Sunday, January 14, 2007

Testing, testing...

I'm currently over at TypePad, experimenting with their thirty day free trial and a new blog identity. I don't know that I'll stay there - the jury is still very much out - but we'll try anything once. (Some things we'll try several dozen times...)


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Stash IN

Yes, yes, I know, but this comes under rule 2c. I knew I was going to need more yarn to finish Lily, and this is it.

Since the Debbie Bliss Maya in which I've knit the body is discontinued, and would probably be too chunky for the crocheted edging anyway, this was always going to be a fun match; but I think 1 strand Patons Diploma Gold in a very dark, heavy green and one strand of Cygnet Wool Rich 4 ply in a lighter, khaki-er green held together will do. The DK is thicker than the 4-ply, which sort of means they match the balance of colours in the body, and it all seems to work OK together. I was originally planning to ply the two yarns together, but I think I'll see how just holding them works; I'm thinking it will look less regular that way, which I like.

Photos later, as I'm at work now, and though I do have my camera, I'm not photographing yarn (or the completed sleeve that was brought along as colour comparison) in the workplace.

Stash damage:
      Patons diploma gold, dark green:      100 g, 240 m
Cygnet wool rich 4ply, sagey khaki: 50 g, 205 m

Oh, and Mary?? You can quit feeling guilty about using some of my green Maya; it is indeed the same yarn, but I had plenty to finish with and enough for seaming up, too. And I don't think I'd have had enough to crochet the edging in this stuff even with that smidge - even if I'd wanted to!

ETA: The picture.

Dark, but still a good colour match

Monday, January 08, 2007

Spotted today, in the gym...

...a poster advertising the fitness tests that are free to members. Amongst other virtues, we are assured that the fitness test is
"totally non-evasive"
Love it!

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

New skirt!

Actually, it's not that new; I finished it in time to wear for our Stitch 'n' Bitch Christmas lunch (which was on December 1), but at the time I didn't think I liked it much. It's been sitting in my wardrobe awaiting a second opinion, so I got J to take a photo or two, and he likes it, and, looking at the photos, I don't think it's that bad, either.

The pattern is Vogue V7607, view C; I originally bought the pattern for the other view(s) with the cascade at the front of the skirt, which I still intend to make, but in this case I had fabric to get rid of, and thought it would suit the other style better.

The fabric is a lightweight cotton jersey, and was originally a very vivid green colour; a bit like lego green, but lighter. Pretty hideous. I overdyed with Dylon machine dye, in a burgundy colour; I was aiming for a warm, chocolatey brown, and I don't think I missed by far!

The reason for the amused grin in the previous photo is that there was someone else wanting in on the action...

Friday, January 05, 2007

Knit what you love; love what you knit

Dawn's birthday post has got me thinking today; or rather it has returned me to a thought that pops up over and over again. I'll bet that anyone who reads knit-blogs at all regularly is very familiar with statements like "this is going slowly; I hate moss stitch", or "not going too well, I do not like basketweave". If you are going to 'knit what you love, love what you knit', are you talking about loving the process or the product? Or do you get ultra-picky and only knit garments you adore in stitches you find fun? Just because you're a knitter, does that mean you have to knit all the sweaters you own? Well, that'd be daft. It might happen that way for some people, but it doesn't *have* to. But where do we draw the line between "You'd have to be mad to knit all that [whatever] stitch at such a tiny gauge" and "But I could knit that for myself"? I know some people who seem to knit stuff purely for the joy of knitting; I know two old ladies who give everything they knit to charity. I'm not suggesting they get nothing out of the product, but the process seems to be the main thing, and the product secondary. I know there is at least one very famous blogger out there who has piles of beautiful, beautiful sweaters she has never worn. Personally, I'm at the other extreme. I am inspired to knit by the article that will spring fully formed (humour me here) from my needles at the end of the work. I think that's why I find it so much easier to knit for myself or very dear loved ones. I like to be able to picture the garment on the intended wearer (me) as I go; see how it suits them (me) and how it is enjoyed by them (me) and admired by others (love admiration). I love the process, too (wouldn't do it if I didn't), but the product is the inspiring jump-off point. Why don't we enjoy some knit-processes anyway? (Apart from considerations like 'this yarn is so rough it rubs blisters on my fingers' or 'working at this gauge is physically painful'). Are we just too impatient? Or too easily bored? Too easily distracted, maybe? (You know who you are...) Mary-Lou suggested in a comment a few weeks ago that moss stitch is so much of a bugbear for some people because it grows s--l--o--w--l--y. And it's true - apart from all the extra time taken swinging the yarn between the needles to switch between knit and purl all the time (and let's face it, you have to do that just as much with 1x rib), a moss stitch swatch will be wider and shorter than a stockinette one made with the same yarn, needles, number of stitches and rows etc. etc.1 So are we all *progress* knitters, then? We might like the product; we might love the process; but if we don't see the progress we expect we start to fret? Why would that be?? Surely a slow project gives us even better value for money out of all that expensive, luscious yarn? Are we worried that the rest of the stash will run away if we don't finish this now??? Folks who are knitting a project on a deadline clearly have an easy answer to this one, but I think most of us knit most of our projects on an easy-going timeline, not really tied down at all. Why not just buy a sweater that's in a stitch you don't like knitting? Well, I guess by the time you have seen the picture or visualised your FO, the concept is actually too detailed; too complete for you ever to find anything ready-made that matches it. Plus, some stitches (like basketweave and moss stitch, come to think of it) are relatively hard to do on machines, if I remember correctly. How about this idea: for a while, the lust for the finished product tides us through the process. If the process takes too long, the product-lust wears off and we want to start something new. But that sounds horribly as if we don't actually like the process at all! Well, that can't be right. We know we love to knit! ________________________________ 1 There's a reason for that - the purl side of a stitch is bulkier than the knit side. If all the purl sides are crammed together, like in stockinette, the fabric is pushed 'taller' by all the stacked bumps - that's why it curls. It's the easiest way for both sides of the stitches to be the size they want. In moss stitch, the bumps are very efficiently packed and the fabric can relax down to a shorter height - and not curl. Garter stitch shows this, too.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Last Big Splurge

How's this for a splurge of colour? Each of those bundles is a group of three skeins of very fine two-ply. As far as I can tell, there are no dye-lots in this yarn, and each skein is a subtly different colour. I spent my whole lunch-hour sorting these bargain £1 skeins into closely-matched groups of three one day at the end of November. The yarn is a very fine two-ply and completely unlabelled, and I think it's supposed to be used for crewelwork or some other kind of embroidery: However, this little lot is going for two trips through the spinning wheel before I do anything with it. First I'm going to tighten the existing ply, then I'm going to run those groups of three back through the wheel to produce a six-ply yarn. Because none of the yarns are quite the same colour, I should end up with some wonderful rich, heathered colours. Afterwards, I plan something stranded and stunning. I'm vaguely hoping to have enough for a sweater, having been very inspired at the time by Bohus designs. Even after futher plying, this will still be a rather fine yarn, so this will be a rather long-term project. But I'm very much looking forwards to it!

Monday, January 01, 2007

2006 retrospective/2007 prospective

Happy New Year everyone! Looking back at last year's roundup post and skimming through the year's archive, I see that in 2006 I have:
  • finished three out of four items that were on the needles in January last year
  • fulfilled exactly one of my six January goals
  • finished 9 knitting projects (compared with 14 in 2005)
  • started spinning
  • been ill
  • travelled to Canada
  • done very little sewing
This year, I have finished:
  • The Triple Mohair Triangle
  • Ice Maiden
  • Minnie (though she still needs corrective surgery)
  • Lakes for J
  • 1 pair Jaywalkers
  • Mask
  • Asymmetric rib pullover
  • Oslo socks (plain stockinette)
  • Jude
Still on the needles from last year are:
  • lacy socks in Lorna's Laces shepherd sock, Somerset
On the needles from 2006 are:
  • 'Lily' - and the good news is that I have enough yarn to finish the main pieces!
  • 'Making Waves' socks - and I finally caved and bought replacment needles!
I took up card-making and bought and assembled a new spinning wheel. I have spun enough yarn for two sweaters, two pairs of socks and a funky hat or something. And today, I documented my stash. It is scary. Facts about my stash:
  • It weighs more than half of what I do
  • Unravelled and laid out, it would stretch 93 km.
  • About half of it is stored (very snugly and securely) in the loft
  • It's actually not as bad as I feared.
Having signed up to knit only from my stash this year, I will be keeping an eye on the progress of stash reduction. Last year, I aimed to halve my stash during 2006; I didn't come close. In fact, I think the stash probably grew in that time. This year, I am not planning a monthly schedule of projects; instead, I am going to shop in my stash whenever I get near the end of my current project and figure out what inspires me. I almost certainly won't get anywhere near halving it, but I hope it will shrink somewhat noticeably!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Solstice Greetings!

A bit of a revamp to mark the darkest day of the year in this hemisphere! I'm still having a few CSS issues, noticeably the fact that no matter what I do, the content in my right hand pane insists on hiding waaaay down there below all my current posts. I assume that this means the whole pane is actually hiding down there, because the total width of my panes is greater than that of the screen as a whole, but no matter how I tweak the numbers, it remains shy and retiring. Incidentally, it works great on the Blogger preview. Anyone shedding any light on this can take a virtual mince pie and my thanks as a reward. In more fibre-related news, after seeing Mary's recent post, I've decided to sign up for Knit From Your Stash 2007. This really shouldn't pose any difficulties at all - I have more than enough stash to do it - it's purely my resolve that is in question. I too am tweaking the original rules, as follows: 1. My Knit-From-Your-Stash-a-Thon will start January 1, 2007 and run for the whole year. I have no reason to stop partway through, and plenty stash. 2. I will not buy any yarn during that period, with the following exceptions: 2.a. Sock yarn does *so* count. It doesn't in the original rules, but it will in mine. I have enough sock yarn to knit for a small army. 2.b. I may buy yarn to knit specific gifts for specific people, as long as that person is not me! 2.b.i. I may purchase yarn to be given as a gift, as long as the recipient is not me! 2.c. If I am knitting something and run out of yarn, I may purchase enough to complete the project. 2.d. I get two "Get Out of Jail Free" cards - the original challengers/challengees only have one each - I am running this for a whole year, after all, and would hate to go to Woolfest or any other fibre festival with zero purchasing power. 2.e. It's possible that I will start learning to weave this year. Not very likely, but possible. I can buy yarn for a specific weaving project, as required, immediately before that project is due to start. I will most definitely *not* build a stash of weaving yarn! 3. I am allowed to receive gifts of yarn. 4. Spinning fiber of any sort is exempt, but I will try not to increase the size of my stash in this time.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Progress on Lily

It's true - moss stitch projects *do* seem to go on forever.
knit so far
But will the yarn?
yarn remaining
I have only just over two balls left - plus the swatch. I have knit the back and both sleeves. This photo shows how much of the back was knit with one full ball of yarn:
Do you see the symmetrical pattern on the shoulder blades?
Looks like almost exactly half to me. Still down to the wire, but with somewhat more confidence now, I feel. Incidentally, do you see the difference between the fabric of the left sleeve and the other bits I've knit so far?
The ball used for this sleeve had areas of much lighter yarn - almost a bright, clear yellow - which show up as those bright nubs in the fabric. I noticed that that skein looked different when I wound them up, so I purposefully used it for the sleeve; I didn't want my two fronts to be noticeably different like that. Oh - my dog likes sofas. And blankets. And blankets and sofas both together.
What a softie!
She didn't get told off for the spindle incident; by the time of discovery, it was way too late for her to understand what she'd done wrong. She's OK, and that's the important thing. Oh, and I used the inserts from the chewed spindle to repair another spindle whose inserts I'd mangled, so I still have the same number to play work with.

Friday, December 08, 2006


At first, we thought that this was the one that originally had yarn on it. I am happy to report that the one with several tens of metres of merino singles on it was later discovered under the coffee table, and that Kita is completely fine. The little monster.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Holding my breath

All that moss stitch? Yeah. But why is it worse (or better) to knit than 1x1 rib anyway? And whilst you're pondering that, I'll try and whizz the statistics as determined by my rather inaccurate kitchen scales by you all quick-like, in the hopes that they'll be better that way. Knit so far: back and one sleeve Weight so far: 330 g Weight of yarn remaining: 330g And then, there is the swatch, which is good for another 10 g. Yes, I weighed it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Next up...

...Debbie Bliss Maya. This is another yarn that I was totally, utterly unable to prevent myself from buying. A bit like the sock yarn, really. It didn't help that Get Knitted acquired lots of the stuff just after it was discontinued, and had it at really fantastic prices. Still do, some of it. I have an embarrassing quantity of the stuff. I think the current tallies run at something like: - 10 balls of dark green/mid green/camel variegated - 10 balls of purple/maroon/fuschia variegated - 5 balls hot pink almost solid - 5 purple almost solid - an unknown number (read: I can't remember and I'm too lazy to look) of 'peach' variegated. It seems that I have this ...problem... with handpainted and variegated yarns. I see it in the ball (or the skein... in fact, particularly in the skein...) and I just droool. Drooling is embarrassing, especially in public, and the only way to stem the flow is to buy the stuff. Obviously. But I don't particularly like the variegation once knitted up. Pooling and flashing drive me nuts, and I don't like horizontal stripes, as a rule. (There are exceptions. You will see...) Cables don't show up in variegated yarn. Short colour runs in the yarn, like the Maya has, are better, but still hint at that stripiness, really. The solution appears to be moss stitch. It breaks up the stripes, pushing the current colour visually up and down between the rows.
The same yarn, swatched in both stockinette and moss stitch
Of course, Debbie Bliss book seven has no adult sweaters in the Maya, in moss stitch. There is a sweater, 'Lily', knit in moss stitch but a different yarn. It's quite cute, though:
Lily, from Debbie Bliss #7
I particularly like the fact that there is waist shaping not at the edges of the back piece, but set in about a quarter of the way from each edge. Of course, the yarn is different, and the gauge is different. This means maths, but, more scarily, a definite uncertainty as to whether or not I have enough yarn. I actually started knitting on this a couple of weeks ago, and have completed the back and probably just over half a sleeve, and I still don't know if I'll have enough yarn. I suspect not, even if I do the trim in a different yarn. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed as I knit. I really don't want to have to rip out that much moss stitch.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Going for chunky: adventures in 2-ply

been spinnin' again
I haven't spun for over a month - since plying up this little lot (about enough for one sock), I have been actively avoiding making enough for another sock. I don't know if it's the fibre prep, or the fact that it's been stored for too long in a too small box - but I found it a bit of a pig to spin; it wouldn't seem to want to draft smoothly. But - being project monogamous - I haven't wanted to start spinning anything else. This seems silly. I like spinning, so I need to spin the top, or spin something else. So I decided to spin it differently. I tried for a heavier weight yarn; I've been playing with some Debbie Bliss Maya, an aran weight single, slightly thick and thin, and I was wondering if I could spin something like that. Turns out I have difficulty spinning thicker. And putting up with variations in thickness of my singles. I didn't manage to make singles *that* thick - or even that consistent - and I was definitely overspinning, so I plied it:
Because plying is done in the opposite twist direction to spinning singles, it removes some of the twist from the singles. I think I'm used to spinning singles for plying, and it's now pretty much balanced. There are thick bits and thin bits; barberpole bits and bits where two sections of the same colour met up. The unevenness of the yarn is pretty obvious, but I really, really like it. Some of the most interesting bits happened when a thin bit of single met a thicker bit. When this happens, the thin bit seems to travel closer to the axis of the plied yarn, and the thicker one spirals around it:
'parallel' strands in the left box; not on the right!
I found I can control - or eliminate - this effect by gripping the thicker strand more tightly than the thinner one. Then, the two strands twist evenly again. I like this. The more tension I put on a single, the closer to the axis of the finished yarn it will lie. That means that I can produce a spiralling yarn from two singles of equal thickness, an even yarn from two differing singles, or, at the extreme, wrap a single or an unspun fibre around a core fibre - to make a corespun yarn. Cool.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

It's not a proper weekend unless.... end up muddy to the knees.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A sweater in record time

It might not feel quite like real knitting, but 20mm needles make for a really, really quick sweater. Less than 72 hours after starting, I have an FO. Schedule as follows: Wednesday: Knit back Thursday: Knit first sleeve, check remaining yarn (halfway done now, after all), start knitting front. Friday: Finish knitting front; knit second sleeve. Seam shoulders and knit collar. Saturday: Finish seaming and sew in ends. Get boyfriend to photograph result.
Hey, Juuude...
Yarn: Rowan Biggy Print, colour 'Troll' (now discontinued) Pattern: 'Jude', from Rowan's booklet 'bigger picture'. Should have had a longer collar, but I was short by a ball of yarn. I'd love to say I've enjoyed knitting this, but I can't. The needles felt like telegraph poles and I felt like I signalling planes into land, I was waving my arms around so much. J laughed at me. My fellow SnB'ers laughed at me. I refused to have my photo taken whilst knitting it, so that no-one else could be presented with the ludicrousness of the picture. I have some more biggy print to suffer through knit up, and then I will probably sell the darn needles. On the other hand, I really quite like the sweater. It is a wonderful, warm, easy-wear knit that would probably look better on me if I were about 2 stone lighter, so that the two extra stone that the chunky fabric lends to me were cancelled out. But I don't care; it's comfy and warm (oh, boy, is it warm!) and has made a significant reduction in the volume of my stash.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Stash in, stash out...

So, I have a few things up at the Destash site right now. Some yarn, some spinning wheel parts... There's a bunch more stacked in a corner of the sewing room, too. If no-one's interested, they'll go to eBay or be donated to a knitting charity. In a way, it goes totally against my natural grain to be pushing yarn out the door. I paid for this stuff; I wanted it so badly that I got a little dizzy when I placed the order. I'm sure you know how it is. But... I'm sick of having so much stuff I can no longer organise it (a very affluent condition, I know, but denial won't make anything better). Part of me thinks I ought to use this stuff to knit donations for some of the incredibly worthwhile knitting charities out there. But knitting is my hobby, and I enjoy it most when I knit for me. As you will have gathered from the above, I'm not short of a bob or two. I'm not on the bread line (though current circumstances mean that the budget is being watched for once). But I am time-poor. I would rather donate money (or the yarn itself!) to charities, and keep my knitting time for myself. And yet... and yet... Yarn seems also to have flowed the wrong way; from Destash into my home. Tell me it's not beautiful, though:
10 skeins silk garden. I am weak.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I'm not sure this is *really* knitting...

20mm needles are the *wierdest* things to try and handle after knitting with 2.5mm DPNs for a week. The largest needles I have ever used before have been the 8mm ones used for Mask, and I found those uncomfortably large to handle. Knitting with 20mm needles requires completely different movements to 'normal' knitting, at least for me. You can't just use your hands, you have to move your whole arms. There's certainly no such thing as a small movement! But at least it grows quickly. This is one evening's work; mobile phone included for scale:
'Jude' from Rowan's 'Bigger Picture'

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hey! Lookie!

Sunday, November 12, 2006


From cast on to finished in just over a week: a full size pair of socks
they fit, too
Before knitting these, I didn't know how long it took me to knit a pair of socks. Normally, I am project-monogamous, except for socks. Socks don't count. Socks are commuter-knitting, or portable knitting, and they don't get very much continuous attention. As a result, socks drag on and take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to knit. And then - THEN - you have to knit the second one. I thought I didn't like knitting socks. It wasn't that I hated it, but there was definite ambivalence there. Casting on for a pair of socks felt like signing up to some huge, ongoing project that would drag on and on, long after I was fed up of it. This was rapidly becoming an issue, because I cannot resist buying sock yarn. The skeins are so small! And so pretty! And so small! How can that count towards stash? Or even consume storage space? But whaddaya know? With a bit of focus, a pair of socks can be complete in just over a week. Guess that's why I like my monogamy, then.
happy feet

Thursday, November 09, 2006


As Mary pointed out, there was no photo with the last post. So without further ado, here it is:
the fastest sock in the south-east
...and, as a bonus, here it is posing next to it's nascent twin - set fair to being identical, you'll note! In fact, there's one more repeat of the colour sequence knit up now, which takes sock #2 just up to the point of starting to knit the heel flap:
sock #2 - and sock #1 - with wine
Do you think I can finish a pair of socks in a week?? ...maybe, but probably not *this* pair.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Personal Best Sock

This might not be the most complex sock, or the most beautiful that I have ever made, but I think it's the quickest to date. Cast on: 03/11/06 Cast off: 07/11/06 It's just a simple, top down sock with a ribbed cuff and standard heel flap construction, worked over 64 stitches on 2.5 mm needles. But it's amazing how fast it's taken shape. Maybe it's the famous motivational effect of those wonderful self-patterning yarns, or maybe it's just the fact that I haven't been knitting anything else in the meantime. The yarn is one of the Regia Jaquard ones; I thought the colourway was 'Helsinki', but looking at Web Of Wool's site, I think it is actually 'Oslo'. I like it. Now to cast on all over again; that's the thing with socks. Even when you're finished, you have to start again. Why don't I feel that way about sweater pieces, then? Even sleeves?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Down to zero

Do you think it's worrying that days - mere days - after returning to work, my Bloglines backlog is down to zero? For those that don't already know, I've been signed off with CFS for the last few months - and when I was at home all the time, I simply couldn't keep up with my blogroll. Now, two hours at work a day (plus about another hour commuting), and it's all taken care of. Oh, and I've made a yarn purchase, too. But it was from Destash, which hardly counts, ne? Gotta watch out for that habitual behaviour creeping in again.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Brittany Bitch

I think these things are supposed to come with a several-year warranty. I know that I am not the only person to have experienced this tragedy recently. And I'm damn sure that these needles are fairly pricey and not supposed to be disposable.
They're certainly not supposed to do this only 2 inches into the second sock ever knit on them. I'm sorry about the focus and exposure issues; I was too peeved to do proper photography. And, for the record, I'm not a 'gripper' or 'squeezer' of needles, even when cabling. And I'm not a tight knitter, either - I almost always get gauge at the suggested needle size.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Meet Skinny Annie tailor's dummy. She's a permanent occupant of my sewing room, and has modelled many odd things in her time. She was particularly helpful when I was selling belly dance hipscarves on eBay, and spent most of a year wearing a long, full, black skirt and a tight black top to better show the colour contrast.
very fetching
She's spent a significant amount of this summer wearing the above outfit, though the hat is a recent addition: a sundress that needs 'altering' into a skirt, and Minnie, who is awaiting fairly radical surgery. I'm not sure how she got the name; it's not like anyone ever speaks it out loud. But it appears to have stuck, in my head, at least. But now, she is wearing my newest sweater, the Asymmetrical Rib Pullover from Loop-d-Loop. This was a fun and satisfying project, and used up the Noro Iro I had lying around from my failed Olympic bid.
The closest she'll ever get to real arms
The sweater pattern is gorgeous - the construction is fascinating and so, so clever. One thing to watch for, though - it's important to get both stitch and row gauge, because part of this is knit on the bias, and if the ratio doesn't work out right, your diagonals won't be at the right angle. I didn't get row gauge - I had 120% of the rows per inch that I should have had - but I fudged it. The shaping sections instruct you to increase/decrease on each end of every right side row - all I did was NOT shape on every 5th right side row - that way, I have the right number of shapings per inch. Make sense? I love the finished garment - and I've had a lot of compliments on it. If I was to change anything about the pattern, I would have moved the armhole on piece 2 higher (i.e. closer to the neck). It's slightly too dropped for my personal preference, so the sleeve is a bit 'dolman' and slightly restricts movement. The Noro Iro, apart from the row gauge issue, was a wonderful match for this project; the unusual construction means that the stripes run up/down or diagonally across the body, pointing in to the waist - all of which is so much more flattering than the horizontal lines you usually see. The resulting fabric is sturdy but not uncomfortably bulky, and on 6.5mm needles, this was a pretty fast knit.
fabric close-up
I still don't think Iro is going to be one of my first choice yarns though; it's hard work. There is little elasticity to it, and along with the bulkiness, it's quite a workout. I did acclimatise after the first two or three training knitting sessions, but it was this quality that made it an unsuitable choice for intensive Olympic knitting, and still counts against it now.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Spinning away

Oh, poot! I can't believe I haven't posted for almost a month.... It's not like I haven't been doing anything; life has been crazy-busy. Hmm, maybe that's the problem.... I have been both knitting and spinning; in my protracted absence I have both started and finished a sweater (the same one!) and finished two socks (but not of the same pair). Photos to follow. I've also been making good friends with my new Ashford, and made a start on the six (SIX!!) monstrous chunks of Lorna's Laces roving that I bought in a fit of avarice at least six months ago. I have two in each of three colourways, and can be seen in their bags right here:
Clockwise from top left: Georgetown, Desert Flower and Lakeview (I think)
So far, I have spun up and plied a skein of roughly sockweight yarn in the 'Desert Flower' colourway. I have to say that I'm not enjoying spinning it nearly as much as my previous project (did I blog that?? Must look up...), which truly drafted effortlessly and was wonderful-squishy-soft to handle. I don't know if it's because this has been stored for a while, in somewhat cramped conditions, but the fibre seems rather... compacted. Not felted - not quite - but it grabs itself more than I'd really like, and drafts in fits and starts. Also, there are little 'neppy' fragments occasionally; these I am sure are my fault, as I think they have been caused by friction on the top at some point. I'm hoping I get used to it - or get a better idea for dealing with it - because spinning six bags of this stuff isn't particularly inspiring right now. That said, I *am* enjoying it; I'm learning, learning, learning all the time (about fibre prep and my new wheel and spinning in general), and I'm producing yarn that I'm mostly pleased with. This skein is Navajo-plied to keep the colours mostly together; I think it would look too 'muddy' if I allowed them to mingle randomly, although I love the 'barber's pole' sections where the colour sections join.
a quick shot of the plied yarn on the bobbin
skeined up; about 140m of sock-weight three ply
The Desert Flower colourway is available in their own Shepherd Sock yarn, too, and looks like this in the skein: I adore the colours, but really don't want to knit socks that looks like this: I'm hoping that because I've been splitting and pre-drafting the roving kinda randomly, that any pooling that does occur will not be as regular. But now, I need to decide what to do with this. I think I would like to knit a pair of socks in the yarn spun from this roving, but this was my first foray with the Ashford, and some of the earlier joins in the singles were very poor indeed. Once plied, they're probably structurally OK (can you feel the confidence??), but it has left ugly 'tufts' on the yarn that I wouldn't want in a sock. So I need to decide whether to do something totally random with this, as a single skein, and to spin up more yarn for socks; or to use this skein and just do one more...? I suppose I could try sampling this yarn to see what a sock would look like, and then spin two more skeins... Any ideas for what to do with 140m of colourfully variegated sock weight yarn?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

New Knitty!

...and in my opinion, it's got more to be excited about than the last couple of issues. Not that they were *bad*, but to me, just not *thrilling* Ironically, some of the socks look fascinating - ironically given that the last issue specialised in 'extremities'. The two that catch me particularly hard are SoxOn2Stix (innovative knit-flat technique, adapted from machine knitting) There's a lovely, graphic felted bag - somehow refreshingly different from the ubiquitous felted bags that seem to be a mandatory feature of every issue of every knitting magazine these days - and a wrap that looks intriguingly different... The texture reminds me of those deeply grooved tree barks you sometimes see; I'd love to see this worked up in deep browns with a touch of grey worked in. If this one hits the blogosphere as hard as, say, Clapotis (I don't really have to link that, do I? Oh, OK then...) I think we'll see a similarly amazing variation in the final object as interpreted by each and every knitter out there. I love Lizard Ridge, and might have to adapt the idea to use up all those 'leftover' bits of yarn I can never quite bring myself to throw out. Ivy and Viveka are both really interesting looking sweaters, but I will probably wait to see how they turn out for other knitters before committing myself; I think it's the photography in each case, but I get the feeling that something is just slightly 'off'. No offence to the photographers, of course; it's just not giving me quite all the information I want. Avast is a lovely, basic, bloke's sweater with a hint of detail. I know J is never going to wear an all-over cable unless I force him to don it at gunpoint, and even a single, central cable is probably just 'too seventies' for him - but this might eeease him in gently to the concept... In fact, I might have to make one of these for myself; no law against it, is there? The sleeves on Serrano deserve special mention - lovely split cuffs! And, looking at the rest of the cardigan - oooh, no zipper! I know some people will *leap* at that opportunity... I think this could be a lovely layering piece, just as the designer suggests, but for me, it's launched too late for this year. I want to be wearing it *now*, not thinking about knitting it. Maybe next year... Oh - and a knitted skirt! So very few of them work, but this one is tempting. As for the rest of it - well, I might have a 'why I didn't have it on my faves list' post later (though I will mention now that I still don't think there's any excuse for knit, non-felted bags, unless they're mesh or something) - but for now, no more bitchin'. More knittin'!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Nice yarn, shame about the patterns

It's been a while since my attention was caught so completely by a yarn that I spontaneously catch my breath; I'm not impressed by the new Rowan range, and there seems to be a lot of copy-catting going on amongst the B-list brands. But this did the trick:
The colours! The lustre! The soft, delicious hand! (The price tag!)
OK, you'd have to be doing something wrong to make 100% pure silk yarn not look luscious, especially if it looks like simple singles (I haven't dissected it; I have a sneaking suspicion that it might be corespun for strength), but this hits all the buttons... I liked it so much that I went looking for the accompanying pattern book. Ohh... well. There are a few garments in there that I would consider knitting, but I'm not sure if they're right for the yarn. Admittedly, I'm not sure what *is* right for the yarn - maybe just leaving it in skeins is enough. It doesn't help that there is no hint of lustre in the book's photographs; this is a lustrous yarn, folks; if you don't want to play to it, at least don't hide it! Nothing p!sses people off more than finding they've knit a garment that has been misrepresented in the photographs (believe me: ask about Minnie sometime. She's still awaiting surgery...). In fact, in some of the photographs, the yarn looks really tired and sad:
It's hard to believe that this yarn is from the same line as this, where even the black shines:
To me, this yarn calls for luscious, draping forms, simple stitches that will let the material speak for itself; perhaps a draping, ruffled flounce or two (think Garland from Rowan's Classic Garden, though the quantity of yarn and thus cost of knitting this garment in this yarn would be prohibitive; I only mortgage my house, thanks!) I'm sure Kim Hargreaves, with her understanding of simple form and elegant drape could come up with some fantastic ideas.
These two, I think, are not the way to use this stuff:
Can you imagine cables and bobbles in high-lustre yarn? You'd look like a disco ball...
My two favourites from the book:
though I'm still worried about expecting silk to have the kind of memory that allows ribbing not to sag out horribly after a while... And the neckline on that wrap top is already looking... odd.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

An Ashford in the family

Ready... Set... Go!!
I meant to blog more fully about the construction of this wheel, but nothing very interesting happened, and anyway, I was so absorbed I lost track of my camera! I've actually owned this wheel for a couple of months now; it came as a kit in unfinished wood. Now, normally me and delayed gratification are just fine together, but not in this case. Each piece of this beauty (and a few more - see later) had to be sanded and waxed1. I'm not a woodworker; it interests me, but I'm not 'into' it. Anyway, it's now finally together, and it is so easy to treadle and so quiet compared to my other wheel that I spent about two hours spinning Lorna's Laces top on it last night without noticing any fatigue at all. The wheel, I love; the top, I'm not so sure about. It's probably because it's been stashed for ages, but it feels pretty compacted and refuses to draft. I'm trying to pre-draft, but even that isn't helping all that much; it sticks and jumps and won't draft smoothly. If I want to spin this evenly, I need to find a way to help open it out again. I'd think about carding or combing, but the roving's already space-dyed, and I'm not sure I want to mix it all up. ________________________________________________________________ 1 OK, I could have just assembled it without finishing - the wood is nice and smooth anyway - but I just *know* that within months it would be looking grubby and sorry for itself, especially around the treadles and those places where one's hands repeatedly touch... So I wanted to seal the wood, so that all muck and rubbish would not soak into the grain and would be easily removed.

Monday, September 11, 2006

by the skin of my teeth

Stu's sweater was finished in time for him to take it away with him when he left my house - just. I'd hoped to finish it in time for his arrival Wednesday afternoon, so ended up weaving in ends in preparation for steaming and seaming at 06:30 Wednesday morning.... (since I also had a collar to knit, I'm sure you can see where this is going). For a start, weaving in the ends on that double-lizard back was no mean feat: But hey: it only took four hours I had the shoulders seamed, the sleeves attached and the collar picked up and about three centimetres worked by the time Stu arrived. It took a car journey and a film (V for Vendetta; still excellent the second time round - watch it!) to finish the collar, which is a tall turtleneck, and I got up early the next morning (again!) to seam the sides and under arms. I failed utterly to take any photos of the finished garment, modelled or otherwise, but I did get snaps of this pair of lizard-heads, which together show the importance of designing your intarsia motif with the direction of all those little 'V's in mind (I reversed the motif for the back of the sweater; the original designer got it right!):

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Out of time: send new schedule please

Well, still haven't finished knitting the back of Stu's sweater. I have finished all the intarsia, and have only about ten rows of plain stockinette to go. I usually (read: always) fully wet-block a sweater before seaming and finishing. I did it once; it works; I keep doing it. However, there's not going to be anywhere near enough time to do that before Stu arrives tomorrow at around 3pm. This sweater could really do with a blocking just to even out the slight variations in the intarsia tension; will a steam block do the trick, do you think? This is a pure wool yarn (Rowan Cork) which has been overdyed by me; is steam a bad idea? Hoping to finish the main knitting and get the ends sewn in this evening. Everything except fingers crossed (it interferes with the knitting, you know). UPDATE: The knitting on the back is finished.... There's a lot of ends to weave in, though

Monday, September 04, 2006

Down to the wire

Anyone remember Mask? (No, not the film; the sweater. Scroll down a bit!) This is my oldest knitterly WIP; I started making it for my brother's Christmas last year, and put it on hold as I wasn't going to have time to knit for my other brother, too. Parents got knit gifts last year; everyone else got bought ones. This is now officially a year old, as I started planning early last year! I decided that this would be Stuart's birthday gift instead; his birthday's at the end of July. He's coming to visit on Wednesday, and I'd really like to be able to present him with his pressie when he gets here. The front is now done: And both sleeves: And the back looks like this: So my schedule is as follows:
  • Today (Monday): finish back, wash and block
  • Tuesday: let it dry; start seaming
  • Wednesday: finish seaming, knit neckband.
Because I'm knitting in Cork on 8mm needles, this is a quick knit. Because of the intarsia, it isn't. I *might* make it; I hope so. Further bulletins as events warrant...