Friday, 30 January 2009

Book reviews

Yesterday I received an amazon parcel with two new knitting books in it. Yay gift certificates! One of them was a mostly known quantity, the other was full of surprises. Since I'm really pleased with both, I thought I'd give them a quick review.

First up - The Best of Interweave Knits. I bought this book for two shawl patterns that I've been wanting to knit for a while. One, the Icarus Shawl, is a very simple triangular lace shawl with a funky edging. I'm planning to use my long-hoarded Sundara Yarn Silk Lace to make this one. The second pattern is the Forest Path Stole, a rather stunning entrelac number with lace patterns in each square. The rest of the patterns in the book are interesting, although I doubt I'll knit many of them. The women's sweaters lack shaping, and there are enough sweaters out there already that I like that it's not worth altering them. The men's sweaters, though, have definite possibilities!

The second - Knitalong. This is a book about knitting more than it is a book of patterns. The author has gathered essays about people who knit together for a purpose, whether friendship, art, or political statement. It's a touching book. The patterns are lovely, too, all wrapped up in the reasons why knitters gather together. I bought it for a particular pattern, the Pillow of Sei Shonagon. A very simple eyelet lace pillow made special by the strips of muslin woven through, with beautiful words written on. It's gorgeous, and I've had it in my queue for ages. Looking through it, I've found several others that I'd love to make.

All in all, very good purchases!

Thursday, 29 January 2009

State of the WIPs

I just realized it's been a while since I had a good long look at everything I'm working on. Part of the sudden introspection is the imminent Spring - there are snowdrops out, and daffs and crocuses are poking their spears out. The other part of it is that over the weekend I did something I've been putting off - I sat down and went through my entire stash. It's all on my Ravelry account now, there are photos of everything. I took so many photos that I used up my Flickr allowance for the month. No, I will not disclose how much yarn I have! Suffice to say I have plenty and I really need to knit up a bunch of it. Plus I'm spinning, and that produces more yarn.

I actually only have 8 WIPs right now. (Knitting of course - embroidery and sewing get their own post someday when all of my embroidery stuff is in one country.) And they are all actively being worked on! It feels so good having that cushion done. It was really making me nuts, not being able to finish it.

So, here are the 8 current projects.
  • The Wedding Dress. I've nearly finished the top front. It's a mostly backless style, so the back should work up very quickly. The slowest part of this is having to count and recount stitches on every row. I'm not nearly as good at crochet as I am at knitting, so I'm trying to be careful to make it perfect for S's big day. Once I get to the point in the skirt where I'm repeating two rows of a lace pattern things will get much quicker, as the lace stacks up and I don't need to count it. The yarn is fabulous, which makes it a much more enjoyable project.
  • The Ripple Afghan. I'm more than halfway done now, and I have to say, I'd really rather be working on this! If I were to sit down and crank it out, I could probably have it done in a fortnight. But I need to finish the dress, so I'm being good and only working on it while waiting for the Spouse to come to bed. I have two very fat stripes and two-and-a-half thin stripes left. Then I can crochet granny squares with the leftovers!
  • The Moccachino Shawl. This is the replacement for the shawl I gave my mother, and my current handbag project. It's going swimmingly, as I've said before. I love working on it. I'm looking forward to wearing it.
  • Mum's Warm Shawl. I cart this around whenever I'm going to be knitting and chatting. It's just garter stitch for the time being, so I don't really have to pay attention to it. I'm looking forward to getting to the lace pattern, but not just yet.
  • Totoro. I swapped this out from my handbag because it requires row counters and scissors and fiddly bits. I've finished one of the pieces and started the second. It'll get there.
  • The Test Mittens. I knit, I tested, I provided feedback, then I ripped. I wanted the finished mittens to be a bigger size, so ripped and am reworking the colour pattern. (The ribbing fit perfectly.) I work a couple of rounds on this each week, but since I seem to have missed mitten season they are not an urgent project.
  • Cable Ribbed Socks. I cast these on because I couldn't bear to not have any socks on the needles. I'm not really in a sock mood right now, so I work a round or two while watching tv or listening to the radio. I like the way the yarn is knitting up, though!
  • Garters the Second. Good for hauling around to SCA events, as they require no thought whatsoever. And they are in period. Right now they are on holders because my only set of 2.25mm needles are in a pair of cable ribbed socks. I may go get more of these needles so I can get back to work.

Good variety and good progress, so I'm happy. I'll be happier once I've finished a few of these so I can get on with other things! I've some gift shawls planned, since all of my friends seem to have gotten engaged all at once. Plus this was supposed to be the year I made things for me, so I have lots of projects in the works!

I tidied up my queue on Ravelry last weekend too. I've gone through, tagged everything, noted which projects require me to buy the pattern, and put things in order. Everything for which I've got yarn and pattern is at the front of the queue. And since all my stash is now on Ravelry, I've gradually been going through and finding patterns for everything. I'm now excited about finishing because I'm ready to get on and start new stuff. It's great.

Monday, 26 January 2009

It's like visiting an old friend

As I've said before, too much crochet hurts my wrists. So, if I'm having a big marathon session on, say, a wedding dress, I have to stop periodically so I don't injure myself. During these little breaks, I generally knit. After all, the two activities use the arm muscles differently!

This weekend I decided to pick up my moccachino shawl. I'd done the first chart a while back and then put it down to focus on Christmas and other gifts. I picked it up on Friday evening and after a quick peek at the chart was sailing away. I'm halfway through repeat 4 of 10. My fingers seem to remember how to work the lace, and the fact that I'm using the same yarn as the last time makes it even more familiar. I don't expect to finish this in the week I took for the last one, but I have high hopes of a new shawl to wear by the end of February!

I should have added some details to my last post. The wedding sampler was worked by my amazingly talented mother. I can't remember a time when she hasn't been working on some form of embroidery or sewing, and she is a very big part of why I love needlework so much. Thanks Mum! You rock! The embroidery itself is about 18 inches by 12 inches or thereabouts. It's hanging in pride of place in our living room.

I missed Delurking Day, but wanted to thank everyone who comments and reads. I still can't figure out how to reply to comments, but I do read them and appreciate people taking the time to write. This was never intended to be anything other than a 'note-to-self' blog! :D

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

I am the boss of my knitting

My knitting is not the boss of me.

Occasionally I forget this truth of textile arts and get terribly bogged down. Then I remember, I reassert my authority, and life gets better. What prompted this round of navel-gazing? My coatigan. Or perhaps ex-coatigan would be a better description!

I lost weight, you see. And the coatigan no longer fit me. Thanks to my mother's sewing lessons, there was no way the seams were coming undone, so it wasn't as if I could unpick, frog and reknit. So I took my scissors, sliced off everything above the armholes, folded and wrapped it around a pillowform and sewed a lovely new throw pillow. I even took the toggles that were the planned closures and sewed them on for decoration. End result - one pillow, 4 pristine balls of yarn to turn into something, and one relaxed and happy knitter.

As it happens, I was off sick yesterday with a stomach upset. Nothing major, but I wanted to get plenty of sleep so it didn't turn into anything bigger. I was a bit too spacey to work on the wedding dress, so instead I flitted about between some of my other WIPs. The ripple afghan is finally past the halfway point. I've still got a goodly chunk left to work on, but it's not so daunting anymore. And the bag that the yarn lives in is looking decidedly smaller. I got a couple of rounds of a mitten done, although the colourwork was a bit more than I could concentrate on. And I got a parcel from my mother and grandmother! Full to the brim of exciting things, it certainly cheered me up.

I received a pile of new knitting and spinning magazines, a spinning supplier's catalogue (dangerous!), and an enormous piece of white linen. 7 yards of 60-inch-wide white linen. It's destined to become new garb at some point in the future. Once the wedding dress is finished, of course. For now I'm content to sit and oogle it.

One last thing that was in the parcel:

Isn't it stunning???

Monday, 19 January 2009

The Learning Curve

I did a load of spinning over the weekend. It's still astonishingly fun to do. I'm learning, though, that life would be so much easier if:
  • I had a lapcloth. Black on one side, white on the other, I'd be able to see what I was spinning and not end up with my favourite black trousers covered in white fluff.
  • I had more bobbins. I like the yarn better if I can let the singles rest before plying them, but I want to keep spinning. Trouble is, I only have three bobbins, so I can only spin 2 bobbins of singles and have one free to ply onto.
  • I knew how to Navajo Ply. I found a video on YouTube that looks like it would be good to learn from. If I could ply that way, it wouldn't matter that I can't split my yarn evenly thanks to my not-great scales.
  • I had some other flyers for Roy. A jumbo flyer would allow me to ply bigger skeins of yarn, and a high-speed flyer would let me spin finer yarn.
  • I had a tensioned Lazy Kate. Plying would be so much easier.
  • I had a couple of really good reference books. Not ones with knitting projects in, but ones that showed different ways of spinning (longdraw versus worsted? huh?), different ways of plying, ways to adjust one's wheel...
  • I had more time to practice. I have no desire to abandon my knitting, but I'd love to spend more time spinning.
  • I could see a proper spinner doing it. I have a feeling that spinning is going to be like knitting for me. I learned the basics of loop yarn this way for a knit stitch, this way for a purl, but figured out everything else on my own. Which was fine, but it took years. And I can't show anyone how to knit, because what my hands do doesn't look like anything anyone else does. Crochet, on the other hand, was taught to me by my lovely grandmother. That felt comfortable from day one, even though I'm now a much better knitter than crocheter.
  • I could get a big lump of fiber to spin until I really got used to it. 100g of fiber x isn't really enough to get a feel on.
There are lots of other things to learn, of course, but this would be a start! I want to be a proper spinner so that someday I can spin enough fiber well enough to make garments.

Thursday, 15 January 2009


Over on one of the Ravelry forums, someone posted the question "What would you knit if only you didn't have to worry about time, money, space, concentration or anything else?" I've been thinking about this in terms of all my hobbies, not just knitting. I came up with lots of things I'd love to do someday if I didn't have anything to worry about! Here's a few of them, just because.
  • I'd love to do a Sheep-to-Shawl project. Start with a fleece, process it, spin it, knit a shawl. Possibly even designing my own pattern.
  • I'd love to spin enough yarn to knit a sweater.
  • I'd love to knit a Bohus sweater. This one is closer to the realms of possibility, as I've decided that once I've knit my stash down enough that it fits back into its box, I'll be buying a kit for one.
  • I'd love to knit an Aran sweater by Alice Starmore. I'd really love to make one of the ones that's from Aran Knitting, but it's out of print and outrageously expensive secondhand.
  • I'd love to make an Orthodox-style embroidered altar cloth, with all the gold and gemstones.
  • I'd love to knit a Niebling shawl.
  • I'd love to make a complete Elizabethan court outfit from the skin out, including all the accessories, hat, shoes, etc.
  • I'd love to knit something out of qiviut fiber.
  • I'd love to make a smocked bedspread.
  • I'd love to embroider a Rose Window out of beads, maybe a replica of one of the ones on Notre Dame Cathedral. Not to scale, obviously, just something big enough to catch the light.

Someday, I might even do a couple of these!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

It fits!

I met up with the friend for whom I'm crocheting the wedding dress. It fits and she loves it! Time to crack on and get it done. I'm thinking that since the top of the dress is in two pieces anyway, I may just have that as my handbag project until it gets too big to carry around.

I've got two new projects bags that are perfect for carrying small knitting and crocheting projects. I took full advantage of the John Lewis clearance sales and got som new pillow covers*. Very nice, very cheap. And they came in little zippered clear plastic bags! They are just the right size for two or three 50g balls of yarn, some notions and needles or hooks. And because they seal shut and are very sturdy, I can use them to transport lace as well as socks. I may yet get through all of my laceweight stash!

*I also got new pillows and some yarn. The yarn will be disclosed in a post I'm planning to write on 'Yarny things I got for Christmas'.

Monday, 12 January 2009

making progress

Having finally finished the socks, I spent most of the weekend doing odd-jobs around my knitting spot in the living room. Tidied up, got rid of the odd things that had migrated onto the table, even cleaned under the couch! Fun fact - dust bunnies get a lot bigger if one feeds them with spinning fiber and thread ends. My patterns are now back in the right folders and the ones I'm using for my current WIPs are in the cardboard file I use to carry them around in my bag. It's much nicer!

The wedding dress is on a break until tomorrow, because I need to measure my friend. I got gauge, and I know she's skinny, but the extra-small looks a little too small, if you know what I mean! Don't want to get swathes done only to discover that I need to make the next size up. So for the time being I'm working on my ripple afghan and a Totoro for a friend. I'm always amazed at how quickly the afghan goes when I actually work on it. Usually I keep it by my bed for a few stitches here and there while I'm waking up or going to sleep. The Totoro is a quick crocheted toy, made in pieces. It's very cute! I have a pattern for a matching small white one, so if I have enough white yarn left over I'll make one of those too.

I went to the post office today and destashed some more cotton yarn. There's a lady in Italy who makes baby blankets with it, so hopefully the five skeins I sent will be useful. I'm not just giving away yarn. I get 'nice points' for offering yarn that I can use later to claim things. I really don't need any yarn right now, but I like banking credit for the future!

I had a delightful email this morning from Jennifer, asking me my colour preferences and other bits of trivia for my new membership of the TsockFlock Sock Club! Six kits of the most amazing artistry and creativity imaginable, spaced out over the coming year. I'm thrilled about this. I was lucky enough to receive a kit for the Vintage socks for Christmas (no, I'm being good and getting my compulsory knitting out of the way first!), so the thought of a whole year of these is just fab.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Socks! At Last!

I broke down and ripped out the toe of the first Rock and Weave sock. It was just too short. And since I had plenty of yarn, it wasn't really a problem. And now they are finished! I'm wearing them right now, in fact. :D

And since it finally dried, here is a bonus photo of the alpaca I spun last weekend.

Today I'm enjoy the sunshine with some masham fiber on the wheel, a wedding dress on the hook, Santa on the embroidery frame and nothing on the needles! No, I haven't finished all my WIPs. (Yeah, right!) I'm just spinning and crocheting mostly right now. Looked around and realized that most of my current active projects are crochet. It goes quickly, and I have high hopes of getting one or two of my Mission:Possible projects done this month.

Monday, 5 January 2009


I decided last night to take a break from the spinning and start making progress on my M:P09 goals by working on the Pomatomus sock. Just one problem - I've completely lost my place in the pattern. I also had 42 stitches on the patterned needle instead of 37, no idea where they came from.

So, since the whole point of knitting is to have fun......... I ripped the sock out. Completely. No more Poms for me. I might come back to the pattern in a couple of years, but for now I am thrilled that it is gone.

Of course, I needed a new sock to replace it. No, I still haven't finished the last 3 inches of Rock and Weave number 2. It's waiting for my lunch hour. The buttons are on and all the ends are woven in, I literally have 3 inches of knitting and a toe to graft. Then they are done. I've cast on for a new sock in the meantime, and it's going well.

Back in the summer I got a skein of undyed Trekking sock yarn and went wild with the Kool-Ade. I never blogged about it because the camera died, and I've been a bit busy since then. It's variegated lime green, turquoise and plum, which means that it's too busy for most patterns. I found a ribbed sock with a simple cable down each side of the ankle so it's not too boring. Hopefully it'll show up through the yarn. If not, I'll just get funky new ribbed socks.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

New Year, New Craft

I finally sat down this weekend and used my new spinning wheel. It even has a name, thanks to one of my friends! The wheel is called Roy, and he and I are getting along famously. I woke up early one morning, fished out the oil and the alan key and made all the appropriate adjustments to the bearings. And wouldn't you know, as soon as those things had been sorted out, Roy was ready to spin!

I've basically been spinning constantly for three days. It's incredibly soothing, not to mention being a lot of fun. First you make singles by spinning the yarn in one direction. I made 2 bobbins-full of merino singles.

Then, you stick both of your bobbins onto a Lazy Kate and spin them back the other way. This keeps them from untwisting, and also loosens up the twist from the first go-round.

Once they've been plied, you wind them off onto a niddy-noddy. (Or in my case the lid from a plastic storage tub.) Tie the skein in several places so it doesn't get horribly tangled, then give it a wash. Apparently this sets the twist. Once it's washed, the yarn gets thwacked on the side of the bathtub. According to those in the know, thwacking removes excess water, distributes the twist evenly throughout the skein, and makes the yarn more stable by slightly felting the plies together. Then off to the drying rack to drip over a towel for a day or two.

Once they are dry, there is the option of making a proper skein if you've enough yarn. If, as I have been, you've been spinning tiny samples of different fibres, you can make yarn pretzels. For example, a grey Shetland yarn pretzel and a Blue-Faced Leicester yarn pretzel.

And just because I'm tickled at the new camera's capabilities, a close-up of some yarn!