Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Nearly the right size!

Short post today, things are busy - in a good way, not too busy to post but there is not a lot of knitting or other 'things' to post ... so short post.

First up - Bigger on the inside socks are nearly done. Elder cub is away at camp and with no need to keep the Tardis inspired colour work around the top out of his sight I've been able to knit and knit and knit. these should be almost done tonight. Wednesday night is trash tv night here, Big Bang Theory followed by the Borgias, both showcasing opposite extremes of behavior in an odd way. Two hours of trash tv should get me well into the  ribbing.

Second up is I've a new article out, in Entangled (I'd link to the contents page - but I can't find it - sometimes I'm hopeless that way). I'm feeling all starstruck as in this issue I'm rubbing pages with some of the fibre  worlds superstars like  Jacey Boggs has a regular column (Well done GrannyG - Editor of the stars !) Expert weaver Margo Selby explains her progress from new graduate to commercially viable hand weaver and designer- and I love reading how she came to terms with making her work affordable without loosing the craft designer. Then there is some hand knit fashion talk, Joanna Davies (Knit forward Fashion Back) - explores  how hand knits work in the fashion world. There is even an article on Tatting - a craft that I have dabbled in and one that I think is overlooked by many but possibly more portable and creative than knitting and crochet combined.  My article is titled Impoverished Craft, and I've tried to explore the relationship of scale in crafting.

so thats me ...
back in the weekend, two more nights of ballet rehearsals (4pm to 7pm for the nine year old) and then the show proper Friday night and Saturday - Sunday we might all need a relaxing sleep in and and brunch out some where nice and relaxing.

take care

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Not just knitting

Hello, during the week Bear went digital, this is a man with a Nikon F5 film camera and previously no wish to use a digital camera at all. Digital is something I've encouraged, seeing my photos as I make them allows me to make better photos. I can't imagine waiting weeks for a film to be finished and then printed, but Bear is old school - and that is cool. The result of Bear deciding to try digital was my lovely Panisonic Lumix camera went out on a site visit with him and wasn't here for me to use - no mid week photos means no midweek post. Not that there was much here to blog, a sock is growing, I've plied two skeins (no photos sorry), and today I made a bag. The bag was a project that started out as a repair and before I knew it there was a new bag in the making. I'm working away developing a 'teachable' book for November continues to keep me busy - but the end is in sight. There are several 4pm to 7pm ballet practices this week, Monday and Wednesday, and a full ballet concert this Friday and Saturday, I'm not sure who will be the more tired, little cub who has to rehearse and dance or the parents who have to prepare, transport and feed the ballerinas and then watch the whole recital.

So a growing sock, Bigger on the inside the second is half done. The corner turned and the leg commenced. Soon I will be able to play with the colourwork at the top. There will be more opportunity this week as elder cub is away to school camp from Tuesday morning to Friday night. Without him in residence I can happily knit on his sock without discovery.
Little cub plays Ukelele, she has done for two years now. The classes are held at her school and are free - one of the retired teachers opens up the library and runs 3 classes a week, beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Thank you Miss G! Every Wednesday littlest cub takes her pink ukelele and trots of to class after school, most weekends, and some mornings we hear her singing and strumming away in her room down the hall. The bag it came in was thin and had started to tear in several places. As eldest cub is off to camp we had the sewing machine out and I was stitching labels to the things we least want him to loose. Seemed a good time to do a few repairs, stitch a belt loop back on, top-stitch a hat band in place, and repair the ukelele bag. The fabric of the original bags was - well it wasn't fabric, it was a thin non-woven with no structural integrity at all. Originally I thought I would over-stitch the popped seams, but on inspection I found the seams had torn, and there were holes and tears in a few other places. The next step in the repair ladder seemed to be to open up the seams and patch the thin and worn places ... so Little cub and I started to unpick the bag. As we unpicked it seemed that the best repair would not to be to patch such thin fabric - but to cut and sew a new bag.

I hauled out the last of a roll of denim that I had used to make cub-trousers when both were smaller, and my sewing box. Little Cub chose a cotton quilting print of Paua-shell  to accent the denim fabric. Little cubs nickname is Doodle ... so that seemed a fun word to personalize her bag. The applique was outlined in machine zig zag stitching, each letter in a different thread colour, and that seemed a nice feature to carry through to the handle and the zip. Little cub outlined the 'L' - didn't she do a grand job? She wasn't sure about the 'E' - as it had lots of corners and turns, and left the curved letters to me.

We even added a wee pocket to the back, to keep her picks in, with enough space to add a ukelele tuner later (she is getting one for Christmas but dosn't know that yet).

And I've been working away to develop a nice book to teach bookbinding with at Unwind next March. The class is only a few hours so I've been working out how much I can expect people to sucessfully get through in that time,  And I've been playing with materials, these two are stitched with different weights of linen thread. I like the thinner one better, less dramatic but the stitching holes are smaller and the thread adds less bulk to the book.

I've also been playing with this method of attaching the covers to the book-block (pages). The standard method dosn't use a flyleaf - which is something that 'nicer' books have. The problem with adding a flyleaf is how to stitch the cover to the book-block and not interfere with the unglued flyleaf. Took me the 'map' journal to get my mind around the 'how' and the yellow journal to refine adding the back cover so the inside looked the same. Soon I need to 'test' my teaching on some one to make sure that this is achievable for some one in my class, no point having a method that is so fiddly that no-one else can follow is there?
I've also been playing with paper, the ivory is 80gsm Claire Fontaine, and the white is 90gsm HP, both take fountain pen ink and pencil well which is important. I'm also playing with printing a knit grid on some of the pages, and different methods of stitch binding using the 'coptic' stitch. Heavier paper makes for a book with more of a 'high-quality' feel, and I've already discovered that the covers and flysheets are much easier to glue if thicker paper is used.

Take care - I'll be back with more knitting mid week if the ballet and camp and work dosn't derail me again. There is only 3 weeks until school (cubs) and work (mine) finishes for the year - then there is our long summer holiday break. The end is in sight!

na Stella

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Today it is all about the progress - two socks, one done, one nearly done with the impressive bits done. In keeping with progress - there is a decision to abandon a poorly thought through project and a new project jumps on and nearly off the needles.

First up - the Old School sock is one, and a second one started. I still have reservations about this sock - the frill is larger than I imagined - but the littlest cub coos and fondles and thinks they are so pretty I shouldn't change them at all. I will keep an eye out for lace edge that is smaller and suitable for use as an frilled edging on a bobby sock.

I've started the second toe and managed to reverse the shaping so the increases on each sock spiral out and mirror the other sock. I didn't want the usual toe, the one with increases at each end of the sole and instep stitches but I did want a toe increase with four repeats or sections. Figuring that the usual toe involved a cast on of two sets of 8 stitches then increased four stitches every second round I rejigged that to fit neatly on dpns. I cast on 8 stitches, increased in each stitch on the first round to get 16 stitches and then every second round increased in the last stitch on the dpn for the  first sock and increased in the first stitch on the dpn for the second sock. So now I have  just the boring bit - where I work the chart until ready to increase for the gusset now.

Second up in the report - Tardis socks made good progress this week - mostly as the older cub tended to work in his bedroom rather than watch 'boring tv' with his parents most evenings. He is off an age where reading Harry Potter or about Aliens is far more fun than watching tv - and I'm keen to promote the reading - so we are keeping him supplied with library visits to stock up on whatever he fancies. The sock is being worked in reverse order - toe up rather than top down.   The chart was easy to reverse - I just turned the page upside down. I also worked the colour work on needles 2 sizes larger, so 2.75 mm not 2.25mm, just because I needed to make sure the colour work would stretch enough to go over the heel and around the calf.  There is another 12 or so rounds of 1x1 rib and then this one will be done.

The next project is the one that is about to fall off the needles, frogged.  I've already reknit this one, adding more stitches. This is a whim project, as in one I cast on in a whim, thinking I knew enough to just wing it. Seems I don't or rather I didn't think enough about what was required to make this work. Now intellectually I know that cables draw knit fabric in, they reduce its ability to stretch - and the more cables and the more stitches cabled, the more drawn in is the knit fabric. So when knitting this I completely ignored the fact that having 5 cables around a tube that fits the wrist - would make that tube tight. This fits - but it feels tight. I had thought I would give this away  - there was an opportunity to have it knit ready for latter this week. I'm now rethinking that and this will be frogged and parked. Besides its spring, wet and warmish rather than cold - hardly weather to gift warm cabled hand knit wristers. Mental note to self - 60 stitches even when on 2.75mm needles, using sock yarn, cabled rib is not enough to fit a wrist comfortably.

And this is the fast and furious project that jumped on and then off the needles, a pair of red wristers. I've been invited back to teach at Handmade again. I've offered to enable new knitters by teaching them how to make a wrister. This is a project I developed first for littlest cub, then for WWKIP 2011 and it is designed especially to give beginners the skills they need to start and finish a project in one lesson. Working the wrister involves casting on, casting off (to make button holes), casting on again ( to complete the button holes), weaving in ends, and then knitting to the length you need. It involves only 25 stitches and a few hours. I know that this hasn't got purling or shaping - but in a 2 hour class I don't want to confuse people. I figure that once people have  knit a wrister or two - they will be ideally positioned to pick up purling and increasing or decreasing. So this sample is knit in Max - the Vintage Purls dk sock yarn - superwash merino with a hint of nylon for durability,  in reality this is blue-redder than this image but its a grey day here and my camera seemed determined to add a little orange to the red.

Well its raining, again, has been on and off heavily all day. It is now late afternoon and all the cubs have come home, as is Bear - late afternoon and time to bunker in for the evening. I'd best go and put on the coffee pot, there is lemon syrup cake (a glut of lemons has been gifted to us), crisp ginger lemon cookies in the shape of bunnies, dog bones, flowers and hippopotamus (Bears favorite), elder cub has made chocolate cake and wants a hand with fudge icing. Littlest cub returned home from a play date with afghan cookies. Rain does that - makes the kitchen inviting, and I don't mind one bit. I had planned nachos for dinner but perhaps we need something healthy and green to counteract all the baking? Then again perhaps Nachos is a perfect way to end the weekend?

Take care

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Change of name

As a user of Ravely (there goes the drug terminology again - user), I am used to naming my projects. and sometimes the names come easily, Bubbles and Toad. Other times the names are perfunctory such as  Bears Paws 3, yes surprisingly the third pair of 'back paw covers' I had knit Bear. Then sometimes the names are nothing but a description, 'nother big blanket being a good example, or Miuaik (or Making it up as I knit).

All in all the challenge of naming projects is at times beyond me - and the names are not very inventive, take for example one of the latest socks, originally titled Ice sock, because of the pale icy blue colour yarn. As I knit the sock an idea formed, the sock was pretty, covered in traveling stitches that grew from 2x2 rib and formed a delicate lattice. I liked how the twists paired well with the icy blue .. and began to think of the socks as pretty girly socks. The kind of sock  I wanted as a wee girl but don't remember ever having, lace trimmed bobby socks.

The more I considered these socks as pretty girly socks, the more I wanted to add a lace ruffle to the top edge and keep them short - ankle length.
So I did, I finished off the short leg but closing off the traveling stitches into a standard rib, and worked a turning round of K2togYO, followed by a knit round. Then I searched through all my lace pattern books looking for a narrow lacy edge that I could work as a sock frill. In one of my earliest knitting book purchases, Heirloom Knitting for Dolls by Furze Hewitt I found two seconds on lace trim and the Fan Lace on page 76 seemed perfect. I do like the way the eyelets transition the rib to the lace ... I'm feeling quite proud of that little detail and might have to use it again some where. 

Nothing is every that easy, I worked a few repeats and realized that the lace was rather wide even though it was only on 8 stitches so I rejigged the lace to fit into 6 stitches. I made the lace 'frill' a little by working a join to the sock row every forth row. So far so good, littlest cub has pronounced them 'pretty' and asked if they can be house socks. Perhaps the frill is a little OTT (Over the top) if she wants to keep them for house socks?

When not adding extraneous frills to socks I've been reworking the cabled wrister. Apparently 48 stitches on 2.75mm needles was little to few, so I've frogged and upped the stitch count to 60 stitches. I suspect the stitch count could be even higher - but  whilst the cast on was easier the fifth time around I'm not in a hurry to practice it again just to add a few more stitches. I also added a round between cable twists .... and the cables seem more relaxed. Funny how a bit of space will do that to most things. Looks like there will be plenty of yarn for two wristers. It is a nice yarn, dark chocolate black - something left over from something - perhaps Tripple and the inside collar of Toad.

take care

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November - that explains it.

Now November is a busy month, for some it is Movember, for others NaNoWriMo where those that can aim to write a whole novel. and here, after 11 or so years I've finally realised that November is a month that I shouldn't have too many plans for, that I should just roll and flow and ebb, rather than have any specific goals and expectations. For you see November is the end of the academic year, and for me in my school  that means end of year show, and all of the finalizing marking that goes with preparation for graduation for the students. It also means invites from other institutions to visit and be part of their assessment for honors and final year graduates .... all in all a busy month. I feel like there should be a catchy acronym or such to describe my November - but given its November the best I can do is 'busy'.

Hence today's post, there is a little bit of spinning together with a hint of promise and a little bit of knitting and and the distraction of a new pen and ink combination.
Spinning, sometimes I knit, sometimes I spin. And when I am in the midst of knitting something and need to make some decisions on shaping or patterning or some such ... and its November .. then I default to spinning. There is a calmness to spinning, a rhythm or easy pace to spinning that isn't about each round and shaping and fitting. With spinning I can just spin. This is the second 50g bump of Merino Silk and Cashmere, so once plied it should be a continuation of the first bump which is now a skein of 212m. That is the promise, that the two skeins will be similar enough to work in one project.
I will let it sit for a week or so, as I want to ply from a center pull ball and for that it needs to be quite relaxed and settled, not all twisty and energetic.
Both socks are at points where decisions need to be made, and for reasons already explained that meant both socks have been shelved pending more thinking space. Friday there was a presentation  by a CAPL Student, who presented a designed collection that included three hand knit items. The hand knits were a beret, cuffs/wristers and a rather spectacular zip fronted cape/collar. As you might guess I have a soft spot for nice hand knits ... seeing her work was enough to tempt me to start a new project. That and I came across a link to a matching cast on for Jenny's super stretchy bind off so had to find something to test that on. There is a video, and I tracked down the instructions in Montse Stanleys book which are slightly different. Maybe it is because it is November but this one took me a a while to come to terms with. I cast on and unraveled it I don't know how many times on Friday night, and then last night a few times more .. before finally achieving something that looked even and regular. I think the cast on become one of those things that I wasn't going to walk away from .. so I kept trying and trying. At the end, it is a nice cast on and super stretch, and there is a knack to working it ... but I'm not sure I need this much stretch and yet I want to be good at this one - you know because I consider my self the kind of knitter who can do most things. So this is a 2x2 ribbed wrister, the first of two,  where the 2x2 rib transitions to a cable pattern for the hand.

This is my other distraction at the moment, Diamine Deep Magenta ink. This is an ink I bought for littlest cub, who is very much into letter writing at the moment. I picked the pinkest ink that was listed as in stock by the local online Ink Trader on Trademe. When the ink arrived I helped little cub fill her pen and then realized that this was an ink I wanted in one of my pens. Who knew, I thought I liked soft browns, blue greys,  blues and deep grey plum purples ... and then this ink sucked me in with its deep pink with a slight blue tinge. That was over two weeks ago and I've refilled the same pen and am thinking this might just become an ink and pen combination I keep on hand. I picked this pen, a vintage Burnham button filler with a Greg Minuskin retipped nib, because of its colouring, with the deep rose pink it seemed a good match for Deep Magenta. I know it probably isn't professional to write marksheets in Deep Magenta, or to sign letters in that ink .. but I want to. I'm trying to convince myself that using an ink like this is a fantastic way to identify my comments and prevent any incidents of tampering with marks. I've never had any of my comments or marks tampered with,  and there is a stash of 28 other inks in the drawer ... but not like this one. Still I can write drafts for most things in Deep Magenta with no professional worries. On  FPN there is a forum thread, what is your current favorite ink?, and I know now what they mean. Just like knitting - what appeals today is not necessarily what appealed yesterday, or what might appeal in a few weeks or months.

As they post on FPN - what colour are your fingers today and what is your current favorite ink?

Take care - na Stella

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Back - briefly.

Hello, I'm back. Did you know I was away? I can't recall if I said or not but Friday I was in warm and sunny Tauranga, just for the day. 1025 km away, up and back in one day, two flights there and two flights back. I'm away again next week, to Auckland this time, Tuesday and Wednesday - which would be neater if Bear wasn't away to Christchurch Monday and Tuesday. My Dad is coming to the rescue as the cubs are lovely and sensible kids but not old enough to leave on their own yet. I don't often flit around the country like this - but when I do I get a real reminder of how much weather patterns change in such a small country. Its November, early Spring here and in Tauranga it was very springlike, the students I was there to see all wore strappy sandals, the windows were open, the day fine and warm (by Dunedin Standards). Friday night I returned home to a much more chilly climate - and Saturday awoke to snow on the ground - all around! Today - Sunday it is much warmer, windows open kind of warm - but obviously winter is not ready to forget us yet.
I took along the Bigger on the inside sock, and worked it as I flew up and back. I made good progress, achieving the gusset increases, the heel flap and starting the leg. I would have made more progress if I had remembered to take a few stitch markers along. This yarn is dark, and I wanted the increases to run out from the sole (not towards the sole) - and that required keeping the increases next to the same stitch - not as easy to do without stitch markers. Discovering that I frogged back once and took a lot more care with placing the increases this time. I also wondered what would happen if I ribbed the gusset, so did that, I like the way the ribs sort of fan out, and may do this again. I had to do some quick calculations to make sure the leg had the right stitch count for the Tardis stitch pattern - turns out that after a day of flying I'm not so good at math, this also took me a few repeatedly  frogged rounds to sort out. Slipped stitched heel on this one - which pairs nicely with the ribbed gussets.

The other sock on the needles stayed at home, having achieved the same state before I left. This time I worked the gusset in reverse stocking stitch, and I like it. The little triangle of reverse stocking stitch pairs nicely with the ground behind the traveling stitches. Eye of partridge slipped stitch heel on this one. I'm thinking short with a fold down or a lace frill - what say you?
Finished object here - a wash-coth, in ribbed smocking. Rather nice I thought, and squooshy. The cloth is much smaller than I expected, smocking the rib pulls everything in quite a bit. I really would like to work this stitch pattern into a yoke of a little girls cardigan - as soon as I have a wee bit of time to work out how to increase for the yoke shaping keeping the pattern true. Any ideas?
Older cub is spending the day in the garage wood working, Bear is terrified that he will injure himself with sharp tools. Elder cub has not shown much interest in woodwork before, but has done several weeks of wood technology at school - where it turns out that they had to wear tough leather gloves whenever they used cutting type tools. To me that just seems to make the whole exercise harder and clumsier. I explained that snap-off craft knives are not the best for whittling wood, which is what he had been using - what do people use to whittle now that pocket knives are illegal to carry (at least they are in New Zealand). I've made it clear  that one keeps ones hands behind the blade, cuts away from oneself, and shown him how to secure things in the vice and where the tools are. He wants to make a wand a-la Harry Potter, and isn't to disappointed that we couldn't find a Yew dowel at the hardware store. He did have hopes of finding Yew - which I was pretty sure we wouldn't find.  I've left him with a rasp and a spoke shave to thin the end, sandpaper, and reminded him that he doesn't like blood and I don't like screaming so it would be best to avoid anything that results in that. I love that he wants to do things with his hands - love it.

take care -

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

One photo, three projects

Just a quick update today, one photo three projects, but first a heads up about a very special fibre event to look out for in 2012.

First up the knitting event, Unwind, March 9, 10 and 11 2012, New Zealand. Special because finally us locals have a knit event close to home (thanks Morag) - which means more spending on classes and fibre and less on travel to get there. The site is live, registration is open and teachers and traders include New Zealands finest (IMO)! I'm teaching two classes, Norwegian Steeking and Coptic bookbinding ... and hoping to get into James Persian Poppy's class. Kaffe Fassett's Poppy's has been on my want-to-knit list for simply ages and Jame's class will give me the push to finally commit to finding yarn and casting on.

So that excitement over, and back to talking about my  knitting - look two socks on the go and a washcloth that snuck its way onto my needles. Oh I was totally aware of the washcloth happening, at the last KSG class there was discussion that the next class would be on smocking. Now smocking I know, and knitting I know, and I am sort of aware of a kind of knitting that looks like smocking so I thought I'd do a little bit of investigation. Of course that kind of thing almost always results in me wanting to just try the technique a little bit.
So, here we have a wash cloth, which is smocked, using the technique shown in this video by Audknits.The technique looked fun and it is - I suspect I might include this in a cardigan at some time soon, around the cuffs and hem and yoke ......What I have learned is this is fun, easy, surprisingly simple and pulls the knitting in amazingly, this is a 50 stitch washcloth and it behaves more like a 30 stitch washcloth. When I use this in a cardigan there will have to be be significant swatching to make sure it fits.

Also in the photo are the two current socks on the needles, first up the Ice Sock and then behind that the Tardis Bigger on the Inside sock. The Ice sock has kept me frogging, mostly as I keep being distracted by other knitting like the smocking and forgetting that the traveling stitches are not twisted. I spend one entire evening knitting merrily away twisting all the traveling stitches and not looking closely enough at my work to notice that what I was doing was different to what I had done before. The darker blue sock, Tardis Bigger on the Inside is looking good and is a good mindless knit. Both are nearing the point of starting gusset stitches so I'll have to so some sort of estimations to workout just how many and where ..... time to haul out my workbooks and see what I usually do. Might even be time to work out a semi standard set of guidelines for knitting socks for socks of any size- so I don't end up back in the workbooks working it out each time. Mostly my socks are influenced by things I read about how different people make socks and  a fair few keeper techniques gleaned from socks knit in the past. The most interesting find recently is this idea by Maia Spins, which was posted in 2007 but which I have only just thought now to search for. I'm keen to try that kind of flap extension with a slipped stitch heel, there is something neat about how the gusset stitches run vertical not horizontal.

Take care - knit or spin some, or at least read about fibre ...and investigate Unwind - even if just to temp yourself a little and dream.
na Stella