Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Today is Wednesday, or at least it is here where I live, in fact late afternoon Wednesday, after a full day at the 'office' that was only supposed to be an hour or so before heading home to finish up preparation for the weekend workshops. You can imagine how that goes, pop in to work for a 9am meeting that has been rescheduled and rescheduled and rescheduled, the meeting attempts to cover what is several hours work in the scheduled hour ... and predictably we finish several hours latter. It was a marking meeting, so following that there was the several hours of post-marking admin, logging copies of mark-sheets in the system, sorting and filing things ready for students to pick up, documenting any changes discussed, and then and only then was I able to escape .... late-afternoon! Given I'm not full time this year, that ended up being a standard work day .. so much for heading home to prep for the weekend.

So here I am, quickly updating the blog, what else can I do in the half hour I have whilst I wait for small cubs to arrive home? Not enough time to make inroads into any real work, and I suspect there won't be a weekend blog but there might be a Monday one. One the cubs arrive it gets really busy, one needs to snack, then turn around and head out for a swim lesson and the other can do his homework, then there is the evening meal to find and prepare and clean up after .. .and after that what do you know the day is mostly gone. At least there is the evening to work in. I'll clear the table and settle down to plan the hand outs for my workshops ... I have tonight and tomorrow and if I skip knit-night I'll even have tomorrow night. It might just come to that. What I can say is that the material will be 'fresh'!
I have now have a full suite of little hottie covers, all soft and warm, in a variety of gauges, with all sorts of closures and textures.

This is my favorite, I do have a weak spot for simple graphics. Combine that with soft possum merino that is soft and fluffy and .... mmmmm its even warm without the hot water inside. I have all the processes and notes and things all ready for that class, little design templates and cards to use to test colour combinations, and a lesson plan.

The master workshop content is also coming along. The handmade people wanted me to modify my original proposal from a workshop to more of a lecture .. so I did. I now have nearly 2 hours to cover darning knits ......oh my, that could be one geeky boring session but I'm doing my best to make sure its not. I've been building a bit of a contemporary look at the current view of darning and mending ... using books from my shelves. It looks all theoretical but I've picked out the super interesting and almost funny bits - I promise. For example, Heather Nicholson wrote that in days gone by the most common labor saving device most families had was a daughter!

Then the lecture-workshop will look at historical methods of darning and mending. I have a goodly collection of old-books on teaching needlework and those have come in really useful here. They are all so old that I can happily use images and diagrams from them as the copyright has expired. My earliest one is 1886, and I go up to some published in 1913 - when teaching needlework was very much part of the curriculum. Using those as sources I've got a plan to position mending as important but forgotten, and omitted much of the time. Again I'm going to keep it informative and interesting, although I'm not sure about including the instructions for 'French mending' of fine knits, suggesting using one strand of human hair for a really invisible finish, even to specifying that the blond and red-heads were the source of the strongest and best hair to use! Tell me is that creepy or interesting?
I'll finish up with five or six examples of different types of mending and one example of something awaiting a mend. Along the way I hope for a bit of audience participation, that people will contribute what their understanding of mending and darning is, but I'm not promising to darn any ones socks. People should go away with a deeper appreciation of making and mending and some knowledge of how people used to mend.

I've also finished spinning the sock pencil roving, and now it sits waiting for me to ply it. I was lucky enough to score another on Monday in her shop - Cululus all misty grey blues (Morag will be smiling as she knows I am a complete sucker for any and all grey-blue that she dyes).

I have worked a sample in 2 ply and in 3 ply ... and I'm not sure which to go with. The three is rounder and heavier, so I will knit it up and see how thick it will be. The two ply is finer - and I worry it might be to light for socks ... I guess I just have to knit up both sample skeins and see what they are like knit up.

So thats my day so far -how was yours? Still no cubs but the bus will be here any moment ... so I'll head off to fix snacks.
Take care
If you are in Wellington this weekend, pop into TePapa and say hi!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ooooooo - lovely

I've been spinning, I finished the plying which is good, but more excitingly I have been spinning wonderful fibre, new fibre, so new that only one batch has been on the market. I am so lucky as I've been spinning one of the prototype skeins, a test one. Let me explain, a bare two weeks ago, Morag came to spin night with some new Vintage Purls products, and she showed and tell'd. Amongst her new product there were two skeins of pencil roving, very special pencil roving, sock blend! I can't tell you how exciting this is to have fine merino blended with 25% nylon and pulled into beautiful pencil roving all ready to spin. I have long had a dream of spinning sock yarn, but I worry about all that work going into something that won't wear well enough for socks. I tried to blend some dyed nylon into perendale once .. but the nylon is so fine and silky that my fine toothed carder didn't really do a great job. I know many use stronger harder wearing fibres and successfully handspin yarn for socks... but nylon is a rather elegant solution as it provides strength and softness and allows socks to wear and wear in lovely luxury fibres like merino.

The entire spin circle wanted to take the pencil roving home .... but Morag insisted that these were the only two samples, the very first out of the Dye Pot and not for sale. We pouted, we sulked, we stroked the fibre and held it to our faces ... and generally made purring noises at the same time as making sad faces at the thought of not being able to buy it then and there. I was the last in the spin circle, siting right next to Morag, so the last to be passed the fibre, and when it was handed to me I held it tight and refused to hand it over, in a nice calm, polite not-letting-go-of-this -yet way. I just wanted to hold the skein for as long as I could if I couldn't buy it then and there, at the end of the night Morag said I could keep that skein in return for a blog review!

I love this fibre, I am going to have to be very active with my Monday check in to Vintage Purls shop ...that is when the stock is updated. I know this is a trial product, and is the same fibre blend as her sock yarn which I love. The pencil roving has hardly any twist - so just teases out easily ready for spinning, no further prep required.the nylon is so well matched for micron and staple length and so well blended that I can't identify which fibres are nylon and which are merino. The dye is amazing - partly as nylon is apparently a protein based fibre just as wool is, so takes the dye in a very similar way. Can you spot the two types of fibre ? I can't but then again the percentages are small .. so its mostly wool fibre.

I have not read any instructions for spinning from a hank or skein so just undid the dyed-to-match-yarn ties and laid the skein beside me. When I'm not spinning I hang the skein on the wheel - and so far the pushy-cat (Yo-yo) has not made a play for it. The more I look at this the more I wonder about knitting it up as is ....

So how is this to spin, amazingly lovely, I am at a loss for words. The fibre just teases out easily and smoothly with no neps, nubs, slubs or vm at all. I am finding this the easiest to draft and spin fine of any fibre I have tried. Honestly there are thoughts in the back of my mind about replacing most of my spinning stash with this .. but deep down I know that I need variety, so I'll just add lots more of this to the stash instead. This week I have pushed my knitting aside and spun and spun .... this stuff is fun.

I have had an disjointed and distracted week, plying the green perendale, still don't know what it will be but there is 166g and it is 360m ... so heavy sport weight? I love the effect of the shots of lemon amongst the green and lime, makes it look like the sun has caught the yarn, makes it look 'light'. Wednesday I was away to Auckland, visiting and marking at AUT ... returning on a 9pm flight. I was a very responsible lecturer, and took my marking with me to work on in the airport and plane ... instead of my knitting. See I can be grown up sometimes!

I also managed to finish the fourth hottie cover .. so now just finalizing the paperwork for the class. Instruction and design hand outs .... my deadline for that is Wednesday if I want the hosts to organize the copying, Friday if I copy them myself.
Life is busy, but it all seems achievable, and fun and there is a purpose to everything that I agree with, it is good.

Take care
Knit and spin and check out the fibre shop Monday afternoon New Zealand standard time if you like the look of the sock pencil roving, I'm not sure how often it will be up for sale, if it is please leave some for me?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Today it looks like this

My 'to knit' pile, which is my 'to-do' pile of knitting things. I realized that usually I gather up my knitting and carry it to wherever I plan to photograph it, usually the front steps, and dump it down. Then I fetch the camera and set about pulling one item at a time from the pile and arranging it as artfully as I can for a progress photo. I thought it might be fun this time to show you the pile, waiting to be photographed. This is it, this is what I have been doing, spinning, knitting, planning, and following charts.

The spinning - or rather plying, the skein is about 160g of Southern Alpaca silk blend in Black Spice, bought way back in 2008! The green is perendale combed top I dyed myself. There is a local spinner and knitter extraordinaire -J- who dyes 'outside green' for her granddaughter to enjoy. Now I was inspired by Outside Green but I have not truly captured the essential essence of Outside Green at all ... I plan to finish the plying tonight or Monday night at spin night. Then I will soak and dry both skeins. Several people have asked what the green is for .. honestly I don't know, possibly a baby blanket unless something else I want to knit really needs to be green. This is a case where my spinning and my knitting are separate hobbies, not feeding each other at all. I have no idea what sort of length of alpaca and silk I have here, as I always measure the skein length after washing and drying it, as skeins can pull up and shorted when they relax.

I spent at least two nights with the double knit mitten. This part is easy, the pattern is predictable and has several rounds with no colour work, between colour work rounds. But mostly this is easy because this is the third time I have knit this section ..... only one more time and I might have a pair!

I also spent a night or two with the heart of glass sock, making progress into the leg section of the chart. I reached the bead section of the chart while away from home, and no where near my beads, so rather than stop knitting I continued and replaced the B's on the chart with purls.

I also made progress on the knitting workshop teaching materials, look two of four are done! Part of the class is on casting on seamlessly and shaping to fit, and part is on 'design' of a more visual nature. I have no idea of what sort of things will appeal to people in the class, or what skills they will have so plan to offer a variety of options, simple stripes and a few more complex colour or textured patterns. I am also working on making each neck closure different, so far I have a button tab, a folded rolled ribbing, and I think this might be a drawstring with pompoms. Of course bits of each of these have been knit and reknit, because that is how design through making goes, and now I am looking at them I wonder if a beanie type hat that is pulled on after the hottie is fulled and sealed might be cute? These yarns are the left overs from my first and second jumbo blankets so I guess as they match they will go-with, making a very oddly proportioned set, huge blanket with matching teeny hot water bottles.

Take care - Eldest cub is making a icecream filled chocolate ring cake, and insists he can do this on his own. But he is also in here asking 'how do I' and 'where is' and 'what does it mean when the books says' questions, so I might just relocate closer to the kitchen with a cup of tea and be there for when he needs me. Youngest cub already made cupcakes, and is waiting for them to cool so she can ice them with enormous amounts of icing and sprinkles .... of course. Seems that my kids have decided to fill the kitchen with the cakes and things I don't get around to making because I am making soup, and pickling beetroot, and baking bread.

enjoy what is left of your weekend

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Deadlines ... looming

Yes, nothing like a deadline or three looming above one to spark action. I seem to be springing from deadline to deadline right now, something my students would probably find quite amusing as they have just handed in a significant part of their years work to me. One of the looming deadlines is marking that very same work, our institution has a two week turn around policy which is a challenge. One deadline has past, I submitted an article to Entangled, as well as all the accompanying details about myself. That was a lot of fun, I was even asked to answer this question "When I rule the world ......". What would you answer to that one? I was asked to commit to a series of articles/columns and I chose to focus the series on current thinking on craft and design. Over the past 150 years there has been a significant body of thinking published theorizing design, much much less on craft. But occasionally there are some clever people who articulate where craft might sit in relation to the ideas about design and designing. I thought there might be enough in that area to fill a few columns over the next few months. I also submitted an review to Dave's Mechanical Pencils .... of the Worther Slight Pencil. That body of writing headed off yesterday with all the accompanying photos .... with instructions for Dave to do with it what he saw fit.

There are two more deadlines looming, and both should be fun. I am booked to teach two classes at TePapa's Handmade. I'm teaching Get ready Winter is just around the corner, twice, and a Master class on Darning - called Darn is not a Rude Word. Both classes should be a lot of fun, and I'm traveling up with Morag of Vintage Purls, which will be even better. What I need to do between now and then is put my notes and thoughts and plans and samples and images and all that I have collected together so far into a cohesive class plan. That will happen, it has to happen, and I'm looking forward to it .. but there is always that delaying period of almost procrastination before really beginning. In Get Ready for Winter I have plans to lead my students into the world of knitting to fit. They will all be making seamless covers for hot water bottles ... cute we mini ones. By the time they leave they should be well on the way to finishing a one of a kind cover and have mastered a seamless cast on, increasing and decreasing to shape, handling stripes and patterns in the round ...... and designing a workable closure. All those techniques will then be able to be used to knit anything they want to .. most garments anyway and a lot of other stuff. The other class is more of a lecture and show and tell on mending and darning knitwear - moving from historical instructions on how to darn to more up to date techniques suitable for contemporary garments. Right now my hot-water bottles are naked, but by class time I promise they will be warmly covered with knitted loveliness.

And yes, I did really frog the second double knit mitten right back to the thumb. Frogging double knitting is not a thing that I would recommend ... as 20 minutes frogging resulted in 3 hours of yarn untangling. Bear even had to come to my aid with passing yarn balls around yarn strands and by knitting to get to a point where I could rewind the yarn onto the balls ready to knit again. After that I left the work sitting for a few days - the project and I needed a wee bit of distance, but now we are back and working well together. I still don't know what happened but somehow I had far more stitches than I should have. This time I am counting every few rounds - just in case I slip in a few extra stitches without noticing.

With all that going on ... some how I found myself back knitting fish. They are easy, brainless almost, and as last night Bear and I watched The White Ribbon, in German we relied on the English subtitles. Subtitles and knitting from charts are incompatible, all my projects seem to involve charts right now, the fish however are compatible with subtitles. Both Bear and I would say this is one of the better movies we have seen, but it is harrowing and leaves one with no real conclusion let alone a resolution. Unusually there is absolutely no sound music as part of the sound track at all, with the exception of the choir singing and when the cast are playing instruments as part of the storyline. That only made the movie darker and more intense. If you feel like you are in the mood for a particular disturbing Gothic movie without any actual blood and guts horror .. perhaps try this one, I'm not sure if I should recommend it or not.

Well the afternoon draws to a close and I have two cubs standing by to cook their very first made-on-their-own-without-out-an adult-in-the-room pikelet batter. Like pancakes they are better if the batter has rested for 20 minutes ... so I'm off to supervise the hotplate part of the cooking and then a yummy afternoon tea. We plan to serve these with home made quince jelly ... double yum!

tTake care
na Stella

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Back and finished and frogging

Yes I'm back, knit camp was fantabulous (again) as expected.
This year the focus was on knitting Portuguese style, using knitting pins to loop the yarn up to ones shoulder and ones thumb to flick the yarn over the needle to make stitches. I was lucky enough to see Andrea in action teaching this last year .. so felt confident on selecting a project to complete using the technique.

Enter Tetsubou, one of the nicest hat patterns I've seen around. I love the way that this isn't a beanie and isn't really any style but is stylish, and almost cloche like. I think of it as a grown up stylish warm hat, there is a hint of that Japanese minimalism intellectual fashion thing going on with it.

I made very minor modifications,using Judy's magic cast on as a provisional cast on, and working on 3.75mm needles (slightly smaller than recommended) as I had handspun. I knit most of this on day one, and finished the hat complete with I-cord tie on day two at lunch ... just as camp finished. Several knitters offered to take my yarn home and knit the i-cord for me on their i-cord machines .. and while I love the fun of i-cord knitting machines I had to tell them that they couldn't steal my i-cord knitting from me. I love knitting i-cord, it has a magic rhythm and grows so fast that it is easy to knit to much. At camp I was wore this before the i-cord tie was added and was told I looked Amish ...... not a bad thing in my book, but Tetsubou is definitely more stylish with the gathers at the back, and less bonnet like when worn.

Hat now blocked and dry and in drawer at work .... whilst other knitting has been frogged .... ..... ..... the second mitten is now back to the thumb. Somehow I had 20 more stitches than I should have ... and had had that many more than I should have since the thumb ... which explains why the second mitten was at least as wide as the first when it should have been smaller. It also explains why the decreasing at the mitten top wasn't as effective as it should have been. I'm not ready to talk about that ... except to say that it is a good thing I like to knit, and that winter is not really here, and that I already have at least two other pairs of mittens in the drawer from previous knit adventures.

Take care .... tomorrow is Friday ... yay!
seems like it has been a long week ... take care, hope your Friday goes well.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Knit camp ...

is today, well tonight ... starting from 4pm. So this is a quick update before I head out and collect three fellow knitters and drive our way to camp. This morning I had a list of chores to do, including meeting with someone at the local setters museum about learn to knit classes (very exciting), and right now I have a cake baking. I thought it would be a nice gesture to leave a warm lemony syrup cake on the bench for my family to find. Oh they know that I'm leaving them to their own devices for the weekend, it is not the first time, and the fridge is stocked, and things as neat and tidy as they ever are, and their 'other' parent, Bear, is at times more capable than I at parenting - they will survive.

The knitting update is short and sweet, I have made very little progress on the double knit mittens. a few more rounds at most. Life got in the way, there was a night that smallest cub just wanted to cuddle, nothing was wrong, she seemed happy enough but just wanted to lean and cuddle and sit in contact with me. When an eight year old and their Teddy bear wants to sit and snuggle ... well it kind of limits arm movement, and knitting becomes more difficult. So I gave up. Then there was Tuesday-itis, on Tuesdays I teach from 9am to 5:30 .. making for a long day and a kind of zombie like settling on the couch Tuesday evening. My knitting is in my hands, but not much progress happens. I have managed to start the decreases for the mitten tip ... and it is a weekend of knitting, so perhaps there might be more to show next post? See I'm deliberately not making any promises.

The other current project grows also, this one is slightly addictive in the way that graphic repeats are. The lace forms a heart, and every repeat completes a heart. The knit experience becomes
'oooo just a few more rounds and I'll have another heart done, *oh that was quick I might just start the next heart ... oh well I guess I'll just finish this heart before I go to bed*,
repeat from * to * until Bear asks 'how much longer were you planning to stay up?".

The family in the photo is my mothers, she is the wee girl on the far left, the boys are from left to right, my Uncle Grant, Uncle Ian and Uncle Neil, and the adults are my Nana Jean and Granddad Stanley. I love this photo, and I love that the kids and Granddad are all wearing sweaters - tucked into their trousers. My mum was born in 1944, so this must have been photographed in the early 1950's in Auckland, New Zealand. My Nana could knit, but I doubt she knit the fairisle/colourwork cardigan my mother is wearing, I'm not sure if she knit the boys jerseys or not. I do know she learned to knit as an adult, taking herself off to classes once she had children in school as knitting was something her own mother had not known how to do. Only two of the people in the photo are still alive, Ian and Neil, so this represents part of my family that I can only remember, I'm glad I have this.

Take care - knit lots, I will .....there won't be a post over the weekend, Knit-camp is off the internet map for me, I don't have mobile access, all the more time to knit with :D

na Stella