Monday, 29 September 2008

I wonder...

Periodically I go through phases of wanting to rip out many of my knitting projects. I wonder if it's connected to my lack of a camera. Perhaps not being able to show my progress makes me want to destroy it. Or maybe I'm just thinking too much after an afternoon of post-dentist napping. Who knows?

But yes, I have been frogging again. I ripped the Branching Out Scarf a while back. The pattern/yarn combo just wasn't working for me. I think I shall use the glove to make some mittens, because really, who doesn't need silk mittens?
I decided yesterday that I was going to just finish the heel of the neverending sock, since I was home alone with a pile o' yarn and Captain Jack Sparrow. So, I slogged and knit and picked up stitches and then disaster struck. The bloody pattern doesn't line up. I just spent 6 months of my life working on a sock that needs to have the pattern redone to be symmetrical. Oh, I ripped that puppy out. The sock is no more, I am not going to be attempting it again, and the yarn is in the corner thinking about what it's done.

There was one plus side to my discovery of vile misery. This sock was made from one of the skeins that got mauled by a puppy last Christmas, and had a break in it about 2 inches into the cuff. I ripped back to the unspliced join, eyeballed it, bound off and wound up with an instant coffee sleeve. I get tea and coffee from the Student Union Cafe where I work, and it comes in disposable cardboard cups. Rather than burn my hands instead of using the disposable sleeves, I've been meaning to knit up a few of my own out of sock yarn leftovers. I'd been putting it off because I really loathe swatching for something that small, but hey presto! 60 stitches of ribbing on 2.5mm needles fits perfectly. I have a new FO that is utterly practical, there are no more broken bits of yarn in my skein, and I don't have to work on the sock from hell anymore. I am a happy knitter.

In other news, I'm down to 3 active WIPs, and they are all socks. I finished my most recent garter stitch scarf on Sunday and gifted it to the hub. And because I finished something, I decided to cast on for something new. The plan was to use the Halloween sock yarn to make a shawl, but it's just too variegated. Mum likes socks, and so I cast on for more Monkeys. They fit everyone. Yes, I am working on 2 pairs of Monkeys and one pair of Pomatomus. Both patterns by Cookie A. Aren't I a good little junior stalker? :D

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Still no camera

I've finished the heel of Pomatomus the First. I've also picked up stitches for the gusset and started working on that. This sucker just gets more complicated the longer I work on it! I like it, though, and I'm definitely keeping it. Hopefully the second one won't be as much of a puzzle. It's now at a point where I can't carry it around with me (it won't fold to fit into my WIP tube), so it's going to be worked on at home until it's at a point I can carry it. For now, I'm working on the Monkeys. I still really love this pattern!

I seem to have lost the desire to work on my garter stitch scarf right now. That's ok. It's not taking up much room, and I've packed away most of my WIPs in preparation for a series of impending familial visits. This has resulted in lots of progress on things I want to get done, as has been demonstrated in the past!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Vexed... a good description of my current mental state. You see, my camera seems to have died. It'll switch on, but the viewfinder stays black and although you can take a picture, it, too, is black.

This is incredibly annoying, because I spent much of Sunday afternoon dyeing a skein of sock yarn pretty colours. Now that it's dry, I was hoping to take a photo of the skein, wind it, take a photo of it wound and maybe start knitting with it.

I was hoping to take a photo of the finished cuff of my Pomatomus sock. Nope.

My blog may get a bit dull until I either fix the camera or get a new one.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Many, many projects

So, I realized that I have quite a few projects that haven't been blogged about yet. But first, I have a FO to show off! Yesterday I spent a couple of hours in a coffee shop with friends and discovered that the mitts I was making for Weaving Friend were very nearly done. So while watching NCIS last night I just finished them. They fit nicely, and since we have the same sized arms they should fit her. Very easy - cast on 48 stitches, K2p2 rib until you get to the thumb, BO 8 stitches and work in rib until the hand's long enough.

The best part, other than making something nice for a good friend, is that I barely broke into the second ball of yarn. So I'll definitely have enough to make the pair of gloves for myself that I'd originally intended with the yarn!

Since I finished a project, I decided that the time was right to start another one. This is actually better than it sounds, because this is one of my Mission:Possible projects. I'd originally meant to make a pair of Anne-trelac socks with this yarn. However, through reading around on Ravelry I discovered that the ankles are very baggy on most people. Since I find most normal socks way too baggy in the ankles anyway (darned skinny ankles) I decided to cut my losses and make another pair of Monkeys. Yes, this is the third pair I've made this year. But they fit perfectly, they are inutterably comfortable, they look good, and I've memorized the pattern. Oh, and for some reason they are totally adictive to knit. I'm falling back on my bribery method of knitting as a result. "Finish a couple inches of scarf, knit Monkeys. Work on sock of doom, knit Monkeys." Et cetera.

My Branching Out scarf finally got started at the beginning of this month too. Since Summer of Socks ended on the 1st of September, I decided to rearrange the stash so that the stuff for projects in my immediate queue was out. These skeins had been hanging around since my birthday, and I really wanted to knit them up. Ironically, now that I've got it underway I'm thinking that it may not actually be what I want to do with them. I'm not really liking the tweed with lace effect much.

Finally, this is, yes, you guessed it, another garter stitch scarf. For anyone who's been wondering what I do with all the scarves I make - I wear them. Of all the ones I've made, I've only given away about 4. And 2 of those were fun fur and one was a special request. Every single other scarf gets worn by me. I wear them almost every day, especially now that it's getting colder. But given that this is London, it's rarely warm enough that I don't carry a scarf around with me just in case. I always have a pair of mitts and a hat with me, and I carry a scarf 9 days out of 10. I find that I just get cold, and even if I'm not cold enough for a coat, a scarf is a marvellous this to wrap 'round me. I spent much of July and August in scarves.
Since I wear them so often, I need lots in many colours and styles to suit my mood. Scarves are fabulous!

Saturday, 20 September 2008


This morning the post came, and two lots of things that I had ordered arrived with it! The first parcel only came from Reading. I ordered it on Thursday from Scandinavian Knitting Design, an online company that stocks, umm, Scandinavian yarns and patterns. A friend found them, ordered a bunch of stuff and recommended them to me, so I went to have a look at their website. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that they stock Kauni yarn! This stuff is very, very cool. It has unusually long colour repeats and was made famous when the Yarn Harlot knit a rainbow cardigan from it. I've been thinking about knitting a variation of the cardigan for a while now (in better colours, of course), but was loath to try and buy it from a Danish website. Finding it available in the UK was a real treat. So I've now got one skein of the black/purple/grey colourway that I'm going to turn into a shawl for a good friend. This was another one of those cases of trying out one skein of a new yarn before committing to a sweater's-worth. And it was also my last earned skein from the Stashalong!

Of course, I couldn't just get a single ball of yarn. I went to their sale section and was thrilled to find some lovely shawl pins. Since I seem to be going nuts for shawls right now, it made sense to get something to replace the DPN I'd been using instead.

The other parcel came from the US and was some yarn that I'd ordered a while back when I unexpectedly came into a bit of money. I'd been looking for some Halloween yarn online and found this seller on Etsy. She had a collection of monster-themed sock yarn that looked really fun - so I bought it! It arrived today and is just great. Frankentwined is purple and green and is probably my favourite of the lot. I'll be making some socks out of it, once I can find a worthy pattern. Monster Stash is probably going to become a pair of Rock 'n' Weave Socks. I love this pattern and have been looking for something to make it in for a while. Bestitched may wait, since I don't know what it will suit. And Socks o'Lantern is going to be turned into a Halloween shawl for my mum, using the same pattern that my Noro Triangle did.

What fun! Must finish up some other stuff first, though. There may be a few new-ish projects that haven't yet been blogged about...

Friday, 19 September 2008

Tortoise and Hare knitting

I have been thinking recently about how long it takes me to knit projects. I have it in my head, you see, that I'm a slow knitter. Recent events have demonstrated that I can in fact knit an entire decently-sized shawl in a week, which is not slow. And yet, I have some projects that are just taking forever, even though they are not that big or complicated. Let's have a look at my long-term projects, shall we?
First up is my coatigan. It's chunky yarn on 9mm needles. This goes at a rate of knots when I'm working on it. Therein of course lies the catch - when I'm working on it. I need to do a load of number-crunching to make the sleeves work, and it's tedious. The whole thing is too big to carry around, and when I'm at home I mostly want to work on simple things I can do while carrying on a conversation, listening to the radio or watching tv. So my poor coatigan gets left in its bag hibernating. I'm also not entirely sure that once it's finished I'll have the nerve to wear it. I love the colours and I love the way it fits (currently - I don't know how the sleeves will fit yet!), but it is very loud. At least compared to the rest of my wardrobe. I started it in April last year and have knit many, many projects to completion since then.
Next oldest project is actually my ripple bedspread. I started it in November last year. Its only crime is being big, heavy and hot. I got ill right after starting it and could only just manage the weight of a sock on my abdomen. By the time I'd recovered, it was too hot to sit around under a blanket. It's actually making steady progress because it lives next to my bed and gets worked on when I'm waiting for the spouse to wind down his stuff in the evening. As the weather gets cooler I'll be able to work on this more. Of course, I can't do too much crocheting at a time as it hurts my wrists.
Everything else is from this year. A pair of socks that I started in May. I can't make myself finish the heel flap. Seriously. I finished the entire cuff in 4 days and have been working on the heel flap since the 20th of May. It's so frickin' boring!
A pillow that needs decisions made about its buttonholes.
A Pomatomus sock that is starting to bore me as well. I've figured out how the pattern works, so I can just get on with it. However, now that I've figured out the pattern, it's an entire 72-stitch sock in 1x1 twisted rib.

Basically, I can knit quite quickly. But if the project is either boring, weather-inappropriate or needing more concentration that I want to provide? Well, it's going to end up just hanging around not getting much done on it. The big projects are the worst. The socks, at least, I can force myslf to work on by relying on them as my handbag knitting. The coatigan is a bit scuppered in that respect.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Mosses and lichens

Back when I was at school, I had a thing for botany. My biology teacher would provide me with woodland manuals, field guides, advanced textbooks... Anything, as long as it had stuff about plants in it. I abandoned my love of botany at A-Level because I really didn't want to have to study anything else in the biology lab. Practical experiments are not my thing, for lots of reasons.

What does this have to do with any form of needlework? Well, when I showed this to my husband, he commented that it was all the colours of lichen. And mosses and lichens were always my favourites.

Of course, if you look at it from this angle, you can just see the fabulous egg-carton effect of unblocked lace.

After a good bath and a rinse with hair conditioner*, my somewhat scratchy shawl now feels a lot softer and drapier. 20 minutes of pinning and stretching got me this marvellous thing:

And now that the ends are woven in and it's all dry, I can proudly present my finished Noro Triangle!

Pattern - Shetland Triangle by Evelyn Clark from the book Wrap Style

Yarn - Noro Kureyon Sock, 1 skein (1 golf ball-sized lump left over)

Needles - 4.5mm 1m Addi Turbo circular

Pattern mods - I knit 10 repeats of the fircone chart instead of 8 and added a single row of garter stitch to the end of the edging to help prevent curling. Bind-off was as per instructions in the Swallowtail pattern.

I loved knitting a shawl with fingering weight yarn. Unlike with the laceweight, I was never worried about it breaking or snagging. I threw it into a bag quite happily, left it on the couch, sat it on the floor, gave it a thorough scrubbing in the sink. Plus, it seemed to go much faster and I got a bigger shawl for fewer stitches. And it's a one-skein project! Love it! I have a sneaking suspicion that I may end up using my laceweight up and then knitting lace exclusively in sock yarn from now on...

I was happy to discover that the yarn seems to be colourfast. There was no dye in the water when I'd finished soaking, and none of the colours bled onto one another - not even where bright green butted up against white. I had been a bit concerned about that.

A 1m circular needle is ideal for shawl-making. It was approaching the point of being so long it was annoying, but even at the end my stitches weren't at all bunched up on the needle.

*A tip that I read somewhere suggested washing scratchy yarn in human hair conditioner. It sounded a bit weird, but it's not when you think about it. Conditioner is designed to smooth down the outer layer of the hair so that it becomes smooth and shiny. Human hair is a protein fiber. So is wool. Ergo, hair conditioner should have similar effects on both. I wouldn't want to try the theory on silk, which always seems to be the exception to the rule of protein fibers, but then I've never met a scratchy silk.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Things one can do on a 5-day weekend

Term is about to start, so I decided to take some time off before the influx of students rendered my life insane. I've discovered that I am able to do the following on a 5-day weekend:
  • scrub, organize and tidy my kitchen
  • wash 4 loads of laundry
  • go to the cinema
  • watch an entire season of the West Wing (among other things)
  • knit 90% of a lace shawl

I was off Thursday-Monday. On Wednesday night, after eating dinner, I settled in with Spouse, a DVD and a skein of Noro Kureyon Sock. This was one of the skeins I acquired about a month ago with friends. I had originally intended to make socks, until I looked at the yarn more closely. It's a single-ply, so not hugely sturdy or abrasion-proof. It's not evenly spun, so in some places it's a heavy worsted and in others it's thinner than some of my laceweight. This would mean that the socks would not knit up consistently. And finally, it's really, really rough. Apparently it softens when you wash it, but the skin on my feet is very sensitive.

I concluded, therefore, that perhaps a shawl would be more appropriate for this rather lovely but scratchy yarn. A shawl is open and lacy, and so the thick-and-thin nature of the yarn wouldn't be so noticeable. It's customarily worn over other clothing, so the scratchy isn't an issue. And I just so happened to have a pattern for a lovely triangle shawl by the same designer who did the Swallowtail Shawl. The original calls for 500yds of fingering-weight yarn. The Noro was only 437yds, but according to Ravelry (yay Ravelry!), a decent-sized shawl can be produced with one skein of Noro Sock. The pattern is a single chart for the body, repeated as many times as one desires, followed by a 14-row edging chart. The pattern calls for 8 repeats of the chart; I've done 10 and am expecting to use just about the whole skein. I've got 6 rows and the bind-off left to knit, then I'm done.

I'm still trying to decide whether Noro yarns are worth the bother. They have fabulous colours and are all self-striping with long colour repeats. However, they are on the pricey side, often have breaks in the skein that throw the striping sequence off, and are FULL of vegetable matter. Picking bits out of my yarn is not fun. But this shawl is marvellous shades of green, and I don't even LIKE green! A company that makes yarn so pretty I go for colours I don't even normally like is definitely onto something...

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Interim photos

I'm participating in a Stashalong, which in theory is supposed to be helping me with the not buying of yarn. I think we all know how that's going! :D Anyway, one can earn yarn purchases by participating in themed knitting over the course of a month, and I earned three skeins in August by completing some WIPs.

I was picking up some new circular needles that I needed for a couple of projects in the pipeline, and decided to pick up two of my three skeins. This one is going to become yet another scarf, and this one is going to be some over-mittens for my too-thin gloves.

Monday, 8 September 2008

iKnit Day part 2

The main part of the day was rockin'. I managed to get down to the Royal Horticultural Halls at about 10:45 for an 11am start. When I got there, the queue went around a side and a half of the block. By the time the doors opened, the queue had doubled. There were so many knitters, merrily knitting away despite the miserable weather. Just as the queue started moving the heavens opened, and I realized that I had left out my umbrella in my urge to have more space for yarn in my bag. Oops! Fortunately we all got in quite quickly, and there were plenty of convenient trees and overhangs to stand under. It didn't really start pouring until after we got inside.

After being presented with a programme and some iKnit badges the vast flock of knitters finally made it into the main hall. Since, in addition to my umbrella, I forgot my camera, you'll just have to imagine it! There were 4 long rows of stalls, plus more stalls on three sides of this enormous hall. The 4th side had a raised seating area where all of the workshops took place. Directly in front of the raised area was a catwalk where the vintage knits fashion show took place. Off to one side next to some of the stalls was a mini-theatre where there was some improv comedy stuff going on (I didn't see it, I just walked past).

The best part for me was realizing that I finally knew what I was doing. Last year, I'd been knitting for a while but hadn't done much other than working from my collection of magazines in the privacy of my own home. I hadn't really discovered Ravelry, and I wasn't participating much in the knitting group at work. Not this time! This time I spotted a shawl across a crowded room and raced over to confirm with its owner whether it was Kauni Effektgarn. (It was.) I had people come up and fondle my shawl, including one lovely lady who was also making a Swallowtail out of Posh Eva 2-ply. I gave advice on how much laceweight one needed to make a shawl. I commiserated over how expensive baby alpaca is, and pondered whether one could really justify spending one's lunch money on roving. (Not really, but fun to think about.) I was able to go from booth to booth and enjoy looking at the pretty things, but choose not to buy them because they weren't things I'd enjoy knitting.

There were so many people just having a good time, and it was a lovely atmosphere. There weren't thousands all fighting over the best sock yarn, and the stalls were spaced far enough apart that it wasn't claustrophobic. There were loads of tables and chairs set up all over the hall so that knitters could actually sit down, eat a snack and do some knitting. I saw ladies winding yarn together. I saw babies. I saw proto-babies. I saw spinners and angora rabbits and knitted doughnuts. And I remembered to take snacks and drinks with me this time, so I didn't have a mid-afternoon panic attack and dizzy spell. (That was oh-so-fun at Ally Pally last year. Not.)

So many happy knitters in one place was a marvel. It was like the world's best knit night at a local yarn store, only with more yarn and not ending too soon.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

My oh my oh my

iKnit Day is going to take a couple of posts to relate, especially since I forgot my camera and need to wait for my friend to email me some of her pictures! I had an absolute blast and am so glad I went. Today I'm going to relate the delights of my shopping.

Like last year at the Knitting and Stitching Show, I went yesterday with a list of things that I wanted to get. Unlike last year, I only bought things on my list. I'm really, really satisfied with my purchases as a result. Here's the entire haul:

So, bit by bit. The one things that I was absolutely commited to getting was some dark blue Wool-Ease to make my hub some socks. He's been feeling a bit left out, I think. This may be cheap not-good yarn in the US, but over here it's nigh-on impossible to find solid-coloured washable wool blends that don't feel like plastic. Discovering that there is a UK supplier of it who doesn't even mark the prices up that much was a treat.

I also went looking for scarf yarn, because clearly the 25-odd in my cupboard are not enough! I wanted something to make a very complicated number from Knitting New Scarves, since I've had that book for months and not yet knit anything from it. I also wanted to make a double-knit argyle scarf from Son of Stitch 'n' Bitch. (Double-knitting is where you knit both sides of a mirror-image fabric at one. That is, one side will be green with a black pattern and the other side will be black with a green pattern. Very groovy.) Three skeins of organic Devonshire merino will do the trick nicely! Husband was tickled to realize that the mill that made these is about 5 miles from his family's home.

I explored the lucky dip at the Knitting and Crocheting Guild stall and came away with a skein of pink and purple chunky yarn that will someday become a hat and mittens, in all likelihood. I like having the odd skein of chunky yarn around for instant gratification projects!

Two packets of the world's yummiest commercial fudge, one for me and one for husband. Unlike most European fudge, this is the crumbly kind rather than the chewy kind. I was thrilled. Chocolate for me and hot ginger for him. Mmmmmmmmm!

Then I decided to make a commitment. I am going to take up spinning. No more umming and ahhing over it. This is 100g of undyed merino. It's going to be my practice roving to get used to my spindle. And this is about 400g of what I think must be a silk/merino blend. (I forgot to ask. I was pretty excited yesterday.) It is just delicious, and smells so good!

Things I didn't buy include 2400yards of Cherry Tree Hill laceweight for £25. I was sorely tempted, but it wasn't a solid or semi-solid and I would never actually use it for a shawl. I didn't buy any alpaca sock yarn because I'd wear through it in a week. In fact, I bought neither sock yarn nor laceweight. Decided that right now I don't need anymore (especially since there are 4 skeins of sock yarn in the post to me right now!), and I'd rather have things that I want to use immediately instead of sticking them in the stash to hibernate. I did kinda regret not going back to the lucky dip and trying for some Rowan, but it's ok.

Of course, the friend with whom I spent the day offered me a ticket to come with her to the Knitting and Stitching Show next month. She has mobility difficulties and gets a free ticket for an assistant. Since her husband has no interest in fiberarts, it makes a lot more sense for me to go with. Judging from the sheer number of vendors last year, I will certainly be able to make up for yesterday's restraint!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Slowing down somewhat

September is always less productive in the world of my hobbies than any other month. This is because it's the start of the academic year, and I have always been either in full-time education or working in education. Or sometimes both! So right now at work we are rushing around trying to get everything done on time, and when I get home I don't necessarily have the energy to focus on a complicated knitting pattern. I've been crocheting my afghan and playing a lot of video games as a result!

I've also been indulging in a long-neglected hobby - my embroidery. Several friends and acquaintances have recently been spotted with embroidery in hand, and as ever, seeing someone else doing something I enjoy has inspired me to do it myself. I fished out a big pice of counted cross-stitch that I've had on the go for a couple of years and have actually been making progress. I find embroidery involves a lot less concentration than knitting, for some reason. I'm still craving yarn between my fingers, but I would like to spend the autumn working on both needlearts, not just one or the other.

Monday, 1 September 2008

6 in August

Finished projects, that is. For despite having underestimated the amount of yarn I had left, I managed to finish my grey and fluffy scarf last night!

I cast on for this over a year ago, when I desperately needed something easy to do on an airplane. I made it narrow enough that I could do it back and forth on DPNs, which were plastic so they wouldn't set off the metal detectors. But once that holiday was over I put the scarf away in favour of other things that were more urgent. Since then, I've brought it out occasionally and worked a few repeats, but up until the last week or so I haven't really done much on it.

Because I'd knit the second lace border back when I started it, I was able to use up every last scrap of the ball of yarn. I also got to learn how to graft garter stitch. Not nearly as bad as I thought it'd be.

Next up, working on Weaving Friend's mitts, since the weather is thinking about getting cold enough for her to wear them. I told her I'd have them done by the October revel, so I may not work on them exclusively...