Monday, July 14, 2014

Hello, I can explain

Or maybe I can't, this year has been a bit of a slow blog year. I suspect that the need to blog has been connected to a feeling that my knitting has not been adventurous, and therefor not blog worthy. I can't try and change that, it seems that weekly blogging is at the moment beyond me, but maybe monthly blogging is a good alternative.

So I have been knitting (secret midwinter swap gifts)( baby blanket as a standby gift), and frogging (the stripped socks), and bookbinding (knit books with knitters graph pages), and playing with a loom that found its way into my life a few years ago. Fist up the secret gift swap, for several years now the local Thursday night knitters have held a totally voluntary gift swaps. A questionnaire is filled in, if your life was a movie who would play you? Favorite colours, most detested, colours, items wanted - from hats to socks to antimacassars. I was a little sad that no one knit one, but I digress. My secret swap partner was PIp, a lovely knitter who had a totally different colour palette than I, and wanted something that just worked, life should be simple was her quote.

Enter Cheesehands, a double knit mitt by Julia Mueller. The pattern is great, four sizes, and complete instructions on how to double knit the mitts. I've done this kind of thing before, knit a secret swap, and double knitting, so it only remained to select a size and some yarn. Pip liked forest tones, so I chose Vintage Purls sock in the colour way TopSoil, and Fibre Alive Merino mania in a colour called Ranger. I figured between the ranger and the soil I had the forest theme covered. The merino mania is a now discontinued product, sadly, but it had lovely short yet coordinating colour runs. They went from green to blue, to rust, to sky blue, to tan, to gold and even an indigo.

The thing about double knitting is the colours are carried between the two layers, and the two layers are formed by knitting with the top colour, and purling with the other side colour. The result is a garment that is reversible - ta da! So this way Pip could choose if she wanted a topsoil background or a leafy/sky background. I blocked and presented the mitts as one of each, and hoped she would realize that which side was outermost was totally up to her.

Being a secret swap there is always some competition to disguise the present, so I wraped mine in tissue, and tidied it away in a small tin.

 

The tin is one left over from finishing my favorite hot chocolate, Evil Child. It's dairy free and comes in a lovely reusable silver tin. We have several having consumed a few tins over the past year. There was a wee bit of decorating on the tin, to make it look like a present but I forgot to photograph that. My swap pressie was knit by the amazing M of Vintage Purls, a Schiaparelli pink pair of stricken by Cookie A. She said she didn't want to pander to my love of blue grey, and I'm glad she didn't, the shocking pink is perfect for socks inside a pair of winter boots. I told her shocking pink is well within the blue grey colour palette, but she didn't believe me.

I've also been podding around the baby blanket, plodding as it is center out and so each round gets progressively longer. Last time it appeared here it looked a little like this. I had just started the green band. After that I decided to make that the last colour and add a double knit border - that double knit is kind of addictive. I thought of it like a wide icord - which is one of my favorite edges for things,

 

 

The double knit edging went well, the photo not so well, the colour needs adjusting, it is after all a brighter lime green. The dangers of making photos indoors on dull winter days with artificial light - and not adjusting the colour balance of the camera. I worked a purl round just before attaching the double knit sideways band, with an ssk, and love the way it snugs against the purl ridge.

The corner was short rowed, before the turn I short rowed and worked twin stitches on the right side rows until all there were no stitches left - then I workd back just like a short row heel, working the twin stitches as one, and short rowing back to the full stitch count, working twin stitches on all the wrong side stitches in turn . I've done three of four corners and should be done tonight or tomorrow if not distracted.

 

And weaving, I have a Structo table loom, with four shafts. Until re neatly it sat in the garage waiting for me to be inspired. A few weeks go I was inspired, some students wanted to learn to weave and we have several rigid table looms at work. So I helped them warp up two, several times and got them started. As always it was 'boring, so so very boring', so many steps to weave with the rigid heddle being both shaft and beater/reed. I remembered I had a four shaft at home, with its own beater ... I wondered if weaving might be more fun on a loom with more dedicated parts. So hauled it out. There was cleaning and minor restoration required, to remove rust and replace springs and soft padded cushions. And after a few days of that I warped it up with some 22/2 cottolin and wove a tea towel.

 

Again the photo colour is terrible, and my weaving shows a lot that could be improved, but it is a working tea towel, in use in the kitchen. The rest of the family are a little surprised that I want it used- don't you want to keep this? they ask. No I want it used, tested and commented on so I can learn what needs changing. And i learnt so much, about warping, about sett, about edges, about how and when to do what when weaving.

I know there is more to learn .... But the learning is fun. I want to do more, but that means a pause for supplies, a shuttle is on its way, as are some more colours of cotton thread, and I am investigating extra bits and pieces that are needed to weave a wider cloth on this loom, i might also be stalking sighlty larger (floor) looms that might fit inside our house.

Na Stella

 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A sleeve, a sock, a blanket and edges.

This post is about the three projects on my needles, and some edge sampling. The three projects comprise a cardigan which seems to fall off the 'want to knit' list more than it should, the distraction of a pair of socks in fun yarn, and yet another baby blanket. Baby blankets are kind of a staple knit around here, they use up Handspun and make good presents. Socks, well they are also a staple, quick kiss to knit, portable as a project, use up the sock yarn I seem to collect, and are incredibly useful in the climate we have here. The cardigan - one of my wardrobe staple item, a good cardigan can make a plain dress warm enough and seem finished.

This first image shows my current sock project on top of the edge samples worked at Saturdays knitters study group. The samples are knit in grey and are held flat by a sock, more about that later. The sample shows four edges, selvedge that could be used to finish a peice of knitting. From left to right the selvedges are Chain garter selvedge, picot selvedge, picot point selvedge, double picot selvedge, all dived by a single row of vikkel braid. The cast off is a three stitch icord, which sits above the vikkel braid very very nicely. Most of these are detailed in Monste Stanley's book, The knitters handbook. Once blocked I will post better photos for reference.

Next up the stripey socks, in a lovely lively yarn. The yarn is my favorite blend of fiber for socks, super wash merino with a touch of nylon for hard wearing. The brand is Stray cat socks, found on etsy.com, and is dyed to provide medium width stripes. This colour way is Silver Star, a citris lime green paired with a silver grey.

I wanted to do something more interesting than a plain vanilla pair of stocking stitch socks, but the yarn fought me every stitch. First I tried a standard Judys magic cast on toe, which worked but wasn't really set up ready for me to transition to something in the sock body. At the starting stage I wasn't sure what the transition from the toe to the sock body would be - I just wanted something that worked with this yarn.

I found the star toe and loved the effect with the stripe, in fact it was the pattern with the star toe, Multi stem, that inspired me to find a nice balance between yarn and pattern. The sock has a line of contrast colour stitches snaking up from the line of increases worked in the star toe. I liked that idea very much.

After finding the 'toe' for this yarn I tried various options to find a pattern to knit the body of the sock in. I tried to work a variation of the star toe pattern, thinking if there were paired increases and decreases that zagged left up one stripe and zagged right up the other then the stripes would be distorted. That didn't work, I wasn't clever or determined enough to make it work, the. I tried a few combinations of rib, single purl ribs up from the toe increases, and wide purl ribs that took up one with of the sock. Sorry no photos, but I can report a lot of frogging and starting again.

In the end the simplest and most elegant solution seems to be to work a slip stitch just where the colours change and in line with the increase lines. I am slightly disappointed that I couldn't come up with something cleverer but the yarn beat me into simplicity and quiet - I'm ok with that.

Here is the neglected cardigan, first sleeve half done. I've discovered like several others that the Sleeven sleeve is snug on, shall we say - mature arms. So instead of the slim fit deceases that are tapered from armpit to near the cuff I am working mine straight till after the elbow and then decreasing to the wrist. I want to wear this, I live in dresses and cardigans and would love to add this to my weekly rotation, but when I reach I to the wip basket - this has less appeal than other projects right now. I may have to force the issue with myself and commit to finishing.

Lastly is the baby blanket, hand spun for the first 140 grams and then 200 grams of commercial spun yarn. The Handspun was worked in factory scraps, from Design Spun Yarns, and ended up being blocks of three strong colours, red, orange and blue. This pure wool citris green seemed to be a good match for those colours, so I bought 200 grams of it, thinking that the green would make a wide boarder around the blanket that would balance the colours of the center. The pattern is one I've knit before, Basic Black Shawl, from Folk Shawls. I've always knit this as a Handspun baby blanket, not as a shawl, as it is simple and makes a generous square.

And there is a new hobby in our house, little cub has discovered and been indulged in Rainbow bands ...so now the working surfaces of the family room are not only surrounded with spinning wheels, and covered with knitting, but also boxes of colorful small rubber bands. It's fun to see some one of her age find an activity/hobby that captures their interest. I admit to enabling, along with several of our knit group.

Take care - na Stella

 

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Monthly updates are so so very wrong

Because updating every month means that there is too much to cover in a single post, and so it feels a little manic. Given it has been so long since the last update there are finished objects well overdue for blog space, namely a pair of socks and a cowl, and also some yarn, spinning has happened and there are two more skeins complete. As usual no plans for the yarn, but I just love making it.

These are blue Gladys socks, by General Hogbuffer, knit for my eldest son with his size eleven feet. I'm aware that a sock named Gladys may not be the most masculine sounding sock, but as he is not a knitter, and is as unlikely to enquire as to the name of the pattern, as to ask about the name of the yarn, or the number of plies, or any other knitting detail I am confident he will remain ignorant that a sock named Gladys is keeping is feet warm. The yarn is after all a very manly blue, Chance, by Vintage Purls.

I usually prefer toe up socks, there is a comfort in knowing that once the foot is worked the leg length of the sock can be decided without risk of running out of yarn. In this case I liked the sock, and whist I could have reverse engineered the pattern I decided that it was time for me to again knit a traditional heel flap and gusset sock. I loved the construction of the heel flap, and despite his size eleven feel feeling like a challenge to knit a pair of socks from a single 100 gram skeins of yarn, there was even yarn left over. 13 grams to be precise. I feel the leg is a tad short visually, but do notice that most of the shop bought socks for men are short in the leg. I would happily knit this again for myself - except that there are hundreds of sock patterns out there that I want to try so repeating one pushes the chance to knit new patens further away. This sock did bring to my attention the designs of General Hogbuffer, and there are now several from that author in my project queue.

Gladys the sock had several little details that communicatd that this was a designer who liked details as much as I do. I loved the rig and farrow pattern (garter welts) thatwere used to stop, start, and break patterns up. Equally well thought out were the instructions to customize the arch shaping by modification of the rate of gusset decreases. Perhaps the most lovely and at once mentally significant and yet visually invisable was the toe shaping. Most socks, toe up or cuff down provide for a stand rate of increase/decrease at the toe, the standard seems to be four stitches every second round. Gladys starts off with decreases very four round, then three rounds, then two, which provides a lovely long and pointed toe, a perfect match for elder cubs feet have. Small details to be sure but ones that tell me this designer thinks about what they are doing rather than just following standardized patterns.

And here is the second finished object, almost a stealth project. I started this about a month ago, not wanting to waste the cashmere left over from the KSG hat. I had 41 grams left and a local knitter, Shoeboxsally, was talking about a pattern called Zuzu's petals, how it knit up quick, was lovely to wear and used only 30-something grams of yarn. She is right, she often is, Zuzu's petals is a lovely wee project. I knit mine in the yarn remaining, it took 39g and I have 2 grams left over. Perfect - although there was some fudging of the placement of the penultimate increase round when I saw how little yarn was left.

Here is a really really bad photo of it being worn, a selfie taken in the car whist waiting for little cub to finish ballet. The cowl is a lovely design, looks like a lace shawlette and yet wears like a close fit cowl, it never falls off, always stays put and perfectly covers that drafty cold spot left exposed by vee-necklines in winter.

Other news around here, there is new yarn, fresh off the spinning wheel.

Some lovely autumnal three ply faulkland. I love this fiber, it makes me realize that whist the local fiber is lovely it can at times be a little short in the fiber staple length. This faulkland is long, 3.5-4.5 inches long which makes for dreamy spinning. Local fiber seems shorter, which is probably because local farmers shear twice a year, so the growth between shearing is shorter.

And more recently is this smaller skein of merino, from Schoppel-wolle, a super wash merino. Available at Vintage Purls, it is space dyed, I bought two 50g lengths and rearranged it them to provide three matching sections. I spun each and then plied with the hope at least some of the sections would line up - some did, some didn't, but it works.

 

 

Last week we had a snow day which the cat ignored. She sat on the back of the sofa and pretended the sun was shining. I love how optimistic cats are.

On the snow day, both cubs schools were cancelled as was my work, so I supervised indor and outdoor play and knit a scrunchie. I used the last of the sparkly yarn left from little cubs Infinity scarf, and a pattern found via ravelry, the scrunchie. I loved that this pattern didn't call for knitting a strip or tube and sewing it up to enclose an elastic hair band. The scrunchie was cast on over the elastic hair band. As my yarn was finer I fiddled with the stitch count, but didn't make notes. I love the effect - there. There may have been other scrunchies made which were inspired by this one - which might have been tucked away In little cubs hair tie box - if so I will dig them out for a photo and blog post soon. I did have a lot of fun thinking of ways to cover elastic hair ties with knitting, sort of personal graffiti?

 

Littl cub turned twelve this past weekend, which meant lots of birthday wishes, a party and lots and lots of thoughtful gifts from people in her life. She has good friends who seem to care for her and like hanging out with her and are interested in what she likes. She now has a new hobby, one of those sweeping the internet craze hobbies, rainbow looms. She already had a small loom, but post party had two more, a mini loom and a larger reconfigurable loom.

She now also has many many more rainbow bands and several boxes to keep them in. This box is impressive, it opens like this, and then if you undo the side catches it opens even more like this...

As well, inside there are many many colours of rainbow bands, we gave her the box in an attempt as many parents do to keep their kid tidy. Her friends and knit night buddies provided a huge array of rainbow bands, sparkly, metallic, shimmer, glow in the dark, mixed neon, mixed jelly and lots lots more that I can't remember. There are several still in packages which are yet to be stowed in the boxes.

Meanwhile today is a public holiday, so I've been knitting, finishing the socks that we're featured earlier in this post, and catching up on ravelry threads and forums that I follow. I like public holidays in winter, sort of permission to be inside and warm and do hobby things.

 

Take care, na Stella

 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Distracted - and tempted

Hello, I'm still here, knitting, and spinning, sewing, and being generally distracted as usual. A few weekends ago our annual knit retreat camps was held, and while it is called knit camp this time it was about lace making. The kind with bobbins not the kind that is knit. Our teacher was one of the local lace makers who also knits, and she did a fantastic job of leading everyone through two small beginner laces.

Here is my first piece, a bookmark comprised of several basic lace work patterns. I'd have to look up the names of each - but after working this I understand how to differentiate between each kind.

This is the plan for the second piece, the sample and the pattern were worked by our teacher, and I thought that if I photographed it I would have a guide when I workd mine. Mine will be In simillar colours to the once above. Littlest cub has a dance event on the Sunday so I missed the last day of the workshop weekend. Still I was able to make a start (and finish) on my own sample the following week.

 

As usual the Saturday night as camp was show and tell which loosely translates in this group as 'show off your best'. The phrase that is used again and again is 'it's not a comptiton'. Except it so is, there is serious competition to work something amazing - in any craft and bring it, and very friendly discussion about who is in the running, who knitted or stitched the largest, or most intricate blanket, or dyed dozens and dozens of different colour yarns to make a grandest blanket, or stitch the finest embroidery using one strand of floss so the piece looks painted not stitched. The competition is all in fun, after all how can anyone say a blanket crocheted from 36 different hand dyed yarn samples is better or less than a quilt hand stitched with as many individually pieced blocks, or a cardigan worked with delicious cables in hand spun? Anyway, P, our teacher for the week brought this amazing peice of lace, together with its pricking. We all agreed, this time she won.

 

And the paper (card?) prickings used in bobbin lace are in themselves works of art. There was serious discussion about how something like this, with the intricate pattern of holes would be amazing as a lampshade or on display where light could shine through the pinpricks. And as we all knew at that stage, there would have been hours if not days of work just in getting the design to this stage.

This introduction to lacemaking and the tools was in an odd way very tempting. I am and have aways been a fool for pretty work and nice tools, bobbin lace offers beautiful tools and simply dozens if not hundreds are needed. It's like open permission to collect pretty things. I bought a set of student lace bobbins at the workshop, and spangled them. Spangles are the beads that hang from the base of each bobbin, which add weight and stop the bobbins rolling. They also make it easier to keep track of bobbins. Since then I've been crusing online sites looking at bobbins, and bookmarking ones that appeal, midlands bobbins come in fancy woods, bone, and other pretty materials. Some are decorated with painting, or etching or inlays. They have little acorn shapes at the top, and you get to hang pretty real glass and stone beads on the other end. Oh help me for I don't need another hobby, and especially one that requires hours and hours of devotion to achieve a few inches of progress.

With all that going on, between sessions drooling over lace bobbins I don't need, I've been knitting socks and the cardigan, something secret for the midwinter swap that can not be named, sewing a dress for myself and helping little cub sew one for little cubs doll, and of course I have been spinning but I'm not organized enough to have photos to show of any of these. At work there has been marking, marking, and more marking, I think Friday I might have got to the last three which means the light is at the end of the tune.

Stella