Saturday, November 22, 2014

Divide and conquer

Today I was at a conference, ASCILITE 2014, which ends Thursday, four days! I really should read the instructions before signing up - four days of hundreds of people, of making contact and talking, and being intelligent. I love the intellectual stimulation, and the chance to be exposed to new ideas and clever explanations - and I love the chance to connect with people who know about and are interested and ready to talk about the things I want to talk about and explore. What I don't find as much fun are people wanting to network, the sheer number of people to talk to and work with. Anyway at one of the workshops the presenter made a comment that the description on his slide was described as masculine - "divide and conquer".

That surprised me - I've always thought that the best parents, especially mums, used the divide and conquer technique, separate the kids who were causing drama - and give them specific tasks. And I've always thought knitting was a great example, garments are created by working on smaller sections and areas. For my current knitktngm I've worked on the hem as two sections, joined them and then workd on the body until it reaches the underarms. Now I've split the body and am continuing to work on the front, each section requires me to focu on just that section.

It's how a knitter can go from a few balls of yarn to a fully finished garment - without going mad, the project happens one section at a time, divide and conquer.

Nothing masculine about it. It's just common sense.



Saturday, November 15, 2014

Small things

Today is Sunday, a kind of a catch up with things that were not done yesterday and relax ready for tomorrow (Monday) day. There is knitting, some big, some small, there is weaving - which is more exploratory than I expected so increasingly interesting, and baking. Baking because the school week brings a need for lunches and after school snacks and without baking the default becomes expensive, sugary, and fatty prepackaged things. I'm not saying baking isn't sugary or fatty - but that I get to control it somewhat. And there is a new toy - or should that be a newer toy?

Bears Gansey grows, I'm well into the underarm gusset. Once that is done I can split the front and backs from the underarm sections and work the upper sections flat. I ended up being boring and just working a tiny wee ladder of purl welts near the armsye on the front and back. I liked the look of the other patterns on my swatch but felt the difference in gauge between the plain knit and the mixed knit and purls would give me sizing problems. So like any experienced knitter I avoided the issue by just keeping it plain.

The other project on the needles is a puppet, an Estonian sheep puppet. The project for the the end of year with the Knitters Study Group (KSG) is a sheep. I decided to work mine is some of my precious Shetland 2 ply - the stuff is not common here, and I suspect if some one did import for sale it would be super expensive and in limited colors - so for years I've been saving mine for some special project. I saw that for this project one could spin yarn or use Shetland 2 ply and it seemed right that I commit to using some somewhere and why not a sheep ? I cast on a braided edge in class but frogged that latter to work a more consistent braided edge. I have no idea what I will do with a sheep puppet - but I am happy to have the chance to knit one,

And weaving, I've started a new warp, this one is cottolin from DEA yarns. The cottolin is not as consistent as the Swedish cottolin I've bought from other places but it is cheaper, significantly cheaper. It is slubby - which I've come to realize can cause problems with the warp - when weaving. Slubs mean the weft might bounce back and the warp can rub in the reed - but the price is right for practice and learning. I want to weave tea- towels. Or dish cloths, or what ever they are called. Here I know them as tea towels, the rectangular things one uses to dry washed dishes. What I didn't know was what sett I should use, there are recommendations online, many recommendations. even patterns to weave but I didn't understand why the instructions were to do this or that. Christine - my weaving teacher - suggested I weave a sampler, an inch of warp with one sett, the next inch in the same sett but with the yarn doubled then repeat for each of the four colours. So that is what I have done - and Monday last I began weaving the waffle weave. One of my unanswered question was how much would my fabric pull up when off then loom and washed - and this lets me find out. The bonus of waffle weave is it is a standard threading -so I can also weave a plain weave and a sort of twill. So far it's just plain and waffle I have tried. My sampler is just over a meter long, which gives me play space.

Baking, these are butterscotch biscuits, comprising, butter, brown sugar, vanilla, flour and baking powder. I am always surprised that such basic ingredients results in such a tasty outcome, this week I made a single batch -which all going well will last till Wednesday. That is if I say 'don't be greedy', 'only two or three per day tops', 'leave some for the others', and my all, time favorite mother phrase "you can't have any unless there is at least once piece of fruit in your lunch box". Which I have had to amend to include instructions that the fruit must be eaten before new biscuits can be taken, I suspect that some fruit was almost along for the ride rather than intended to be consumed.

Bear is easier, he likes fruit cake and any kind of sweet loaf. So for him I made this, a boiled fruit loaf. I choose the Radio New Zealand version, here, Which is light on egs (only one), heavy on fruit (500g or a pound) and needs no special baking equipment save a pot and two loaf tins. It's not my favorite - which means I won't eat much of it, if any. But bear loves it - it might be a generational thing - fruit cake seems an older persons thing - the Cubs won't even try it. Because the fruit is simmered in a syrup of water, sugar, butter and spice the crust ends up with a almost French loaf crunch. And I think because of that the cake is moist and the fruit doesn't settle on the lower layer of the loaf,

And the new old toy? I finally upgraded my iPad 2 to an iPad Air 2, littlest cub scored the cast off iPad2 and she is in heaven with her new toy. I dithered for ages between choosing an iPad or Mac book air, especially as I wanted the 128 gig cellular iPad which came in at the same price as a Mac book air. Elder cub is horrified that I am a want a Mac, telling me that I'm paying for style (yes) and other things are better value for money (maybe but I'm not sure as other things have hidden costs like time and stress), and that he wouldn't be seen dead with one (fine by me). The Mac book air is a little larger, and a little heavier than the iPad, but not much. Wanna know what finally pushed me to stay with the iPad ? Even though the Mac book has a key board and a larger screen? Knit companion, a knitting app that I use for all my projects. I couldn't imagine using this application on a device other than the iPad, having a laptop with a keyboard and screen in front of me balanced near me and my knitting seemed wrong. Then iPad is more like a sheet of paper or a magazine, just one surface, smallish and flat. Everything else was seemingly equal but the knitting functions turned my choice. I could have kept my old iPad and bought a Mac book air - but my old iPad was slowing down and not handling software updates well. Little cub is so happy it is an improvement over her iPod touch that she isn't bothered by it being slow. It's not as slow as her previous device she told me. With the iPad a single touch wakes it up and I don't have to engage a touch pad or menus to navigate around a knitting pattern, I just touch the screen to zoom and move, I'm thinking of adding a keyboard, for blogging and emailing and such, maybe even for meeting ps and taking notes, i had one for my old iPad but never really used it so gave it to older cub who never uses it either, It was brown and black plastic - and seemed out of kilter visually and materially with the iPad. In contrast I've fallen for this by Zagg. I've not seen one in person and the one that fits the iPad air 2 isn't even on the market yet but it seems like it will make an iPad a mock Mac book air when I want a real keyboard. And it looks like it belongs to the iPad, like it was made for it not just made to fit it. The reviewers of the Zagg keyboard that fits other iPads generally love it. Know what else do I love about the new iPad - it weights next to nothing compared to the old iPad 2- so my handbag is so much lighter. And it's thin - a little over 6mm! All this came as a surpsie to me as I tend not to follow or lust after the latest of anything (except fiber and sock yarn clubs) so only do my research when I am about to buy.

Anyway - off to stir dinner, check the oven, and settle in with the Gansey knitting, my goal tonight is to finish that gusset and decide what to do about a shoulder strap, as far as size and decoration.

Na Stella.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Long weekends,

Long weekends are fantastic for catching up with all the things one should do, and all the things that one wants to do but can't quite find time for. This weekend past was Labour weekend, observed in New Zealand since 1890 to celebrate the 40 hour work week. I am always surprised that the 40 hour work week was recognized so early, and saddened that at some level it is not universal. I know I am fortunate to work in academia, where at long as the teaching is done, ones responsibilities are meet, one can sort ones own workweek. Once I worked in retail and I vividly remember that ones time was always mediated by the opening hours, and customers, breaks and time away from the counter were carefully negotiated and structured - there was no relocating to the library to work in peace. No ignoring emails until a task was complete, no scheduling a difficult task for a nominated time.

Because of Labour day this weekend was a long weekend. As well as Saturday Sunday we had Monday to play with. Saturday it was fine so little cub and I gardened, she has been anxious to get the garden under control, she wants to plant things. So we weeded and pruned. Sunday it rained - so I hauled out the drum carder and turned some odds and ends of fiber I had put aside to card into something I wanted to spin. I am always surprised at how much time carding takes. I processed 75 grams, 30 grams or so of bunny silk dyed Aqua, and 40 grams or so of merino silk dyed Lime and it took the entire afternoon,and into the early evening. The resulted batts are light fluffy and I am looking forward to spinning them. I took my time to pick out all the neps and weird bits I could, and while that was boring I think it paid off. And will pay of when I spin.

I finished the baby knit, it it's not been gifted ... so I can't really give away to much yet. I did knit a hat, I was thinking that I needed another present, and thumbing through Ply saw Woolly wormhead pattern for Wraped. I liked it but the handspun I wanted to use was too thin, weird as the hat as was designed for Handspun yarn and in a magazine for hand spinners. Still I guess if I had spun specially for the hat as the article suggested I wouldn't have that problem. The joys of retrospective choices. I also was not too fussed on the split brim on the design, Bear suggested it would be ideal for a male pony tail, - I thought the hat looked a little bonnet like - and I wasn't too sure it would read as boy hat if I was to knit in Red/Orange. The pattern uses short rows To tilt the crown backwards ...and I had to perform feats of knitterly trickery to make it work in my thinner yarn, I cast on 110 stitches on 3.25mm needles and worked out my own short row pattern based loosely on the pattern. When it came to the crown decreases I used the photo as a guide. I could see the short rows continued through the crown - so I mapped out what I thought would work, Place one set of markers to indicate where my short rows should be and another set to indicate decreases, and modified as I went. It worked but I don't know if I would get the same hat should I try it again. The yarn I used is the same as for the heart below - but for some reason (maybe it has more red in that section) won't photograph well at all, in real life it is more interesting and not so screamingly on fire and glowing with almost posterized effects.

Then being on a roll with quick fun projects I knit a cover for a heart, A bunch of local knitters are supporting a colleague who is unwell. We fabricate hearts - all a simillar shape, size and thickness cut from foam core, and decorate them in ways we hope will bring a smile. The co-ordinator, our local heart fairy, collects the hearts and stops by each day and makes sure there is one in the letter box of she who the hearts are for. As for the heart, I knit two sock toes, when they were big enough to cover the bumps of the heart I placed them side by side and knit th body of the heart, fudging first increases and then decreases as needed. At some point near the tip I slotted the heart into palce and knit it closed. Knitting around an inflexible shape is not the simplest thing I have ever done. And I was so glad when it was done. All this aside its made me wonder what the noun for a collective of knitters is? I'm thinking Tangle of knitters, feel free to offer a suggestion.

Bears sweater grows, it's now at 11 inches, pretty good progress alongside the distractions of other knitting and half days carding. And for boring stocking stitch round after round on small needles for a large sweater. I've not yet decided if I will add any texture to the chest area, I've 3 more inches to work before the gusset increases which is when I need to decide, I wasn't too fussed on how textured and bumpy the gansey patterns resulted when knit in this yarn, and the fabric spread so mucked up the gauge. I am tending towards plain, with maybe a garter ridge every so often ....but another 3" might leave me so bored I will be itching to do something interesting.

I did add bears initials (CDKB), he has four initials, whereas I have only two. My parents were so sure I was to be a boy that they didn't think of girls names ahead of time and were caught out, they came up with one, which is fine, but Bears parents were so organized they had three plus his surname! I suspect he has four because each represents a family member he was named after, whereas my family don't have that tradition of naming children after relatives. I think/hope the initials will be clearer after blocking. I added the initials as they mark the front quite nicely, and save the gansey being put on backwards, so it wasn't about legibility.

Anyway, ipad OS updated, Blogsy app reinstalled to stop the crashing and now able to blog again, it is looking like this blogging thing might become regular again.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Hello again, FO and NP

With FO being equal to finished object, and NP being a new project.

Way back in July of 2013 I started a cardigan for myself, Slanted Sleeven by Ankestrick, in a beautiful rusty read fingering weight yarn, 100% blue faced leister. The cargigan is lovely and has a slanted shoulder line inspired by the cut of Italian (and older) traditions of tailoring. Somehow the cardigan slipped off the working pile into a no-mans land of nothing, occasionally I would haul out the project and begin to knit again,

Everytime I oicked up this to knit it took time to reposition myself with where I was and what was to be done. Finally I began to dream of new projects and knew that my slanted Sleeven was a gate, sure I could cast on something new, but I knew I wouldn't actually cast on a cardigan until my slanted Sleeven was done. I took Slanted away with me to Christchurch, the only project on the road and now it is done. Blocked, buttons and being worn.

Also done is little cubs new safety hat, in hindsight I could have made the hat longer as I feel the turn up is a tad mean, I like them to be oversized chunky, but little up is adamant it is perfect. There is a chart, the beginnings of a pattern, and I thought I was being all clever making a reversible chart, one that would do for knitting the crown of the hat, and the chart could be turned180degrees and be read for the decreases. I now see there is a flaw in my plan - and need to fix the chart ....but for those who have asked if there is a pattern for this - there soon will be. There is also discussion about making one with a pink inside and lime green outer. I do have some lime green in stash. I feel that little cub has been so well looked after at school that a warm hat would be a great gift to her teacher.

And the new object? Well two, the weaving progresses, officially class is Monday night, but with a table loom one ca weave or work outside of class hours. In the last class I tied the warp to the front beam, and began to weave. Yesterday I wove at home, and I'm pleased with the way it is turning out. What I love about being guided by experts is that they have experience to suggest solutions to the problems beginners create. I brought handspun to weave with, one skein chain plied so sections of straight colour, the other three skeins three plied and mostly barberpoled three shades of blue. Christine's suggestions was to weave a narrow scarf, with one inch stripes in the warp, and to use the barberpole for every second warp stripe, and also for the warp. She is clever - the warp stripes provide a linear focus. Beyond that Christine suggested a twill weave that shifted direction with the warp stripes - making my rookie yarn choices interesting in a good way. And yes - there is something odd at the point the weaving turns over the front beam, I've checked and checked in real life this dosnt show, but in a photo it shows. The plies of that one ice of yarn sit oddly in the weaving there. Time to stop and wait for Monday to check in with Christine.

'Tother new object is a gansey for Bear. Ages ago at the Bruce woolen mill he spotted a silver grey yarn that he liked and bought enough for a sweater. Seems timely to knit it for him now that Sleeven is off the needles, the yarn is pale silver Gotland fiber, and I've been swatching. I started on 3.25 mm needles, worked a garter band and a ribbed band, moved to 3mm, then 2.75 mm and finally swatched some gansey patterns in knit and purl combinations before ending with a garter rib and bind off. I don't think bear believed it was a swatch, he kept asking if it was a sleeve. The kind of swatching that occurs when planning and developing is totally different to the swatch that is worked before following a designers pattern.

The swatch went to knit night, and was passed around for feedback. The prefered gauge was on 2.75 and 3mm needles, 2.75 for the look of the fabric, and 3mm for the feel of the fabric. I decided edges and ending were to be 2.75mm and the body on 3mm needles. While at knit night I wound half the yarn into center pull balls on my nostephinne.

I washed the swatch, and dried it, and then I planned, using a schematic drawn from one of bears favorite sweaters, this provides the length, width, and other details so I don't have to guess what he wants. Yes I can use body measurements, but somehow that still involves guessing the amount of ease and where on the body things should sit.



And I've begun, the garter welts are done, and on to a small band of garter rib above the welts. This is to be a gansey with traditional shadeing gussets at the underarm, and his initials, but the yarn is a two ply wollen so the knit and purl patterns don't show up so well. The fabric fluffs, and I expect will continue to fluff, that fluffy haze will of secure fiddly texture knitting so I may as well avoid planning features that won't show. If I'm bored by the time I knit to the chest I will do fancy stuff - if not then garter welts separating garter rib will be enough. Simple is sometimes the best.