Monday, 10 December 2012

Catching up

I'm still working on sooper sekrit holiday projects, but I have finished a few things here and there. First up, a project I actually finished back in April that somehow never made it onto the blog!

silk fichu 002

This is a shawl (scarf, really) made from silk that I spun and dyed.The pattern is Arietta, and is an absolute joy to knit. It's really complicated true lace, patterned on both the right and wrong side, but the pattern was such that I always knew where I was. It's knit sideways with both top and bottom edging knit on at the same time as the body. And cleverly, it's designed to allow you to use up all of your yarn - you stop increasing when you've used a little less than half, and then decrease until it's done.

And a beauty shot:

silk fichu 005

Next up - my very first proper finished sweater! I am thrilled to pieces with this. It fits perfectly, and is the warmest thing I own. Hugely useful for the library I work at, since we've got on-going heating problems.

Owls update 006

I'm afraid this sweater has fallen victim to one of the problems that plagues me in winter. I work during the day, which means I only have access to natural light at the weekend. I also only have access to my spouse for photography during the weekend. Unfortunately, this being London, it's grey and miserable more often than not, plus as it's the holiday season we're often not home.

Owls update 008

Suffice to say that I have worn this sweater as often as I've been able to since finishing it. My mother tells me it's flattering, and my husband tells me that it makes my rack look fabulous. Can't complain, really.

Pattern is Owls, by Kate Davies. Ms Davies is fabulous and brilliant and I want to knit basically everything she's ever designed. The yarn is Rowan's Felted Tweed DK, which I used held trebled. I bought nineteen balls of the wretched stuff at a John Lewis clearance sale a few years back, and it's been taunting me ever since. No more! Twelve balls have gone into this sweater, and the remaining seven are being knit into a garter stitch scarf even as we speak.

Saturday, 3 November 2012


A few years ago I had the very great privilege of taking a day-long class with Judith MacKenzie. Judith is a teacher of textile arts; she is an acknowledged master of knitting, spinning, and weaving, but is one of those people who knows so much more that you can't really call her anything but Teacher.

The class I took from her was ostensibly about spinning yarn for socks. And it was, mostly. But it was also a little bit about knitting socks, and a bit about selecting breeds of wool for different purposes, and a wee bit about spinning warp yarns for weaving, and a lot about how to teach. I suspect that last one was mostly me watching, but Judith can teach anyone anything.

Judith has been teaching textile arts longer than I've been alive. She's travelled the world and met literally thousands of artists. She's collected so much information, so many memories - and with them, all the millions of bits and pieces that 'making' people tend to assemble in their lives.

Last Monday her studio burned to the ground.

EVERYTHING to do with her art and her work was in that studio. Her looms. Her spinning wheels. Her textile samples. Her library. Her yarn. Her fiber. Her life and livelihood.

Much of what was lost is utterly irreplaceable. But she still needs to work, to teach, and to do that, the textile community is about to do what it does best. The Yarn Harlot says it perfectly:

"...this community takes care of its own, and Judith MacKenzie? She's definitely ours."

There is a website, still under construction, called Rebuild Judith's Studio. One of the few finished parts is the Donate button. They are also taking donations of equipment and materials to restock the new studio once it has been built.

As a general rule I don't blog about things that involve fundraising. For Judith I make this exception. Directly or indirectly she has touched the lives of almost every textile artist I know, and she is hurting right now.

Friday, 26 October 2012

That time of year

Much of the reason that I'm not posting much right now is because I'm working on a Christmas present. It's for someone who reads the blog, and it's pretty much all I'm working on. I mean, there's a pair of Monkey socks living in my handbag, but that's it.

I'll do a state of the WIPs at some point soon - it'd probably spur me to work on the gift faster so that I can get back to everything else!

Friday, 19 October 2012

So remember back when I used to blog?

Yeah, me too. It was awesome.

Let's see, stuff that's happened since the Olympics finished. I made a scarf:

Granny scarf 001

One skein of Noro Kureyon Sock, granny ripple crochet pattern from my ripple stitch dictionary.

Baby L isn't a baby anymore. She's 4-and-a-quarter, thank you very much, and started Reception last month. And at the end of August her mother presented her with a new baby brother! Here's the sweater I knitted for him:

Granny scarf 009

Colinette Jitterbug in Lobster, pattern is the "Seamless Yoked Baby Cardigan". It's not really lopsided, I just took the picture from a funny angle. Despite having made the newborn size, it was far too big for the wee 'un when he arrived, so it should fit just as the weather gets cold.

Baby L and Baby B are rather cumbersome handles, I think, so from here on in I'll go with Fred and Ned. Formerly-Baby-L has this rather annoying habit of deliberately calling people by the wrong name. When she does that to me, I call her Fred. Makes her crazy, but she stops being a brat. And Ned's not Baby B's name, it's just what I thought he looked like when he came out. Every child needs a nickname that has nothing to do with their real name, don't you think? My parents still call me Mabel on occasion...

Monday, 13 August 2012

Ravellenic Wrap-Up

I'm alive! I've survived the Olympics! What a show. I'm nuts about the Games, and having my home city hosting has been an experience, let me tell you. My workplace is right in the centre of Bloomsbury, which is where the press hub was located, and is right by both Euston and King's Cross. So walking from my office to get my afternoon tea, I'd pass a pair of Ukrainian swimmers, returning from Oxford Street and nattering about their new running shoes. Or walking past Euston on my way home, watch the extraordinary volunteers of Team London directing tourists, interpreting, and making people feel welcome and at ease. There was almost no direct impact on our daily lives. Deliveries were shifted earlier or later, but life went on as usual. It was remarkable.

And kudos to the BBC! I've never before been able to watch every single minute of every single event and medal ceremony. And believe me, I watched. ALL of it. Not while I was at work, obviously, but it was perfectly normal for Spouse and I to have one event running on the television, another on my computer and a third on his!

And while I was watching, I was knitting. My chosen project was the Vintage Tsocks that I started in February last year. Over and over, I've told myself that I'd finish them, and yet somehow they lingered in my WIPs basket. Here's how things stood at the beginning of the Ravellenic Games:

owl sleeves 002

One sock with the heel turned, but before starting the ankle shaping. The second sock ready to turn the heel. Leaves of three colours completed, the first leaf of the last colour cast on but not finished.

The Opening Ceremony started, and I knit. I knit leaves while the athletes processed into the stadium. I worked the heel shaping while Great Britain earned her first medal of the Games in the women's road race. I finished the grapes on the second sock during some of the finest rowing I've ever had the pleasure of watching. I pinned out and blocked leaves as the first female boxers in Olympic history fought for their medals. I learned about the esoteric rules of fencing while I learned to knit an applied i-cord bind-off. I sewed in ends while marvelling at the sheer magic of the rhythmic gymnastics.

And finally, on Saturday, with less than 24 hours to spare, I finished my Tsocks


Pattern - Vintage, by Lisa Grossman aka The Tsarina of Tsocks
Yarn - Holiday Yarns FlockSock Sock Yarn
Needles - 2.25mm paired Addi circulars and 2.25mm steel DPNs
Ends woven in - 96 (no, that's not a typo. I counted them.)
New techniques learned - 7

I'm not an athlete. I'm a knitter. But I tell you this - when I snipped off that last end and put my new socks on my feet? Just for a moment, I knew what it felt like to win gold.


Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Tour de Fleece wrap-up

So, much like my discovery that spinning happens when you work on it all the time, I've discovered that Tour spinning goes better when you focus on spinning things instead of photographing them.

Consequently, have a look at my most productive Tour yet!

First up, yarn from three batts I won on Ravelry.

Zombie Apocalypse 001

250 yards of true 3-ply, just under 100g. The fiber originally came as three batts, so I decided to spin them as they came. I stripped each batt into quarters and spun directly from the resulting strips. I was aiming for something a little chunkier than my usual sock yarn, and this worked up pretty evenly.

Second, the braid of Zombie Apocalypse I dyed with Weaving Friend a while back.

Zombie Apocalypse 002

This braid of merino was my personal challenge for the Tour. I wanted to see whether I could spin and ply an entire 100g braid in a single day. Turns out I can, but I won't be able to use my fingers for much for a couple of days afterwards! 150 yards, n-plied.

I did some sampling of the Gottland fleece I've been prepping forever. I hadn't decided whether I wanted to spin it from the lock or from combed top. So I did a few yards of 2-ply from each prep method to see which was better. Bizarrely, they were indistinguishable. I'll spin from the lock, since that's the case. No sense adding an extra level of prep if it's not adding anything to the finished yarn!

I also did a little work on the superwash merino sock yarn I've had on the go forever. Not much, though, because I wanted to work on something I'd actually be able to finish.

Finally, I spent a goodly chunk of time spindling. I had a second lot of fiber from my Ravelry prize, also orange. I've split it into three and am doing something that'll eventually be a fingering or DK-weight yarn, depending on how much it floofs on washing. And I've also been learning how to use my adorable little Turkish spindle. I've got a sample bag of tussah silk roving on that.

Final Day TdF 2012 001

Next up - getting ready for the Ravellenic Games!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Can't post, busy spinning

The Tour de Fleece is going on right now. Turns out the best way to get spinning done is to actually spin instead of wasting time taking pictures and blogging. I'll do a post of everything next Sunday after the TdF finishes!

Monday, 25 June 2012

A learning experience

On Saturday I finished a spinning project. No, honestly, I did! Here's the evidence:
white massam 003
Massam, spun on my resin Wildcraft spindle and 3-plied on the wheel. 187yds, 97g. Not my favourite fiber ever, but I've learned a lot from working with it.

Thing the first - spindling in public is perfectly doable. Inspired by Weaving Friend, I took spindle and massam to an SCA event with me. I didn't spin on the pilgrimage part (had to finish those cabled socks, after all), but I did do rather a lot of wandering around at the event site with my spindle. I even spent some of that time teaching two small girls to use a spindle. Neither really has the patience yet, but it'll do them both good to watch and take in the principles.

Thing the second - the resin spindle can hold up to about 30g of fiber before it starts getting ornery.

Thing the third - I can ply on a spindle, but my elbow is sufficiently borked that there's really no point. The skeins I can produce without hurting myself are so small that they're inefficient.

Thing the fourth - it takes me about 4 yards of yarn to learn to do a new technique.

Thing the fifth - my default spinning and plying directions are the same on both spindle and wheel.

Thing the sixth - if one spends an hour a day spinning, projects actually get finished. Crazy, right? But it's totally true. I started taking spindling to work for my lunch break and could see progress from day to day.

Thing the seventh - my colleagues are awesome. Not one person has made a weird remark about the fact that I've been spinning in the break room. Several people have even correctly identified what I was doing and asked intelligent questions about spindles and wheels and made links to fairy tales!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Achievement unlocked - photograph black cables!

I finished these up yesterday, and I'm very pleased with them. Of course, I'm even more pleased with the fact that I managed to get a halfway decent photo of them.

Fischernetze 006

Pattern is Fischernetze, yarn is King Cole Zig-Zag, 2.5mm bamboo DPNs.

I cast on for these in December, while visiting my in-laws. I'd only brought one project with me for the whole weekend, and finished it halfway through Sunday. Fortunately I'd realized the day before that I was likely to do so, and I stopped in a local yarn store to pick up needles and yarn. The yarn's not great, to be honest. It's 50% nylon, so while it's very shiny and (presumably) will hold up in the wash, there's not a lot of bounce to it. I'm hoping the pull of the lace and cables will keep the cuffs in reasonably good shape.

I've been wanting a pair of handknit black socks for a while now. I prefer to wear only handknits, but there are occasions when scarlet Monkeys are just inappropriate. Now I've got one pair of smart black socks to keep for things like conferences and job interviews. I don't plan to wear this pair often - got to keep them nice for when they're needed!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

A high-fiber diet

The Tour de Fleece is approaching alarmingly fast, so on Thursday I decided to go through all of my spinning fiber in order to figure out what I've got and what I want to spin. I'm still no closer to a goal, but I do have a much better idea of what's in there.

Dyed fiber:

Undyed fiber:

2kg of raw Gotland in various stages of prep:


So there we have it. Full disclosure.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Black Socks May

I had a pretty good month in May - finished three socks! Two of them were from a pair, even!

Cascade 220 bedsocks:

Black socks and bento 003

An excellent use of an entire ball of worsted yarn that had no purpose. And it meant that I had nice warm feet at the SCA event we went to last weekend.

Of course, I had to take some knitting with me to the event, so I made a push on my black cabled socks. I finished the cuff and heel before we left. I also made the decision not to continue the cable pattern down the foot, as I really wanted something plain to knit while I walked around Winchester. I finished knitting the gusset decreases as we went down on the train, and grafted the toe shut the evening we got back to London.

Black socks and bento 004

It's shockingly difficult to take pictures of cables and lace in a shiny black sock yarn. They look pretty good in person, though.

The second sock is going really well. I've never suffered from the dreaded Second Sock Syndrome. It's the first sock I always have issues with, because the first sock is the one where you have to make all the decisions and rip out mistakes. The second sock just has to match the first. I've nearly finished the cuff, and since I'm about to have a 4-day Bank Holiday weekend for the Queen's Jubilee, I have high hopes of getting the pair done by next weekend at the latest.

Friday, 18 May 2012

I may go blind.

I've got two different pairs of socks as my current active WIPs. They are both black. The worsted-weight one is ribbed. The fingering-weight one is cables and lace. I am insane. That is all.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

And now, for something completely different...

... adventures in onigiri-making! I have a secret addiction to reading blogs about bento, and I pack a lunch most days. Plus I already have a bento thermos that my mother brought over from Singapore (it was supposed to be for Spouse, but he doesn't do packed lunches in fiddly bits). And I love Japanese food (and Thai, and Chinese, and Korean...)

So I've done odd things with lunches in the past, but decided to take advantage of the sunshine and my cooking mood to try something new. Onigiri, which are balls of cooked rice, often packed around a filling and/or sprinkled with flavourful stuff and/or wrapped in nori, seemed like a pretty easy starting point.

First up - cook the rice. Normally this would be plain short-grain white rice, which sticks together nicely. I only have basmati at the moment, so I made coconut rice instead since I know it's suitably sticky! I make coconut rice in my rice cooker. Twice as much coconut milk as rice by volume and a slosh of good soy sauce. Set the cooker to "cook", then ignore it til it clicks over to "warm". At this point I usually give it a good stir with a rice paddle. The bottom gets delightfully crusted and brown during cooking. If you leave it, it gets quite thick and can be peeled off and eaten separately. If you stir it when it clicks over, it breaks up and mixes in with the sticky rice and gives it a nicer flavour. Plus it's not done cooking yet, so there will be more of it. Put the lid back on and leave it set to "warm" until all the liquid's absorbed and you can see the grains of rice again.

Now to assemble your stuff! The plain, slightly sweet rice needs to be offset by something quite strong. Traditionally this would be something salty/sour, like umeboshi plums. I don't have any, but I do have a jar of lime pickle. This stuff is incredibly powerful, but it works perfectly with the rice! And I also have a jar of black sesame seeds that will do nicely for sprinkling. No nori, because Spouse is not sure how he feels about dried seaweed and I'm intending these to be for both of us to eat.

Here's my assembly set-up:

The toaster and spice rack are not part of the onigiri assembly .  :)

You can shape onigiri by hand, but I'm trying to manage portion sizes so wanted them to be all the same. We conveniently have a small stash of glass ramekins that came with Gu puddings in them! They are perfectly portion-sized, actually - the resulting onigiri is just comfortably hand-sized.

Line the ramekin with plastic wrap. This is by far the fiddliest part of the whole procedure.

Once it's lined, sprinkle sesame seeds into the ramekin. You could put them in last (and I did with the one that I forgot to sprinkle!), but the side that's in the bottom will be nice and smooth and you'll be able to see the black seeds. The other side is where the plastic wrap bunches up, so it won't look good.

Spoon in hot rice, packing it in, until the ramekin is half full. Please note that I'm only using the metal spoons for packing - they do NOT scrape the inside of my rice cooker!

Once the ramekin is half-full, place a scant quarter-teaspoon of lime pickle right in the middle of the rice. Like I said, this stuff is strong, and a little goes a long way.

Pack more rice in around and over the lime pickle. Pack it tightly until the rice is level with the top of the ramekin. (The brown stuff visible is some of the rice crust.)

Using the plastic wrap, pull the onigiri out of the ramekin. This takes a little bit of wiggling with mine, since the circumference of the lip is slightly smaller than the circumference of the bottom. Fold the plastic wrap over to seal it, reshaping the onigiri into a nice cylinder if necessary. Bonus points if you kept all the pickle in a nice dollop in the middle - it's not supposed to leak out the sides.

Turn it over and admire your beautiful sesame-sprinkled onigiri!

I cooked one-and-a-half cups of rice (uncooked volume) in three tins of coconut milk, which gave me exactly enough rice for nine onigiri. Only eight here because I fed one to Spouse for testing purposes. He reckons that two should be enough for a filling meal when served with vegetables and protein of some sort. Tomorrow will tell.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

The imp of the perverse

Why is it that whenever one has time to work on projects, one never ends up doing what was planned?

Two recent examples for you. On Thursday we had workmen round to inspect our roof (on-going squirrel infestation), so I took the day off work to let them in. They'd gone by 9:45, so I'd planned to crack on with this month's spinning project. What I actually did was cast on 2 new knitting projects! One is a Mara shawl from the Rowan Felted Tweed I've had forever. The other is the second incarnation of my Blessed Thistle Tsocks from the 2009 club. I still haven't finished Vintage, but they were making me crazy and I wanted something that didn't require two simultaneous charts and a technique booklet to knit. Both projects are going well.

Yesterday my other half was out at his university library studying for his upcoming MSc exams, so I had the flat to myself. I'd planned to haul out and photograph all my fiber stash in preparation for the Tour de Fleece, which starts next month. Instead I spent the entire day cross-stitching.

I know, I'm in shock too. I literally cannot remember the last time I did any cross-stitch. But I did, and if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go do some more.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Finished projects!

First up, the crocheted scarf! It's done! I've worn it every day since I finished it last week, which is why it looks like I haven't blocked it. I'm dead chuffed with it. Perfect for spring.

Also a small spinning project - silk embroidery thread, because I am a crazy lady. It's approximately 12 yards, which is about the length of a commercial hank of embroidery floss. It weighs less than half a gram. Spindle-spun from silk hankies which had been dyed with cochineal.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

State of the WIPs, April edition

I'm home sick instead of out at a steampunk event. What better way to console myself than by taking photos of all my knitting projects? I've got updates of everything, even the things I haven't been working on much.

Oldest first, then. Here's my granny square bedspread. I took half-a-dozen balls on an overnight trip at the beginning of the month and ended up with 25 new squares! Still pretty small, though. I've commited to a wee knitalong on one of my Ravelry forums next month, so I'll be spending the first two weeks of May on square duty.

Next up is the everlasting Vintage Tsocks. You'll notice if you look closely that one of those Tsocks has a heel! And I'm 99% sure it fits! I won't be absolutely certain until I've got more of the cuff knitted. I'm leaving it for the moment because frankly, I'm bored of them.

These are my Suitable Socks. Believe it or not, there's cables and lace on that cuff. Pretty easy, I stick them in my handbag when I don't have anything more pressing on the go.

Crazy knee socks that have never appeared on the blog before. Toe-up, stranded colourwork all the way up. Three colours. Those of you with very good memories may recall that I bought this yarn, along with three other colourways, to knit myself a stranded vest. Never happened. Decided to use the yarn up on two pairs of knee socks instead. I can get sweater yarn someday when I actually have time to knit big projects.

A Haruni shawl, using the very first yarn I ever bought at Loop. The mohair is incredibly irritating to knit with, although I love the results. I've done the first chart and have 4 lace repeats and the edging left to go. It'll be a while, though!

A Posh project next - a Holden shawl in Daisy, colourway 76 Trombones. It's a plain stockinette centre and a lace edging. I keep it for tv knitting.

And another Posh shawl - this one is called Radiance. The yarn is Miranda Cobweb, colourway Shining Hour. I love it so very much. It's a half-circle shawl, and when it's done it'll look like a sunrise.

Finally, my newest and current favouite project - a crocheted lace scarf! It's the Zauberball I won in the raffle at Knit Nation 2010. I'd planned to knit another shawl with it, but the pattern wasn't pushing my buttons. Instead I'm working this up. It's a ripple pattern called Delicate Lace (imaginative, no?), and I'm using a 5mm hook. It's giving me just the right amount of airy drape.

It's also inspired me to rethink my plans for the two balls of Noro Kureyon Sock I've got stashed away. I'd been thinking shawls, but maybe crocheted scarves would be better. They'd certainly be faster...

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Addendum to last

I love the feeling of freedom that comes from recognizing that some yarn is just crap and deciding to throw it away. That's many hours of my life I've just liberated for some future project that I'll enjoy.

The yarn was fraying from the friction of the heddle. It had already snapped in one place and worn through in several others by the time I'd done the first 6 inches of weaving. A pity, because the colours were working even more nicely than I'd hoped, but I have plenty of other awesome yarns to work with.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Totally warped

On Wednesday, which was the last day of my Easter vacation, I decided to warp the loom. I had two skeins of sock yarn that I'd bought years ago, back before I knew what sort of socks I enjoy knitting. The colours coordinate quite well, so I decided to use one ball for the warp and one for the weft.

I love warping the loom. I love the curve of the yarn as it twists away from the heddle and toward the warping peg.

I love watching the way the colours line up - no pooling, this isn't a sock!

I love the fiddly pulling through of alternate threads.

I love tensioning the knots that hold the warp in place on the cloth bar.

And I love the look of a fat, loaded shuttle, ready for weaving.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Just for spring

I finished a chunky woollen scarf last night, perfect for the chill of early April in London!

teal scarf 002

I bought some Cascade 220 last summer to take to a class at Knit Nation. The project didn't use but a few yards of each colour, so I wanted to use up the rest of it. This is two shades of teal, one solid and one heathered, held together and knit on 8mm needles.

I'm planning to turn the other two balls into two more pairs of bedsocks. Can't ever have enough of those, especially with SCA camping season starting.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Rip it, rip it

Two fewer WIPs than I had this weekend. I frogged the shawl I was making with my first laceweight (the green mohair) because the yarn wasn't interesting enough to get me through that much garter stitch. I'll do that pattern in some of my Posh, I think.

And I've just ripped out the Rovaniemi mitts I learned how to do at Knit Nation last summer. I wanted to learn the technique, and I have. But knitting anything at that tight a gauge hurts my wrists, and life's just too short to make things that hurt. Now I just need to figure out what to do with the yarn!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Science - it totally works

Weaving Friend came to visit me over the weekend, and we spent Sunday going a little crazy in the kitchen. Not cooking, mind you - dyeing.

I'd found my missing 400g bag of white merino tops* and my dye stash a few days previously, so I weighed the tops out into 5 85g braids so that we could both dye a couple and have enough fiber at the end to make something with.

I've used Kool-Aid for dyeing before, but never for unspun wool. I also had three colours of food colouring that was past the use-by date and wanted to use up.

We started by soaking the undyed fiber in water so that the dye would take.

Weaving Friend taught me a couple of new techniques, including how to set the dye in the microwave.

I showed her how to use the stove top steamer, which is my usual method.

We went with a variety of methods to apply the dyes, everything from "apply carefully with a pipette" to "slosh it all in a bowl and dye your hands blue". Thankfully my kitchen has a stainless steel sink!

We did five very different colourways, all of which have been given rather ridiculous names.

It was that kind of weekend. Weaving Friend's two are Hentacles:

and Mermaid Pubes:

Mine are Shark Week:

and Exploding Blackberry Wine:

And here's the science. Ever do chromatography in science class at school, where you daub some felt-tip marker onto a paper towel, dampen it and watch the colours separate out? Well, Weaving Friend pointed out that the food colouring would probably break into several colours too, so we tested it.

The blue and red pretty much stayed true, since they're primary colours, but the black did crazy things! As it happened they were crazy things I liked, so I soaked the last round of fiber in a bottle of lemon juice (no Kool-Aid, no acid, no colourfastness!) and went to town. We tipped the black over the wet fiber and poured water over it to separate the colours, then filled in the white parts with the remains of the blue. I love the way it's turned out.

Zombie Apocalypse:

*Let's gloss over the fact that I've enough fiber to lose a 400g bag of the stuff for several weeks, shall we?