Monday, March 29, 2010

Things I learned from Skew

Knitting Skew taught me ways to go about straightening up a bias knit tube .. and that was a very very useful thing to know for the Green Sweater sleeve. I used what I learned in knitting Skew to modify the Green Sweater sleeve ... and I added my very favorite finish (surprise I-cord!). Now I have one sleeve almost-very-nearly-pretty-much-there-bar-the-little-teeny-tiny-finishing-bit done and I'm ready to knit the second sleeve. I've also been plying .. my home made sock blend with 20% nylon, and because it is a cabled four ply ... there is a lot of plying to do. There are only two fibre things on the go in this house right now, so those are the two things that are in this post, Green Sweater is on the needles and Sock is on the wheel. Lastly I know more about the wee loom in the last post, details at the end.

So .. the Green Sweater sleeve, is intended to be a 3/4 sleeve, finishing mid forearm, and I wanted a full length sleeve. As I knit the sleeve longer I realized why the original was a 3/4 sleeve, the longer it got the more angled the hem edge became. The angle is created by the paired decreases and increases, but means that the sleeve hem tips lower over the palm and shorter over the back of the hand, eExactly the opposite of what is practical. Luckily I have only just finished knitting Skew which neatly dealt with just this problem. I put my modified Skew shaping to work stopping 3 stitches short and short rowing the point away, continuing the decreases but matching them with increases. I decided that instead of knitting the sleeve 5 rounds longer and just hemming up the live stitches or using a purl-turn round and hemming up the live stitches I would use a 4 stitch i-cord. It worked nicely, the i-cord matches the width of the decreases down the outside of the sleeve. You can see I still have to graft the i-cord end to the i-cord start. There is a little noticeable distortion where the short rows formed .. but I think a soak and a block will settle things down nicely.

One of the most discussed aspects of the Green Sweater in the KAL on Ravelry is the low armhole. Most people post it is historic and authentic but not flattering, and there are multiple posts about how people have frogged and reknit a more fitted sleeve. Reading all that I wondered how I would feel about the fit when it was done. With the sweater sitting flat the arm hole is low, and the sleeve is wide but shaped..

Worn I think it looks ok, better than ok, I'm very happy with it so far. The sleeve is full between the elbow and body but the lower sleeve fits closely and the lower body fits closely so I think still gives enough of a slim fit on the body. I suspect my gauge is firmer than my swatch .. or perhaps it is firmer because it has not been blocked and so has not yet relaxed.

On the wheel, I know I have 4 wheels in the house(and one in another house) so I'd better be more specific, on the Majacraft Little Gem I have been spinning merino blended with 20% nylon, sock fibre. I split it into four equal parts and spun each as fine as I could, and last night plied two bobbins together, This morning I began to ply the other two bobbins together, and tonight I plan to ply those two into a cabled four ply yarn. I suspect it will be thicker than commercial sock yarns .. but that will only serve to make for thicker warmer socks.

Lastly - the little loom I showed last post now has a pedigree. It is a Structo Art Craft Loom, and it appears to be a type of loom that weavers like. The unique feature of the Structo loom is that originally that warps were available pre-wound onto spools, making the threading up easier. You could buy warp wound and ready to go. I don't think you can buy the spools pre-wound any more but there are wonderful blog posts showing how to load the spools. My Structo is wooden but I suspect the principles would work just as well, and I appear to have about 3 sets of spools .. so plenty to play with.

So that is me, progress thus far on the two active projects ...
There won't be a weekend post, my little brother is getting married and so we are off to a family wedding ....
take care, enjoy whatever easter brings you .... and I hope to share some exciting news next week when I post.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

easily distracted again

- which is apparently a blog post title that I have used before, this I know from the auto-complete suggestion Blogger offered me. Two things have distracted me, and whilst they have done so the Green sweater languishes. First I decided belatedly to knit a gift, so cast on for that Thursday and knew the best moment to give the gift was going to be the following Monday (tomorrow) .. so there has been frantic knitting in all the spaces of the day suitable for knitting. What is it about knitting that we post when projects are started and when they finish, and we know knitting takes time, and yet as knitters we somehow commence gift knitting (the more complex or finer the gauge the better to show value and worth and ability) with scant hours or days to complete it in.
So, the gift, the lecturer I share my office with, M (the first of two M's in this post), is going on study leave, to write up her PdD thesis. Recently her life has been rather full .. she is on the iD Dunedin committee, and academic leader, and there have been several family events and illnesses. Each of those alone would be enough to tip me up, but not M .. she copes and copes admirably well .. but the thesis gets pushed to the back of the desk while she copes. Now she has organized leave to write up and I want to make sure that happens, now I can't shut her in a locked and phoneless room with no internet (email) until she has it done, nor can I prevent friends, family and work from needing her .. but I can knit. So I decided that I would knit her 'write-up wristers'. I have no idea if these will work, but I did bounce the idea to her and received an enthusiastic reply, and I hope they will become a ritual, don the wristers and be in lets-gets-serious-write- up mode.

Here they are, cast on Thursday, signature 2.25 mm dpn needles (my favorite ones) 60 stitches, worked mostly in 2x2 rib with my 'wrister-cable' pattern and some openwork lace between the central ribs. Second to last round worked by adding a YO into the middle of each 'rib' (2 become 3), last round worked twisting the YO to close it up, and then cast off in pattern. I used the left over Malabrigo(Tortuga), from my Whisper cardigan, and it is soft, so soft that it probably isn't a great choice for wristers, but these are fine, and super soft, and light and will go with her wardrobe. Besides if they do become part of a ritual for writing up - then M may not want them to last beyond submitting. I cast off earlier today.

The other distraction is a loom, a table loom, with four shafts, and a beater, is that the right term? Correct me please if it is not. I'm talking about a comb like thing that moves the thread just woven into place in the weave? This was a gift, a loom inherited by M(different M) who works with bear, it was her mothers, a master weaver in the US who mostly wove Navajo style, but bought this to work the samples for her journey-man stage. She needed a loom that would handle complex weaves and the simple Navajo loom she preferred wasn't quite enough. M inherited this and brought it with her to NZ, but weaving is not her thing, so this loom needed a new home, and look! It comes warped and ready to run! I have no idea what weave it is set to work, but I can play, there is also a bag of extra bits, shuttles, and spools, and a spare wind on bar, and more of the metal spools that the the warp is wound onto at the back. Its old, and worn, and could use a clean but works, and is built to last and all the loom needed by this house. I'm not sure if its Bears or mine, he often voices the thought that of all the fibre arts weaving is the one that he thinks he might like to try.

In return I found the perfect thank you, we visited to look over the loom and decide if we wanted it, a politeness really as I had already decided a four shaft was an improvement over my rigid heddle and then when I saw it had a beater thingie, there was no turning it down. During our visit I admired a rather weathered Singer treadle sewing machine and heard how it was intended to replace the one she didn't inherit from her grandmother, she had wanted her grandmothers but it was long gone when time came to sort homes for things. I decided right there and then to exchange my collection of singer treadle sewing machine books, accessories feed and attachments and button hole/zig zag attachments for the loom. A a child I had a treadle and used it and over the years built up and then let go a collection of treadle sewing machines, they take up more room than we can spare, but I kept the boxes of bits, and know that M who wants to restore and use a treadle is the right person to take them home.

One knitters junk is another stitchers treasure!

take care
na Stella
so that

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Done, new and still going ...

Today there is something done, I've updated my podcast list and in doing so I've learned a new increase (geek), and the green sweater grows.

Poppy's Turkish slippers are all done(Rav link has details), finished and being worn. In truth she donned them the moment I finished them and has worn them the moment I finished them, and every moment she has been at home since. She even wore them to bed one night - but we put a stop to that! There were small trials as I finished them, little annoying things like I completely forgot to reverse the side I worked the tassel on ... so it looked like she had two left feet. It was an easy fix. The next ones I will work a half round at the top of the second sock before working the cast off braid, the ends of the yarn become the cord for the braid - a nice neat decorative solution to the twin ends of yarn problem. Pops loves the tassels, she fondles them as she is curled up on the couch reading ....

Our house has a mixture of polished wood floors (and some not polished but sanded and old worn smooth), and a few carpeted rooms, and some vinyl. Over the years I have had to pick up and dust off and comfort both cubs as they crashed across the slippery vinyl of the dining room, usually as they ran in socks from the hallway into the living room. I worried that these would end in tears as she would forget to 'walk calmly' and run and crash ... so I added Regia bears paws to the soles. I've had these for ages, they are so cute, but I had not fully investigated them, one packet is enough to sole 2 pairs of socks, which makes them much more affordable than I had first thought. So far so good ... no crashes.

And the new increase, I've been playing with the podcasts I listen to, right now the list is in flux, but there is Cast-on (of course but in hiatus due to heath reasons right now, still back issues are worth a revisit), and BBC history of the world in 100 objects (short and sweet at 15 minutes each), download those while they are here as the Beeb is not good at long term archiving. I do like Crafternoon Tea with GrannyG, the hour long interviews with fibre crafters are a treasure of information, but the baking section is not good for my health. Just listening I can feel the urge to whip butter into sugar and add yummy topping and icing stuff. I also like Hoxton Handmade, I'm not sure if it is her attitude or her accent or both but its a good fun informative listen. I'm trying Fibre Beat on for size ... its also fun, I like his sense of humor, and its kind of retro cool sound, plus in one of the first episodes I tuned into there was an interview with Meg Swanson where she got all geeky and excited about a new increase she had learned .. so geeky me had to go off and find and try the increase. There is a video of it on the Fibre Beat podcast - but because Apple has its own video format - well it had to be converted to watch on the ipod - and all that takes time to learn about and then to do, sometimes google is the best and easiest solution. At first I was confused ... thinking I had to knit both loops, but then a revisit of the photos on Meg's newsletter showed clearly that only the first loop is knit, the second (original loop) stays as the increase - magic. This is the increase I am working in the Green sweater, and so far so good. If you know of any other knit centered podcasts that are good ... leave a note, although with the knitting, spinning, working, family stuff and only a limited time to listen each week .. I am in danger of falling way behind on all episodes if I add to many to my ipod. This semester I have a 15 minute walk from my office to where I teach the Y1 and Y2 classes Wednesday and Thursday, so I am enjoying the listening time, plus my usual 30 minute bus ride home each day, I'm good for a few hours of podcast time a week right now.

Which brings me to the green sweater, the first sleeve is at the elbow, and going well, now comes the stage where I work paired increases and deceases to keep the line of the decreases on the top side of the sleeve. That new increase is working in nicely ... and I realize that I have worked the sweater to the original instructions, where the gusset is decreased to nothing, but the errata has the gusset decreased to 11 stitches. I like my gusset the way it is, and think that to leave 11 stitches in play would make for a bulkier fit. I am still wondering what I will do about the clasps or buttons for this, and if I will work an i-cord up the front or not. I did work a slip stitched edge for the center front, so it would fold neatly .. and it does. The sleeve hem is the only bit that feels unresolved, the original has just a narrow folded 5 row hem created by stitching the live stitches down. The pattern suggests a purl turn row, as is worked on the other hems .. but I'm wondering about an icord?

Oddly this is the only item on the needles right now, and I'm having so much fun with it that I am in no hurry to add another project .. but I am enjoying planning the next Turkish socks, for Toby, and thinking of what I will start after this.

take care,
na stella

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Still knitting and learning ...

from the Green Sweater project, and to a lessor extent Poppy's Turkish Slipper Socks. The Green Sweater project continues to show me neat and clever little tricks, but I'm also just a knitter and I had to frog back a good inch or so of the sleeve after discovering a dropped stitch ...I briefly thought of looping it back up ... but you know even when you loosen the stitches either side to make room .. it always looks squished. So frog it was ....

The neck is now finished and stitched down, all the better to try on the cardigan as I work the sleeves. I gleaned that idea that while trolling Sunday's Green Sweater KAL on the Knitters choice forum on Ravelry .. and it was a very good tip. Also on that forum there is quite a bit of discussion about the width of the sleeves ... with quite a few knitters slimming down the sleeves, or knitting this as a historical garment, and planning to knit another to wear with slimmer sleeves. Those kind of discussions do make me think about what I want .. and they make me worry about what I would do if I finish it and don't like the shaping or fit. I started to wonder if I should modify the sleeve (the pattern gives instructions for a slimmer sleeves and some knitters have modified further for an even slimmer sleeve). I read that lots of knitters had worked the sleeves 2 or 3 or more times .. so decided to at least try knitting the original sleeves shape.

Then I discovered yet another clever variation of the shaping already in play in the neck-band, the underarm gusset is wide, and the stitches are decreased away either side of the two points where the steeked edge and underarm stitches meet. I've continued my slipped stitch side seam up into the gusset ... and discovered that this quadrupole decrease doesn't add any extra fabric around the body.

See? The decrease raises the underarm point quite a bit, a relief as the original underarm point is quite low. Now I have decreased away all the underarm gusset stitches the only decrease is at the top of the arm, forming first the shoulder shape and now angling the sleeve down and narrowing it at a rate of 2 stitches every second row until there are only 40 stitches left. It will be a loose sleeve, but I think because the lower section of the body is quite a slim fit, and because I knitted the body to the longest size and the smallest size width-wise that it will be a fairly flattering garment. By that I mean it will fit closely around the hips and waist, and show that there is in fact a body underneath the looser sleeves that is smaller than the sleeves .... that is the hope anyway. Knitting this has taught me new ways to consider shaping as a decorative element, beyond the standard in-at-the-waist--out-at-the-hip-and-bust shaping that is relatively easy to adopt. Two things are tumbling around in my mind, I need to knit another in red, in the Regal 2 ply soon, and more people should knit this (only 128 projects on Ravelry, and in 497 queues).

Poppy's turkish sock (based loosely on the one by AZ in Knitting Traditions, grows well, but slower than it should as the Green Sweater has me distracted. I've completed one slipper sock, and as AZ says the socks are a tad tight to pull on but once on feel fine. I've left a cm or so growing room at the toes for Poppy, and wonder if that will be enough to last the winter. I enjoyed working the knitted braid at the top and did attach a tassel - that way Poppy will know which is right and which is left - the tassel can go to the outside of her foot. Poor Poppy was excited when I finished the first sock some time last week, she spent quite a bit of time hopping around the house with one sock on and one sock not there yet .... but then noticed and verbalized that I was knitting 'my-project' not 'her-sock'. She noticed and verbalized this several times over the past few days. Yesterday I promised her that I would start her sock ... then I did sneak little knit sessions with the Green Sweater ... she noted those also, but I pointed out that it was not the end of 'today'. Finally after the evening meal I disciplined myself, broke away from the Green Sweater, I finished the 2nd skein of yarn, and it seemed wrong to start a new skein when Poppy was wanting her sock, and so I cast on for her sock. The SS (Second Sock) is now well up the foot, with only an inch or so before the heel. It is faster the second time thru.

I had fun working patterns into the stitch count, and while they are not too adventurous, I did play with the heel a little. I've mirrored the diamond on the heel, which looks quite cool when worn. I really want to work on the Green sweater ... but I will dedicate today and tomorrow to this, and to finishing my future SIL's lace jacket. Then I can ball up the last two skeins of yarn, and knit more on the Green Sweater to my little hearts content. Monday is a public holiday here and the weather is being unpredictable, hot and windy with threats of rain ... is perfect for indoor knitting. Soon we are all off to watch Alice in Wonderland in 3D ... which should be fun all around (and fun to watch Poppy and Toby experience 3D for the first time).

take care
hope your knitting has you enthralled as mine does

na Stella

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I like

I like very much, I've been knitting away on my Green Sweater, the steeks are cut and the neckline is growing. I'm also still thinking of the design work and lectures that were part of last weeks iD Dunedin fashion week .. and as promised I try and articulate an intelligent and meaningful response summarizing my thinking and understanding of design.

The Green Sweater pattern has one knit the sleeves first then the neckline, but I'm knitting the neckline before the sleeves, before the garment grows to large and heavy and difficult to work. I have no idea if this is a good thing, or if I've done the knitters equivalent of painting myself into the corner of the room furthest from the door ... but it made sense at the time. The neckline is worked up from a combination of stitches set aside at the front and back, and stitches picked up along the neckline steek. There are four 'inside' corners, shaped by paired decreases at the front left and right lower neckline and the back neck left and right corners ... and these take my breath away. Seriously, I am a knitting geek and here every row, as I knit along the right side (they are worked flat) I have to stop and admire the way the neckband has grown from and merges with the garment. Just look ..... there is a section where stitches continue, a section where stitches grow out at right angles from the steek, and a 2 stitch wide column of decreases that merges the two sets of stitches together ... pure magic. Yes I am a knit geek, and I'm in heaven, there are four of these corners on the neckband and I have to stop and admire every single corner as I work it .... this makes me smile ... simple things, but elegantly simple and clever ... and perfect.

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the iD fashion awards show, the iD Fashion show with work by guest designer and judge Zandra Rhodes, and to hear her talk on her work and practices. I also went to Andrew Logan's talk, and heard him speak. Both talks were fabulous and seeing their work not only as still images projected on the large screen as they talked, but on the catwalk at the iD show was amazing. Being invited to a private showing and sale Monday was even more amazing (if only I had funds to splurge - but alas I did not, so I 'window-shopped' and dreamed).

At the talk Zandra described her process, she studied as a textile designer and her fashion design is the way it is because of that. She spoke of how she would become interested in artifacts, and used examples of Egyptian or native American objects that inspired her and how she would begin by drawing and sketching. Then as she drew and redrew potential textile designs would emerge, arrangements of the elements she had isolated from her inspiration sources, spirals, Greek keys, diamond boarders, feathers and dots and lines, quills, anything. She silk screen prints all her fabric, by hand (now her minions do that - but she prepares the designs and colour separations by hand!), and so develops designs that are the scale of her screens, people sized not machine sized. Zandra then spoke of how she realized that the center curve of one of her circular prints made a great neckline curve, so she cut then garments with the neckline so the print fitted decoratively around the neck (much like a round yoke sweater). From that point when she designed new prints and revisited old prints she kept in mind the shapes she needed for garments and bodies.

Now in fashion design there is a 'trendy' term, the buzz-word of the now, Zero-waste. Some designers identify their designs as being zero waste, it is a marketing word used to identify a practice by which they minimize the waste that cutting garments makes. Unlike hand knits, most manufactured garments use only 75% of the fabric laid out to cut them from, that is 25% waste! Imaging if you wasted that much yarn when knitting! The waste is part of the manufacture process, the shapes of modern commercial garments are such that the left overs are to small and oddly shaped to be used for further manufacture. Some designers are trying to modify their practices to make better use of their fabrics, but it is a small minority and to be honest a fairly recent development. Zandra described how her own workroom practice of using fine silks and of hand printing with silk screens made each length of fabric precious and how she developed way back in the 1970's methods of cutting garments that not only made best use of the print but made full use of all the printed fabric . It all made sense, why her garments look complete, why they are resolved. This isn't a quirky fashionable marketing fad, for her all this was a very clever, sensible and creative workroom practice. Lets recap, her screens were people sized, they needed to be so her people could lift, and load, and drag a squeegee across them to print. If the screens had been larger she would have had to use machinery, and she wanted to control her printing in house ... so people sized screens she used. Because her screens were people sized, Zandra developed prints that were people scaled, and because her prints were people sized and people scaled ... well they fitted the body well. Because all her fabric was hand printed she valued each and every inch (centimeter) and so she developed garments that made full use of all the fabric. Oh those garments are not basic simple box cuts, she has shaped panels, and curves, and small border sections and flares and all the usual garment cutting tricks in play in her work. And then all those processes have been reworked and developed to very sophisticated levels in her work, with each print she designed, with each garment she must have reused the techniques that she found successful (as you do - repeat the successes), and as well she would have developed creative new shapes and techniques and designs that either worked or didn't. She took risks.

That is what I meant last post when I said hearing Zandra talk about her process, design and production, and meeting her, and then seeing her work on the catwalk inspired me and confirmed that designers really need to be connected to and knowledgeable about their inspiration, materials and techniques to develop quality lasting innovative intelligent and influential design. Zandra knew what inspired her, and focused on that then developed her own designs thru drawing and sketching and doodling and playing with the ideas, shapes, colours she found inspiration in, then she was able to draw on her extensive experience of colour, of printing, of fabric, of cutting garments, of construction, and of fitting to the body, and pull all that together into design that was creative and innovative and beautiful.

I'm still in awe, absolute awe ...
I just hope my students got it .......
and I think that is to some extent the way knitters can and should work ... we know our materials, our techniques, and well ... we should look for inspiration that we can develop into unique and lasting designs. And it dosn't matter if its a slow process ... as long as the design is good.

na Stella

Saturday, March 13, 2010

So much news ...

Today I have news, knitters news, news that has me excited ....there were two huge fashion events during the week here in Dunedin and both featured hand knitting .... and knitting won the day (or rather night). Then progress, the Turkish sock grows, I've turned an empty heel, and the Green sweater needs steeking. So onward ....

Knitting and fashion, the Thursday that knitting won, but first a little background. You may remember some time ago I was interviewed by the New Zealand Podcaster GrannyG, for her ongoing series on New Zealand fibre crafters? In January I was at the Greytown knitters weekend I had the privilege of seeing GrannygG's near finished entry for the Creative Fibre 2010 fashion show. Then on her podcasts she talked each episode about her progress, culminating in her frantic last days of energy as she finished the lining and the steeking and the edges ... and submitted it. The entry as I saw in in Greytown was amazing, fully fashioned fitted shaped bodice of a jacket with huge OTT amazing leg of mutton sleeves. The design had presence and was pretty on trend as far as the shoulder and sleeve detail ...and then came the news via Twitter and Ravelry - GrannyG has been rejected. You can read all about it here. My heart sank, rejected, and more so after seeing the fashion awards show in April 2009. Compared to the events I'm usually involved with, the entries were on the whole dull. I know the entries are not from design degree graduates ... but I expected more. Then a lift, a surprise, a little excitement on Wednesday, I was lucky to be backstage for half of the iD judging, I'm not esteemed enough to be part of the judging but backstage is pretty good. I was close up and personal with half the entries and there was an amazing amount of hand knitting - which for a fashion design competition drawing 120 entries from 19 countries, with only 30 selected by a panel of international judges is very very exciting( 4 were our graduates). Thursday night came and the awards show was fantastic, Igor Galas won the top prize with the most amazing knitwear, huge texture, fantastic dresses with amazing short rowed cowls across the back and the hoods .... this is hand knit with presence, with some sort of design extension beyond what we already have as fashion knitwear and .... it was amazing (google Igor Galas to get more images of his work and see what I mean). Ok, yes, I'm conservative and I'm not about the whip myself up a full length flared fitted cowled chunky dress .. but I do appreciate it as a high fashion statement and I'm thrilled that in a design competition not specifically for hand knitting or fibre craft - that it was selected as the very best of what was entered. Then Saturday night was the iD Railway show, a more commercial fashion event, showcasing work of Dunedin designers, and again more hand knitting, even a whole collection of hand knit designs, from Lou and Ash. I've not heard of Lou and Ash before, and I'm not sure if they are Ravelers ... but they are Dunedin! I'm slightly intrigued by the nostalgic rework of traditional blanket knitwear styles into oversized coats and throws ..... and can see that they may or may not have been looking in some contemporary knitting project books for their inspiration .... and hoping to see more as the label grows, and develops.

Then there is little old me and my knitting, back on the domestic front, now that I'm not gadding about town from fashion show to fashion show ...after fashion show, and pre and after paries, and catching up with my about to be sister in law for a wedding jacket fitting and generally working and parenting. My Turkish socks grow and now have a gap where the heel will be, an empty heel. I think these will be shorter not longer, ankle bootlet socks ... and I'm loving the colour work, truly my first love in knitting. I should knit more colour work, as I knit this I wonder why I don't, it makes me smile and this is such a simple colour work pattern. Imagine how more complex colour work would make me feel?

And my Green Sweater grows, to the point I'm about to steek. There are four steeks, one lower center front, one upper center front, and the two armhole steeks. I've cast off the steek stitches and hand whipped 3 of the four steeks. The armhole steek is visible here as the thickened column of stitches near the fold, the lower fold is the neckline steek. Then a quick steam and cut, before grafting the shoulders together, turning up the hem, and the front facings, and picking up for the sleeves. I am enjoying the shaping of this as I knit - its like seeing EZ's mind at work as each section develops, and I find it simply wonderful to be able to knit along with EZ .....or so I can imagine as I work this.

so, excuse me as I head off to complete my steeking, and sit and think of award winning knitwear. Tomorrow there is a last chance to see Zandra Rhodes and Co's work up close ... so I'm dreaming a little of that as well. I can't even begin to describe how hearing her talk about her process, design and production, and meeting her, and then seeing her work on the catwalk inspired me and confirmed that designers really need to be connected to and knowledgeable about their inspiration, materials and techniques to develop quality lasting innovative intelligent and influential design. Perhaps I can elaborate more in the next post, once I've ordered my thoughts a little more - if that wouldn't be boring?

na Stella

Saturday, March 06, 2010


This week is another of those weeks, its the week of iD Dunedin Fashion week, so there are 3 large shows, and a competition and lots of visitors to the school. Its also 3 weeks out from my Brother Andy's wedding to the lovely Caroline ... and I was asked to make her jacket. Now I don't regularly 'do' wedding garments - but Caroline is so nice, and my brother is so happy and calm to be with her ... that I couldn't refuse, didn't want to refuse. On the knitting front I've finished Skew and the planned modifications worked (!), and played with thrumbs (interesting but not what I want to knit right now), and found a new sock to knit, a fun sock, one that has me problem solving and racing to the heel. I apologize, today is a long post, if you are here soley for the knitting, skip to the end, there is an extra project replacing my knitting, and its slipped into the blog for a bit of show'n'tell.

Caroline, as I might have said is a darling, and a very very good hairdresser. I've not experienced one of her cuts, but she her employer flies her around the country to judge competitions and is flying her into see iD dunedin and all the shows - they only do that for the 'good-uns'. One of her clients gave her their own heavy lace wedding dress, saying she wanted Caroline to have it, to use it, that none of her own daughters wanted it. The lace is the kind that is hard to find today, heavy, thick, strong lace, in a nice soft weighty cotton. Caroline is such a sweetie that she happily accepted the gift and went about making it part of her wedding outfit, she asked me to make a jacket from it to wear over her dress. I'm happy to help, Bridezilla she is not. Caroline lives in another city, so we have been sorting the jacket by distance, she visited and tired on my different Jacket blocks, and we chose the one that fitted best, I made a calico/muslin toile and sent it up, Caroline and her mum fitted it and drew in the shape of the cutaway front and curve of the back hem ...and it has come back. I disassembled the toile and used the calico/muslin as the pattern, I'm classically trained, so prefer working with the toile as the pattern not in a paper copy of the toile.

Then I dismantled the old dress, more of tunic really. The old dress was very late 60's early 70's, with long straight tunic skirts, split up the sides, the back cut longer as a self train, long fitted sleeves and high mandarin style neck. I hoped that we would get the planned jacket from these two sections of lace, but I wasn't sure.

It worked, all the pieces fitted, just, with only little trimmings around the edges left. You can see there was not a lot of spare width to waste.

Today I stitched and pressed and stitched and now I have the jacket near done. I was going to mount the lace sections on sheer organza - but it was strong enough not to need any support. Caroline will be visiting this weekend for the iD shows, and next Sunday she can try it on and we can finalize the last little details. I was surprised at the ease with which this went together, the lace is so tightly stitched that cutting the pieces out gave me several blisters, even though I was using my tailors sheers, but because it is so tightly stitched it needs no edge finishing. Because it is cotton the fabric pressed and steamed like a dream.

In between the jacket wedding preparations, I finished Skew. My modifications worked, I simply worked the short rows to straighten the top as written but began each short row with S1 1 YO knit to ...(or S1 Yo Purl to ...) which effectively replaced the stitches eaten away by the continuing the decreases at the COR (Center of Round). Then I worked one round of knit twisting all the YO's closed, and worked the K2P1 rib with the purls positioned over the twisted YO's. One could of course omit the decrease at the COR but then the pattern of created by the decreases would suddenly stop half way up the leg ... and that wouldn't look good.

Don't get me wrong, Skew is a bias sock so it can never be a stretchy stretchy sock. The bias design means the greatest stretch of the knit is not around the foot or leg, but by retaining the stitch count at 72 stitches instead of decreasing to 50 stitches just before the rib the sock is much easier to pull on, a firmer fit than a more traditionally shaped sock - but not a problem to put on. And the WOW factor of the heel when combined with a stripey yarn is well worth loosing a little elasticity for.
I also tried JSSBO for the first time and yes it is surpisingly stretchy, but its not pretty to my eyes. I'm still deciding if I will use that one again or not.

I did sit down Friday night and continued to work the thrumbed mitten sample. I like it, but it is not what I want to knit next, I needed a new sock to knit ... so I've finished it with its thumb, but still awaiting its ribbing cuff and mate and ...

cast on for a new sock, a Turkish sock. I was inspired by the first project in Knitting Traditions. Anna Zilboorg writes about how warm and toasty Turkish socks are, "Immediately, I was as warm as though there was central heating". Which made me think that any sock that promises the warmth of central heating where there is none (my house) is worth a try.

I don't have any Harrisville new England Shetland but I do have lots of other yarns. I fossicked around looking for a colourway that would not show too much dirt. Bingo, these two,Wendy Sunbeam St. Ives 4 Ply Sock Wool in dark green and a Regia Design Line Kaffe Fasset in dull and bright autumn tones. I suspect these sock yarns are finer than the Harrisville shetland as after a bit of a play with different needle sizes I've settled on 2.5 mm (I usually knit socks on 2.25 mm), and the pattern calls for 3.5 mm. I tried 3.5 mm but it felt to loose and open for a thick warm slipper sock, which is my intention for these. The cubs like to curl up on the couch, we all do. I have a rule no-slippers-on-the-sofa, so often there is a sea of abandoned slippers in the living area, more as the cubs still both kneel on the dining room chairs so we find slippers under the table as well. If these truly are warm then they could be worn on and off the couch, and kneeling at the dining room table. Because my sock is on smaller needles the instep chart didn't fit my stitch count - but after reading Anna Z extolling the virtues of simple geometric knitting patterns - I was inspired to work a simple mirrored chevron. I think I might play with reversing the chevron at some point --- perhaps the chevron becomes the sole and the heel has the point reversed?

So my week will be busy, Monday night spinning, Tuesday night working on the jacket a little more, Wednesday/Thursday/Friday/Saturday out with iD events ... I might even get my photo taken with the visiting scholar/designer - Zandra Rhodes (her haircut inspired my current style - the cut not the pink) .. and I'll get to see our recent graduates compete with others in the international competition ...
I don't foresee a lot of knitting or blogging time before Saturday.
Take care

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

I'm one of the 7,373 today.

I am, one of seven thousand three hundred and seventy three ravelers who have registered as Designers on Ravelry, 7,373! I should not be surprised that within the knit world there are so many with creative energy wishing to share their developments .. and now I'm one of them. Knitting is a slow craft, and it is a transparent craft in that a knitter can see the work grow and change and shape as they follow a pattern, it is inevitable that many(most?)knitters will progress from following instructions to making instructions. Today I can modestly announce my first design is up and available (free), and I reach the turning point on Skew II.

This is my design, a little baby bootie, named after Samuel Johnson's cat - Hodge. There is a quote that most of you will probably have come across by Samuel Johnson that goes like this Why, yes, Sir, but I have had cats whom I liked better than this,” and then as if perceiving Hodge to be out of countenance, adding, “but he is a very fine cat, a very fine cat indeed.” I think of this baby bootie as being like that cat, a very fine bootie. The design evolved, and in its first iteration was knit before Toby was born, some 11 years ago, and the first one was knit flat. The second one was knit in the round, and every time I knit it I changed a little something, as my knitting knowledge developed I pulled and tested different constructions, and techniques, ditching those that added nothing, refining and developing those that improved the bootie. There are three things that I really like about this bootie. First its plain, so it suits the dress code of a modern baby, and even more of a modern baby boy. Second, its easy to put on, no ties (I always worried I'd tie ties to tight and cut of all circulation to my babies teeny tiny feet), there are no fiddly buttons or bows (those little legs and feet kick and move like you would not believe when there is a bow to tie or a button to do up). Third, it fits snugly and stays on - as much as a knit bootie can, there is a three-fold trick to this stay on business, first there is a tightly knit 1x1 rib that fits the leg, then there is a firmly knitted fold down cuff that snaps over the rib and stops it stretching, lastly the sides of the foot are knit in a bouncy knit and purl welt design that stretchs out when a baby rubs those teeny tiny cute feet together and snaps back (in traditional bootie designs babies can often rub their booties off). Now I'm not silly, I can't promise this bootie will stay on all babies all the time, but for me it worked most of the time. I like to give two pairs of Hodge to new parents and I like to knit them in sock yarn(it is easy care). I knit one pair in the preemie- new born size, and one pair to grow into in the larger 3-6 month size, or I'll knit it on smaller needles and with finer yarn it if really is for a teeny preemie. I find parents remember this bootie and if they are knitters, they will ask for the pattern(that bit always flatters me). I'm happy to share - and if you care to try knitting a pair here is a link to the ravelry download (all fixed with download activated). Now it has been test knit by at least 3 knitters, and the lace version was contributed by Morag of Vintage Purls, so I hope it the pattern is complete with no errors ... but if you run into trouble, just let me know and I'll do my best.

So setting up as a designer, and sorting the pattern ready for upload .. well that seemed to take a bit longer than I thought, but its done now. My other progress this week so far has been to reach the heel on Skew II, so now the test, will my plan work. Will retaining the leg stitch count at 72 stitches solve the problem of the top of the leg and cuff being firmer than I want? I don't know but I'll keep you posted.

Na Stella