Sunday, December 30, 2012


I've been distracted away from blogging of late, the garden grows green and at a time when we are here to do things in it, deadhead roses, raise seeds, tidy away last years dry growth. There has also been all sorts of end of year holiday things to do, visit my dad, deposit the elder cub with one of his best friends for a camping holiday (without us), bake Christmas treats (fruit mince tarts, fruit cake) ... and all sorts of salads, which are meant to be easy but often involve lots of prep and at times precooking and cooling. Then being away which involves lots of packing and unpacking.

Still there has been knitting, and some spinning, we headed out to Waimate Boxing Day, and did our annual rodeo attendance the day after. Lots of fun. My away-knitting was the Handspun sock. I decided to undo what I had knit, the gauge wasn't right for a redux of bubbles so I did a quick cruise online and founds simple eyelet pattern that looked easy and that would suit the Handspun. I'm knitting these on 2.75mm needles, not my usual sock needle of 2.25mm, and in this yarn I like the result. I also like the speed at which these are knitting up. I started on the 26th December, and mid way through the 27th I was already knitting the heel. Because I was working without a pattern I worked the heel from memory, turns out my memory isn't so good at things like toe up gusset and flap heels, so I frogged and reworked the heel. The second time wasn't a success either but in working it I did resolve the issues ... And the third heel worked out just dandy. That was the surprise, that I knew enough that i could work a heel without blindly following instructions!

By the time I reworked the heel the third time I had a really clear understanding of the structure and relationship between the sections, the heel cup, the gusset, the heel flap, and the sock circumference. That meant I felt confident to add in a slipped stitched heel cup. You might just be able to see it in the close up photo. It's not long, but just wraps the slip stitch around the turn of the heel by a centimeter or so. I made good but cryptic notes and now I'm well past the heel of sock number two. These are slightly smaller than my usual sock, littlest cub is my fit model, she has the 'right sized feet' to match the person these are for.

Because I have been finding progress so fast one these socks, and that in turn drives me to knit them even more the contiguous tempest inspired cardigan seems to be in a lull. I'm around the elbow of sleeve number one. This also was frogged. When the sleeve was about the length it is now I tried it on and discovered the sleeve was firm. After a wee time spent pouting I frogged back to where the deceases started and worked the sleeve again. This time I am decreasing every seventh round, not every forth. Small change but enough to produce a looser fit.

And lastly I've been a investing in even more colored pencils, this was a set I discovered at CultPens, and had to investigate hands on. The Kooh-I-Nor polycolor art set, 24 leads, the inner bit of a pencil, together with three Kooh-I-Nor lead holders, and assorted other bits. Lead holders are sort of like a jumbo mechanical pencil, except instead of the pencil lead being 0.5mm in a lead holder the pencil lead is 2mm, 3.8mm, or even 5.6mm. Instead of sharpening the pencil and so loosing pencil length, the lead itself is sharpened and the leadholder stays a constant length. Some of us like the way a leadholder is weighty compared to a wood-cased pencil, and how it stays a constant weight and length right down to the last centimeter of lead. I've read reviews that some people find switching out the leads 'tiresome', but since my current aim is to master blending within a tonal range of three to five shades, I expect that even if I have to invest in two more 3.8mm lead holders ( my current collection are all 2mm lead holders), I won't find switching too troublesome. There are only 24 colors available in the 3.8mm leads, although the wood cased range from Kooh-I-nor has 72 colors, but as these are super blendable on good art paper - I shouldn't feel to limited, and in theory I should become expert at colour blending. If not lots of people mix and match between leadholder and woodcased, even between brands and types. Best news is refills are really affordable when compared to artist-grade-blending pencils, and come in packs of six, so I can top up the set as I need to. I like these a lot, so much so I plan to invest in a simillar set for each cub, the Kooh-I-Nor woodless color pencil set in 24, cult pens don't stock these, but DickBlick does, for a super reasonable $13 or so. Woodless means the pencils are solid lead, but in the thickness of a wood cased pencil, and the reviews both at DickBlick and elsewhere online are that the 24 set is fantastic quality, and a brilliant price, and because they are solid usable lead not wood, each pencil lasts for yonks even with heavy use.

When I was in high school, back in the 1980's, we had school certificate (SC) and universally entrance (UE) exams, now replaced in New zealand by NCEA achievement records. Anyway, back when I was preparing my art portfolio I remember one of the panels was a serries in study of hands knitting, just the fingers, and clearly defined stitches with twists plied yarn making up the loops, drawings, acrylics and maybe a print or two. I do recall that my proportion was all wrong, but that I loved the detail of drawing the knitted structure, I have no idea what happened to my portfolio, and little memory of what else was on it, funny what one remembers, and how little things connect, from then to now.

I don't 'do' New Years resolutions, but I do sort out things I'd like to see happen, next year I want to knit, of course, and spin, but also draw more and improve at drawing, and I have a plan to work towards that should help. We both want the garden to start looking like something people actually care a out and take care of in a timely and knowing manner. But my most exciting plan for 2013 is that it be the year of brown ink. Bear gifted me three more brown inks, Pilot Tsukushi (horsetail brown), J Herbin Café des îles (coffee), and J Herbin Lie de Thé (tea). These join my existing collection of brown inks, two Diamine (saddle brown &chocolate brown), and two Noodlers (Walnut, and Galileo manuscript brown). Together with orange for annotations I plan to run the year on brown inks as much as possible. With maybe excursions into plum, and deep violet on occasion. There are of course many more colours than just brown inks in the house ...but I will try and be strong, after all if Gertrude Jekyll decided as an experiment to try an 'all white flower' garden, which then inspired gardeners all over the world for near on a hundred years, why can't I do brown ink?

So, tomorrow is 2013, do you have something lined up for next year or will it be more of the same? Take care, all the best,

na Stella

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

For years and years all my son wanted for Christmas was ...

A transformer, this year his wish came true. Although a little latter in the day and a little larger than his toy box allowed.

We've had an amazing Christmas Day, a quiet start with suitable surprises under the tree. Little cub squealed, elder cub smiled, grandad said he needed a new one as the old one was worn out. Bear and i exchanged books, inks and favorite sweets, which the cubs devoured. We shared the day with my dad who drove down from Waimate to stay - something that really excited the cubs. Mid afternoon we headed out to visit Bears brother and SIL, then returned home to sort a special family meal. Bear and I prepped the veggies, and looked forward to cooking the nicest fillet of beef we have ever splurged on.... As the new potatoes (jersey bennies - a local delicacy) and mint came to the boil the power went off. There was a big click followed by nothing.

Off in semi-permanent way, but at first we didn't know that. Do be safe we turned off the stove, and the grill, and waited. Outside the neighbors started to gather outside to discuss the lack of power. We went out and joined them. The power went off at 6:30ish, and was back on by 10pm, after a rather investing and complex series of maneuvers by men in trucks, day glow vests, safety harnesses, and even a transformer truck complete with a cherry picker extension. We had prime viewing from our living rooms. The weather has been fantastic, it is still warm and still, so much so the cubs are squirting each other with the hose and riding their bikes around and around. Steak, potatoes and baby carrots will keep to tomorrow, we had cold salad and stuff instead.

Take care, hope your Christmas has no more trauma than ours,

Na Stella

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ticking along .... Finished, nearly finished, and distractions

Wow, things have felt rushed around here, I thought with school finishing for the cubs and beginning my Christmas /summer leave that I would have all the time in the world. Turns out that thinking one has all the time in the world just lulls one into a false sense of ability, I thought I had time to garden, knit, cook, shop, parent, organize play dates for the cubs and for me ...and all that takes time, leaving me with less time than I thought. Still there has been knitting,a finished object even, and progress on another knit project, and site actions that come with being home more.

JaiHui's wristers
These were finished a few weeks ago, done in a rush, my favorite wrister pattern, cobbled together from a cable and some ribbing. All blocked and gifted to a postgrad student who had a birthday far for home, and will return to china shortly.

Ribbing around
And the cardigan is more done than not, I picked up a stitch for each row around the front and neck edges, then dropped each fourth stitch thinking the dropped stitch would add a little ease to the picked up edge. I worked 1x1 rib, increasing at the corners every second row to make a neat mitre. I worked the one row improved improved buttonhole from principles of knitting, and like the result. I have buttons, four largish vintage grey ones, hence the wide band. I worked a few centre meters of ribbing at the lower hem first, then picked up and worked ribbing around the entire cardigan.

I finished the band with a two stitch icord bind off, and now I'm working the first sleeve. There would have been more progress but bears brother loaned us a series of detective DVDs, inspector Montalbano, with subtitles which really get in the way of knitting. With the band done i was able to try the cardigan on and I like it, like it a lot. I based the shaping on a commercial cardigan I already have, a Momma Jack by Nom*d, a local New Zealand brand, and its worked out pretty much to plan. I like, but wonder why I am finishing a merino, possum, silk cardigan, which will be warm as toast, as summer approaches.

Beginning to know the materials
And as if I didn't have enough to tempt me, I've got back to drawing, in a very very beginners way, with polychromos oil pencils and developing a knowledge of how the materials layer and blend. Almost to simple to post but I'm learning, this took a little longer than I anticipated, the first five or ten layers just looked pathetic ....wimpy and and lacking any sort of feel I knew what I was doing. But I followed lots of online advice to build up layers slowly and take time ... And sure enough the form and depth of colour started to appear. Just like knitting, a simple act - repeated until one has something that is more than the sum of its parts when done. This was an exercise in using a limited palette, so only five colors, one of them white, and all of them blended and blended and layered and layered. Test patches of colour in the corner hint at what this looked like before the pencils were layered up enough. I might even try a leaf next .....or some piled up fabric. Folds in fabric were my go-to subject when I did art at high school, and wanted to draw, but knew not what. I had a corduroy jacket in mustard that I loved to render in acrylic or graphite again and again. I'd drop it on the table, and just draw the folds as they fell, different each time. I suspect the corduroy wales(lines) helped me see the volume better.

Christmas is coming
Preparations for Christmas are nearly done, the last batch of international post went away last week, missing the post deadline by two days. Tat might mean things are delivered late ... But better late than never eh? Domestic post is nearly done .... And things for cubs have been sorted, a box of 'something' is hiding user my bed, ordered, and shipped early enough to be here in time, another box is hiding out in the garage under the workbench .... That one was bought locally, i like to support local retailers, but the internet brings a huge range into tempting sight. Th local one was bought this morning whilst the elder cub lay-a-bed at home. Quite convienient at times this teenage tendency to sleep all day. And the cubs are working on the tree. We always have a difference of opinion, the cubs want the tree up December first, and I'm more inclined towards the week before Christmas. We have a small lounge and I don't fancy more being crammed into the room early than needs be. Bear I think gets a garden seat if I can work out the mechanics of bringing one home and hiding it without him seeing it.

2012 December
Take care, hope your Christmas plans are panning out, enjoy whatever holiday or break time you have, Na Stella

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

You remember the lost yarn?

Well I found it, surprisingly after a few days of frustrated searching, and hunting and stash diving. I found it not six inches away from my knitting spot! After several weeks of wet weather, we had a few warm weeks followed by a cold snap. I had adjusted my dressing to accommodate for the warmer weather and was caught out, feeling a little chilly one night and not wanting to change I to something warmer, so I pulled one of the shawls from the back of my chair, the one I sit in every night,-- and there was the missing skein!

Wooo hooo, I promptly wound it into a ball and started to knit. I tried a test verson of bubbles, a sock I made some time ago in hand spun yarn, but, this yarn is thicker and I can't use the same stitch count. For now I have parked the project, while I decide if I would like to work a jumbo version with fewer repeats, or something else entirely but still a sock.

This past weekend we had the final round of ballet events, littlest cub was in three shows, and four evening practices over the week leading up to the show. Then I needed some 'knit-throu-a-long-ballet-recital-knitting', so started something new, which I thought I could knit in the dark of the audience. And the top down contiguous version of tempest goes well, I'm having to make decisions about where to start the ribbing, and love the fit so far. But, first back to the ballet knitting.

So ballet recital knitting, two hours of polite clapping for all the wee dears who have diligently attended lessons all year and learned to move with grace and rhythm. Mostly. The average dance is a few minutes, and the lights a dimmed which cuts out any knitting with long rows, or that requires a chart. A wash cloth seemed perfect - so that's what I started. I was quite surprised at the progress, and success of knitting at the ballet, another of NaiNai's favorites, this time in Wendy Pearl luxury cotton in a lovely shimmery pale yellow green. 25%viscose and 25%cotton.

And the cardigan grows, I'm well past the waist, and have worked three wide blue bands and two narrow ones. I've one more narrow to go then it will be time for some ribbing. This time it might be two by two ....

Plus I'm loving the pattern that using yarn from a cone reveals. The lovely interwoven cross crosses. Makes me want to knit a diamond patterned gansey something.

Take care, na Stella

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Back to where I was

Things have been ticking along here, some knitting, some spending, some sending, some sorting and even some gardening. The cardigan seems to be back to where I was before the last frog. Feels like a much better and me-sized version now.

Here is the top of the sleeve, I do like the slight puff that increasing every row gives at the top of the cap. When I worked the yoke again I decided that the critical measurement was as for all fitted garments, the width across the back. So instead of knitting the shoulder seam to the length, I knit the shoulder increases until the back was the width of the back of my favorite cardigan. That gave me a shoulder some three cms shorter than it should be, but this fits, and fits perfectly. My explanations that the shoulder constructed this way may require negative ease in it, I will test that theory in the next version. Now I am working the body .... progress should be reasonably quick, if I'm not distracted by other things.

There has been some serious yarn acquisition, four skeins of Lizzy Bennett and five of Wiloughby. Blue faced leister fingering weight. I had originally wanted to knit the cardigan in the Lizzy Bennett colour way (reddish) but didn't have a second colour to go with. A cry of please help to Sally of veranda yarns resulted in these two colors being offered, and I couldn't decide so got both. The will be more lightweight cardigans in the near future. I seem to have graduated from buying single skeins to stashing garment quantities of yarn. Just between you and I this might be getting serious.

And there is a birthday this week, for my one masters student, right on the day she hands in her thesis. So I thought something hand knit was in order. This is the yarn that might become something, probably wrister a or mitts. Tonight will involve winding into a ball and starting the project. Handspun Romney, 49g, if 100 grams does two socks, then 49 grams should do two wristers. After all a wrister is pretty much just a sock without the foot and heel. I know she likes blue, and I know she found the winter in Dunedin cold. Her home is shanghai and she says that is colder but the buildings are warmer. I believe it and given the boiler at work spent much of the winter being replaced ... It has been a cold year to be a poor student in Dunedin. Something warm and hand knit will remind her of her time in Dunedin, or that is the plan. Take care and I will leave you with bears new rose bed, nine new roses, two species, three David Austin, and two chosen by Toby. Plus some underplanting, and new contain plants around the door. The men in my life like roses ..... I like that. Elder cub was slightly surprised at the cost of roses, and the hard work required to dig over a garden and plant, still he insisted on being helpful. I like that as well. And yes .... The house desperately needs the windows painted. For now it seems easier to disguise that with mass planting of flowering things ( I only semi joke). And I managed to send away some post.

Na Stella

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Frogging ....and third time lucky?

I frogged, got to the point of dividing my contiguous regauged Tempest inspired cardigan for the underarms and found that it was way to large. Oversized large, and not in a cute I've borrowed this from my boyfriend, but in a what were you thinking, didn't you notice? way. So I documented, with photos and measurements and frogged. Surprisingly the frogging took much less time than I imagined. Oddly disturbing to be reminded that to undo is often easier and less time than to do.

I've now restarted, and this time the size looks more me-sized. Much more the size of thing I wear and see left hanging over the back of a chair or the bed. In hindsight I didn't really think through the effect of the back neck increases. I knew that the increases curved the back neck, like dressmaking darts do in a funnel neck garment, I intellectually knew that adding increases would increase the back width. I had added two sets of six or seven increases ... and I just didn't think through that would make the back two inches wider. I then worked the shoulder increases to fit a fitted garment, not one with a dropped neckline caused by a wide lowered neckline. So my shoulder sleeve meeting point ended up way past my shoulder, somewhere down my bicep. That all added up to be way to big. Something I didn't really see until I had divided the sleeves from the body and cast on. Oh I tried the knit on at several points but it seemed to be always scrunched up on the needle and didn't sit right on my shoulders. I thought that was the scrunching, now I know the scrunching was due to the oversized nature, and that it would never sit well on my shoulders.

So here we are ... with much fewer stitches, looking like a top down cardigan instead of a large wobbly grey blue thing. And now I understand the way the shaping works, and feel happier with how to fit this to me.

Hope your weekend went well, mine was long, starting with the school show Friday night ( I got home in the wee small hours of Saturday with aching feet, despite wearing flats all day). Saturday went in a long tour of all the graduate exhibitions, another long on my feet day. Today has been mucky, some cooking, some printing, some tidying up ... But now it is time to knit and I am all enthused to see progress. Fewer stitches not only means a better fit but shorter rows so the cardigan seems to grow faster.

The care, more soon, with the show done work life becomes less hectic.

Na Stella

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Little tracks

Today's post is about making progress, of the slow and steady kind. Te past week went in a haze of coughing and sniffling, starting with smallest cub on Monday home from school and feeling miserable. Bear was out of town, and so I was the duty- parent. Tuesday was a normal Tuesday with cubs at school and me at work. Then the rest of the week went in a round of first me joining little cub in her cold, then elder cub. Bear came back and seems to have escaped the contagious period, and little cub was at school Friday. I' m hoping this week brings a nice relaxing normal work week, will full health all around.

I've been making slow progress on the newest cardigan, a few more stripes done, and beginning to think about shaping the under arm. I've been reading Barbara Walkers from the top, and realize the shapping I have developed based on my experience with drafting patterns for sewn garments is the same as Barbara's recommendation for shaping the body and under arm curves! Not sure if that is great minds think alike, or zeitgeist, or even duh! I'm tending towards great minds as that makes me feel cleverer. After a week of feeling like my head was full of thick goo - I'm taking any positive thoughts I can muster.

My next knitting project was going to be socks, Handspun socks ... But I've struck a hitch, I can't find the yarn. Not I can't find yarn for there is plenty of that, plenty of sock yarn to hand, and a local supplier happy to sell me more. My problem is that I can't find the yarn I want to use. Recently I spun a green-blue sock yarn from a skein of vintage Purls sock blend, I cabled the yarn and planned to knit a pair of socks ... the yarn looked a little under plied so I ran it through the wheel again adding a little more ply, and sat the yarn in the yarn bowl in the living room. Yarn bowl you ask, what is a yarn bowl. Well around the house there are some lovey items of glass, ceramic, brass or wood that are just there on display because they are too pretty to put away, and because we choose to put the ugly stuff like the crock-pot and the vacuum cleaner away and leave the pretty stuff out. We have more 'stuff' than we have spaces to tidy it to. end result is some things like the lovely large glass bowl in the living room end up being a temporary storage space for spin type project bits and pieces. Right now there is a spindle collection, some more sock yarn I've divided into four to spin into a four ply, and a wee pencil case that stores various fine dpns. There 'should' be a skein of marbled cabled blue green sock yarn here ... but there isn't, still aftr checking all the other places i can think of and not finding it I keep looking in the bowl just in case it has reappeared.

So I've been looking into all the odd places I may have tucked the yarn away in a fit of tidiness and thoughtlessness, I've been finding other things. One of those was a stack of paper that bear brought home. The company he works for recently rebranded, we won't even discuss from what to what, but its just the latest in a long list of changes this time so the firm can create a commercial identity separate to its current owner for a variety of reasons. The paper was old letter head, some heavy thick corporate letter paper, some gridded engineers calculation pads - all with the companies former logo and address printed at the head and foot of each page. Bear hates wasted, loves fountain pens and good paper, so brought the paper home to be used here rather than be thrown out at his work. There wasn't much, a few half used pads, and a part stack of nice letter head paper. But since I couldn't knit the socks I wanted to and as I was bored with the new cardigan ... I made some book blocks from the discarded paper. The first batch were square backed journals ....with rounded corners thanks to Stampbattery who loaned me a corner punch. I've now bought my own.

The second batch were inspired by Zoomer, who showed me her quarter bound books. I loved the look of the spine all plain and serious and the cover more colorful. I want to make more like this .... many more. I love the aesthetic, but also realize this makes decorative paper go further. I get more books for each sheet I buy.

The last set of books were experimental, made from the discarded paper, the batches of which there were only 20 or 30 sheets. Not enough for a full notebook, but enough for a thinner soft cover notebook. Pink and blue are two 'signatures' each, so around 20 leaves, or 40 pages. The brown and green thicker. They are narrow, as once I cut of the company footer and header I had less paper to work with. The green has the binding sewn through the cover, and the brown is my attempt at a soft cover moleskeine style. I followed instructions I found online to form the spine by curve a soft spine strip over a pencil. I can't find the instructions and a few frustrating days trolling through my browser history has not located it. Maybe I imagined it. I will post a link if I ever find the tutorial again.

Wish me luck in finding the lost sock yarn, and the curved spine tutorial (warning: don't google that phrase without the words bookbinding or it gets all medical),

Take care, na Stella

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Done to distraction.

Today there is finished knitting, if one can count finishing a batch of wash cloths as a project done, and a major distraction arrived at home.

First up the washcloths, all seven of them. I miscalculated and the final washcloth ended up short about a meter of yarn. Something's I will frog, but the final washcloth is not one of them, so I substituted another cotton I had in stash. It's the one on the lower left corner in case you didn't spot the odd corner out.

The washcloth patterns are (clockwise from top left), NaiNai's favorite, double bump by Missy Angus), washcloth for a perfect bath by Linney Pinney, Open star dishcloth, spa day washcloth (wrong side up), in the middle is dewdrops washcloth by tricksy knitter and the last one knit, down in the lower left corner is the pattern revenge washcloth. This and NaiNai's are my favorites, although dewdrops is right up there in the knit again list. The two I am most disappointed with are the two on the far right, they skewed more than I liked.

This came home Saturday, a brand new pistachio green kitchen aid. I love it, it's quiet, doesn't drip oil when stord in the cupboard, and doesn't cut out when run for more than five minutes. We bought the artisan model, and got a free glass bowl (a special deal), so we have two bowls for it, stainless and glass, one with a cover to seal and store mixes (we did that with popover batter Saturday night for breakfast Sunday). We also bought a scraper mix blade. Then I watched the instructional DVD, badly dubbed but excellent infomercial, in that when watching my first thoughts were that I wanted all the extras they were showing me. There was making of cupcakes, muffins, and bread. Then making all sorts of other things like ice cream with additional ice cream bowl, or mincing, grinding, and juicing using even more attachments.

Sometime in the 1960's a British made kenwood chef mixer came into this house, bought for Bears mum, and it is still here. I was given use of it in the 1990's, I used it to make bread, pavlova, and cake all-the-time and then it finally wore a gear out later that decade. We couldn't find parts for the Kenwood A701 at the time so I had the gear replaced, a friend of a friend took the broken wooden gear and machined a hardened steel replacement. A lovely gesture but the result was a mixer built to last forever that was so loud I wanted to wear earmuffs when using it. I understood the simplicity and wisdom of the gear being made of quieter wood not steel. Then I officially inherited it, I used it, when I want to make things that my wee hand held mixer would not cope with - for the wee hand held mixer would overheat if worked to long and too hard and simply stops working until the motor cools down. Here is the new kitchen aid right next to the old kenwood chef, both metal bodied, both with glass bowls, one clear and one milky purex. We have a blender attachment, and bear plans to order a replacement gear, and seals and see if he can refurbished the kenwood. The old ones sell for very little on Trademe (new Zealand's eBay), and I do mean very little, there is one locally sitting unsold sans beater for $15 thatis newer than ours! I suspect they are simply to heavy to ship, and we can't honestly sell one that drips oil when in storage, and is so loud ... but repaired one of the cubs might take it flatting, they both like to bake, and Bear likes to tinker, or likes the idea of tinkering.

Take care, if you have any advise on repairs for a1960's Kenwood A701a or words of advice for a new kitchen aid user ... Please share, meanwhile I'm off to check the littlest cub who is unwell.

Na Stella

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Little cub and I are knitting a shawl together, as a KAL, a knit along, just the two of us, her first lace project, and so i am really knitting each line at the same time she is.

The shawl is Connie, by Vintage Purls, and progress is slow as we both come to terms with the lace pattern. I'm imagining after a few repeats we will both being much much quicker and there will be more to show. Fr now we are just over one repeat. Little cubs is pink, mine purple, and here is we're our Gage's differ, I must be more uptight in forming my stitches and she much more relaxed. I know the lace is not as well defined in hers .... But I'm reluctant to say anything yet, I want to see how the next repeat works out for her.

There is also a new spinning project, and new fibre, this lovely braid of Romney was the first installment In the inaugeral Vintage Purls fibre club, together with yummy eats, and hand care goodies. 100grams of luxury shiney fibre in deep jewel colors, named Night Songs, and as yet I have no idea what to do with it. One local spinner spun hers and had it knitted up within days, into Milo, and it looks amazing. For now it is mine to admire, and dream about.

This week is one of the busy ones, our graduating students present their final collections over the next few days, which means lots and lots of presentations. I suspect I will need lots of relaxing knitting to come home to.

Take care

Na Stella

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I've been knitting, more washcloths, and a little on my tempest inspired cardigan, but this post is all about my youngest cubs knitting.

Look, little cub knit this mostly on her own. I'll admit I helped pick up stitches for the body, and the ears, and I grafted one ear closed. Everything else was her work. I'm so proud, for lots of reasons, mostly because she choose the pattern, choose the yarn, and kept working until she was finished. I'm impressed that my ten year old could handle instructions for working on dpns, and even made a leap to translate those to knitting on one circular. That she knit in the round, easily and without fuss, ssk'd, and k2tog'd, worked lifted right and left leaning increases, and followed a pattern. That last bit, following a pattern is amazing in itself given that I often deviate away from instructions. And last week, while watching that documentary about tigers with elephant trunk 'cams', she realized real elephants had tails so added one, mock i-cord with a tuft. Her elephant is called Oddy, and has one purple ear (she grafted that one closed herself!), which is the reason for the name, it's a bit odd, and another way she made it her own. The pattern is Elijah by Ysolda, available here. I've. It knit it, but feel actively involved enough to recommend it, no seams, all in the round and with clever shaping details that make positioning the legs, arms, ears and eyes really easy.

Meanwhile I have been knitting mores washcloths, fuller details to follow in another post, but first shown here is number five, Dewdrops washcloth, one of four in Clothquartet by Tricksyknitter, you can find the pattern free here. I think I have one more ball of cotton, so there will be another two more at least, not sure what pattern those will be ... but the plan is to have each one different, and report back at the end.

So with the elephant done little cub and I have started a shawl KAL ... hers is pink, mine pale purple. Her first lace! No pressure, and as J says, it's knitting, not like its a competition or anything.

Take care, na Stella

Saturday, October 20, 2012

3 hours later

And I have a mini-diy-spring loaded book press, ideal for working on the binding edge of book-blocks. I do need to make small adjustments tomorrow, such as providing a little more play in the holes in the top platen, and a wee bit of sanding. I'm not even sure I need to decorate it with liberty wall paper, the plywood cleaned up nicely.

Thanks Bear we don't have a powered saw so there was much hand sawing with a fine toothed saw.

Na Stella


Today's post is about frustration, I've been making more books, and getting interested in how to make my binding process a little more polished. I love the way coptic binding lets a book open flat, but not so much the way that the spine moves of its own accord when the hard-cover is glued on. That often results in this sort of messy spine. See how the pages Inside the spine are all over the place instead of nicely lined up? I've been playing with journals bound with softer covers, and spines, more moleskein like than a hard bound book, semi soft maybe? The blue one is a bit of a dud, but I'm learning and making each one taught me something on how to make my bound books better. The paper is a lovely Japanese wrapping paper I picked up in Napier, I have one sheet left.

As part of wanting to do-better I turned to the wide world of online content and found some nice tutorials online that involved preparing a book block for casing in. Did you notice, I'm picking up all sorts of new terms, the innards of a book, the pages all stitched together are called a book block. Casing in is the action of inserting the book block into the case, which is another name for a cover. Then there are other terms, like mull, which is a gauze fabric glued over the sewn edge of the bookblock to stabilize and strengthen the spine. Some people use paper, or gauze, or even special Japanese tissue. I decided that this was worth investigation if there was a potential of making a tidier book. I also needed to investigate just how less flexible book made this way would be compared to a Coptic bound book.

Finishing the spine with mull or mull like stuff requires clamping the book block with the spine exposed. I could do this with stiff cardboard and clamps, but saw a neat idea on you tube, I've linked to it here. Why do things the simple way when one can build a jig seems to be our family motto.

Then I saw another neat idea on you tube, for a combination sewing frame and book press. It wasn't the combination frame and press I thought was neat, but the springs to hold the boards apart. I decided to combine the two ideas, seemed like a sensible thing to do.

So Bear and I went shopping, eventually after visiting two big box hardware stores, one engineering place and a closed wood work specialist we found all we were looking for in the sizes we needed. Most places stocked a weird variety of coach bolts, in metric sizes and wing nuts in American non-metric sizes. It matters, it really does, you cant see the difference by looking but if I was to screw a non metric threaded wing nut onto a metric threaded coach bolt ... there would be a promising start and a sudden tightening and locking of everything as the slightly different threads jammed and stuck.

We ended up with this, two bamboo laminated chopping boards, four coach bolts of 8mm diameter, (3 shown), four springs, a set of bumpers, and five wing nuts. Five because I knew if I bought four I would drop one, be unable to find it and end up back buying another one. And washers, the largest we could find to fit the coach bolts, to distribute the pressure as much as possible.

Bear and I marked drill hole positions, using measurements rather than the laminated pattern of the chopping boards. we discovered the boards are not square or symmetrical .... which really annoyed engineer Bear. We fired up the big red drill press, and drilled holes, just like in the tutorial but four not two. I like my big red drill press, it runs smooth and quiet, and was a gift from my dad. I think all middle aged daughters deserve their own drill press don't you? The project looked good, then holes were neat, we stuck on the bumpers, and set about assembling my DIY bookpress.
Right up until the moment of failure it looked like this, very promising, so we inserted a large old dictionary and set about tightening the coach bolts up so the 'coach' part of the head would seat into the wood and fix permanently in place. We tightened, and tightened .....
And the heard a loud crack, the board had cracked. Now if I had followed the instructions this probably wouldn't have happened, but I had to 'Improve' on the instructions, and introduce more stress with four coach bolts than two coach bolts would create. So I headed out to the better of the two big box stores to look for plywood. Plywood is stronger than laminated chopping boards, or so we thought. They had a cut-shop where I was able to have my 600mm x 900mm 17mm thick ply cut to size, but the sign said no cuts under 300mm. So I opted for just over 400mm squarish. I figured a book press made from two sheets of 600mm by 900mm ply was a tad larger than convienient.

This time Bear and I are thinking we might not set the coach bolts so near the corners, but maybe set in a third of the distance from the ends, we can reuse the hardwear, the drill press is set up. The ply is not as nicely finished on both sides as the chopping boards, but I am thinking I might finish the top with a piece of thick wallpaper ....and I have to buy another set of bumpers.

Today my plan was to take the bookblock I had prepared earlier and explore mulling the spine ...but it is 3:30 and this is as far as I have got. Two sheets of ply and hardware to make a diy book-press. seems just like where we were this morning, Maybe tomorrow i can explore mull, maybe not.

I am knitting, my Tempest cardigan grows slowly as only a cardigan knit on 3mm needles can, and I'm still working my way through washcloth textures. Here is variation four so far, seed stitch edges and a kind of modified garter rib centre. I need to look for a few more textures to knit, details next post.

Take care, oh and I haven't dropped a wing nut, I still have all five.

Na Stella