Thursday, July 31, 2008

a little bit of daylight ..

and things look so much better, so after the rather negative blog post a few days ago on my not so wonderful FO - today I am a little more positive about my knitting. I worked from home yesterday, so was able to use the available light in the middle of the day to photograph the scarf - and in the weak diffused light of a dreary rainy Thursday the scarf actually looks pretty good!

Thank you to all who suggested a provisional cast on in the middle and work the scarf out to the ends, a much better solution. The graft needed serious blocking to make it behave, its hard to get the tension right when grafting loose knit lace. Starting in the middle should avoid all those problems. I know a F&F could be knit from one end to the other, but it is nice having the ends match ... see?

Not much else to report, I'm off to work, in the 3rd continuous day of heavy rain. Its dark, its dull, its wet and visibility is really limited, not fun driving - still 15 people made it out to knit night last night despite the weather. At home we have discovered a leak, one of the lounge windows, a non-opening one, has a puddle of water on the sill, still one solitary leak is not bad for an old house in a 3 day storm. In the top photos you can just see the edge of the cloth I'm using to mop up the leak (a white towel mid way down the right side of the image).

The whole country has been buffeted by a wild and wet storm. Up north roads are washed out, houses have lost their roofs, some houses on the waterfront have had the foundations washed away and rooms have fallen into the sea, other houses have slipped down hills, storm water drains overflow and many many people were evacuated because flooding. The power has been cut to many areas and, and the internet it intermittent. Here in Dunedin we have had heavy steady rain but have escaped all the rest, although the road to Christchurch was closed to traffic all day yesterday. If you are one those in wetter and stormier places, I do hope it dries up sooner not latter.

Tonight our local knit group - Take back the knit - has our inaugural mid winter secret gift exchange and dinner. So far at least 20+ are expected, in K's house (thanks K!), so that is another bright spot amongst the dearly wetness of the continuing rain. I'm taking Cioccolata densa (Italian Thick Hot Chocolate) inspired by the hot thick hot strong dark dairy free Chocolat at LeCafe in Christchurch on our recent spinning workshop trip. Three of us tasted their hot chocolate, and Wow, we've all returned home to perfect a home made version, there have been multiple cooked 'swatches' over the last week in our kitchens ... I've got little cup sized white bowls to serve it in and long elegant spoons to scrape the last smatterings from the bowls,

Recipe to come soon - I promise ...
as usual - take care, stay dry, and keep warm, hope

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Done, blocked, finished!

and we have been watching old Muppet snippets on u-tube so you will have to excuse me for including this, its had us all giggling tonight as a treat before bedtime, some more than others. I'm not sure how your day has been - but every one needs a nice simple laugh some time, so go on enjoy this little simple treat.

sorry about that, but I can't believe it was made in 1969, very nearly older than me! and my two cubs laugh as much as I remember laughing when I watched as a kid.We have been watching others, Huga Wuga has been nearly as good - although as a parent I realise all of these are really bullies in disguise.

but this blog is about knitting, so lets move on to knitting, specifically my knitting, or me knitting a lace scarf in feather and fan. Does any one get the idea I might be procrastinating, or delaying - well I just might be, last night I finished knitting my scarf, grafted the joining seam, wove in the ends, blocked it leaving it out to dry overnight, this morning I took photos before leaving for work and here they are. Now be warned, it was dark until 8:30am or latter this morning, and I left for work at 8ish, so these photos were taken inside, and are not the best I've ever taken. I've turned them black and white in the hope of making them better. Now that sounds like a theme - a running apology thru this post, and that maybe, but its just I like to do good stuff, and need to excuse the not so good. Thats just me.

I'd have to say that I love the pattern and love the yarn I spun and absolutely loove the silk, alpaca, merino and mohair blend Jenni gave me - but I'm a little disappointed in the actual scarf, or more precisely my execution of it. Firstly the pattern had the two ends grafted together in the middle, and I did that according to the instructions, even grafting in moss stitch across the borders, but I think that method lacks elegance. There has to be a better way. I don't have the heart or the yarn to re work the center - and between you and me that graft is not in the center anyway. And no non knitter and many knitters won't even notice that - especially when I wear it. I'll call it a knitting learning lesson and be proud that my blog is honest enough to include the not so perfect and the 'look what I learned' items at times.

The graft is off center because I divided my hand spun up into two even balls using scales and my handspun is not even enough to do that. Far from even, the graft is off center by at least a third of the scarfs length - which Bear pointed out means the join is not centered on my neck and less noticeable. Did I mention that there are times I really like Bear? Maybe a few more rows of stocking stitch in the middle would made the grafted section blend to the feather and fan better, or fewer rows? What do you think? Any suggestions?

As well as the in-elegant graft join of the two sections of the feather and fan scarf, there are two extra holes in the wrong place. Part of me is pleased that it is only two, and part now understands that with lace not everything is apparent until the blocking - and then it is very apparent. So this hole is in the wrong place ....

as is this one.

But I checked and its only those two, until I go to knit night and some one finds a dropped stitch or another misplaced hole ...

so take care, I'm off to start something new, colour work with handspun ... I'll show next time .. promise

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I wanna go again!

Well, we have just got back from an Anne Field workshop in Christchurch. We being four Dunedin Spinner Knitters, and just being a few hours ago. The shuttle has delivered me home so what does a spinner knitter do - blogs of course - I've already knit in the airport, the plane and had a good cup of tea. You know, the kind of tea you can only make at home, hot, just the right strength, favorite brand/blend, nice big polished pottery cup, sitting in your own house, with all the cubs and bears away at school and work ... magic!

So whats first the workshop or the knitting, spinning or knitting, well - technically its a knitting blog so I'll do the knitting first. the feather and fan progress, my toasty sock progress, including the spinning workshop trip and the knitting and socialising and the stashing. Off we go ..

Feather and fan, this grew, not as much as I planned, but you can only knit so much when you are talking and chatting and all. I did frog a few rows here and there. By my estimation I'm about 75% of the way there ... I knit this at the airport, on the plane, in the hotel room, at both impromptu knit nights, and even at breakfast ... I knit this the most. I did not knit this when I ate dinner, the thought of accidental spills of any dark sauce on such lovely soft fluffy whiteness was to much to risk, so then I knit red socks ...

For at dinner I knit my second Toasty, toe up, it goes well, but now I just wanna knit Honey, the next sock in the club ... which is what many of the other sock clubers are doing.

And the workshop, well it was hosted by the local Christchurch guild which is based in the Arts Center, and was worth every penny. The workshop was a compressed version of Refine Your Spinning by Anne Field. We, the Dunedin-four, all borrowed wheels from the guild rooms. We had to take our pick - they had lots of old wheels, lots. I managed to get a Wing double drive just like my own, so could fill my own bobbins, Some of the others were not so lucky - M got a double drive Ashford traveller, J seemed fine on a ST traveler, but poor K - she got a wobbler with a lump and the scotch tension spring from hades. I know I tried it. Early on day 2 we arrived early and sorted K with a much better wheel, and then she started to smile - just a little.

Day 1 was only 2 hours, but Day 2 that ran from 9 to 4, thats a lotta spinning. If any one is reading from the Chch guild, you guys are lovely, and nice, and it was fab - but when you tell us you have lots of wheel and not to bring our own, and ask us to bring bobbins and ask what wheels we have - could you please, please, please, set aside ones that match our needs and make sure they are oiled, and have bobbins and our names on them? Please?

So first Anne handed out fleece, some mohair roving and had us do some warm up exercises, we had to co-ordinate our feet and our hands, some of it was like rubbing your tummy with one hand and patting your head with the other hand. Then she handed out little bags of 3 different kinds, one fine crimp, one medium crimp and one large crimp. And we started with the medium, like fine wine we looked at it, we described it on our score sheets, and we planned how to spin it. Anne has a plan for fleece, that the crimp and the twists per inch need to be sorta matched, and then you get the best yarn the fiber can be. She had stories and examples to share and show - and yes, it after all that the info Anne gave us makes sense to me.

So we worked to our plan, we put in the recommended twists per inch, and Anne has some cool tricks to see that in your spun singles, we spun it to the recommended wraps per inch, again more cool tricks, then we wound off little samples of the singles and plied the yarn again to the 'recommendations'. And it was fun - Anne warned us it would be ugly yarn, that we would spin ugly skeins, so we relaxed and tried really hard to spin ugly stuff. Then we wound of a little sample of our ugly plied yarn, washed the skein, and wound off a sample of the washed dried yarn. I learned lots.

I'm the least proud of the thick low crimp yarn, but its soft, and fluffy and light, very very light. I know how to do that now, make light yarn. Thats what she taught us. Then we did that for the fine crimp yarn, again I learned lots. And I saw - how much change you get in washing after plying. Would you look at that, the colour and bulk change, amazing.

And there was buying, first this lovely alpaca silk merino roving, Hand dyed by Arbordell Alpacas, just 89g but so nice. And not blue, my stash is blue, so I was surprised to fall for a not-blue fiber .. and had to take it home. I learned a new word, or rather a new use for a word, for what I purchased might just be considered SABLE - Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy. Sable - I love it, I love that there is a word for it, but it scares me. I can and could and will knit my stash away, its not so big that I can't master it, but that the concept of Sable exists at all is scary - after all marriage is to have and to hold, so why can't fiber and yarn be just to have and to hold?

And one ball of Noro, we met lots of lovely chch spinners and knitters, at the guild and out about town. They made us so welcome, some had organised an impromptu s&B for us, which was great fun, and I meet a lady with a suitcase full of Noro, so I got me some to try. Silk Garden - heavier than I expected, but this stuff has such a following on line I had to buy some and see if the buzz has foundation.
OK - thats me, I'm back, unpacked and ready to knit and spin in my own living room, on my own sofa. I'll catch up latter in the week.
Take care

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It worked !

That sock modification I was thinking of, well it worked, so today I've got some initial progress images of what I did and how it fits, then you will just have to put up with me and my latest spinning. I'm off with some of my Dunedin Spin buddies to an Anne Field Refine Your Spinning Workshop in Christchurch, so I just had to empty my bobbins ready for the workshop. I'm not taking my wheel(s), one won't fit in a suitcase, the splay of the legs is to wide for any of our suitcases. The other wheel I'd have to dismantle - and far too many folk have queried my sanity, don't I know that air port baggage handlers play rough throw and catch sports with any luggage labeled fragile? So we are all borrowing wheels, we have been told there are many for us to borrow, all good, trouble is I'm not sure I'm borrowing a Wing or a Pipy - so I must take bobbins for both.

But today is mostly about socks, or rather sock modifications. Last post I mentioned that inspired by Cat Bordhi and a comment in her New sock architecture book, that the gusset increases could go anywhere, so I deliberately put mine some where other than the sides. This is my slightly modified Toasty, I've keep the original idea of the heel in the charcoal contrast yarn, but worked it as a reverse heel flap. The flap is done with eye of partridge - so slipped stitches offset by one on alternate right side rows. But thats not the cool bit, the cool but is under the sole -

here - see? The increases are either side of a 3 stitch panel up the center of the sole. And it works, the sock fits. I did wonder if the central panel should be the same width as the heel cup - then realised that would be almost the same as the standard heel gusset increases, so not really different. I'm going to have to knit the other the same - to check my note taking for one thing and to have a matched pair for another. These things seem important to other people - they need their socks to match, when I just want to 'improve' and 'experiment' on the next sock, not the next pair. I do have plans for the next experiment - I want to see if I can plan the increases so they form a neat triangle that leads into the heel cup, one that splays open just enough to form the heel cup. Lets see if I can remember that when I knit my next sock shall we, and you can all remind me of what my fleeting plans were.

I do have to say it has become obvious that this is a sock for Bear or Dad, not me. That makes this the third sock in a row that is not for moi, but thats how it works some times. This sock is generously sized on my feet, so rather than frog and narrow it I decided to make it long enough for the adult male feel in my family. It does fit me, so it may be that once finished and washed it is my sock after all, that post knit block wash might just tighten it up just a tad, just enough to feel like my sock. Just between you and me, I may have started the gusset a tad to late, making it a half cm to long for me - but as I said the males in this family have larger paws and are pretty deserving of nice hand knit socks.

And spinning, this is what I plied up last night, some hand kettle dyed Perendale, dyed by a fellow Knitter M. This is a 3 ply, Navajo plied successfully, to retain the colour shifts. I've got 362m in 2 skeins, and its 17-19 wraps per inch (its my hanspun so you know the stuff still varies). I'm rather pleased, and thinking that I might use it for some colour-work on a top down raglan for Poppy latter in the year, or I might just leave it hanging over the back of a chair and admire it for a while longer. Its not the best photo in the world - the short winter days are here and affect the photo opportunities for those knit bloggers who work.

So - not post this weekend, but I'll report next week on the weekends events, the spinning and the knitting, and hopefully meeting some Christchurch based Ravelryrs. M put a thread on the kiwi crafting group on Ravelry if you'd like to meet up with us. My take along knitting will be my scarf and my sock, I'm thinking of starting sock two up to the same point as this sock, and then knitting both legs at the same time. So if you are in and around the Center of Christchurch, look for 4 or more knitters, discussing their spinning at length, while KIP'ing, it could be M, K, J and I.

Take care

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Remember back when I knit socks?

Well, I do still knit socks, even though it seems to have been an age since I actually knit on a sock. Today I surprise both you and I with some sock progress, spurred on by the 2nd installment of Vintage Purls sock club (and very pretty it is to). I spent the last three days of last week at one of those self awareness personal development courses, Friday involved abseiling (yes it is spelt right), and meditating on an outside solo - it is winter here and we had 2 days warning of Friday's events. So what did I do? I knit me some Fetchings. Yes give a knitter 2 days notice of cold outdoor activity and they can knit themselves warm. My feather and fan grows, and a very nice piece of tatting came my way this week.

So socks, I'm still knitting up the first of the first sock club socks, Toasty. Toasty has a short row heel, which I have knit in the past, and was once a big fan of, but now my preference for sock heels lies more in a gusset and flap heel. Oh - yes, I do have a pretty clear idea of how geeky that sounds, when a person has a sock heel preference, but we are talking Knitting here, and to be specific Knitted socks, and I came to terms with my geekiness long ago. Notice my deliberate use of capital K in Knitting?

So I planned to knit Toasty with a gusset heel based on the math used in Widdershins, but then some thing I had read keep playing in my mind. CB suggested in her New Pathways that the gusset increases could go anywhere, and I'm so so tempted by Francie by Rebekkah Kerner, well my internal experimental geek said 'lets try this repositioning the gusset thing - Now!'. So there you go, I'm centering the gusset increases around the middle 3 sole stitches - and working my way towards the heel cup and heel flap. I'll keep you all posted how this turns out.

and the spark for me to pick up Toasty again? Vintage Purls released her 2nd installment of the winter 08 sock club. Isn't it yummy, the yarn and sock are called Honey, the package comes all wrapped up in brown paper and string (favorite things anyway), and with little sock needle sized stitch markers, and a box of Jaffa's. These are an oddly named chocolate centered orange candy coated lolly sold in New Zealand, there are traditions about rolling these down the wooden stairs in old movie theaters. Very vintage.

And my new Fetchings, I've knit these before, and as before I seemed unable to follow the pattern. Last time I knit them longer, and they were a gift for Toby's last Motessori teacher. This time the Fetchings were for me and I added a thumb gusset. The yarn was a beautiful silky heavy yarn from the Aspen Alpaca Company and is 100% baby alpaca. The skein label says the yarn was from two Alpaca - Magic and New Moon. Thank you Suzanne for this yarn, I hope I have finally put it to good use.

and even though I am back to knitting socks, my lace scarf still grows. See?
Feather and Fan - one pattern row every 4th row, very easy - as long as I count and don't split my stitches.

Late last week I caught up with another internet knitting friend, Suzanne, and we talked by phone for ages, or maybe that was the week before - time seems to flow fast right now. In addition Suzanne has sent me this lovely little tatted masterpiece of a bookmark. I am in awe, and just in case you are not suitably impressed,

below is the Tatted bookmark on my current knitting,

Well its Sunday, the sunday before school starts back after a 2 week break. So i should go and make sure the cubs are fed and to bed early and bags are ready for tomorrow and all the rest of the things that need doing (knitting/spinning).

Take care .. Stella

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Finished, finished, started, and gone :-(

Yes, I've got two finished things and one new thing today, two new-old books, and sad news and I'm posting a day early. The week feels like it has spiraled off in its own direction and is pulling me along. I arrived back at work after 10 days leave to a full email in-box and the realisation I was booked on a course this Wednesday to Friday, 8:15 am to 5:30 pm. Out went the plans to write a paper, and polish another, instead I read the manual that comes with the course, yes a manual, a thick ring binder folder of questions to help me know myself and my abilities better. Apparently I will learn to juggle with borrowed balls - and not being one to ignore fate, I've trotted off and bought my own set of juggling balls. I'm trying to be a positive person, throw me a curve ball - I'll try and throw it back. Of course with knitting and spinning to distract me, I can cope with pretty much anything life throws at me, and I do need distracting at times.

But the blog is about my knitting, and today my finished knitting ... so first another hat, Odessa 2, for my little sister Paula. I've knit this in the same yarn as my Odessa hat, Sublime Yarns Cashmere Merino Silk DK, but this time in a khaki shade. Again this neat little pattern knit up fast, and easy. Her birthday is the first of August, but I'll probably deliver it this Saturday. Its winter and she can wear it early.

Second finished knitted object - a hooded BSJ. It was technically finished some days ago, but I didn't like the hood I had worked. Rather I liked the hood for which I had used the matching bonnet pattern from the Opinionated Knitter, but didn't like the shape at the back neck. The bonnet is knit from the cast on edge using the same shaping as the jacket, and finishes with a decreased panel and grafted seam at center back. But, and this is a problem, the decreasing makes the center back pull up. Thats fine and dandy for a bonnet, not so fine when a knitter wants to sew the bonnet to a BSJ to make a hood.

So I frogged the bonnet and reknit it with no decreasing at the neck edge and decreasing and short rows around the top of the center back seam. That worked much better and resulted in a neat key hole shape at the back of the hood. The back is not an exact match for the rest of the BSJ, but the side shaping of the hood is a perfect match, I was of course at this point running shy of lavender yarn, but had plenty of bone yarn. If the back of the bonnet was knit in the main lavender, the key hole shape would be far less obvious.

I do like the way the hood folds down, like a teeny tiny hoodie. The hood was stitched into place along the neckline, 3 times, yes I repeatedly sewed it in right side to wrong side ...will I never learn? It was dark, it was late, I should have gone to bed - you all know how that one goes don't you?

I finished the BSJ with a three stitch i-cord all around the edge, picking up the cast on around the hood and continuing the i-cord around the face edge. This photo was taken before the hood was attached, to create the button loop, I just worked i-cord unattached for 5 rows, then continued to attach the i-cord to the stitches as I cast off.

My new knitting project is a lace scarf, I decided my first real lace project could be steeped in tradition so cast on for a feather and fan scarf, 3 repeats wide in the Mohair/merino/alpaca/silk blend I spun. I've 312m, the pattern specifies 400m, and uses larger needles and finer yarn, I am knitting mine on 4mm needles. I hope I have enough to knit a long enough scarf to wear - as long as it crosses over under my coat I should be fine. Right now I don't know if I will knit this end to end, or if I will knit two ends into the middle and graft it together. Grafting it will give me symmetry, something important to other knitters, but I'm not sure in my first scarf it is important to me. We will see. I was impatient to start, so should have divided up the ball into two equal weights - but didn't, and that is harder to do once knitting starts. There has to be an saying to the effect that more haste causes delay - or is that the old 'less haste makes more speed'?.

I've acquired two new-old knitting lace books, Modern Lace Knitting books one and two. Both second hand and on trade me, both with copious pencil notes in the margins, so have come from a lace knitter who used them.

Finally, Odette died this morning, Odette my work colleague and friend and fellow researcher who made me think, and laugh and smile at the world. She was a very real and human person, a strong person with an incredible sense of herself and others. I will miss her terribly as I know her family and friends will.

Please excuse me while I go and knit and remember a good friend, one who loved textiles.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

some knitting! some finishing! some stashing!

Today - I feel a little more on track, I've sorted my new stash additions and uploaded them into Ravelry, a knitters got priorities right? I've done a little washing, I've popped into work to hear a visiting lecturer speak about Design as Empathy, which scores me a few hours next week to attend a daytime spinning meet, I've dealt with the mail - both inward and outward, and I've eaten lunch. So - that gives me time to update the knitting blog with some knitting content. I provide a quick tour of my current working WIP's, and FO's. Warning serious stash additions occurred over the last 8 days, and I refuse to be judged negatively by the quantity of fiber and fiber related goodness that has entered my house recently.

First - Odessa is finished, and worn and admired.

In my first beaded knitting I strung the beads on the yarn and knit them into place using a knit stitch, it works but I'm not entirely happy with the way the beads sit on one leg of the stitch, it seems unbalanced to me. I guess it is only an issue when admiring the hat at a macro level, I know when worn on my head the slightly offset beads on each knit stitch would hardly be noticeable to the casual observer.

Odessa was a fun knit, especially once I obtained 40cm circs in the right size, these are I admit a little hard to hang on to with the short tips, but much easier to knit with than magic loop. I know much of the knitting world loves magic loop and its cousin, 2-circs, but I am not a fan of the sliding backwards and forwards that goes with both methods. I do admit such techniques have a place and latter in this post, you can see me use the magic loop quite neatly on my latest sock project. My 13 month younger sister has a birthday soon, and I thought a Cashmere Merino Silk Glass beaded Odessa in the midst of winter, would be a suitable gift, so I strung up another 120 beads and cast on for Odessa number two. Same yarn but different colourway. I've treated knitting up the beads slightly differently this time, I knit the bead into place, but on the next row/round I've been purling the beaded stitch, and making sure the bead sits in the center of the purl stitch. This suspends each bead on a little horizontal bar across the knitting and satisfies my insanely technical need for symmetry, albeit at a macro level. Call me fussy - I do.

And socks, finally I have started a new sock, the first sock in the Vintage Purl sock club series. The instructions are fabulously clear, and intended for new sock knitters. Not being a new sock knitter and being completely unable to do what I'm told, I've embarked on a few modifications to the pattern, using Judy's magic toe up cast on rather than the suggested crochet provisional cast on, just quicker and less work. I'm also going to knit my sock with a reverse shaped gusset and flap not the short row heel detailed in the pattern. I prefer the fit and wear of the gusset & flap heel. I'm basing my heel on a modified Widdershins shaping, with the proportions I posted last year, once or twice. I am considering playing with the location of the gusset increases, perhaps in the sole around a central 6 or 8 stitch wide panel? Other than that I'm basically knitting the sock as designed, with no concrete idea of how to have a dark heel in a gusset flap sock - I'll deal with that, or not, when I get there.

Final update WIP (no I'm not counting, are you?), is my Knitters Study Group Project the Hooded BSJ. I'm near the end of the BSJ itself, having unknit all the knitting done at knit night, I knit on without doing the maths to lower the neckline and didn't lower it enough. Now I've cast off 5 stitchs on 2 rows, 3 stitches on the next 2 rows, 2 stitches on the next 2 rows, and on stitch on the next two rows. That almost doubles the depth of the neckline and brings me to the point of adding length to the body section - so I'm nearly finished the BSJ, with the hood to add on after.

And spinning, I've finished the beautiful fiber bundle that Jenni gave me, Mohair, merino, silk and alpaca, all shimmery and fluffy and soft white. I've not measured the wraps yet, but have 312m, so enough for a soft scarf. I've made this a 2 ply yarn and used the highest ratio whorl on my Wing wheel, surprisingly this yarn has nice bounce and given I used a small whorl I'm amazed it is not over twisted - progress!

I've moved on to spinning some more of my stash, a beautiful hand dyed roving from Morag, I think kettle dyed. I've divided the fiber into 3 equal weight batches and plan to spin 3 single as fine as I can. I'm aiming at a fine, thick fingering 3 ply yarn ... so lets see if I get there. I'm looking for that point where I spin what I want, not spin what I can.

So, there are a few WIP's which I need to clear up (read - finish), the BSJ and the 2nd Odessa hat, then I will start some lace knitting. I mentioned this post would contain a WIP report, and it has, now comes time for the stash enhancement report, and I'll try and make it as painless as possible. First new books, Jocelyn brought me Folk Shawls, the book that started her on a knitting lace career. I kid you not, she test knits lace for designers as well as being a parent and an academic, I'm in quiet awe. I was thrilled to get this book and to discuss options for my 'first lace' project with her, this adds to the lace project temptation I've also been sent from Suzanne, of beautiful amazing shawls, and by KathyR - who lent me her Stahman's Shawls and Scarves book earlier this year. I have so many friends to guide my hands when I take my first lace steps. The second book, was spotted in an Ashburton 2nd hand book shop. I knew I already had one of Sheila McGregors traditional books, and hoped it was not this one. Truth is, I had wanted both, but had only bought one, and couldn't remember which was the one I owned already, now I have both.

Jocelyn also left me with my first Cashmere silk, 50:50 blend, my cry was "I'm not worthy yet", but I will be soon. Slightly scary stuff, as I don't want to muck it up but I do so want to play with it. In return I sent Jocelyn home with a 2nd spinning wheel, a Ray Chilsolm Pipy, a wheel the same as one of my keepers.

Lastly, I'm not going to try and explain all of this, suffice to say it is the result of three knitters, Jocelyn, her 10 year old daughter Tess and I, and a road trip that involved several fiber stops. The tiny purple skein is a little sample of my spinning, a spinning swatch so to speak, and the white my Jenni's special blend Mohair, Merino, Alpaca Silk spinning. There is some Southern Alpaca Black Spice Alpaca:Silk 75:25 fiber, some Merino:Silk 75:24% roving from Ashfords, some skeins from Touch Yarns (thats not all for me), some Wenslydale X Cotswold roving from Callifornia, the Cashmere silk shown earlier, and some Opal 6 ply that Tess left for me. There is a little more stuff in the back room, our library, which was bought on a trip to the Milton Mill late last week - but you don't need to see that do you?

OK, as you insist, - there you go, the 200g of black merino fiber has since gone home to California with Jocelyn as has one of bags of merino silk mill scrap, the 1kg pink cone will be something for Poppy, and the 10 balls of white 8 ply, Merino, Angora Nylon is Z twist is perfect to dye for Twined knitting, the grey cone is a mistake but only $2 so thats ok. I convinced myself in the shop it was merino, but a burn test at home told me it was synthetic, probably nylon. I also convinced myself and the gang of spinners I was with the silky blend 'scrap' at $10 a kilo was probably tencel as it was way too unlikely to be merino silk, and then saw the same mix sold at Ashfords for $129 a kilo, as a Merino:Silk blend. We found out in the impromptu tour of the Mill that they process yarn and fiber for both Touch and Ashfords amongst others. Lucky score! The beige cone is a Possum single, identified by its characteristic black halo. The two balls of moss are in fact possum merino with a Z twist, perhaps perfect for a Monmouth hat for Bear some time. . ....

So thats me, all up to date, I'm now off to stash the stash in the stash storage ... we (Morag and I) are attempting quite successfully to convert a few local knitters to spinning knitters, a spindle here and a loan of a wheel and there they go. One of them, Ana had her house-mates laughing at the drug related terminology in our supportive emails, so I've sent her this link, check out the post from Monday May the 26th 2008 - The Needle and the Damage Done, I thought I should share it with you all as well.

Next post will be next week, we are off to collect bear cubs this weekend, and back to work Monday.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

That was so much fun!

Fun with a capital F, and maybe the U and the N as well. Since the last post I've been on a wee bit of a fiber bender, I kid you not, starting with a trip to the Milton Mill, meeting and tiki touring with another Knitter, and then more fiber on the way home. All lovingly supported by an understanding family - but, yes there is a but - I've got no knitting photos to show today, its been all I could do to meet, travel, shop, stash, and a little knitting, I failed to record my knitting progress. Instead of knitting I do have penguins, so if that tempts you read on, if not, I promise there will be knitting on show next time.

Our visitors Jocelyn and Tess arrived Saturday last, when Bear and I woke it was to radio news that the roads we planned to travel over on Sunday and Monday were closed by ice and snow, and we woke to snow falls and and icy blast traveling up the country. We were worried we wouldn't be able to get out to the airport to greet our friends from the warmer coast of California, but the day did clear, their flight was delayed several times, the weather brightened, and we arrived in time to wave and hug hello. Before Jocelyn arrived she asked if visiting the penguins was possible - yes we said.

So duly rugged up we headed out Saturday afternoon for a Penguin tour, in sleety rain. At the colony we were encouraged to wear the heavy green waterproof coats they had on hand for rainy days, no we demurred, we had good jackets on. The nice staff offered again, they had coats in all sizes all the same shade of green, Large, extra large and even bigger, 'its ok' we all said, we have good jackets. After 10 minutes of politely offering us the heavy green waterproof coats we gave in, and they were right, it was wet and cold and we needed seriously heavy duty rain wear.

Once kitted out and Rugged up for a cold wet day, we climbed aboard the Penguin bus and headed off up the peninsula to the penguin grounds. At the top of the penguin trail we parked and descended first down stairs cut into the hillside, then into the camo tunnel system. These tunnels are dug into the ground and covered with camo netting, and let us sneak up on the penguins mostly undetected. Personally I think any bird of prey that hunts for a meal would know we are there, but has found the odd creatures in the heavy green coats to be harmless.

At various points along the tunnel system, we stopped in little viewing chambers, and peered out into the rain. Our guide (who's name I missed) was fantastic, she kept the 3 kids moving, and warm, and spotted penguins for us over here, and there and had all the juicy gossip abut which breeding pairs were swinging a little or a lot. It was one of the coldest days they had had, and we were told it was so cold and miserable that most of the penguins had stayed home and not gone fishing. So I now have a new definition for a cold day, so cold the penguins stay home! We were told that seeing 5 penguins on such a day would be a good score.

We were rewarded with views of 11 different penguins, some we saw more than once, and one we watched emerge from the sea, toddle up the beach and thru the sand dunes and off to his apartment. We saw 2 different kinds of penguins, little blue and the rarer yellow eyed, both sorts choosing to live inland by 100m or so under trees and in little A frame apartments built for them.

After our Penguin adventure we headed out the next day for Milford and the Glow-worm caves, which unfortunately were closed due to a crack in a large rock overhead. Then it was off to Touch yarns,
and a night at Tekapo, and ten Ashford, and on to wave goodbye at the international airport.

As you can see my-Toby and Jocelyn's Tess did seem to hit it of just fine, tomorrow I'll update a little more, but it seems a long post, there is a meal to cook and knit night to go to, so I'll finish right here for now.

Take care - Stella

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


and I'm on leave, yes at the start of 2 weeks annual leave. And best of all I've got a few precious days before my cubs are out of school for the mid year break and in need of supervision. So what did I do with my time, well I finished my pink mittens, and started a new hat, I took Toby to his post-fracture-clinic physio appointment, and I finally went to Guild spinning (2 Wednesdays a month), and generally had a bit of holiday at home. I'm waiting for a visitor, and then we are off on a whirlwind tour of the south, before she leaves for sunnier and warmer climates, tomorrow I'm off to the Milton mill with my fellow knitters and spinners to see if they have any Z twist yarns for more twined knitting, a bit of girls trip really as we have lunch planned and a visit to one of the best antique shops in the south on the agenda as well. But today, the blog report, so I've got a finished object, and I'm still procrasti-knitting on what lace to knit, hence a new project as a distraction.

These are the finished felted mittens, all done, and nearly small enough to wear. Being pink Poppy has adopted them as her own, and I've brushed them a bit to soften up the finish. These are a pair of Mystery sideways mitten by EZ from Knitting around, and a fast garter stitch knit. I think she must have developed them around the time of the mitered baby blanket and the BSJ, and the matching BSJ bonet, booties and cocoon/bunting. They all share the same shaping techniques and all are clever in their own ways.

The mystery sideways mittens are neat to work, a lot of fun, first you knit an odd shape that it pays not to over-think, and then suddenly ...

they fold up into a mitten, just like that! Magic! The sides get woven closed and the cuff is knit and increased and knit some more, and there I am, with a finished mitten. I really should knot some in striped yarn, then the magic of the shaping really stands out.

As you can see the felting didn't change the size much, only a little, which makes them a tad more Poppy sized than before. In hindsight if I had known I would felt these I would have knitted them on a larger needle, to allow possibly more felting.

And I've started a new hat, inspired by a lovely one Ana was wearing at knit night last week, and also by the quick satisfaction of Koolhaas last week. I finally see the appeal of hats, they are fast, take one skein, and very satisfying. Scarves and mittens take a bit more committment, sweaters and shawls a lot more of a relationship with the knitting and the yarn, but hats, almost the quick one-night-stand of the knitters world. I've gone an bought some new yarn, the original Odessa pattern calls for Cashsoft by Rowan which my LYS didn't have, but I found some Sublime, which is Merino, Silk and Cashmere so quite luxurious. Funny thing is the sales assistant had to hunt it out from on top of the button stand tucked away behind the couch in the shop, and then she checked that I would pay $14 for a ball of yarn. If I had a LYS the cashmere merino silk would be at the front, on show for all to see.

So I started knitting Monday but soon found out the beads I had chosen were far to heavy for the hat. I loved the way the teal had a hidden layer of the greenish grey that matched the yarn, but they were to heavy. So I went shopping yesterday for a new set of beads and these ones seem a much better size.

So this these are the beads,

and this is the hat, the beads are subtle but with blocking and wearing my head will push them to the face of the knitting. I'm aiming for a slight suggestion of a sparkle, rather than an obvious beaded knit.

Finally - there might not be a post till next week, on Sunday I'm off to tour a little around the South Island of New Zealand with Jocelyn and Tess, we plan to visit glow worm caves, and penguin nests and Touch Yarns and Ashford factory shops before we part company. It will be a whirl wind 3 or 4 days - not long enough at all, and we want to do e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g!

So take care, I'll show and tell as much as I can next time, and I might have even started some lace ...