Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Note to self

Do not attempt to knit projects requiring concentration while tired and watching television. It will result in having to perform emergency surgery on Pomatomus socks. Yes, I've screwed them up, somehow offsetting a decrease by three stitches. It is not good.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Biting My Tongue

I finished another project this morning. The mini-Who scarf is now done, and there is not a scrap of Dr Who yarn left waiting to projectified! Woohoo! I made vast amounts of fringe, mostly because I couldn't face knitting so much green mohair. So it has an uber-fringe in green and yellow, and it is going to go live with a friend as her birthday present.

Aaaaaaaaand, it means that I'm now back on track for one Mission:Possible project a month! I have finished 4 of them now!

Last night was also quite productive in an inverse way. Some friends came over, and one brought some fabric that she wanted rid of. Nice fabric, I hasten to add, for garb-making. Now, I really didn't want to buy it from her, since I'm trying to save money right now. But it turned out that she wanted to raid my yarn stash! At first I thought that there was no way I'd have anything I'd be willing to swap, but once I fished out everything, I remembered/rediscovered the 2 enormous hanks of white laceweight mercerized cotton that I've had forever and was never going to use. And I found the third skein of the self-striping yarn from which I made the Jaywalkers. I liked that yarn, but one 50g skein isn't really enough to make anything with but a hat, and I have a million hats. So three skeins of yarn are gone and I'm now the proud owner of 2m of 55-inch-wide rose-coloured cotton. I think it's cotton. It might be linen, but I'd have to check.

I really need to figure out my sewing machine...

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Those who can't knit go shopping

Or something like that, anyway! Instead of indulging in a morning of needlework, as I normally do on my Thursday mornings off, I decided to clean my flat. It needed doing, and there was a chance that I was going to bring a friend home with me later. So I tidied, washed dishes, and did not a single stitch of knitting. But there was a plan! Said friend had never been to my favourite shop and wanted some 2mm DPNs. I knew they had some in, and since she'd expressed a desire to meet for lunch, I suggested a shopping trip instead. So we met and went up to Kentish Town. 'Twas great. She ended up with a bunch of stuff, and I bought white sewing cotton, cream-coloured bias tape and some wooden buttons. And then we sat in a cafe and poured over the charts for one version of Eleanor of Toledo's Stockings, a very popular piece of historical reproduction knitting. She'd been confused by the written pattern, which seemed to omit some decreases needed to make the patterns match up around the leg. And I, obsessive that I am, just had to rechart the lozenge pattern on the cuff so that it was symmetrical. And we discussed the relative virtues of an assortment of double decreases. I'm fondest of the one showcased in Grumperina's Jaywalker Socks (remember those?), slip 2 together knitwise, knit 1, pass both slipped stitches over and off the needle. In fact, I'm so fond of it that I decided to replace the double decrease in the Swallowtail Shawl with it. It is just more nicely centred, in my opinion.

Anyway. The thread and the bias tape are for the chemise that I worked on on Saturday. I still can't believe that I ran out of white sewing thread. The buttons are for a project that hasn't even been cast on yet! Remember about a year ago when I finished knitting that blanket that had been in the works forever? Well, I still have more of the blue yarn left. So I decided that for her birthday this year, my best friend would be getting a matching pillow. I'm planning to just work a big sack of seed stitch on circular needles and graft one end closed when I finish. No seaming! Just miles of seed stitch. So now I've got some big wooden buttons to hold a flap closed once it's done. (I'm a fan of removable cushion covers. It prevents spillages.) Given that her birthday is less than a month away, I maybe should start working on it...

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Lots of progress, no more finishing

I may bite my tongue later, but I don't think I'm going to finish anything else this month. Although it'd be nice if I did!

I was home sick from Friday until yesterday, and I got quite a lot done as a result! Well, up until Sunday, which was when I got to the dysfuntional part of the cold. On Friday I managed to finish the green and yellow mitts for my mother, and I'm quite pleased with them. They were very good practice for working corrugated ribbing, of which there is a lot on the Ivy League Vest I'm hoping to make some time this year. And because I've finished the mitts, I can now add the remnants of the yellow and green yarn to the mini-Who scarf and finish up a fourth goal! Mmmmm, mindless garter stitch.

After finishing the mitts, I decided to indulge in a new project. One of my goals was to knit up the crimson Posh laceweight that I've been hoarding. Trouble was, it was only 400m of yarn, hardly enough to make a shawl and I didn't really want a laceweight scarf. And then Knitting Daily published the e-book of old patterns that was supposed to have come out back in March. Contained therein was the pattern for the Swallowtail Shawl, a truly gorgeous pattern that calls for... exactly 400m of yarn. And just after they published it, the Posh Yarn Group on Ravelry decided to have a knitalong for the Swallowtail. Destiny, surely. So I cast on. The pattern is delightful. It flows beautifully, and each pattern repeat is only 6 rows long. And only 3 of those rows actually have pattern on them - the others are just purling back across. I've finished the first chart and done 4 of the 14 repeats of the second chart. There are then 3 border charts to work through, although they are each only worked once.

The 3rd and 4th charts are interesting. They contain nupps, which are a bit like miniature bobbles. On one row, you do a whole bunch of increases into one stitch, and then on the following row you purl all of the increases together to get back to where you started. There is a popular alternative to the nupps where you add a bead to the knitting instead of working a nupp. Much easier, and uses less yarn, so very good if you're worried about running out. Now, I live close to a bead shop, but I was concerned about being able to do the beads. You see, unless you want to go to the trouble of prestringing all of the beads (which is really bad for the yarn), you need to have a tiny crochet hook. Tiny enough that the head and the shaft fit into the opening of the bead. I had some pretty small crochet hooks, but nothing on that scale. And then I went to the shop on Saturday.

It was an honest trip - we were going to the recycling centre on our way somewhere else, and the shop was just before the centre. So I waited in the shop where it wasn't raining while the lovely spouse got rid of an ancient computer monitor. And I found a tiny crochet hook! This sucker is only 0.6mm in diameter. So, I bought the hook and some black beads to go on the red shawl. Goth I may be, but I was inspired by the Kitri Socks.

And then we headed off to our somewhere else, and I got to be even more productive! It was our monthly Shire Revel, and we'd decided that it was going to be a day of garb-making. So I spent Saturday morning cutting out the pieces of a chemise, and spent Saturday afternoon assembling them. Well, I pinned, and our Seneschal ran them up on the sewing machine. I can use a machine, but she's much quicker than I. Especially since it's her machine! So the result of the afternoon was a completed seamed chemise. I just need to hem the skirt and cuffs, finish and apply trim to the neck, and finish the insides of the seams. And the insides aren't really a priority. I can work on them here and there as the mood strikes me.

One of our members is a whiz-kid with a tablet loom, and had brought a load of trim for finishing her most recent gown. And when she had a bunch left over, she offered it to me for the new chemise! And this of course inspired me to strike a bargain. She's going to weave me a belt, and in exchange I'm going to knit her a pair of elbow-length fingerless gloves. She can knit, but isn't really good at it (her comment, not mine!), just like I could probably figure out a loom, but don't really have any desire to. So it works out well for us both.

On Sunday I dived into my husband's tunic, the one I've been working on for AGES. Or so it seems. The incredibly productive Saturday inspired me, and I've just about finished attaching the bias tape to the collar. There's still a lot to be done on it, but getting the neck nearly done makes it look a lot more like a proper piece of clothing.
And then my cold caught up with me, and I spent the rest of Sunday laying on the couch feeling like hell with a fever, and Monday mostly in bed resting. And crocheting the ripple bedspread. I went through the bag with my Mission:Possible stuff in it (and the contents are shrinking!), and pulled out all of the acrylic that isn't for the bedspread. It's now in its own bag so that I can just get on and make all of the little scrappy projects I need to do.

Pretty busy, huh?

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Belated Birthday Books

The Amazon parcel with the late gift certificate books arrived yesterday, and what great books! I blew my lunch hour reading, unsurprisingly, and then spent most of the evening looking at them too!
The first book was Knitting Without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmerman, that great goddess of knit. And the book is fabulous. I suspect that once I get well and truly sucked into sweater knitting (and once I can afford to buy sweater quantities of yarn more than once a year), this book will become my bible. She's very good at encouraging the knitter to make things that fit and suit, rather than blindly following patterns all the time. An excellent philosophy.

The second was about as far from EZ as you can get - Son of Stitch n' Bitch! The 4th book in this series (I think), the whole book is full of patterns for blokes. It's also got a great section in the front on how to find out what the bloke will actually wear that's full of useful tips. Some of the stuff I can't imagine anyone actually wearing, like some of the weirder "post-modern" sweaters, but many of the patterns rock. Like the illusion knit scarf that secretly contains two silhouettes of ladies pole-dancing, or the socks with dice on the cuffs!

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Something new

Last night I was feeling like savouring finishing the neverending project for a little while longer, so I decided to play with my stash instead of diving into another project. My stash is currently rather scattered (6 bags and a tub), so I thought I'd only get part of it out. The tub, since it's the most moth-proof of my storage, is where I keep the most precious yarn and the yarn that I'm not planning to do anything with in the near future. All of my laceweight is in there, for example, as is most of my birthday yarn. (The sweater yarn has its own bag.)

For whatever reason, I also decided a while back that the tub would be the best place to keep things that I was trying to decide what to do with. I was given a pair of knitted colourwork slippers years ago that I wore out, but I'm keeping them so that someday I can reverse engineer them to make a new pair. I also dug out the pink socks I finished back in August. They fit perfectly, it wasn't as if I needed to reknit them, but I'd managed to put my toes through them. Oops. So they'd been sitting there while I figured out whether I wanted to throw them away, as I'd normally do with holey socks.

And then I figured that, since I was prepared to throw them out anyway, I really ought to try mending them. Worst case scenario, I'd waste a foot of yarn and end up throwing away already ruined socks.
But it turned out that all of those years of sewing and reading my mother's sewing books sank in, because I made a pretty good darn on both toes, if I do say so myself! And now they're ready to be washed and worn again, and I am very happy. Yay for sock rescues!

Once I'd mended the socks, I wound up the green Manos in preparation for turning it into a Foliage hat, and then decided to work on the cabled sweater. I'm a quarter of the way through my list of 12 projects, and well underway with the remaining 9, so why ruin it with cast-on-itis?

Monday, 14 April 2008

And yet more birthday goodness!

My best friend and I met up yesterday for a much belated birthday present swap (hers was in February, mine was in March!), and much to my surprise, she'd gotten me a knitting book! Bit of a shock, because she's always teased me about my 'granny-ish' hobbies. But she'd seen another friend's copy of Naughty Needles and decided that I needed my own. I'm definitely going to have to make myself a cavewoman furry bra and panty set, although there won't be action shots on the blog!

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Don't Faint

I finished two projects this weekend!

The first is one that I made so quickly it never even made it onto the blog as yarn. As I suspected, I did end up in Loop yesterday. I bought the DPNs I needed to finish another project and realized that I was going to be trapped in a pub for hours with a bunch of people I didn't really know with no knitting! Ack! So I bought a skein of Colinette Graffiti in Turquoise to turn into a scarf with my newly acquired DPNs. I did most of the scarf last night and then finished it this morning.


I finished the black drop-stitch shawl! Totally out of the blue. I decided to measure the wingspan for snicks, just to see how much wider it actually needed to be. Imagine my shock when I realized that one more repeat, rather than 7, would make it big enough! So I sat down in front of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, cranked out that last repeat and cast off. I'm so glad that I'd been doing the fringe as I went along - I only had 4 pieces to attach instead of 40. Much better that way.

The real question is, what am I going to work on next?

Friday, 11 April 2008

Odds and Ends

The interview yesterday went swimmingly. I am now sleeping like a log since it's finished. And because it went so well, I decided that I deserved a little shopping expedition. Of course that meant going to the needlework shop! I was very good and didn't buy any yarn (although a social event is going to take us perilously close to Loop tomorrow afternoon. I may succumb.). Instead, I bought Rowan Magazine, Issue 40. I've never been entirely sure about Rowan knitting magazines. Their yarn is great (this is the company that makes Kidsilk Haze, referred to by many knitters as 'Cracksilk'), but their patterns have always seems a little too runway model for my liking. Or so I thought. I was organizing my Ravelry queue the other day and discovered that my blog-hopping adventures had put no less than three Rowan patterns in my queue - and they were all from issue 40! So when I went up to buy garb-making thread and noticed that they were still selling this back issue, I took note. And then bought it yesterday.

Upon getting it home, I read through it cover-to-cover, as one does. Closer inspection has led me to the conclusion that while many of the patterns are not something I'd necessarily wear, almost all of them are things that will inspire my own designs. And the things that I had queued are great. A very good investment!

(As an aside, I'd always been put off by the cover price of the magazine. It's £10.50, which seems huge for a magazine. Until you realise that there are nearly 50 patterns in each issue. Most knitting books retail for between £10 and £20, and rarely have more than 20 patterns. In fact, they frequently only have 12-15.)

My library will be expanding even more in the next week. I received a very belated birthday gift certificate, part of which has been spent on knitting books. Hurrah for Amazon! There will soon be a copy of Knitting Without Tears and Son of Stitch n' Bitch cuddling up on my already overstuffed bookshelf. Book reviews will follow, of course!

There has also been knitting. I'd lost my mojo prior to the interview, mostly due to stress and exhaustion from not sleeping. But I've got it back with a vengeance! Last night while watching In Search of Medieval Britain I finished up the first mitt of the pair. And this morning I cast on the second to avoid Second Mitt Syndrome. I also put in half an hour's work on sewing the husband's tunic, so I'm feeling very virtuous.

The plan for the weekend is to completely make the second mitt and to make a good start on using the remnants on the mini-Who scarf. Other than that, I have no fixed plans. Apart from sleeping, of course!

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

That was weird.

Due to errands and chores and grocery budgeting, I did no knitting at all yesterday. Not one single, solitary stitch. I did a little crocheting on the afghan, but that was it!

So today I am hoping to make up the time. Peanut butter sandwich and mitts in the park, methinks. Although tonight's plan is more housework and chores - I need to iron a shirt and polish my shoes in preparation for an interview tomorrow. And give myself a manicure. So knitting will be minimal tonight. Fortunately the spouse is cooking, so I don't have to worry about that. Maybe I will indulge in some Pom time while he cooks for me! I love my life sometimes...

Monday, 7 April 2008

I spoke too soon

That thing about my neckwarmer being done just in time for spring? I woke up the next day to find 2 inches of snow on the ground. Yes, London is having yet another cold snap. Today I wrapped up warm in my red hat and scarf. It's so nice being a knitter in winter!

I'm feeling very smug and productive, for I finally got around to handwashing my high-maintenence handknit socks. Of course, I'm not wearing any of them today, but they are clean and smelling deliciously of Victoria's Secret delicates wash. Mmmmmmm.

And speaking of socks, I spent my weekend knitting on Pom number 1! This pattern is a marvel of mathematical genius. I think I may be falling in love with the designer. She is brilliant. Normally ribbing goes up-and-down in columns. On this sock the ribbing bends in graceful curves that form patterns like fish scales (hence the name Pomatomus), and the increases and decreases make stunning patterns... I love, love, love this pattern! I've finished the first repeat and half of the second on the cuff, and I've decided to only do two repeats.They are 22 rows long, after all! I'm not going to do it for this pair of socks, but I'm seriously considering recharting the pattern so that each sock's curves can be a mirror-image of the other. But I'm not foolish enough to do that until I really understand how the curves work. And until I figure out what decrease is the reverse of a "knit 2 together through the back loop".

Today I'm not going to be working on my lovely Pom, sadly. Tonight is the night of knitting in the pub, and dark, very fine yarn in a poorly-lit pub is a surefire recipe for headaches and a stiff neck. So, tonight (and over lunch) I will be working on the green and yellow mitts. I've just about figured out what I want to do with the pattern, so hopefully they will be finished up quickly.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Now I've finished something!

I've finished my neckwarmer! And it fits! And the buttons match! Just in time for spring. Oops.

Next project to focus upon is the pair of mitts for my mum. Here's where they are at the moment:

Friday, 4 April 2008

Another one bites the dust

No, I haven't finished another project. I've started teaching one of my friends to knit socks. He thinks the construction of toe-up socks is pure genius (and of course I agree), so I have high hopes of seeing some finished stuff from him soon!

Of course, I worked on my own knitting as well. The neckwarmer is extremely close to being finished. I might even manage it over my lunch hour! And that means I get to case on a new project over the weekend. Although, I've now figured out what I want to do with the mitts, so I may work on them instead.

The weekend is probably not going to be all that productive, as I have a list of chores and errands as long as my arm. Ah well. I might get something done.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Musing on sweaters

I love sweaters. I wear them pretty much every day, thanks to the smart casual dress code at work, even in summer. You'd think, since I'm a knitter, that I'd knit the sweaters I wear. Wrong! Every single sweater that I've ever worn to work is from a store. Blasphemous? Maybe. Here's the logic.

I am not scared of sweaters. I learned to sew long before I'd even thought about knitting. I have made clothing, quilts, doll clothes... Heck, the garb I'm making now is my own design, and coming out pretty well! So the issue that seems to be the biggest for most knitters simply isn't there for me. I love the finishing stages of making things. And it's not the size - I knit a blanket, I'm knitting a coat. I can handle size.

No, the big issue for me is gauge. I have 5 sweaters in my wardrobe that I wear more than any other tops I own. Two white, one black, one charcoal grey and one baby-blue. Every single one of them is in the 15-25 stitches per inch gauge. By way of comparison, the Jitterbug socks I made were 8.5 stitches to the inch. The yarn from which my sweaters are made is finer than the thinnest cobweb-weight yarn I've ever seen. It's roughly as thin as one strand of 6-ply embroidery floss, though of course not cotton.

I could knit sweaters like these, assuming I could find yarn and needles fine enough. And make myself blind, and take years per sweater. Or I could just buy the really nice sweaters and save my yarn money for something that is fun to knit, like socks. I can wear my handknit socks.

It's all part of the mission to only knit things I love knitting and will wear. And that is why I will rarely knit sweaters.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Project Spectrum Part Two - Earth

April and May are the Earth months for Project Spectrum. It seems appropriate, since the earth around me is starting to wake up and come alive again.

Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.
Words by John Crum

This is the first verse of an Easter hymn, but it's always suggested Spring to me. And when I was brainstorming things for Project Spectrum, I had it running through my head! It's funny how years of choir will etch things into the brain.
The designated colours for this round are green, brown and metallic. This is somewhat problematic for me, since I don't really like green or brown! And I just finished a green baby jacket. Oops. Still, I do have a few things, including some from Mission:Possible. First is the alpaca neckwarmer, in a lovely shade of creamy brown. And that was on my to-do list for the month anyway, since I'd really like to get it finished.Then there is the pile of 5.5 balls of Rowan Tapestry in shades of green and brown, destined to become a Clapotis and possibly a Calorimetry headwrap. I think I'll cast on for that once I finish the neckwarmer.
The other option, and really the one I'd like to take on most, is an Orangina shawl using my 4 skeins of Rowan Lurex Shimmer. This yarn has actually been discontinued now, worse luck. I bought it years ago before I really knew how much yarn was needed for various garments and it's been hibernating ever since. Lovely copper colour, it would make a perfect evening wrap. But I need to finish up a bunch of other projects first. Let's see how many I can get done - if I finish two projects for Mission:Possible, I'll cast on for the copper wrap!
I suppose technically the green and yellow mitts count as well, even though they contain yellow (which is supposed to be an Air colour). Hmm. Maybe I'll produce more than I thought!

Stashbusting is good too - I used up another ball of Dr Who leftovers. And it was brown!