Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Weighing up knitting progress, yes really

Quickly now, as this week is again hectic, I'm on the team organizing a conference and so last night was make the name tag night, tonight is knit night, then the next 2 nights and 2 days are gone in conference activity. At least this one is local so I can go home at nights. I think I will take a sock to knit - but maybe not Salto - something mindless? Then again - between organising food, and writing receipts and handing out info, maybe there will not be much knitting.

Salto grows well, and the yarn is soft and silky and lovely to knit. I like the shape of the sock as the increases and decreases move the cables forward ready to meet at center front, but it almost looks backwards. I'm sure it will fit.

The plain stocking stitch panel at the back is a nice feature, growing slowly between the ribbed sections. And I love the little column of plain knit stitches that the paired lifted increase results in. I'm not to keen on the paired decreases at the front - in hindsight a double decrease that resulted in the middle stitch creating a similar line down the front might have been better - but its to late now to alter, and these have to match.

And the baby blanket, well I started to wonder if there would be enough yarn to finish, the center wound balls were looking very open in the middle. I have knit half the blanket - which is made of 4 sections, 2 sets of two shapes. Two small L's, and two back-to-back double L's. One advantage of old fashioned balance scales - is that you can compare two items, so thats what I did.

There is most definitely an art to arranging and balancing large blanket pieces on a scale, but I managed. Weighting the half that is done on one side, against the remaining two balls of yarn, and the small section I had knitted told me Yes! I had enough yarn to finish. This way I can knit on without any angst and worry about running out of yarn.

And I've finally mastered double-short-row turn. Maybe it was using larger-than-sock needles and heavier yarn so seeing the stitches clearly - but I've worked out what and how to pick up both wraps and knit them. I've never been happy with double short rows before. I know in garter stitch you don't have to pick up the wraps, but if you do then you don't get little holes. Now that I've worked out how to pick up both wraps and knit them as one - well the decrease line is a little row of plaited stitches on the right side, or a giant row of stocking stitch V's. I like, I like very much.

Take care - have fun - there might not be a weekend post so no promises, but I'll be back here next week. If you are in Dunedin and into designery things look out for the open to the public talk by Douglas Lloyd Jenkins at the conference. He wrote a very good book recently, and has fronted two arts series on tv. Its on at 12 in the Hutton theater, at the Otago Musuem, his session is open to the public by gold coin donation.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

About matching the begining to the sides to the ends

Happy easter, belatedly, but happy easter all the same. Its Easter Monday here, home made easter buns with currents, honey, craisins and candied peel were made and eaten on Friday, and between visiting friends, and supervising bike riding at the park - there has been a lot of fiber activity, a new sock started, my carding machine is up and working so I had fun yesterday carding and blending, the renovated parts for my Pippy spinning wheel arrived, so I just had to spend some of the easter break spinning, plus a new video of an easy crochet cast-on that is a match for both a slipped stitch edging and the old fashioned chained cast off. Here goes ....

New project socks, but first the yarn, this is sock yarn (75% super-wash merino/25% nylon) kettle dyed by Vintage Purls, and it is so soft, very soft. This colour is beautiful, I deny any one to not have warm and sunny feet while wearing it. The pattern is Salto by Rebekkah Kerner, from the latest Knitty, and is lovely to work so far as long as you follow the charts exactly. I did get a little carried away with the ribbing, working more than required - but I'm not going back to frog, and I ignored the shaded purl stitches either side of the cable chart which threw the stitch count out a couple of times until I just did exactly what the pattern said, instead of what I thought it said. The green- blue yarn keeping the sock company is a sock yarn trial I've spun, a little 3 ply and a cabled 4 ply - just to see what finished thickness the yarns will be when spin them. The other sock pattern I mentioned last post, "American in China" on my to knit list will be from that yarn.

Which is going to be made from this, Perendale combed sliver from the Milton mill, but this lot passed thru the dye pot of M, and who then included 20% of nylon dyed to match for sock durability. This fiber was a gift for sharing the little tips and tricks we've found out about Wing wheels and its maintenance - I think I got the best end of the bargain, these colours are amazing!

After a few trips thru the drum carder I had this, 5 huge lofty batts of blended fiber. The quite separate yellow, natural white, green and blues became a subtle aqua paua shade I blended these 3 times thru the carder to mute every thing, but it still has that interest that dyed in the fiber material has, and dyed in the skein does not. Reputedly about 200g of fiber, to me, a newbie to carding it looks much more than needed for socks ... but I'm learning with spinning to much is better than not enough. There are several hand spun skeins of 100m length in my stash now, which I have to find a use for some time.

.. and now its being spun on the working Pipy, which is just delightful to use.

And finally talking about cast ons, there is much out there in books and the internet about matching a cast of to a cast on. Most of the talk is how to match a cast-off to either a twisted stretch german cast on, or a tubular cast on, but sometimes simple is best. I often knit garter stitch wash cloths, and BSJ's, and at times other designs featuring garter stitch (Tomten anyone? Baby blankets?), and I always slip first stitch purl-wise so I have a nice chained stitch edge along the side of my knitting. To match this I use what must be the oldest cast-0ff technique,, the chain stitch cast off.

More recently I have been using Montse Stanleys crochet cast on to continue the chain effect right around the garter stitched piece. I re-read her instructions on how to do this when knitting my andean folk hat. The tiny puntas needed a chained edge, and this was much easier than picking up from a crochet chain on 2mm needles (size 0), in fine lace weight 2 ply.

Here is an example of the cast-on and a cast-off, matching, so well matching, I'm not sure exactly which is which. Well ... I think the top one is the cast off, it is a little more even and tighter. Below shows the slipped stitch chain edging, which also matches nicely.

Hope the easter break was relaxing, not to much chocolate, nice weather, and some fiber time

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pride go-eth and all that, & a FO!

This week is mad, mad I tell you, mad. I was out Tuesday night (spinners and weavers guild), Wednesday is 'wheel compare & repair' night (spin tech-geeky fun - with a friend who bought a Wing like mine and wants the detail on cleaning the inside bits), tomorrow is knit night ... and work and study needs mean not enough computer time right now. And I have a little moan, in good heart, but a moan all the same. I nearly didn't post today but this blog is my knitting diary, where I think about what I've done, the decisions made and the results, so here goes ..

Poppy's 2nd girl friend shrug (modified) is finished, started 20th Feb 2008, finished 15th March 2008, needle size 3.25mm, ribbing on 2.75mm. To fit girl 6-8 years old.
Used my own merino ply hand spun, food dyed in skeins.
Knit in the round, from the center back out, not the cuffs up.
Provisional cast on half required stitches, and then used a half raglan increase to widen enough to fit sleeve/upper arm.
Used my standard cuff decreases, done quarterly, in the round every 3 rows.
Embroidered little daisies around shrug opening
extended ribbing to 1" past wrist, put in a 1" split, and knit 1" past that. Result is a 3" turn back, 2 years of growing room, and thumb holes.

And the garter baby blanket, I'm half way there, Baby is a few weeks away, but the mum-to-be looks tired, and her midwife said the baby was going to be an 11 lbd'er. She is philosphicall about that, the last baby was 9.5 lbs, and arrived safe and gently. Still I'm hoping to finish this soon, in an just in case manner.

The guild meeting was good, but if there is one thing teaching has taught me repeatedly, never assume to much, check it out. I've learned to make sure I know my students knowledge and skill sets before I make suggestions, its just easier and nicer that way.

I enjoy the meetings, they are quite formal, like an old fashioned community meeting, committee at a table in front, and members with chairs in rows (but some sit in the back row and knit), and speakers and minutes and agenda items, and reports. I think that must be required to meet some tax exemption or bank fee exemptions. We new ones were introduced, but didn't get to introduce ourselves, just waved rather royally when our names were read out. What I was a little miffed at was the question directed specifically at the new members (who are all experienced thinking knitters) after the floor talks. It was asked if the new people understood the 'new and technical terms' used, like ... well blocking. We all nodded and said we understood, but the question was repeated, and clarified just to make sure, did we know what blocking was or should some one explain it? One of the newbies suggested where they could buy blocking wires to use instead of pins, so I think she was quite good at actively 'demonstrating' her non-beginner status. I wish I had done that. After the meeting another member came up as we cleared away the chairs and wanted to know if we had 'learned lots of new things', my answer was 'I knew much of it, but it was nice to have it reinforced', but my answer was clearly wrong. After all I was 'new' therefore I must be a beginner, I couldn't possibly know about the delights, advantages and mysteries of blocking.

It would have been nice to introduce ourselves, to give some indication of our skills, or better yet for some one to talk to the members who knew us and our work and then for our introductions to the group to be more meaningful, rather than portray us as rank beginner newbies. I guess I have pride in my work and developed abilities, and I'm never clear if that is one of the old sins, and if it go-eth before a fall, well I'd better watch out hadn't I?

Friday, March 14, 2008

The homeward stretch, nearly there ....

... the shrug is nearly done, I've completed both sleeves, with thumb holes, and picked up around the body opening. So - a video, now I suspect most of you can work out how to do this, but I'm still exited by owning my very own Addi-Turbo-Cro-Needle, and not having to pay $USA50 shipping to get it (Thanks Kelly), so I'm showing off. The baby blanket moves along, more rosy yellow garter rows (but no photos today). I'm thinking about the new Knitty, some little cardigans and sweaters are tempting and might solve my decision dilemma for the alpaca, and some interesting socks with linen stitch heels (), or migrating cables ().

Here is my Poppy admiring the thumb hole in the first sleeve. Thumb-holes are pretty cool when you are 5, and I think pretty smart for the knitting mum. I knit for 1" past the wrist, knit the rib flat with slipped stitch edges for another inch, and then in the round for another inch. I increased in each stitch before casting off the old fashioned way, a chain bind of using a crochet hook. The increase was to keep it stretchy, and I like the flare it added.

But I had to explain on knit-night why I added them, when asked why I would want to rib an extra 3" onto any sleeve? Well the extra 3 inches of sleeve should last and keep the shrug fitting while she grows for the next 2 years. I'm expecting her to get taller and longer, not particularly wider across the shoulders. Yes they will get grubby, but wrist edges on kids clothes get grubby anyway. This shrug is sized 6-8, and she is only 5.75, well a tall 5.75 so maybe a 6? I'll just stitch the thumb hole closed and - there it is, new sleeve length instantly.

Right now I'm working on the ribbing, which meant using my newly arrived back with Kelly from the US Addi-Turbo-Cro-needle. This little baby has a hook at one end and a long circular needle cable then a knitting needle at the other end. In theory you hook up the stitches you require with the hook end, slide them to the other end and knit them right off onto the needle you plan to knit with. In practice - it works, much easier than my previous method of hooking up stitches with a crochet hook and sliding them onto a waiting circular needle.

Now I think I have found a way to store higher quality movies and make them available, here is a direct link to a slightly clearer version. And below - the embedded blogger version (blogger lowers the quality - which is ok, I accept that, after all - blogger is free). Let me know if its worth me uploading the higher quality versions, and I'll upload all the previous ones as well.

So here it is nearly done, ribbing well underway, and yes - one cuff does look smaller, but its not, the other just has been tried on more. By Poppy, by me, by me again to show some one it fits me, by Bear for fun ... hopefully after a wash and wear they will again match in size. Or we could all take turns wearing it for a while ....?

Take care

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Lets see, 2 toes, 2 heels, must be a pair of finished socks!

Yes, finally, I finished the Cat Bordhi Bartholomew's Tantalizing socks, so today I've got he obligatory FO photo, I've introduce my new mindless-yet-interesting garter stitch project, a photo and info of that vintage Paua jewelery that high-jacked my camera SD card last post, and I made some yarn. Not quite the yarn I wanted to make, but its beautiful all the same.

First up socks, look, two toes, and two cuffs, so they must be a finished pair. These socks have been so close to being finished for ages, weeks, really. I just needed some quite time to focus on the linen stitch pattern, the linen stitch decreases then work the toe. Doing that only took a few hours, and I can't explain why I didn't get around to working these earlier, but now they are done. And these fit beautifully, the yarn is soft, the socks nicely fitted and the cushioned pad under the heel feels wonderfully squishy. I'm about to cast on a second pair, I am dithering about if I work the same sock with linen stitch, or something else ... I'll keep you posted. Stats, started 16th Jan 2008, finished 9th March 2008. Needle size 2.25mm needles, gauge 8spi (I think). Result - will knit again.

A new project, on my last Milton mill visit, I picked up some merino sport weight yarn, 950m/265g, labeled space dye trials. It was very economical and I thought perfect for baby gift knitting. Now there is one more baby due at work, and I thought for this one I would knit the welcome to the world gift. Did you know babies come in 3's, I didn't but have been told repeatedly they do come in 3's, where there is one, there will soon be 2 more. I wanted to knit a BSJ, but the mother to be warned me her babies were usually bonnie. Thats a local scottish based term for 'big', I knew using the yarn as is would result in a BSJ to fit in-utero if she did have a bonnie baby, so I swatched with the yarn doubled. The swatch looked good, until I cast on for the BSJ proper, and ended up with well over a meter of cast-on on my needles. Now no baby is that bonnie, except maybe a 3 year old, and that is to long to wait to use a baby gift. So - I changed tack, and moved on to a second classic EZ design. This time from the Opinionated Knitter, page 52, originally her Spring 1963 wool-gathering newsletter, a Knitted Garter Stitch blanket. This is a clever (as are all her designs) modular garter stitch blanket, knit in short rowed strips and sewn together. I figure the small amount of 'warm' pink in the yarn is completely overshadowed by the sunny yellow just in case it is a boy and she becomes pink-averse.

I was asked to post a photo and some info on the Paua jewelery I inherited. I was told "The bracelet was made by Mastercrafts Ltd, an Auckland company set up by a returned serviceman in 1945. The bracelet is pictured in a 1957 catalogue of the company, and sold for New Zealand 3 pounds, 5 shilling. Such jewelery generally sold in jewelery shops which is where Mr B could have purchased it." Mr B is Bears father. I've been wearing this rather a lot lately, so much so I had a safety chain added, and I hang the pendant on a heavy silver chain. I've not had it valued, because its not mine, its a family thing, and one day will be either Poppy's or Toby's turn to keep it safe.

And the sock yarn that was to be, but isn't. This is the latest off the spinning wheel, 90% Romney, 10% mohair, the fiber was hand dyed and blended in Christchurch by Julia. I thought the blend would be perfect for socks, and the singles were even and nicely twisted - I was so proud of myself, but they were not fine enough. I made 2 half bobbins of 2 ply yarn with lots of over-twist so they twisted back on themselves, then plied those two together to get a 4-ply cabled yarn. I love the colour, the even-ness, but not really the thickness. Thats only because I wanted sock yarn, but instead have 100g of 104m, not sock yarn. What I need to work out is what to make of 104m of what I think is worsted weight yarn, any ideas? I have contacted Julia to see if I can get more, and the answer is yes, but maybe not identical. I don't mind, the fibers had a lovely variation and hints of other colours (which didn't photograph anywhere as exiting as they are in real life), which I found amazingly beautiful.

So thats the update, I'm off to knit more on the Poppy-shrug (and watch trash tv). I'm about to start ribbing for the sleeve cuffs. I've not decided if its to be 2x2 rib or 1x1, or maybe 3x2 just to have a bit of fun. For a design lecturer sometimes the process is very organic isn't it? I'll let you know.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008


I've left my camera at work, I took it in this morning because I had taken some photos of vintage paua and silver jewellery that I had promised to a FOAF (Friend of a Friend), for her PdD thesis on, oh I'm not sure but Kiwiana and paua and souvenirs are all part of it. Bears mother left me some paua and silver jewellery, made by returned service men in the 1940 and 50's. This morning I photographed it and slung the camera in my bag to download and send the images to her from work - but when I picked up the camera to come home, I forgot to eject the memory card from the laptop. Bother, bother, bother.

Update - Thursday morning, dolt that I am, I remembered that there were a few knitting photos in the in-camera-memory, so I've added them.

So today there are no pictures. A picture-less post (except for the ones I found on the in-camera memory and uploaded thursday morning).

But I can report :
Cb's Tantalising socks are nearly done, only the toe to complete.
Poppy's GF shrug, ugh, I've started decreasing towards the wrist, a paired decrease every 2nd row as in a raglan, but I don't like it. The shaping is much to sharp. So I'll frog back and decrease more evenly, around the sleeve, as I usually do. I want the decreases quite sharp after the elbow so I can knit a long rib, but not this localised, it made an unnatural bump. I want nearly a fore-arms worth of ribbing, 2x2 ribbing. Remember instead of knitting two sleeves flat cuff up and grafting them across the back, I've provisionally cast on at mid back and have knit the sleeves down to the cuff. So I'm making the details up as I go, but its loosely based on Wendy Bernards Girl Friend Shrug (GFS).

I went shopping to Milton Mill Monday, and picked up some combed top (to spin), and more possum merino silk fingering yarn, in a slightly oranger version of the red, and some cotton in lime green for washcloths (it was only $1), and some space dyed sunny merino in 4 ply/sport weight. This is to become the last baby gift i need, we have had 3 babies due so far this year, I've bought cool long sleeved white tee shirts for the other two, one says 'AB-CE' in an ACDC like motif complete with lightening bolt, the other said 'fragile, handle with care'. This last one, I have time to knit a BSJ, and Caro, the mum says there are no knitters in her family, so I think she neeeeeds something knitted, what do you think?

I also picked up another cone of 'milton mystery yarn', on the 'as is what is' sale table, in a brown-grey, a 2 ply fingering with a Z twist, ideal for twined knitting. I got an 890g cone for $8, so thought I would offer it to the twined knitting tutor, our local knit guru for the class. I've skeined up 200m and washed it to see how it fluffs. It drying nicely and looks like a sock weight.

So, I'll try and post pictures tomorrow or Friday to fill in the gaps, I'm sorry about no photo but the up side is the post will load quick, you will just have to imagine it for yourselves.


Saturday, March 01, 2008

Turning corners, things that we see and don't see

Today, I've turned another corner/heel, and I discuss things that distract me, and how some times we don't see the important things. As you will see, I am easily distracted.

I've worked through the heel of my 2nd Cat Bordhi Tantalising sock, as you can see I still have to keep the book close when working this. I am beginning to see the maths of it, and maybe if I knit a few more pairs of these socks, I'd be able to knit the tricky parts without the book perched on my knee, and a place holder under each line. Its not overly complicated, but perhaps I think differently to CB, she explains the shaping line by line, and I prefer EZ and her " increase one each side of the gusset every 3 rows until...". Much easier to follow for my kind of brain.

But for now, I'm here, past the heel, and on the straight of the foot, no book in sight, no need for one until I need to remind my self how the toe goes.

Friday - I worked at home, at the dining room table, where this view distracted me all day. First it was the green green tree out side, that caught my eye, as the sun dappled and the wind moved the leaves, then as the day moved on, it was the soft bright light, the sofa, the spinning chair, the cushions, all calling me to sit and take a wee break and knit in the daylight with the silence of no children and no tv, and not write a paper or two. But I plodded on, until end of day, the kids came home and out came the needles.

And talk about being blind to the obvious. In Ravelry I joined a new group, the Twined knitters, 68+ people all twining away around the world. Who knew there were so many? And the things they knit, I am in total awe, awe I tell you, awe. Catching up by reading the past discussions in the groups forum, and a comment about some yarn I had sent away, led me to a discovery. The yarn I knit Toby's Possum Merino sweater in was a Z twist yarn, see in the photo? Its a Z not an S, - which explains why the twining went so well methinks. Z twist is what was traditionally used for twined knitting, and the twining increases the twist, if you use an S twist yarn, apparently it untwists as you work and changes the look of the work. And now having investigated the front row of a stash shelf I know I have at least 2 more cones of Z yarns to play with.

And yes, spinning still takes some of my time, this is a new spinning project, 90% Romney 10% Mohair, suggested as good for sock yarn, hand dyed in chch. 100g, which I have split by weight into 2x50g, and am spinning up fine onto two bobbins. The long term goal is to try a 4ply cable yarn, that is 2 ply, plied together to make 4 ply. Except I just realised I should have split it into 4 equal sections not 2, as I will end up with one 2 ply bobbin that will need splitting before I can ply them together - bother. I've nearly spun the first half of the fiber, so I guess I will split the 2nd half into 2, and rewind half this bobbin off latter.

And the latest off the wheel, some merino donated by Jenny, when I took up the wheel. A lovely blond, caramel and chocolate, and as you can see it is yarn, and it is balanced, but I have a way to go on my consistency thing. I think fine high twist yarns are much much easier to make consitent than larger, looser yarns which show every irregularity clearly.

And my new stash, hand dyed roving, kettle dyed by a knit night friend, who is starting an on line sock yarn and dyed roving shop, and has a "big label in her stable". I can't say more that that, until her stocks are full and the site is live, but her colours are very very nice, and the yarn proper sock yarn.

Take care,