Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Take-2 post

Another quick post, seems I have run out of hours again this weekend. I've just returned from a a bit of a rush around town for things. Standard stuff like a new floor mop and handle, guiding the cubs towards something that Bear would actually like for his birthday, and that they can afford. Doing the same for me, except I have a slightly higher budget and have known him a little longer. Finishing by attending a fantastic talk by Douglas Lloyd Jenkins titled Inside the Victorian Gentleman's Wardrobe. All in all a fast and fun day, but leaving little time to sit and blog. Expecially when I have a new book on the New Zealand penchant for the colour black to read.

So -- quickly, there is yarn, or part yarn, I've been spinning a little more and now have two different yarns on two different bobbins to ply. There is also knitting progress, on the Sanquhar glove, which was frogged some weeks ago and sent to the back of the knit basket to languish while I worked on more fun things. So this is the take-2 post, my second go at woolen spinning, my second go at the Sanquhar mitts.

 This is yarn spun Woolen style, as opposed to worsted style. I was quite taken by the Faux Rolags that were presented in a recent spin off so used that technique to prepare this multi-coloured fibre for spinning. Then finding I had rolags I thought it best to maybe spin them Woolen, so I dug out my Abby Franquemont video and tried to do as Abby does, spin all relaxed and easy but for now there is a whole lot of trust in the process. I am trusting that Abby is right when she says that worsted yarn is made in the singles. That the character of the singles set the character of worsted yarn, but that woolen yarn's character comes from the plying. I hope so - because this is thick and thin and variable and I'm trusting plying will even it out. The variation aside I did relax into the spinning and loved the difference way in which woolen spinning is done, more relaxing - more flow, less micromanaging. I can see that I will be looking out for more yarn to turn into mini faux rolags so I can practice woolen  little more. I'm almost sad that I have a basket of pale blue diz'd roving ready and waiting for the wheel.
Saturday was KSG - Knitters Study Group, part two of the Sanquhar mitts. Mine had been banished to the frog pond and abandoned since soon after the last meeting. Friday I dug mine out and worked the gusset increases for the thumb, on Saturday I finished the gusset and once home worked the first wee section of the hand. This time my gauge is perfect, 26 stitches in 2" !

Looks good and fits well.
Must go .. I hear a pot lid trembling, the vegy soup must need attention.

na Stella

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Look - Cardigan!

Yes the cardigan is all done, eight days from go to whoa! Eight days! I'm starting to see the attraction of thicker yarns. The cardigan was finished on the trip up through Central Otago, and it seemed a good time to make some photos so here it is unblocked.
 I had finished one sleeve whilst the cub was asleep, when she woke she decided it was a tad short. I worked the second sleeve on the trip and had the cub with me so had her try it on. Little darling that she is ... insisted that it wasn't long enough and would I add more. So I did ... now the sleeves are generously long, so long that they can be folded up as cuffs. The hem of the cardigan comes to a few inches past the waist of the dress, so there is a little growth allowance in there.
 Buttons are always tricky, Bear and I visited the local designer charity shop (Shop on Caroll) where someone takes the time to sort vintage buttons and attached them in sets to brown paper cards. There were some that exactly matched the faded mauve of the cardigan - but these seemed a more sophisticated match. Is it me or are vintage buttons generally thicker and smoother and nicer than modern ones?
And the back, the leaf lace motif does seem to create a puffed sleeve effect, slightly unexpected but nice all the same. If I was to knit this again (and I might just do that in another colour), I would try and space the lace leaves around the yoke a little more evenly and hide the raglan increases between them. I also wonder about working eyelets at the top or bottom of the ribbing ... and then I tell myself that sometimes less is more.
And this is the front, personally I like it with the topmost button undone, but little cub is a sticker for doing up all the buttons all the way. The location is the Shaky bridge in Alexandra, built in the 1870's over the Manuherikia River, which really does shake as you walk on it. In the background you can spot the bright orange vest and workboots of the local inspector who was performing a 'walk-over' when we were there. I freely admit to not being the best with heights and liking to be be on solid ground - so the ease with which both cubs skipped and ran along the bridge was a little disturbing, and I was much comforted by the sight of the inspector.

So I'm back with knitting my Deciduous lace shawl, thinking about the Sanqhuar gloves, and being plenty distracted by spinning.

take care
na Stella

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Public holiday

This post is quick, it is Otago Anniversary Day, Bear wants to head off to Central Otago for a little shopping. Some fruit, it is the fruit bowl of this area, some nosing around second hand shops and the like looking for pens and and interesting magazines. I said I'd blog quickly.

 Last night I was distracted by fibre, I sorted some that Sauerkraut had gifted me into a colour progression and made mini faux rolags using choptsticks. Was a lot of fun - I've threaded them in order on a length of yarn - the idea came from Spin off. 
 The Cardigan project is nearly done, but sadly I knit the first sleeve whilst the little cub was in bed sleeping so I prematurely cast off the first sleeve a tad short. No worries I'm knitting the second one, making sure it is longer than the first and then I'll frog the first. Just on a week of knitting - so a fast and fun project. The Hedgehog is fake, it is a shoe cleaner.
I finished spinning the blue with the loaned Aura wheel, and started to ply using my Majacraft Gem II, but discovered the aura bobbins hold so much more yarn than the standard Majacraft. So I've abandoned the plying and will seek to borrow another bobbin so I can ply the entire lot with the Aura. Review coming soon.

Take care
We should be having a lovely lunch in an Art Deco hotel if we time it right, Ranfurly is a small place but has a strong Art Deco theme to its architecture, and has an Art Deco weekend every year. This isn't it but we can still enjoy the luxury and grandeur of the style. Hope your day has a highlight as well.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I'm liking this, liking it very much.

Only two weeks ago I was hunting through my stash of 4 ply/fingering weight yarn to find enough colours to take to a colourwork workshop. I knew at that stage that I really didn't like to knit with thicker yarn, and even though the instructions were to bring DK, or light worsted. Here in New Zealand DK is the term used to identify what American knitters call light worsted, weirdly New Zealand knitters also know that kind of yarn as 8-ply, even when it usually has two or three plies. Surely the world is a strange one when one thinks about things.  So there I was two weeks ago, out to avoid knitting with yarn that thick. Fast forward to this week, and here I am rather enjoying knitting with DK yarn, to the extent that I've not picked up any other project since this one was cast on.
I think I'm learning a lesson here, not to dismiss yarn by weight alone ... that possibly I enjoy knitting with a larger range of materials that I think I do.

Here is my darling daughter, looking for all the world a bit like a drowned rat. Today there were  swimming lessons after school and this photo was made shortly after we returned home - hence the damp locks. I started this on the 17th of March and lready the cardigan body is almost done, I'm working the ribbing and feeling rather pleased  with the wee shoulder puff that the lace leaf pattern results in. There will be sleeves, and front bands and buttons and button holes, and a neck band, and at this rate soon. The cardigan is designed to be worn with little cubs range of sweet dresses, which have gathered skirts, a slim bodice and a natural waistline. So I'm choosing to make the cardigan slightly longer than the bodice ... so it will look like it belongs with the dresses.
I've designed this with a bit of negative ease, so the cardigan will hang open if not buttoned up, when buttoned up the cardigan will be a slim fit, as well as almost short waisted. Now I intellectually know that that might not be a sensible choice for a growing child, to make something with no growth room factored in, but part of me doesn't care. This is knitting up so fast that I feel happy to knit another should it be outgrown. I figure I'll be done with the ribbing around the hem tonight, and have picked up for the front and neck bands. The sleeves should be well under way by the weekend so the end is well and truly in sight.

Excuse me whilst I go and knit some more, with this weight yarn things grow so fast that I'm considering how quickly I could knit something for me if I use thick yarn.

na Stella

Saturday, March 17, 2012

That old thing

This post is all about old things, but old things that are new to me. I've started a new project using old yarn, yarn from the swap shop, so doubly old in that I swopped some of my older yarn for some of someone else's old yarn. The next old thing in this post is a small chest of drawers that I spotted along town Friday, and headed back out to check on Saturday. I was intending to blog earlier today - but the final old thing got in the way.

 Here is the new project, a top down v-necked raglan cardigan for littlest cub, in pink (surprise surprise). My personal fashion sense is more long term than fleeting. My ideal  garment is one that people comment on and ask if it is new, and that I can say 'this old thing' about, I like the idea of garments that one can wear for years and years and that still get comments. Like most parents I'm transferring my tastes onto my kids, at least until they develop wants and needs of their own, so little cub is getting a classic warm cardigan, one that could have been knitted and worn at any time in the last century.
I swatched in Raglan shape on the off chance that the swatch would be a success. The gauge was to firm, and the neckline a tad small .. but the swatch allowed me to play with a transition from stocking stitch to reverse stocking stitch ready for a simple lace pattern based on leaves. I like Barbara Walkers Embossed Leaf Pattern from page 152 of her first Treasury, so I'm using that. Having swatched far enough to learn that the swatch was to small, I put the swatch on hold, made a few calculations and started the cardigan for real.
 I always struggle with how to transition from one decorative stitch pattern to another, in this cardigan I'm using a simple row of purl banded eyelets to provide the transition. In the swatch I continued the raglan shaping in a two stitch wide stocking stitch panel but in the final cardigan I plan to work the raglan increases in that section in pattern. I also played with a knit-below increase for the embossed leaf pattern, and I like the way it matches with eyelet row, but I can't think of a matching decrease for the other end of the leaf .... so I'll go with the suggested lifted make one increase.
 This little six drawer cabinet caught my eye on Friday as we were driving on the outskirts of the CBD. There are a few new shops there stocked with antiques, and one had this in the window. Storage for hobbies is always under review in our house, and whilst plastic bins do take care of much of the spinning stash and yarn there are lots of other bits and pieces that really need something that offers more organized access than a plastic tub with a locking lid.  The chest is probably 1940's, so another old thing, has hardboard bases to the drawers, is made of heart Rimu with brass fittings, and has the ends of two of the drawer fronts chipped. I can easily have those fixed latter in the year, and the price was right.
I purchased the chest to kit out ready to hold pens ... but couldn't resist seeing how much sock yarn it would hold. Five skeins per drawer, and six drawers makes 30 skeins. Not quite as many skeins as the plan drawers that I currently use hold  so I will go ahead and have the wee chest of drawers repaired and pen trays fitted. Right now the wee chest is doing duty in the living space, Bear has removed two of the smaller bookcases for minor repair (borer has started to nibble the backing boards). With the bookcases gone the speakers have been sitting at floor level, but this chest together with a wee oak stool that is the same height are temporary speaker stands for now.
And this is the last old thing, Yo-yo, who has taken to sleeping on the computer chair. I had intended to blog earlier today but every time I went near the chair she was still sleeping. And I mean really sleeping, didn't even twitch when I twirled the chair, I didn't like to disturb her. So I baked bread and muffins, and took little cub off to her special workshop with the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company, and folded washing. Then finally sometime after lunch Yo-yo appeared in the kitchen, meowed that the door should be opened, and I knew the computer chair was available.

Take care
The rain is about to set in so I'm off to save the washing from the line then I might just have to knit some more. Wonder if I can complete the raglan yoke today?

na Stella

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

After Unwind now I'm unwound ....totally

Yes, totally unwound, as expected. The unwind event was fantastic, beyond fantastic, amazing and wonderful and exciting and and lovely  ..... and well just plain old great. I'm still smiling, and happy at all the friends I met, and made and saw, and talked with, and all that was on offer. I didn't take a camera, somehow I forgot ... but I'm also a bit wary of posting photos of people and their stuff public ally without asking. Some how I never seem to get to the point in the conversation where I ask for permission to blog a photo I'm making ... so I just avoid it altogether. Unwind involved three full days of doing stuff, I turned up at 8:00 am on Friday to help with the set up, and it was full on after that. I was but a minor part of the event and totally take my hat off to The Vintage Purls team, M, Mr K, A and J, as well as all the local helpers who made the event run smoothly and were just friendly, amazing and non-flustered at all times.

Most amazing was that Little Cub, was the youngest Unwinder there. Oh there were younger people but none were registered as part of the event and none were knitting non-stop. While I was off teaching steeking  Little cub found a stand with  knitting and decorating supplies, patterns for Owls and hearts, and knit an Owl to hang on the tree. in the round, mostly all by herself, totally without me! Then she knit another and started a third! I also knit one, but mine pales in comparison to hers, and she won a skein of lace merino fingering yarn, for the largest Owl. Funny thing is that she was in the process of knitting an even larger one.  Mine is the sleepy Owl, I went a tad crazy with beading the beak and adding tufts to the ears and tail,  and thought that Owls slept during the day so avoided making eyes altogether. 

My classes, Steeking and Bookbinding seemed to go well, no one gave up, or announced that it was all too difficult. I tried to explain that I'm the kind of teacher that believes that improvement comes with practice, and that learning is the most exciting when one gets to do something real rather than mess about with fiddly little practice tasks. For steeking that means that I aim to have my class cutting up my steeked sample within the first 10 minutes of class, and stitching their sample in the first 15 minutes. Half way through the class time the students are unhappy with their first edge, but then we move on to the second steeked edge and things get more complicated and easier at the same time if that is at all possible. By the end of the class my aim is to have students who know they can go away and do at least as good but probably better next time they steek. Bookbinding went a little the same way ... at great speed. We had 12 bound books all done a little over 3 hours into the class - and again most seemed ok with the idea that this was a skill that could be improved with only a little practice, most were talking about the 'next' book - which was magic to hear.

My other role for the week was to run the SwapShop with Sharon, and so we did. Friday we traded in a whole mountain of yarn, we seemed to have more yarn on our table than many of the traders!  Saturday the shop opened for sales, using special Unwind Vouchers, earned thru donating yarn to the shop. By midday Saturday the table was pretty much cleared. The luxury fibres went to those who love special stuff. The fluffy stuff, and there was a lot of fluffy stuff, went early and easily to those who like fluff. The pink stuff went to those who lusted after pink, ditto the red, and yellow  and handspun, and sock stuff. By Sunday my Swap shop role was done.

 This was my big splurge, a new spindle, the one with the Sinister Raven. I was dithering over some of the bird Spindles that Sourkraut had on her table, and made the mistake of asking which one I should choose. Sourkraut replied that the Raven or even the Sinister Raven, with its beak facing left, was one she thought was ideal for me. That was that, after knowing about the Sinister Raven the decision was made. The raven is now home and seems to be eying up the cute silver bunny that I brought back from the last visit to a trade table stocked by Sourkraut.
 With the spindle purchase out of the way I did spurge on yarn, there is a mixture here, four balls of Rowan organic cotton from the Swap shop, a cardigans worth  of Blue faced Leicester fingering weight yarn from Verandah Yarns in a lovely red orange named Elizabeth Bennett. I bought a skein of Merino Silk fingering weight yarn from Spinning a Yarn in the perfect blue to match little cubs eyes, Waterman - that will become a wee shrug or short sleeved cardigan or even something like a lace warp for Little cub - this is same kind of yarn she won for her Owl, but that skein was in pink. I sucumed to James's beautiful yarn as well, and bought a skein of Merino Mania  Fibre Alive from Joy of Yarn, in Ranger (Batch 3).

And this is the results of my class with James on making and using one of Kaffe Fassets Magic yarn balls. The class was amazing, and this swatch dosn't do justice to the range of yarns we had to pick from or the generosity of the knitters who shared and offered advice and just had fun in selecting 7 or 8 colours to knit with on a plain background.

Sorry the post is a bit jumpy, and bitsy, I'm still tired and happily recovering from all the fun, and missing my weekend sleep in. I'm so looking forward to next weekend when I get to be at home an sleep in Saturday and Sunday.

I'll link to posts about Unwind 2012 as I find them or as people let me know here,
Veranda Yarns Unwind 2012,

take care .... more next weekend.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Gauge you say, get gauge or risk frogging

Intellectually I know that gauge matters, I know that if my stitches take up less or more room than the ones in the pattern then what I'm making won't be the  size the item in the pattern is supposed to be. I know this, I've taught this, and I've made decisions based on the gauge before. I've weighed up the implications of calculating gauge - and at times decided not to. Gauge has always been a considered decision in my knitting, if the size of the finished article didn't really matter, I felt free to ignore any gauge recommendations and to knit to a tension that suited me, my knit style and the yarn. If the article could be modified as it was worked, like a top down sweater or knit to fit hot water bottle cover - there usually is no need to calculate gauge. After all in those cases knowing the exact number of stitches per inch wasn't part of making and shaping my knitting, those decisions were much more fluid and impetuous.
 Mostly I can knit, and fit and make and things turn out fine .. but these Sanquhar gloves are not working out like most of my knitting. This time I don't have gauge - and no I didn't do a gauge swatch. I swatch along the lines of my favorite knitting guru's, like Elizabeth Zimmerman, who start the project and then a few inches in measure the gauge or fit the knitting to see if it is the right size or gauge. I completely agree with EZ's sentiments that working a gauge swatch is not as exciting as knitting something you will wear and so the first few inches of whatever you are knitting can in themselves be the gauge swatch.That is what I did this time. And the first few inches were fine, I tried on the glove and the wrist fit ... well ... like a glove should. So I kept knitting. I assumed all was well - and it wasn't.
 Now I'm at the point of dividing up for the fingers, and I've worked the thumb gusset, and I find that my Sanquhar glove is roomy. There is a good inch and a half, or 4cm on one side of extra fabric and room.
 And extra fabric and room on the other side. I've trouble shooted all the obvious things, the pattern calls for only one size of needle, the size that gives you gauge. That means I didn't forget to switch from the cuff needle to the glove needle size - as it is all knit on the same size needle. There are increases in the stitch count between the cuff and the palm, but only increasing 3 stitches - so not a great change in size from adding three stitches.
So that only left to check my gauge,and I did. My gauge is way off as I knit the palm but was spot on or even too tight as I knit the cuff. Not surprisingly as the cuff is corrugated ribbing and the palm stocking stitch - I can understand how each would have a slightly different tension. I have 20.8 stitches in 2 inches and to knit something to fit my hand I should have 27 or maybe 25 stitches in 2 inches. As result my glove is 20% larger than it should be.
Now I'm knitting on size 1.75mm needles, that is a US size of #00, or a UK size of 15. Those are small needles, and it looks like I'm going to have to drop to a size 1.5mm or 1.25mm (not sure I have a set of those) to get gauge.
My other option is to knit tighter ... and I'm not sure that I can do that consistently for the rest of the glove, and for a second glove.

I love the colours, the brown grey with the pink, and the look of these. So tonight I will frog, back to the cuff and wind up the two yarns into butterflies to tuck into their respective balls of yarn. Then I will contemplate my options and I'll let you know after the weekend what direction I have taken.

In behind all of this is a sense of rising excitement at the Unwind event this weekend, starting with attendees being invited to join the Take Back the Knit group for social knitting Thursday (tomorrow), and a day off work Friday so I can fully participate for the entire weekend. I'm not sure how blogging will go ... but hope to have lots to report next week.

Take care
Knit some - where ever you are, and maybe even consider checking the gauge, just maybe, if the fit might be important.  

Saturday, March 03, 2012

The post with gloves, sewing and a new ukelele

Things have been busy here, Unwind is next weekend which means a slight panic all round. Not a mad panic, but a slow ordered got-to-make-sure-that-things-are-in-order kind of controlled panic. Now I'm not organizing Unwind, I am unwinding, and along with smallest cub,  teaching two classes, and taking one. That means getting organized for three classes, so I've been sorting and stacking, things for this class, things for that class, and things for the other class in yet another pile. I've also been volunteering as a general helper if and when needed - so there have a few chores as part of that. Today I've got an update on the Sanquhar gloves, which are coming along nicely and quicker than anticipated, a new sock club installment which came with my new favorite knit tool, I'll show you my volunteer project for Unwind, and there is a new ukelele and with it a new word - purfling. All in all a busy weekend.

My Sanquhar gloves are growing surprisingly quickly, for something knit in colour work and at a fine gauge. Around 10:30 last night I reached the point of dividing up for the fingers and decided that was a task best left for another day. The wrist fits beautifully, but the palm seems loose. That may be the result of the straight dpns/needles distorting the fabric, or it maybe the stitch count being reliant on multiples of 13. I'm holding off making any decisions on this, but know that given it is pink and grey Bear is unlikely to welcome them even if his paws are larger than mine.
This kit arrived during the week, the latest installment of the Vintage Purls 2012 Summer club, I've not done the purple justice, its richer and purpler than this. Truly this is one of those purples that even those who don't really get purple like  - I lost count of the number of comments along the lines of 'well I don't really do purple, but this purple is the kind I can do'. 
 I have a new toy, the wee special treat in the last Vintage Purls sock club,with it I can highlight the line of chart I am knitting.
And when I've knit that line I can move the tape to another line - easily.
This is my new favorite knit tool, highlighter tape. I guess that most of you already know about this stuff, but I'm still underlining in pencil and occasionally using yellow highlighter pen or a 3M sticky post it. The best bit is that the tape isn't even sticky - it seems to be that clever cling plastic rather than traditional sticky tape so there is not sticky residue left behind and it stays clingy. I am indebted to Morag for discovering this in Julia's knit kit and sourcing enough to supply knit-clubbers.
One of my volunteer roles at Unwind is helping the the swap shop, a table where one can trade the  yarn one owns but no longer loves for credits that can then be used to 'purchase' yarn traded in by others. The Swap-shop needed a sign and this is it, a quilted banner to drape across the front of the table, the fabric is a remnant of a Liberty Print, Melbury in colour way D. Finishing this let me tick of another thing on my to-do list.
Lastly there is a new Uke in the house, little cub has been playing Ukelele for 3 years, all the time on the same pink cheap lacquered soprano ukelele. Initial cost was $20, and while we had invested in a tuner and a custom bag, it remained a little cheap uke. Elder cub has returned to his guitar and so we are shopping around for a guitar to fit his five foot ten inch frame, his last one was bought when he was 9, and much shorter.  As we toured the music shops of Dunedin I became aware that there was more to the Ukelele world than cheap toy versions, and that little cub who has plucked away under her own steam for three years could also do with an upgrade. We are still negotiating with the elder cub the  details of the guitar,  so far no pick up, steel or nylon strings as yet undecided, Bear wants one made in Canada or Spain, Cub wants a cutaway body ..... its a whole new world to me, and a whole new set of terms. In the meanwhile we have splurged on a new uke for little cub, a Lanikai Flame Maple Tenor with real abalone purfling. Sounds much more mellow and full than the wee pink soprano uke it replaces. We figure this kind of spending replaces the large game station that we will never buy for them.

Purfling - now that is a word that I could use to describe my knitting, in some dictionaries its a ruffled or curved ornamental band - in others an ornamental border or edging. Now I think I'm  looking for a project to purf ...... I'm sure Morag just finished a cardigan with a Purfled band ..... Purfling is nice in the right places.

take care
na Stella