Saturday, August 30, 2008

Square hats, heart hats - and yet winter is at an end,

mmmm ... my timing as usual is darn near perfect (not). Here I am knitting hats galore and the weather turns spring like, all warm and sunny and balmy even. Here in the Pacific Rim in the southern hemisphere - well tomorrow is officially spring and whilst I don't expect nature or the solar system to respond to arbitrary calenders invented by us mortals - well spring kind of spung today, a day early. So yes today I have another finished hat, and I've another hat started to show you, I've also made another a fish or three for the pile waiting to be added to my Waste-not-want-not blanket. I'm so glad that I'm not alone if feeling sad for the reporter of the 'knitting is the new black' type article in my last post, I am thinking I might drop in for a drink this week if they are knitting there again, no harm in meeting other knitters right?

So ... after knitting the Fake-Isle hat using the Noro silk garden and a dark petrol yarn, I had some Noro and some dark petrol yarn left over. It was pointed out at night night recently that Jared Flood had a free hat pattern up on Ravelry, his Turn a Square hat, and its pretty nice. So I cast on and kept knitting to use up my one ball of Noro. I like this hat, Toby likes this hat, Bear likes this hat. Simply put - its a very nice hat. I'm not sure why, probably because its a JF design - he designs nice stuff, and the Noro sure makes for interesting stripes, and the colour shifts keep it interesting, and its most defiantly a manly kind of a hat. I still have some Noro left over - do you think I could squeese 3 hats from one ball of Noro?

This hat, on the other hand, is not very manly, it is most defiantly a girly kind of hat, even though it contains blue. I've got two things to tell you about this hat, first all the yarn came into my stash as white sport weight yarn, and I dyed it using lichen and the indigo vat at work - I'm so proud of me! I made 3 colors that go together. Second thing is this is Intarsia in the round (cue dark dramatic music, really dark, really thunderous please).

Which is not fun - evidenced by the 14 little butterflies of yarn hovering around the hat. I belong to a sub-section of the local guild which offers a knitters study group to Dunedin knitters who want to go beyond standard knitting practice. Its fun, informative and neat to be part of a group of knitters who are not afraid of new techniques. A little band of extreme knitters if you will.

I do get the point of intarsia, little motifs or big for that matter knit into things, not everything has to be stranded. I also get that intarsia and stranding do different things, some times one is better. I understand its good to know how to intarsia in the round, and this exercise made use of yarn overs to prevent gaps in the work, apparently any short row technique works which is cool to know. But it was not fun .. not fun at all. I learned that Intarsia, butterflies, and continental are not a good mix, and reverted to English style throwing. Throwing allowed me to keep the yarn between the butterfly and the work short, and prevented tangles. I did learn how to make a center pull butterfly - that is a useful thing to know.

And once the intarsia work is done, well its almost worth it. I made this pattern up, stole a heart motif from busy chart with a lot of other stuff going on, and repeated it around the brim of the hat, I resized the hat a little to make the repeats work out perfect, but could have done a another repeat - the hat will be far to small for Poppy to wear. I had white and 3 colours, and ended up with 7 hearts repeating around the hat - 8 or even 9 would be better next time because then it might fit Poppy (yes there might be a next time - it is pretty). I'm trying to repeat the lower border around the top - and frogged that top boarder 4 times last night before before knitting up again the version I knit the first time. Bear was watching an Inspector Morse spin off movie - so I had plenty of time to fiddle with it. And after all that Intarsia and the butterflies and the purling back and the tangles - well frogging a 7 row decorative band 4 times without a life line (will I never learn?)seemed mere-childs play.

The not so great bit is here, with all the ends to weave in, I could have woven these in as I knit - but I know from bitter experience long ago that weaving in coloured ends under a white background is begging for distortion and show thru. I'll weave them in with a needle latter, and keep blue on blue, white on white, and mauve on mauve.

And fish - my fish blanket came back from a loan, M had borrowed it to see how I had sewn it up. We talked briefly yesterday and I suggested we might have to have a wine and stitch fish night some time, her with her multiple of fish and me with mine. I'm not sure how much stitching we would do - but it would be fun, and I'd like to see another fish blanket. So spurred on by the blankets return, I've knit another 2 and a bit sardines for my blanket, I have knit a few socks this year and my fish blanket is where I put my sock yarn scraps, right now I have a fair sized pile of left over sock yarn for more fish. The pattern I'm using is here, but I pretty much knit them from memory, cast on 6, slipping all the first stitches purl wise, work in garter stitch, increase to 20 sts, work 3 rows, set a 10 stitch fin section up in stocking stitch, decrease the fin away until there are 9 stitches, work 3 rows, increase until there are 23 stitches - cast off, repeat a quad-zillion times. Stitch together.

ok - go well, I hope spring is not far from where ever you are,

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Look another group knits in Dunedin!

That is right another group of social knitters out and about in Dunedin, stalking the night with yarn and knitting pins! Here is Shelley Tiplady, Claire Johnston and Hugh MacMurray, busy knitting away. This news made it to page 4 of the local daily paper ... which means knitting is officially newsworthy in Dunedin, or it was a very slow news day. But I must remember that this is also the newspaper that often lists womens ages next to their photos, even when its not about them being 5 and going to school or turning 100, or being the youngest to do whatever. I thank whichever editor was in charge that they didn't do that this time. The AlBar knitters - well they have wine, which sounds pretty good to me, we tried a-knitting in bars a few times last year but the light was way to dim to work well for us, maybe the Albar is brighter?

The whole article is here. Don't you love how the reporter states with a certain authority that the knitting revolution is about to spread ....? Revolution? Spread? About? Where?
P l e a s e ....... didn't their research turn up Ravelry and the Kiwi crafting thread? Isn't there at least one knitter or crocheter in the newspapers office? Apparently not, which is really really sad :-(

and then the suggestion that this is the 'latest craze' taking hold in Dunedin ... oh my, I'm not quite sure how to handle this ... I'm just so sorry for the reporter that there is no knitting in their life, none at all ....

I thought the modern knitter was more of a matter of fact knitter not really revolutionary, a knit anywhere type of person, who knit subversively when able, but mostly knit for the fun and pleasure of it. I guess I've been hanging about with knitters to long, so I don't see it as revolutionary ... or about to happen, or even newsworthy .....
Take care, keep knitting, try knitting wherever the need strikes ... maybe even in a bar, if the light is good or you don't need light?

Maybe not - I don't have to knit everything

Today its about knitting for enjoyment, about it being a hobby, something that provides relaxation, about liking the act of knitting. I knit for lots of reasons but mostly because of the sense of pride in my creative output, a little bit of a sense of achievement at learning and accomplishing new and old knit tricks and techniques - and mostly, essentially - its fun! So what-do-ya-do when the project that seemed so promising lacks the reward, is just bland and not at all fun? Well in my case you knit something to distract yourself, and then have so much fun - well the decision to abandon the aforementioned project is easy. So today I'll introduce my pretty much abandoned sock project and the new one that was much more fun.

First up, Padded Footlets by Mary Snyder, in IW Favorite Socks. This pattern has tempted me since first I read the book, the idea of a sock, with a padded sole, knit with double yarns intrigued me. I understood it was knit in the round, and that you didn't have to purl back but I just couldn't get it. I read and re-read the pattern but couldn't understand how the sole ended up double and the upper section could be knit with a single ply. Some times I have to do it to understand it, really sometimes I'm that thick about the how. Leading up to this project was knitting socks for four others, and deciding that the next sock would be for me, in my own hand spun sock yarn. With me so far, exited? Well so was I, I cast on, I knit, I found the handspun to be harsh, stiff, not soft. I told myself it would soften and that yes perhaps I had overtwisted it ....I knit on, I knit the heel, and the heel cup, it was bulky and awkward, I knit on, and progressed to the gusset decreases. Yes this sock was top down, and I finally understood how the sole could be knit with two strands and the upper with one -in the round. Hint : its to do with slip stitching every second row of the sole, to return one of the yarns to the beginning of the row - and no its not hard, or difficult, surprisingly easy. I'd have to say the pattern is fine, spot on, its probably my yarn and my needle choice and that they were not going to fit me. I plodded on, getting more and more unhappy with the stiff, harsh yarn .. and got to here
One socket, half knit, just before this stage several things became apparent. First - the sock was going to fit a larger foot than mine. I had knit it on 2.5mm needles to match the slightly thicker than normal sock yarn, and it was going to be to big.
Second, that the yarn was overtwisted and not fun to work with, I spun it early on, I can do much better now.
third, I didn't like the fit of the sock, the heel was baggy - probably because it was over sized - but also wider than my foot. I asked bear to try it on, and he said he would wear them if I knit them, but the heel was odd - a non-knitter noticed the heel.
So I put the long planned handspun socks aside and cast on some thing else.

I found a project to use up my one skein of Noro Silk Garden, but first I had to find a yarn to put with it. This Possum Merino in orange looked promising and got several votes from fellow spinners and knitters.

And this green grey also looked good, and got votes from other fellow spinners and knitters. I went with the Green-Grey, it provided more of a contrast to the Noro, I worried that although the Orange looked good, really good the colours would be to similar and when knit it would loose the pattern when the orange of the noro and the orange of the possum merino co-existed.

And the project, the Fake Isle hat, designed to use up a single skein of Noro, which I had, and I knit in 2 nights tops. This was fun - much fun, and exiting. Don't get me wrong, I found knitting colour-work with thick yarn a challenge, the yarns don't feed as easily as finer yarns, I detest those teeny tiny needle tips on 40cm circulars, they just are to small to hold easily, but I'm not a fan of colour work on 2 circs. Yup thats me - today all moans, yet I was a happy. I knit right up to the crown decreases in one night.

Last night I spun, with a group of local spinners, and we had a new person join the group, N, I think she was sussing us out, I hope we passed the come-spin-with-us test. Tonight, back to the knitting, I finished the crown, threaded up the last few stitches, pulled it tight, wove in the ends and blocked the hat over the obligatory blown up balloon. You all do that don't you, blow them up until they are the size of a head?
Now I'm happy - this is the way knitting should be, not super easy, not super quick (even though it was this time), but with a sense of achievement and pleasure at the outcome.

So the footlets?
Well I'm abandoning them, going to start a new hat with the Noro left overs and some other little bits and bobs that are around. I'll slide the footlets into a bag and maybe in a month or two they will go in the trash. It takes time to say goodbye some times :-)

Saturday is knitting study group - intarsia in the round, which will be interesting, I hear its another hat. I've got some white sport weight (4 ply), some dyed with lichen and some to dye tomorrow with Indigo. Should be fun ... the way knitting is supposed to be.
Take care, happy knitting, go well, Stella

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Four hundred and 72 meters, thats what I spent my morning plying, setting and drying today. Which means I finished spinning the Milton scrap Merino Silk, I also finished the baby blanket knit in my handspun - so all in all its going to be a handspun filled post, well not all, I played with the indigo vat at work a little last Thursday so I've now got a complete home made lichen and indigo sock kit ready for Nancy Bushes Estonian colour work sock. With only one project on the needles I did start a little footlet in using my handspun sock yarn, but I'm not sure about that. I'll post photos of that project next time, and let you know if that project is a keeper, or rather finisher, or if its timely and sensible to abandon it.

So ... baby blanket finished, I used my favorite i-cord cast off, around the edge. I switched to needles almost twice as big as those I knit the blanket on to stop the i-cord pulling the edge in, I wanted it kept really soft. I was a little worried as I cast off that the outer lace-eyelet panel kept flipping in, but I kept telling myself that it would block out flat and stay flat. My Tig wire welding rods masqueraded quite nicely as the blocking wires they were brought home to work as, and not knowing quite how to block I-cord I just made it up as I went. I threaded the wires back and forth thru the stitches on the outermost edge of the i-cord thus ...

And stretched the blanket out on my blocking mat. Again this is a tool that started life something else, a thin foam pad for a camp stretcher. I got really cheap ones a few years back at the supermarket - don't ask - I have no idea why a food place sells camp stretcher foam mattresses. I cut one of them in half and used the two halves side by side to make a blocking mat large enough to easily pin the blanket out on. I guess that next time we go camping, one of us sleeps without a foam mattress, unless I find a replacement. I guess also that some one might be me?

Finished baby blanket, all 26" across, all soft and warm and light. I totally get the magic of blocking now, after the feather and fan scarf and now this simple eyelet lace panel blanket ... There will be more lace, much more, lace knitters are right, it is addictive.

And the 472 meters of two ply merino silk started the day as two 3/4 bobbins of singles, one brighter and more vibrant in colour and the other more muted. I'd love to tell you I planned that, that I purposely split the fiber into more and less colourful piles when i weighted into two equal amounts. But ... I'd be lying, it was a total accident. I noticed mid way thru the second bobbin that it was filling with a much more muted colour range that the first bobbin had and realised this would even out the colour shifts when I plied it, and it did. You can seee the lower bobbin is a little blander than the top one. Part of me is a little sad not to see the effect of the various brighter colours plied together, the other part knows the yarn probably 'hangs together better this way.

I really wanted to keep this skein in one piece, rather than my more usual accidental practice of a large skein that fits one bobbin, and a smaller skein of what didn't fit. So I plied and I plied and I tried to fit as much as possible onto the bobbin as i could. I think I was probably at the limits of the bobbins capacity here - but I made it to the end of one single. The yarn is not actually touching the flyer, close but not touching and ...

... this is all that was left of the 2nd bobbin once the 1st bobbin ran dry. I'm taking this as a sign that my consistency is getting better. Might not be true, but is my bobbin and I can think what I want.

Finally here is the blue indigo dyed skein sitting amongst the lichen dyed skeins all ready and waiting for me to knit them into a sock. I loved using the Indigo dye vat, something magic about the way the fiber comes out lime-green and oxidizes to blue, and about the sense of history of dying with Indigo.

Well thats me - Bear and Tubs are back from an overnight trip to Christchurch to collect a Trademe purchase, and Pops and I spent a girly weekend together, but now my family is all home under the same roof, and I need to go and spend time with them before we tuck the cubs into bed.

Once last thought, I flew up to a meeting on friday, and sat next to a post grad student and got to talking. She was studying Neuroscience so I asked if she knew Ana - one of our knitters, she did and mentioned how clever and organised Ana was, how she missed her now Ana was doing other things, then said 'but you know its the strangest thing, she knits'. So I leaned over and said 'its weirder, you know she has started spinning as well.... ' evil laugh ...

Take care, Stella

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Its toasted!

Yup - Toasy is done, finished, hot buttered, or with marmalade or whatever it is thats appropriate for a sock called Toastie. So .... today - Presenting Toastie photos, and some dying ... I've been playing with lichen to dye my yarns - and thats a whole lotta fun. Plus we also got our last sock kit from Vintage Purls, and it is amazing, I was hoping to link to a photo on her site because the last sock is so clever, and I can't photograph it yet as I haven't knit it yet .... but she has been so busy designing and dying and skeining and running a yarn business ... well there is nothing yet to link to. I'll try and post photos of the yarn next time.
So presenting Toastie ...

Oh - you want to see them on? ok ...

... and that heel gusset increases on the sole, well they don't show up here so well, but if you sort-a-squint you might see the differences. Which of the two do I like? Hard to say - perhaps they would look better on the top of the sock? Of the two - I'd probably knit the one where I decreased inside the markers resulting in an increase triangle again, but I'd make it line up with the heel flap width.

But - onto the next thing, First you take some yarn, and soak in vinegar water for a few hours, or in my case days because some times you don't get back to stuff as quickly as you plan. The family have been very good about having a bowl of noodle looking yarn smelling of vinegar in the corner of the kitchen for the best part of a week. And you take some Sticta Coronata (scroll down) which looks like this ...

and soak it in boiling water for 5-10 minutes until it looks like this (all the instructions are on the packet)

and you strain off the coloured liquor, add the yarn, warm it a little but not letting it boil and look .... a few moments latter. I was intrigued by the idea this material produced a range of colours all sort of coordinated but needed no mordants. I read about this lichen on KathyR's blog (who now has a wing spinning wheel to!).

Then you repeat the process with a new batch of hot water, using the packet instructions as a guide, and with a little modification you get a whole range of colours going on. The first yarn was 100% Milton Mill 4 ply/Sport weight yarn. The second set of yarns are little mini skeins of Vintage Purls un-dyed sock yarn (Birthday suit). I am hoping to dye the remaining skein at work in the recently revived Indigo vat, and then set about knitting Ilga's Socks from Favorite Socks. My socks won't be quite the same colours as those in the book - but I like the idea of knitting traditionally styled socks with yarn dyed from natural materials, age old materials. I'm ignoring the inconsistency of the sock yarn having nylon - but darn it, if I'm knitting socks then I'm not planning to darn them any time soon.

Ok, in reality we both know that I'll pop the yarn away as a kit for latter, and who knows how much latter, because I'm knitting up the hand spun next ...
the list of what I want to knit grows ever longer .
how do you all cope with that desire to keep up, and knit it all, and only having 24 hours in the day, 7 days in the week, and so many other things to do (family, food, friends, work, books ..... )?

Take care, knit on till next time, might be one more finished object to report (tease)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?
I feel like my Toasties are asking me the same question over and over, and over. So I've stopped avoiding them and have decided to knit mostly on them until they are done, so maybe yes 'we' being the two socks are nearly there, being only 2" from the top at most. When I say mostly I mean that of the time I spend knitting, I am trying to at least knit more than half of the time on Toastie. I do have other knitting, the long abandoned cardigan of which we do not speak - no worries, I just got board with acres of stocking stitch flat, which lead to its temporary abandonment. Finally there is the baby blanket - which shares my knitting time. But I've also been spinning, we had a spinning night Tuesday and then again this morning - 4 hours of guild meeting with my wheel in tow. So today - the nearly there Toastie socks, some nice new fiber, and spinning.

This is a plaited wheel of Perenedale combed top, fresh from the Milton Mill and via Vintage Purls dyepot. I asked for something burnt orange and not blue ... isn't it wonderful? And the best thing is its 300g, so enough to do something with, something more than a small scarf, hat, or mitts. I'm thinking perhaps a linen stitched or slip stitched top of a ralan something ... who knows. Some of the fun is in the planning and thinking, and investigating options.

And spinning, I'm over half way there, spinning the mill waste fiber, which turns out to be a 75% merino and 25% silk. One Bobbin done and the second started. The second bobbin always seems to fill faster, and now we meet to spin every Tuesday night, well, faster still. I envy those who were more selective in their shopping, stopping to sort only the fiber of one colour, but this is pretty. I do plan to ply two singles together, other spinners keep asking if I'll chain ply, and its temping, to keep the colour runs pure. But, and its a pretty big but, that might just make the yarn to thick for my intended project. Besides I'm thinking I should knit up a variegated yarn made from singles with lots of colour changes just to see why spinners avoid them. I'm hoping for pretty summer/spring garden tweedy mitts when I knit this up.

This is what it looked like before becoming a fine single. As I said - probably a mucky sort of color choice, but there you go. At the time I thought $2.60 was a good price to pay for a few weeks spinning practice, it was only latter I thought the fiber could actually be some yarn that I might want to knit.

My Fall 2008 IW Knits arrived Friday, and I took it to guild to share, making it clear that I'd only had it 1 day, so they could only look today. They all grinned and understood completely. I know many of you have had it for weeks, if not months, but for some reason post to our little set of islands takes longer. So what do I like, I like Fresco Fair Isle Mitts, by Pam Allen, and want to find some angora locally so I can blend and spin some yarn to knit them. I love Chrissie Gardiner's Knotty or Knice socks, just my thing. To encourage me to finish Toasty, I've already wound up my hand spun sock yarn into two balls all ready. . .. . ... 2 inches on 2 socks to go .... what'd'ya'rekon? Will I be all done Toasting next time I post or not?

Take care

Sunday, August 10, 2008

here again,

I'm back, 5 days away and not a lot of knitting to show for it, we were a party of six, at an Design Educators conference, which despite the title is quite heavy going at times. The others wanted to relax in cafes at night, with bubbles and nibbles, and chat. Then there was the conference dinner, at a yummy middle eastern restaurant. We actually ate there the night before unaware we would be back the very next day - finger food, and bubbles and white knitting and dim eastern lighting, and well lets just say knitting didn't get done. Saturday I flew to Wellington and spent the afternoon and evening with my long time high school friend, G, and her cute as a button family of 3 under 5, then I flew home to my own cute as a button but older cubs.

I did knit while at G's place, but not on any of these projects. G had a Lopi (yes real Icelandic Lopi) sweater she had knit for Mr G, but it was to big. G's last job before coming home to NZ was with Save the Children and she had attended an annual StC meeting in Iceland, and bought the Lopi as a souvenir. I was impressed, both with G and with the Lopi. G follows my blog a little and asked if steeking would be an easier method to make the sweater a better fit than re-knitting. G has reoccurring carpel tunnel in her hands which right now makes knitting tapu (forbidden). I wasn't sure, but she had lots of Bulky Lopi left, so I knit a small swatch and we prepared it for steeking, the whip-stitch method, so all by hand. It worked, but we needed a guideline as our steek meandered a bit, so swatch number two was knit, 30 cm square, flat - thats a lot of swatch to knit for a friend. That steeked well. G - isn't quite convince on the whip-stitch thing, so did two rows either side of the steek line. I knit a 3rd swatch, even bigger so G could continue without me and practice a seam, before cutting the actual sweater. But its looking good. Sorry no photos, feels odd to borrow some one elses work for my blog.

I did knit a little on the Thank you for having me hat, for G, and had this much done when I got home. Its my 3rd Odessa, white felted merino and angora, and teeny tiny pink beads. I'm still not sure if its pretty-pretty, or just mutton-dressed-as lamb-white skinny jeans-territory. G tried on my Odessa and it seemed a little skimpy on her, truth be told its a little skimpy on me, so I added the extra inch the pattern suggests to hers, and finished tonight. I cast off, threaded in the ends and look ....

One slightly generous hat, perfect me-thinks. I have pulled it forward for the 'silly-hat photo', I can wear it and still see the world, honest. I've gently washed it, and have it drying. I'll wrap it nicely and ship it off tomorrow with some little things that should fit one of her 3 cubs. G did ask for more of Cloche than a Beret, so I'm hoping it will suit - if not she can felt it or stuff it in a drawer and never wear it, I don't mind, clothes are personal and something I like might not be to her taste at all.

And lastly, some progress was made on the baby blanket, I'm up to lace panel number 4, and just started the 2nd and last skein of hand-spun yarn. I think I've got the lace holes more net-like in this panel, in the previous panels they were more diagonally lined up. Not sure what is going on there, either I misread the instructions in the first 3 panels or misread them this time. I like panel four better, I won't be frogging the blanket back, but I will be repeating the panel in future panels. The blanket is 7.5 inches from the middle to the center of the side, so 15" across, and should get larger, I hope large enough to use as a warm throw over a smallish baby. We are knitting for summer babies this time around, so small and light is good.

I'm off to join the family around the Olympics on tv, truth is I'm not much into sporting events, but there is a certain excitment about real honest competition. And swim heats are always fast and furious.

Take care, knit lots, back in touch next weekend. This week has a lot on in the evenings - so it will be the weekend before the next post.

Monday, August 04, 2008

One more time, off we go

Odessa 3
yes, thats right, I'm knitting Odessa again, for the third time, as a thank you for having me stay gift, this time in a felted merino angora single yarn, and I've made a start on my next baby gift (did you remember there are two more babies in progress at my work), and I've got the next spinning project underway ... which can only mean I'm easily distracted. Yes, guilty as charged, my socks progress slowly as I suspected, but probably much slower than usual given I've started 3 new projects to distract me from them. Did I hear some one mention short attention span? I'm off away for a conference the next few days so this mid-week post is early, and there may not be a weekend one, and I'm going to stop on the way home and stay with a friend in Wellington. I wanted easy portable knitting (the baby blanket) and a knitted thank you (Odessa),

I do need to thank all who admired by dairy free hot chocolate recipe, even the one who left a comment about adding whipped cream which is not dairy free, and Dove - odd really as Dove in New Zealand is a brand of soap, not chocolate. That threw me for a bit until I realised they must mean chocolate. Also thank you for all the positive comments about my F&F scarf, thank you!

Lets start with Odessa the 3rd, this time I'm knitting her (she has to be a girl hat, right?) in Naturally Sensation 70% Merino 30% Angora yarn. Its a felted single, my first time I've knit a yarn with that structure, in white, very white, winter white, white and fluffy, and soft. I've got little teeny tiny pale pink beads to add, so this one should be a pretty one. She is a gift for a mum of 3 under 5, so I'm thinking something pretty is what is required.
next baby thing
Next is me knitting my hand-spun into a baby blanket. I'm using a shawl pattern from Folk Shawls by Cheryl Orberle, The Basic Black Shawl. It seems a simple enough pattern and would suit either a boy or a girl, and I plan to knit until my hand-spun runs out. I hope to get enough blanket to tuck over a sleeping baby in a car seat or a bassinet, but I can always add a matching edge of some sort to make it larger should I run out of this yarn. Experience tells me that little blankets come in handy in all sorts of ways. Like all lace blocking will open up the holes and make the pattern pop. I hand-spun this from dyed combed Perendale top, and Navajo plied it to retain the colour changes, and it worked. Its a blue purple, so I hope its suitable for both a boy or a girl.

mill merino silk swatch skein
Lastly I've been spinning, I decided to spin for a project so dug out my Mill Merino Silk blend, and found this, Wine and Roses Mitts by Jolene Treace, published in IWK Winter 2006. The good think about IWK is that they have that page with the yarns photographed full size, allowing yarn substitution or yarn manufacture. Its that second one, manufacture of a yarn to match in thickness the original that I'm using that page for here. I've made a sample skein, and it seems a good match, so I'm now spinning enough to make the mitts. Part of this feels very brave, spinning to substitute into a named identified pattern, and to make that public - but there you go, my challenge to myself for now, to make up for the repeated knitting of Odessa, In my defense, Odessa is one pretty hat and seems to suit lots of heads, Poppy was wearing mine today and got a few compliments on it. And anything authored by some one who selects the name Grumperina, well that scores points as well. The wispy bit is the end of the fiber I'm spinning, I park my spinning by letting the end double back on itself, that way its not stretched under tension.

mill merino silk starts
The socks, well they grow slowly, as predicted,
in the meanwhile - take care,
see you in a week or so

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Wow! knitted gifts, and best yet home-made hot chocolate

Look what I got, wow -its baby soft, shades of hand dyed blue, and very interesting. I wish I could claim I knitted it but I didn't because Ruth did, and she knit it for me. I in turn knit some socks for P, who knit a hat for another P, who knit something for .... well I lost count, there were to many lovely knitted and felted and dyed things being presented and passed around. Today's post explains why we were knitting for each other, I post the Cioccolata densa recipe as promised, an update on my socks - surprise surprise they don't match, and a swatch goes awry.

But first I need to explain why I now have this wonderful felted shibori scarf to keep me warm. Last Saturday our local group of Thursday night knitters, held a mid winter dinner party. It was suggested ages ago, by Kelly, as she watched us all madly knit gifts for Christmas. The very wise Kelly said - wouldn't it be nice if we did a knitted gift exchange, secretly drew names and knit a gift for another knitter. Kelly pointed out that as knitters we gave a lot of knitted gifts and usually never received knitted gifts, Kelly wanted to re-dress that imbalance, she thought we all deserved knitted gifts. So months ago we drew names, and filled in little questionnaires about ourselves - what we liked, what sizes we wore in terms of hats, gloves, scarves, and socks, and what we didn't like. Saturday we dined well on all sorts of yummy food that people shared, and exchanged our carefully planned knitted goodies. Thats where my Salto Socks went, and why I initially nick-named them gifty socks, My recipient - put them on, announced the fit was perfect and wore them right thru the party.

My contribution to the dinner was diary free Cioccolata densa, thick hot italian style chocolate. Now this recipe is not perfect, and it may not be authentic, I don't know I've not bought hot chocolate in Italy yet. It is an adult style hot chocolate (my kids love it though - they have adult tastes), its dark and not to sweet. I do warn you, use the darkest cocoa and chocolate you can find, I used Equagold Dutch Cocoa, you need to find one without any dairy and without any added sugar. I used Lindt Excellence 85% Dark Cocoa chocolate. I did try and use organic cocoa - but it had sugar added and was much to sweet, and not dark enough, I also tried to us Fair-trade dark chocolate, which was very nice - but not quite dark enough. This recipe really needs the darkest forms of cocoa and chocolate you can locate. Still like any recipe there is the full on cafe style dinner party version, then the more relaxed at home version - so try with all the forms of chocolate you have at hand and see which one you like best.
To make diary free Cioccolata densa for two (- because it is to good not to share), put
  • 4Tbsns Cocoa,
  • 2 Tbspns sugar,
  • 1 scant tsp cornflour
in a heavy based pot, add
  • 200 mls water,
wisk together, then bring to a simmer stirring all the time. When simmering, continue to simmer gently for 30 seconds, remove from the heat and stir in
  • a few squares of dark chocolate &
  • half a teaspoon of good vanilla paste or essence

Serve, enjoy. We served ours in little white handle-less cups from the local Asian food shop, with a dessert spoon to scrape out the last thick drops. On the night, some guests stirred in all sorts of liqueurs and flavorings. For international kitchen clarity 1 tspn is a teaspoon and is officially in New Zealand cookbooks 5mls, 1 Tbsp is 1 tablespoon and is officially 15mls.

so - my next socks, my two Toasty's grow, and are slightly lopsided. I'm not sure if you remember that I decided to modify the gusset and move the shaping under the heel? Then once knit I bemoaned the fact that the other sock had to be the same. that socks really ought to be a pair, and what I really wanted to do was play more with the gusset shaping? Well - that saying, you know the one about the best laid plans of mice, and men, and knitters? I planned the second sock to be a pair for the first sock, I recorded all my knitting decisions for sock one and follow them for sock two ... and look what happened! I increased inside the markers on sock one, and outside the markers on sock 2 ... whadda-you-know, I ended up with the very shaping I was thinking of. Its still highly experimental, and the increase lines ended up slightly wider than the heel flap - I guess i need to continue playing and knit up sock 3 and perhaps even 4? So - thinking forward, I could either make the heel flap wider, or start the gusset shaping at a point, not a 4 stitch wide panel.

My plan was to set sock one aside once the heel was done, and knit the heel of sock two whilst I still remembered what I did (just in case my hand written notes were not legible and meaningful - but instead unreadable confusion). Once the heel of Toasty two was done, well .. it made sense to knit both the legs at the same time. So I have transfered both to 2-circs and am knitting away. This always seems a much slower way to knit, effectively halving the rate at which each sock grows.

And I swatched, for a top down yoked cardigan for Poppy. I attempted colour work with some of my variegated hand spun and a cone of dusky pink Milton Mill wool. Intellectually I know that cone yarn 'bloom's when washed - practically I ignored that knowledge. Result - my colour work pulls in, narrows my knit in the round swatch something wicked. It happens most on the rows where there was more blue than pink, gauge matters you mutter and here is the proof. You can see the cause of the problem cause below, the pink yarn to the left is unwashed cone yarn, the pink in the middle washed/blocked cone yarn, and the blue - my own hand-spun. Notice the difference thicknesses? I do - now after the fact. I think I will set this aside for a wee while - the knitters study group project for the end of the year is a top down raglan - Poppy can have something in the pink then, perhaps I will find a similar weight yarn to use for the colour work, or perhaps I will overdye some of the pink. I'll keep you posted.

For now - I want to knit my hand-spun into something. I recognise the importance of knitting my yarn as I make it, not to reduce my stash or to use it while its 'fresh', but to learn from my knitting what my yarn is like for knitting with. I hope that knitting my hand-spun will teach me what I need to modify to make my hand-spun better to knit with.

I also have 2 more babies due at work, so more baby things on the way soon. Maybe the inner section of a baby blanket - so maybe I'm off to swatch my blue with some white ...

take care