arrive.  Actually it’s not even yarn yet, I will have to make it into yarn myself.  I will felt it into the size I need to fit the needles I have, and then test its strength and softness.  I’ve never custom-made my own yarn before so this is another dimension.

It’s time to stop prioritising everything else, get something on the needles and see where it takes me.

 

Giant wool at the Knitting Show

Knitting with super chunky oversized yarn in the UK just got a whole lot easier!

At the Knitting and Stitching show in Harrogate (on till Sunday) I met Andrea of the superbly-named Woolly Mahoosive.  Giant merino wool and 2 acrylic alternatives are her speciality.  All the yarns are super-soft and come in a range of gorgeous colours.   They are for knitting on massive 25mm – 40mm needles.  They are also perfect for arm knitting!

Check out the display:

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See the ginormous chunky wooden needles with signature cubed stoppers?  They are beautifully made from tulipwood and rosewood, and come in different lengths.  These needles are just what I was looking for when I started extreme knitting.  There were none available commercially at that time, so after I got lucky on ebay with a pair of wooden 25mm, I had my uncle make me a set of double pins and circulars in 2 big sizes.

So how did Andrea get hold of this array of giant knitting needles?  Does she have a helpful relative beavering away in a workshop? No, she made them herself.  Yes indeed.  Having no experience of woodwork, she informed herself, got hold of the equipment and set to work.

This kind of initiative and dedication is truly impressive.  Their prices are utterly reasonable too.  Bloggers, I would urge you to pop over to Twitter and give them a follow. They deserve it!

My head is now popping with ideas about what to make with these fabulous yarns.  Inspiration – that’s what the Knitting show is for!

Till next time

L x