Monday, 9 February 2015

Leo the lion

Several months ago I asked my daughter which toy she would like me to knit for my soon-to-arrive grandchild.  She had a look through my copy of Knitted Wild Animals by Sarah Keen and picked out the lion - an apt choice since his starsign is Leo.  I went out and bought the wool and stashed it... 

He arrived, I was totally smitten and knitted him some clothes.  A few months passed.  New Year came and went and I decided I should really get on and knit this lion, so in mid-January I started.  It is all knitted flat and then seamed - I couldn't see any way of knitting it in the round other than by using dpns, which I hate, and I don't actually mind sewing up seams so I followed the pattern exactly as written actually just realised I didn't - see below re the tail.  All the body pieces knitted up quickly but the mane was a bit of a pita.  In hindsight I shouldn't have tried to figure out the stitch and start knitting it while watching TV, I kept going wrong, got fed up with it, and went off in a huff and ignored it for a fortnight.  Determined not to be defeated I went to look for alternative instructions on how to knit loop stitch.  I found a few variations in other peoples' projects on Ravelry and in my various knitting books.  I tried a few out and decided that in fact, all I needed to do was concentrate on what I was doing and not try and knit and watch TV at the same time, so went back to the original instructions and knitted the whole thing in one sitting.  I didn't time myself knitting the rest of it, but I reckon it took me as long to knit the mane as all the other pieces put together.

Then came the joy of sewing it all together (so many ends for such a small thing) and filling it with stuffing.  It surprised me how much stuffing I could squish into the body - I just kept  adding more... and more... and more....  Once it was all sewed together, which was really quite fiddly because it was small, stuffed, pieces (rather than adult- or even baby-sized flat pieces) I needed to make a tail.  I didn't really like the tail in the pattern so decided to make one from i-cord and attach a pom-pom.  Now I have an i-cord making machine which I bought a few years ago but have never used (I think it's called a knitting mill - it's a mechanical equivalent of a French knitting dolly).  It took me quite a while to get the hang of using it and a few false starts, but once I got it working properly it churned out a length of i-cord pretty damn quickly.  Zillions of times quicker than I could have knitted it.  I also made a pom-pom using a pom-pom maker, which is kind of a glorified plastic version of two circles of card, but definitely quicker than making one by hand with said cardboard circles.  A bit of embroidery with black wool for his mouth and eyes and finally, Leo the lion was finished.

And here he is.
Leo the lion

And a side view to show his tail (and his smile)
This was definitely a labour of love and I'm in no hurry to knit more stuffed animals - although maybe, with time, I might feel inclined to knit more as long as there are no manes involved.  The book he came from does have some very cute patterns in it...

Sunday, 8 February 2015

I have startitis....

Normally I don't like to have more than two knitting projects on the go at any one time - one which is straightforward TV knitting which I can take to knitting group and not have to unpick everything I've just knitted when I get home because I wasn't paying enough attention to it - and one other which does need undivided attention from time to time.  At the moment I have five.  Well actually four because I finished one last night, but that it still twice as many as I'd like, so I need to knit in every spare moment (yeah right) to get these four projects finished.  I'd also like to make two long sleeves dresses (sewn, no chance of a long-sleeved knitted dress any time soon, or probably ever) before winter is out.

I recently started knitting my version of a Land Army jumper, but need something else to break up the monotony of endless 2 x 2 rib - although it is good TV knitting.  I should have enough yarn to make this with long sleeves - the Excelana doesn't have as long a yardage per ball as the yarn recommended in the pattern, and I'm also using smaller needles in order to get the row gauge.   Normally I'm not too fussed about row gauge, but in this case I was out by 9 rows/4" which is quite a lot and would affect the armhole shaping and sleeve cap - I daresay I could recalculate the numbers in the pattern, but instead of that now that I have knitted up one skein I calculated the number of stitches that made, worked out how many stitches the front and two sleeves would take and added it all up.  As long as the skein I've knitted wasn't overweight and the ones I have still to use are not underweight I'll be OK.

Pattern from A Stitch in Time Vol 1 by Susan Crawford & Jane Waller

Now that we're into February and the afternoons are lighter for longer my thoughts have turned to Spring knitting, although with the temperature still hovering around freezing  and the occasional snow shower I'd like to get this jumper finished this month.  That hasn't stopped me swatching for two yellow cardigans though...

Daisy lace (above) and Bunches of Cherries (below)

The first one is a pale primrose colour and I'm not using a pattern.  I'll use the stitch pattern on the left in the picture below ( and the top of the swatch above), and incorporate it into my standard 4-ply waist-length cardigan pattern which I seem to have used for most of the cardigans I've knitted in the last year or so.  I've done the waist ribbing for this so now just need to decide whether to put any lace pattern inserts on the back and if so, how many.

Primrose coloured yarn and a daisy pattern - just right for Spring

The second will use Susan Crawford's Excelana 4-ply in Powdered Egg - the same yarn as I'm using for the Land Army jumper.  This is going to be a version of Sam Stewart's green cardigan from the All Clear episode of Foyle's War - for any readers on Ravelry, there is a thread about it here.  I have wanted to make a version of this for ages, and I've pretty much decided to use the Bunches of Cherries stitch pattern (in the swatch above) from the Knitter's Stitch book in the photo below.  I may also use elements of the two vintage patterns in the photo below, but probably I'll just end up doing my own thing in terms of stitch numbers and row counts.  Although the pattern swatch above is in the Patons yarn, I did do a stocking stitch tension square in the Excelana so it shouldn't be too difficult to work out the numbers.

I know the original inspiration is pale green, but I have yellow yarn in my stash

And whilst I love elsajohannesson's version I'm not sure I'll have enough yarn to knit the sleeves in pattern - I'll see how the body goes and how much yarn it uses.  I might also be sick of knitting bobbles by the time I'm done with the body!  Also, top down stocking stitch sleeves will be quicker to knit and if I can see that I'm not going to have enough yarn for long sleeves I can stop when I run out.

So... now it's time to settle down for Call the Midwife and Mr Selfridge and two hours of uninterrupted knitting!