Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Marking, and not even the knit stuff

so I'm here, at work still marking, marking, marking marking. And I am not even marking knitting yet - that I hope to get to this afternoon, and finish tomorrow before I take 2 weeks leave - there is one more theory workbook to wade thru .. and then I hope the knitting which is what I think will be the fun stuff. For those of you not in academic life I apologize, for it seems that the bane of an academics life is marking, if there is to be a moan collectively from acaemics it is around marking, it takes time, it takes energy, it takes effort, and mental agility. I find marking very very draining. Oh there are those gems, the bodies of work that are a joy to work thru - where there is evidence the student is not only absorbing the ideas their learning presents them with .. but thinking about them in relation to the world around them - those are exciting. Unfortunately for every one of those there seems to be more of the ones where the message didn't quite get to the student in the way it was intended .. and for that it takes energy to format quality feedback so they can improve. To me the main point of marking is to help students improve, to describe and position their work in a way they can see what they need to work on more and what is fine as it is. I've spend the past few years working with ideas of feedback, the advice given to students about their work, and the end result is I really do try and aim to do my best to communicate clearly to students what they do well .. and what they could do more of next time, but that takes time, and energy and effort to do that clearly for each student. The more confused their work is the harder it is to work out what to tell them to do next time.

which means right now I'm feeling ... drained, worn out .. by it all, but in a totally good way. Most of the ones I'm marking now have made changes to their work based on the informal feedback i gave them at the end of the last term - so that is encouraging.

And in betwixt the marking there has been knitting. Knitting is my little retreat from the mental agility required of the days and days of marking. First up I have a plan for the sock that was too small, an informal arrangement to swap it for a skein of the same colour yarn as I've used as the background of Nightingale, a pale mauve pink ... slightly darker but a similar look. That is plan A, if her foot fits (we will do the cinderella thing tonight at knit night). If Plan A works, I can knit these all over again but in my size :D Once i had an idea of who might want to swap yarn for socks ... it seemed easy to cast on for sock number two and knit away, this is 2 days knitting, with work in the middle, Cast on after breakfast Tuesday, knit until I leave for work, knit at home after-work, ditto Wednesday and again this morning (its Thursday here) - and now I have only the final 7 or so decrease rounds to work .... wow - a 3 day lace sock! I'm not sure it was good for my hands to knit so small so much ... but interesting to know if I needed to i could knit a pair of socks in a week - I am not sure I should rush into that sort of challenge though.

and there is also this, a wee wash cloth, in organic soft cotton from Rowan, 4 ply from memory on 3.25mm signature needles (my absolute favorite needles of all time). This was mostly worked as i wandered around the knitting elective class, it was my sampler, if some one needed to know how to ssk, or k2tog, or k2tbl, or m1 or rib or moss or whatever .. I'd work what they needed on this, as they worked on theirs. Then I would frog my demonstration and go back to a slip stitch pattern. I need to weigh this and see if there is enough left for a second cloth .. or if I need to look for a similar weight yarn to put with it, Rowan is expensive so I don't want to waste it, but it is wonderfully soft and silky for cotton.

Next post will have more knitting - and less marking
it will - I promise
take care Stella

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Still here, still knitting, still muddling ....

which is good, sometimes it is good to go slow and muddle about working on things that are a comfort, things that one can do and which result in small success. Today I finally have progress on Nightingale, there is nearly half two finished objects and the blanket grows, and this post I do have an image of the latest Vintage Purls sock club - and its pretty.

Nightingale is a sock that demands attention, not a sock to be knit in a weekend, not a sock to be knit whilst distracted, and not a sock that can be knit whist a subtitled movie on or knit night conversation flows around one. For the past few weeks I've needed a much simpler knit than that so Nightingale has been pushed to the side of the workbasket in favor of easier things. Yesterday was a quiet day, a Saturday at home, the weather was dull, no work came home with me, there was no urgent chores - so I sat peacefully and knit the last flying bird on the shin. Today it was much the same story, oh eldest cub needed a haircut, and there were a few errands to run .... but this afternoon I sat and watched vintage Startrek (thank you channel 2 - perfect winter Sunday viewing) and knit. Look ! Nearly done. Because I'm knitting these as knee highs if possible I've decided to eschew the pattern directions for a hemmed top and I am working mine with corrugated stripes as far as my yarn lasts. I'm hoping to score another cm or two ..... to make them full knee highs rather than almost knee highs.

The other sock on (or recently off the needles) is Embossed leaves, and sadly it is too short in the foot for me. These are knit top down and for a slightly smaller foot than mine .. still they are great fun to knit and have such a nice resolved toe that I will knit its mate. After that I'm not sure what I will do, second cubs feet are much smaller so there is little point holding them for her, I wonder about swapping them for a skein of similarly colour sock yarn .... with some one with smaller feet? As there is only one at present I don't need to make a decision right now .. and chances are an opportunity will present it self by the time I've knit the second sock. Now I have knit it I understand how to knit it with a longer foot and still have it resolve into a the neat designed toe, but I'm not so mad as to frog this one to do that.

This is the toe, Mona Schmidt the designer very cleverly worked a star toe with purl stitches that maintain the shape of the leaves. On each quarter one decrease is worked as a purl to delineate one edge of the leaf, while the other edge is marked by a single purl every other round. I'm impressed, but it means that the instep pattern has to finish at the correct point to work the toe, and for that the leg pattern has to finish at the right point to make the foot the right length ....

My pink embossed leaf sock is resting here on my huge blanket, the difference in scale between the two pieces of knitting amuses me greatly. The blanket is nearly half way there, I've got only a few rows to complete before I can say it is half worked. Of course that ignores all the work of seaming it up ... but that is fun with this blanket. It is a puzzle to fit together and this will be my third one. After that there is a growing list of things to knit - so I'm keen to finish these projects soon. And I feel that working alternatively with large and small yarn and large and small needles is good for my hands - flexing them and forcing different knit movements.

Near the top of my 'to knit next list' is two 'baby' things for people Bear works with. He very nicely asked if two pair of Hodge could be worked, which I'm happy to do. Then there is a need or a pair of Embossed leaves socks that fit me .. together with the temptation of the latest Vintage Purls sock club sock. This one looks like it could become a repeat knit-up, a pattern that would work with many many colours and shades of yarn. Next to the yarn is the cutest gridded notebook printed with a little radiator design that was part of the kit this month. But .. I've promised my self that I will not start any more new sock designs until Nightingale is done, for to leave it much longer is to risk my gauge changing, and now I'm near the end of the first one I have renewed enthusiasm for knitting it, doggedly following the chart and all. That is the killer - the dependence on the chart - but without the chart there would not be four birds on each sock ... and I like the birds, like the birds a lot.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Today I

joined another knitting group, a work based one, small, apparently there are four knitters, only three were there today plus me - making a potential five. These knitters meet Wednesday lunchtimes, and knit in the staff room, they were happy to have me join them, and I was happy to be there. There was I'm happy to say more knit talk than work talk, and all were people I'd meet along the way at work but didn't know knitted, I guess they would say the same about me.

I took my sock with me, Embossed Leaves, its growing nicely. I am well past the heel and worked away the gusset while we all knitted and chatted, it was a very pleasant way to spend lunchtime and I hope my time table allows for many more sessions. I had the book the sock was from with me, 25 favorite socks from Interweave Knits, and it did the obligatory pass around the group. There was much discussion 'a whole book of socks!' I had forgotten there are some knitters who have not succumbed to socks yet. I am loving this pattern, it has become easy to remember and knit after only 3 repeats, and looks so pretty with the pale pink and raspberry yarn, a skein of Vintage Purls sock - a second methinks because it had no name.

The huge garter stitch blanket grows, slowly as only it can, on 12mm needles. I've been tracking my progress by ticking off squares as I work them, that helps me remember where I am and what square or corner I'm to knit next. It is the little things that keep me sane sometimes.

Except I've worked six squares not the four ticked off, and now it threatens to overflow the generous basket I found to contain it.

A few last knit things, the latest Vintage Purls sock club arrived - but I forgot to photograph it during daylight hours. Suffice to say that the pattern is clever, left and right feet, and the yarn yummy as always. I'll post photos next time - promise. My knitting elective students hand in tomorrow, I'm expecting a few wristers in both colour work and textures, a few scarves and wraps, a few hats, a lace vest knit in chunky yarn and large needles, jewelery knit in i-cord with rope from the hardware store, a pixie shaped hood started with an i-cord tail, a double layered openwork hat, an openwork mesh vest in black polyester chenille that is a whole lot more designery than my description suggests, a mini hot water bottle cozy that is soooo cute and a colourwork baby sweater with a collar and pockets all knit with no seams. It should be a fun exciting day ..... for me anyway, students always seem to stress over hand ins. I'd love to share the work with you .. but as it is marked and done for class I can't. Suffice to say I hope I have launched 18 new knitters into the world to make it a more colourful place.

Take care

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Finally I can blog this project, started way back in late April and finished early May, but because it was a secret swap project I had to tuck it away and be quiet about it. Every year, well for the second year running the local Thursday night knitting group has had a secret swap. We fill out questionnaires about what we like and what size heads, hands and feet we have and dip into the pooled answers to draw out a swap partner. Then we stalk ..... and plan and swatch and knit. Finally there is a mid winter dinner, a pot-luck or in New Zealand speak a 'bring a plate'. That was last night .. so today I can blog.

I had Jenni as my swap partner, a super fantastic spinner, a super fantastic person, and after a couple of false starts I settled on Damson by Ysolda Teague in my handspun merino. This was a combed merino top dyed by Lindy Chinnery a local weaver from Lawrence.

I started this 24th April 2010, with only 400m of handspun hoping that I would knit frugally enough to finish. This is a top down shawl, knit from a teeny tiny start of a few stitches ... and like much lace when its being knit it looks like nothing much.

I did frog the start a few times, just because I wasn't paying attention and although Ysolda writes a very clear pattern I managed to drift off track here and there. Once it was done it was very very pretty, I nearly wanted to keep it for me, in fact this Damson is the reason I cast on Ishbel for me and knit that next. Once again I loved the effect the long colour changes that hand spun has have when knit up into a shawl .... this was an amazing colour way, varying from an olive to a gold to a deep purple and burgundy.

So swaps work two ways, and I went home from the party well feed, and with a huge chocolate cake and the most amazing knitted bracelet all from Jaye. Jaye is one of the students at school, and she has been working with wire and knitting to make jewellery .. and I had no idea she had drawn my name in the swap and was secretly working away to make me a copy of the pieces she was developing for her classwork.

Look knitting! I've played with knitting wire and know how hard on the hands it is ... so to have a piece knitted for me, is amazing (Thank you Jaye).

It seems that it is at times all or nothing, for the party last night I knew that I didn't want to lug along a huge wheel of vintage cowichan to knit the blanket, nor did I want to send myself to a quiet corner to work alone on Nightingale so i started a new project .... a sock that has called me for years. Embossed Leaves Socks by Mona Schmidt. These are in one of the first books of sock patterns I bought and I've cast on twice but frogged them because the yarn didn't feel like the right choice. So far so good .. I'm one repeat in and loving them .. photos next time I promise.

na Stella

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I'm still here ...

although work has me snowed under, and I'm feeling a little shattered by the things around me right now, teaching, work relationships and marking. To cheer myself up and give me focus I have been knitting, and presenting and knitting and more knitting. So there is a finished pair of socks, a finished Hottie and a new project starts. My conference paper went well, it was a little bit of light humor on stash and affluenza and saving for a rainy day, the images I used got a few laughs as did the translations of some of the abbreviations used in on line knitting communities (pushers, LSO, fix, sable, de-stash, and the like). My paper was short, but it was second last and the last one ran long so it all worked out well. There were volunteers for the next committee so I was relieved my 3 year stint was over, and several people knit during the conference and during my paper, which was great.

Here we are, after I finished Isbel I wasn't sure what was to be next, and this colourful yarn caught my eye. Its one I brought home earlier this year from Joy of Yarn, especially for Poppy. The yarn has such strong colours it could only be knee high kids socks, or at least to me it could only be that, and plain ones to better show of the colours. Look orange, blue, lime green, purple, a veritable riot. So these are my New Zealand Costume and Textiles socks, I cast on the first sock durring the week, and then the second at 10am in the airport lounge, knit all the way up, that night, all the next day at conference and all the way back. When I returned I had only an afterthought heel to complete. Poppy requested these were over the knee ....and two other parents requested I knit some for them after school. Nope but I will teach them how to knit if they are really keen.

These last two weeks I've been teaching a knitting elective to 18 degree students, and last tuesday we visited the Quality Yarns Factory mill and shop. One student bought a wheel of vintage Cowichan yarn with the idea of making a hottie cover, I was inspired and decided to follow in her steps. One and a part nights knitting, $3.99 for the hottie, $4 for the yarn, and $7.50 for the button. This was knit on 9mm needles, its thick and warm and almost doesn't need hot water to feel warm.

After knitting the hottie cover I realized that I still had 11 more wheels of that yarn tucked away on top of a bookshelf ready to make another blanket. The sheer bulk of the yarn means it can't go away, so its out on display getting dusty. I'm all inspired to knit that right now, well ... not so much inspired to do that but not really inspired to do anything specific right now, so I've cast on for the blanket. Size 12mm needles, jumbo knitting, not as much fun as smaller needles but fast, and the larger movements are probably a good change for my hands.

so ... birthday party invites all done for the eldest cub (11!), masses of more marking to do, one more week of elective teaching .. and lots more knitting to enjoy to balance it all out :D

take care

Sunday, June 06, 2010

It seems I may indeed be a lace knitter,

Indeed, a lace knitter, me? I'm the knitter who would speak in online forum threads with the explanation that if I wanted holes in my knitting .. well, I'd not put holes in my knitting to start with, deliberately anyway. I was a a colour work knitter, an EZ fan, a knit in the round and re-gauge it, a explore techniques knitter .. but lace left me cold. And then ... I find my self casting on for an Ishbel, a little lace wrap with a few repeats of lace, nothing major, just 3 charts. Some where between casting on Ishbel and finishing Ishbel I realized I had become a lace knitter, one who could read lace, work without lifelines and frog whole 8 row charts, several times .. and it didn't bother me. More than that I actually cared and wanted to frog and rework the lace, and add more lace. At the other end of the knit spectrum I'm also a graffiti knitter with an installation. What do I talk about first?

Ishbel, all finished and done, from 342m of cashmere silk I handspun badly into 2 ply lace weight from fibre that was gifted to me. There was considerable frogging in this project, not because I got it wrong, but because I realized I would have 23g of the 89g of yarn left over. That seemed like a waste, so as I worked the final row of the small size I decided to frog the past 3 charts of lace knitting and work the shawl to the larger size - hoping I had enough yarn to do that. I did - I have 6.9g left! It was at the point that I happily frogged 3 charts, some 20+ rows that I realized that I had become a lace knitter, I slipped the work from the needles and pulled it back one row at at time. Unfortunately I got it wrong and frogged 3 rows to many .. which meant that I had to work out where in the chart I was, but I did manage to interpret what was on the needles to what was on the chart and identify the row I had on the needles.

So all done now, I started 31st May 2010, and finished today, June 7th 2010. 4mm needles with 6mm tips used for the cast off to keep it loose. I'd have to say this is is a design that seems to suit the unique colour changes that come with handspun yarn. No skein dyed yarn allows the slow and gradual colour shifts the way that hand spun creates .... I know Ysolda instructs one to block Ishbel with the long edge flat, but mine wanted to be a curve, to better drape over the body.

Then as I said at the other end of the knitting spectrum, there is the acrylic knit graffiti. Here it is all ready to go, 3m of multi colour mostly garter stitch knitting.

And installed out side work, bam on state highway one. Yes I work in a building that is routed on both sides by state highway one, the road that travels from the very north to the very south of New Zealand. Bear and the cubs headed down with me Sunday morning, and in return for helping hands I shouted them breakfast in town. Installed it looks tiny, thin, and insignificant .. I am in awe of the larger installations that others have done and have a new-found respect. The actual installation takes time. My knitting elective starts tomorrow, 3 weeks of full time degree students learning about knitting and designing something knitted .. should be fun and full on.

That all really, I'm away next weekend at a conference, not the Lerwick one, the Wellington one but still talking about knitting, so the next post could be more than a week away. I get a chance to catch up with a friend, and her family, and see Craft 2.0 (the fair not the blogger). I think I need the break but not the conference stress .....

take care
(oh and its raining again ....enough to make one want to sit and knit)
Stella now,