Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Daylight saving

Last Sunday we set the clocks forward for spring daylight saving, you know spring forward, fall back? Now instead of it being light when I wake, it is dark, a small change but a significant one, I know that in less than a month it will be light when I wake again, and that the longer twilight evenings are worth every minute of morning darkness - but for now, my body is out of sync, I'm not hungry at meal times, and I'm not sleepy at bed time, and its dark when I wake up. I have been on leave this week, and I thought I'd have lots to blog today, but as the last post was Monday, and today is Wednesday there is not much knitting progress to show. I have been working on my Peruvian knitting technique, and making changes to the design for the wall hanging so there has been frogging, there is almost no progress on any other knit project, but I do have new and old things to share. The last installment of the Vintage Purls Winter 2010 Sock club arrived and it is pretty, and two vintage fountain pens arrived, and a vintage pencil, and I have ink in colours I never knew that ink came in. Ink can it seems be as exciting as yarn.

So as this is a officially a knitting blog, first I'll write of knitterly things, the current work in progress (WIP) project and then the new sock kit, after that I can let the post wander of into non-knitting territory, and you can stay and read as much as you want.

New project, or nearly new project, the wall hanging. I restarted this, I had based the design on Kaffe Fassett's 'Poppy's' but the 12 stitch floats were way to long to strand easily ... so I frogged and reworked a similar pattern but with a smaller circle. I also took the opportunity to rethink how best to knit a wall hanging, so I've added a 10 ridge garter boarder all around to keep the edges flat. I spent a wee bit of time googling yesterday, it is a word isn't it? Googling? I watched the videos of Andrea Wong knitting and found a few others on you tube that showed me a way to tension the yarn in my right hand, little things that I had not paid much attention to when watching Andrea in person. I also came across a few blog posts that detailed this kind of knitting and was impressed with this one, suggesting that those little cute hangars that come with socks (like socks need hangars!) are useful Portuguese pin substitutes. At the moment the knitting feels 'slow' but that is because I am having to think about where my hands are are what they need to do, when I look at what I knit in an evening I am pleased.

My other knit projects have been ignored, and I really should not do that, start projects and then ignore them. The Vintage purl sock kit arrived Monday, and I want to cast on .. but let me see, one part mitten to knit, one shetland blanket, one wall hanging, and one large blanket ... I really need to tame and finish at least one of those before I add another. Like all her sock designs this one is pretty, with interesting cables, this is part lace part twisty cable,and is in a lovely purple blue, and look another bead and more knitting stickies! The toe is shaped to flow around the cable lace ... oh I really need to make space in the knitting basket for this one, and soon.

With all the fibre and yarn I 'acquired' while away I can still be tempted by local offerings, not local fibre but stocked locally. This is pencil roving, so very very nice quality, Schoppel Wolle InSilk 70% merino and 30% silk. I have never had a wool silk blend this evenly mixed ... it is a joy to spin.

Added also to my spinning basket is a wee extra from Crafty kiwi, way back in May of this year we were both part of a fibre swap, and at the time he said 'opps I forgot to add the last thing'. The swap parcel was so full I couldn't think what he forgot .. but this week M who had been away to a retreat brought back the forgotten fibre. Silk hankies! Oooooo, wonderful, I couldn't resist just teasing one out to see how that worked .....and they really do look like hankies complete with a wee hem!

And now the blog takes a turn for the non-knitterly, the trip to the second hand shops on Monday was not as fruitful as I had hoped. I did score a lovely fine Sabatini Cardigan, no not from winter 08 - probably a spring collection some years before, but nice and it fits, Toby failed to spot any lego treasure. Not finding fountain pens is fine, as two have arrived in the post over the past few weeks. The top one in this photo is an unbranded one, with a 14K nib, from Trademe, refurbished and writing nicely, the second one is a refurbished Burnham #60 from Ebay UK, again with a 14k nib, but this time a stub nib, and so so smooth, and the last one is one of two pencils I bought from Ebay USA. These are Autopoint pencils and they use a 0.9mm refill, Bear has the other one. These pencils have a nice quality feel and weight and seem to be the perfect size and balance. Why vintage fountain pens, well ... Bear found his fathers pen and we identified it as an Wahl Eversharp Skyline, from the 1940's, his dads is just like the burgandy one with the gold striped cap - it is a beauty but needs some repair (a new sac and some nib alignment), then Bear he was generous enough to gift me a 1.1mm Conway Steward pencil that was either his mums or his grandmothers. I dug out my Parker 45, boring old stainless steel but with a 1mm italic nib which I have owned since the mid 1980's, and then found blogs like Daves Mechanical Pencils, and Carpe David. Oh the wonder of discovering vintage pens and writing tools over cheap disposable ball points, and of discovering inks in colours that I only thought fibre came in. I have only tried Damson, Saddle Brown, and Monaco Red so far, all of which are a world away from black, blue-black, and blue, and I can see that I need to try more, and perhaps even some other brands that are available here in New Zealand. I feel like I've discovered a world of networked pen-geeks, a lot like the network of fibre and knitting geeks I count myself as one of .... they have the same sense of generosity and sharing of knowledge that the knitters online have.

next post ... more knitting I promise, its KSG - aka knitters study group saturday, so there will be something to post from that. I'm not sure I'll be at Thursday night knitting, depends on Wee bear and the travel arrangements to collect her ...

take care
na Stella

Sunday, September 26, 2010


I am back to knitting (and family and spinning and all the usual things) so today the blog post is a more 'usual' one, sans exciting things like world travel and knitting conferences and hero workshop .. and today it is just knitting. It is the first day of a week of leave (fantastic!), the sun is shinning unlike last week when we had snow most days, none of it settled it just flurried. I've just waved good-bye to the smallest cub who is off for a few days with her Granddad, which leaves the eldest cub here as a temporary only child. Latter today we plan to opp-shop, just troll thru the myriad of second hand and trader shops in South Dunedin to see what we can see. I have hopes of finding a vintage fountain pen that is pretty enough and cheap enough to add to the small collection I am building ...and I have plans to finish knitting the largest of the two blankets in progress. He has hopes of finding vast tubs of Lego at ridiculously cheap prices.

So knitting, where am I with that? Well today I've got some finished socks to show, these have been done for a while, and worn and washed at least twice .. but Vintage Purls yarn stands up to that so they still look great, plus I've got progress on my Shetland blanket, my weeks knitting to finish it project, there is a 'new-project' with a challenge and a deadline, so lets talk knitting.

First up - Theodora, which was found and finished in Shetland, and worn, and then came home, was washed and has been worn again .. now I've managed to nab them clean and fresh for a final photo. I love this pattern, the lace is easy and bold, and the colour is just amazing. I probably have not done this justice ... but even Bear commented what a nice colour they were - and then followed that up with a further comment that it wasn't a colour for him, but it was a nice colour for me.

The 'replacement' baby blanket, the boring one, with a plain garter center continues, with a plain contrast edge - also in garter. I picked up stitches before heading out to knit night last Thursday, and have been working away at the edging off and on since then. As the blanket grows in size, the rounds have more stitches and the progress seems to be less visible. I'm using two identical yarns to work the garter boarder, a neat trick 'invented' or 'unvented' by Fleegle, so one can garter in the round and never need purl. I think Yo-yo is happy to have me back ... don't you? She has been sleeping in my lap when I knit, and moving further and further up the bed at night much to Bears disgust .. he thinks cats should be banned from the bedroom ...and really prefers her to stay by his feet if she 'has' to be on the bed at all. But he is a sweetie .. so she sleeps on our bed most nights, despite his dislike of the practice.

The 'other' blanket languishes, but will receive some attention this week. As spring brings with it warmer weather it makes sense to have it ready to block outdoors as I did with the last one. I have only a few squares to work .. so it should not take long. and I've moved it from the living room to the room at the back of the house that we don't use so much, with 3 spinning wheels and two knitting baskets ... this extra basket with the jumbo-blanket made the room look even more cluttered.

My newest project is another blanket sort of thing, remember earlier this year I reported on the KSG retreat and how we not only knit but Dartmore-dyed some yarn. The purpose of that was to generate yarn and fleece for a community project. The KSG members who want to have each been given the name of an adult living in care and their preferred colours. The goal is to knit them something to brighten their rooms... Me I have purple and red to knit a wall hanging. I'm attempting to knit this Portuguese style, with little knitting broaches as shown to me by Andrea Wong. So far so good, I remember how to knit and purl with my thumbs ... my yarn tensioning is not as even as when I knit in my more usual way, but that will come with practice. Andrea made it look so easy .... and very very easy to work colourwork, with a pin on each shoulder and just flicking the colour of choice into place. The challenge is to knit this in a new style, Portuguese, and the deadline is to have it done and posted away in time for it to be a Christmas gift.

I guess I should go and feed the one remaining cub .. today is also the second day of daylight saving, so the clocks are all forward and my body is yet to adjust, hence meal times are at odds with our feeling hungry.

Take care
I hope the sun shines where you are as warm and soft as it is shining here today
na Stella

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In the loop 2 was ...

really really good, yes it was. I can't report it in the level of detail that will really represent the full conference experience, but I will do my best. There were 3 key notes and 17 other presenters. For me one of the most significant highlights was the key note by Annemor Sundbo, speaking of the development of knit decoration in the garments in her collection - and she brought lots of her collection garments to show, and has slides as well. The other keynote speakers told similarly wonderful stories, Susan Crawford introduced her own work and discussed how nostalgia has a 'bad rap' which is probably undeserved. Apparently nostalgia was until very recently considered a diseased state, and one to be saved from - but for a knitwear designers nostalgia can provide a rich source of material and connection to their audience. On our design degree our second years spend quite some some with literature around nostalgia in design and art .. so it was good to have a knitting designers view to add to my understanding. Deidre Nelson spoke of her practice which has such a wonderful intelligent and quirky approach to craft ... with her community 'fish of the day' project, and amazing images of her own work and stories of the thinking behind them.

I really can't go into detail about all the other 17 presenters, but will provide a little more on some of my favorites ... all though all were fantastic.

Several presenters made connection to my 'home' - New Zealand, myself, and Jess Payne, and Elizabeth Johnston who presented 'fishermans dags'. Now in New Zealand dags are the unmentionable bits that collect around the back end of a woolly sheep .. and they are still called that after they are trimmed away. The fleece with that 'stuff' stuck to it is clipped away before shearing proper, usually its dry and easy to process so it is crushed and sold as a garden improver, or fertilizer additive. Daggy is a word we use to describe clothes that are a bit to old, unfashionable and worn to be seen in, or some one a bit unkempt and rural in a sort of way, as in 'he is a bit daggy'. Elizabeth discussed how in Shetland dags were mitts made to be worn for mucky jobs, often a worker had several pairs and these were changed as they got dirty and wet. There were some unique design features of Shetland Dags that made them very serviceable for work, I'll not give away her trade secrets as she was developing patterns ... but I loved the idea of mucky-work-mitts or 'dags'.

Lisa Costa told the amazing story of how a question in a Ravelry forum about how to knit the boarder in a shawl shown in a photograph uploaded to the Shetland Museum Archives - lead to a collaborative effort by a spontaneous online knit community to reverse engineer, chart, test and recreate the shawl but an entire Ravelry group. The forum was the Heirloom knitting one(Rav link) and the effort was in part coordinated by Fleegle and as fitting - she was held up as the true knitting enabler she is.

and there was more, Trevor Pitt spoke of his recent project to make some urban areas more welcoming thru his Soft Bench Cover project. Rachel Mathews spoke of a project to 'adopt' ufo's (unfinished or failed objects) and make something of them. Rachel discussed the various approaches people used to finishing some one else's ufo, and showed some of the results, at times odd but always entertaining. Susan Strawn (author of Knitting America) presented on wartime knitters in America.

Then there was the 'controversy', when Kathy Coull a Fair Isle knitter suggested that the word steek had been mis-appropriated. To her, knitting her own tradition, a steek is a spacing pattern used in lace, a row or line of holes ... not a section worked with intention to cut. That alone made me think .. there was much audience questioning and probing, and a growing awareness that what we have become used to as a word to describe a knitting activity ... may not be the 'right word'.

There were practical presenters too Frankie Owens showed us how to knit in the Peruvian manner, with yarn tensioned around the neck. She also brought along Andrea Wong who demonstrated how to knit in the Portuguese manner, with yarn tensioned by a special pin. During the conference both Lorna and I made time to sit in the knitting lounges and learn not only the traditional Shetland method of knitting with long steel wires and a knitting belt, but also to by Portuguese pins from Andrea and spend some time with her practicing how to knit with my thumbs. Sandy Black, designer, author and scholar, presented on knitwear in popular culture .. and two currators from the Bath Fashion Museum, Elaine Uttley and co presented on the process of acquisitioning a knitwear designers achieve into a collection - the designer was Sara Dallas - and she was there as well.

The last paper was by Amy Twigger-Holroyd, who discussed her process of Stitch-Hacking and Pattern-Blagging, her manifesto and provided examples of hand knits and commercial knits she had re-configured to have a quirky and more meaningful place in our lives. As soon as I find her hand out I'll link to her site. Amy talked about how she was inspired by Otto von Bush's Hactivism and his manifesto where clothes should be part of our memories of events, and how we can alter them to make that happen. Have a bit of virtual-wander around his site - there are lots to fuel conceptually there.

The full program is here, and if you are like me you will want to start saving right now for the next one in 2012 - Winchester.

I know - this post is all text, no photos, none at all of my knitting, .. but lots of ideas, lots to fuel my knitting thinking ... I'll be almost back to regular blogging with knitting next post - promise. Next week I'm on leave, its the school holidays so the cubs and I will be off to watch Despicable Me which should be a lot of laughs ... so I'll leave you with the trailer .....

na Stella

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Coming clean - fessing up

In today's post I'll share my goodies acquired on my Shetland trip - and that feels a little like coming clean, of confessing. Next post I'll talk more about the conference ... promise, but I feel like I need to 'process' the new acquisitions just so I can put them away. By process I mean, document, add the books to my Library Thing listing, and to my Ravelry page, and the same with yarn and fibre. I will also update you on the knitting- in progress, there is something finished, something lost, something new and something making good progress but in the wrong size.
First the goodies, then the knighting - OK?

So Shetland goodies .. well my first knitting purchases were at the Shetland times, Lorna my traveling companion had this place on her 'must do' list. She went with a list of books she 'needed' to add to her library. I was happy just to look, but had read the latest Knitter on the way over and saw Jarad Floods recommendation for Heirloom Knitting by Sharon Miller as a must have for those thinking about lace, On Lorna's recommendation I also picked up Shetland Lace by Gladys Amedro (recently reprinted), A Stitch in Time Unst's Fine lace knitting by the Unst Heritage Trust, Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont (nothing to do with Shetland knitting but they had it in stock - who was I to ignore it?).

A few days latter Annemor Sundbo's luggage arrived and the Shetland Museum and Archives had her books for sale - so I splurged. Now I am the proud owner of Everyday Knitting - Treasures from the Ragpile (which I thought was out of print!), Setesdal Sweaters - the History of the Norwegian Lice Pattern, and Invisible Threads in Knitting. All of these are available direct from Annemor herself. Her website if worth a visit just to spend time looking at her treasures in her flickr gallery. If you are into history and historic knitting - do visit the photo gallery of the Shetland Museum Archives - between the photos of people wearing knitting and photos of knitting itself here is more than enough to look at.

The best bit was I summoned up enough courage to be a real knitting groupie and ask for a copy of Everyday Knitting - Treasures from the Ragpile to be signed - and it was, with my name!

Also at the museum I picked up these two treasures, the University of Southampton Guide to the Knitting collections was a conference bag gift, and contains more information on the three significant collections they hold. It is now the repository of the collections of Montse Stanley, Richard Rutt and Jane Waller, and it contains not only printed knitting materials but artifacts and tools as well. The little volume underneath is the brand new Guide to the Shetland Museum Textile collection - which is full of beautiful images of old and new textiles, many of which are knit.

Then there was the fibre shopping - I bought fibre, both yarn and combed top ... all of which are souvenir fibre, the kind that will bring back fond memories as I spin and knit. At Jamiesons I asked if they had any fibre for spinning and they answered they did. They said usually they just gave out a plastic bag and took you out to the back room where there was a few boxes of mixed mill waste - and I could help myself. Oh my, just like at the mill in Milton - Mill scraps! The plastic bag was huge - well it was a large black garbage bag ... which I knew I couldn't fill and fit into my suitcase .. so I carefully selected some fibre that I think will spin into something for colour work. I tend towards muted colours .. but tried to give myself a bit of contrast in this selection.

At Jamiesons and Smith, the 'other' Shetland mill on the islands - the combed Shetland top was on display - and this pale blue just felt like one I would easily add to my fibre stash. This is the colourway Haar . and is a mix of white, medium blue and grey - greyer than it is here.

The knitting mis-hap that occurred, occured early in my trip, we had five planes from New Zealand to Shetland. Some where on the 3rd plane I slept, and I stowed my knitting project in its knitting bag on the floor by my feet. When I woke I could not find it, I didn't panic but I was hampered by the chair in front being reclined so I had little room to search and bend in. Those economy seats - are not called cattle class for nothing. When we went to disembark .. my knitting in its bag was not there. The flight attendants, Lorna and I searched the section of the plane around where we sat .. but could not find it. Either it rolled far away during the flight and landing .. or some one else scooped it up amongst their belongings.

Either way - I keep thinking what use is 160g of handspun perendale part knitted into a centre out blanket to most peopl? especially as I was making it up as I knit so there was no pattern. As a result the first yarn I bought was a replacement for the baby blanket, 4 balls of Lace weight from Jamiesons and Smith, in white. This was to provide my 'conference knitting', you know the mindless project that I could knit on whilst I listened.

Then after seeing the museum collections, and many many inspiring shawls and blankets in the books I bought and in some of the talks .. well I decided to add a lace border, in medium grey, dark grey and blue so added these to my travel stash.

At Jamiesons I added these to the stash ... loving the colour selection, not knowing what I wanted to make but feeling that I couldn't ignore having so many colours in the same weight of yarn to choose from.

At every knitting shop they sold knitting belts and at the conference there were on going knitting lounges with demonstrations of how to knit in the Shetland way. So I came home with a belt, and plans to practice.

And I'm still thinking of knitting Wintergreen by Kate Gilbert .. so these colour might just the the ones. This is the only yarn that I bought with a plan in mind.

And finally the knitting, I finished the second Theodora sock whilst I was away and wore them. They are now in the wash ... its been wintery here I'm waiting for drying weather before they are washed, photos next time I promise. I did finish one of the mittens intended for Toby ... but it is to small in the thumb. My plan is to knit the second mitten and make the thumb longer, adding more of the fish skeleton pattern to do so.

And I'm still loving the paw print on the reverse of these. They were mostly knit on the plane trip the the UK .. but it was a little bumpy on the return trip so I opted to knit the blanket. Plus I was tired by then, I didn't want to have to worry about charts bumping around on my knee.

so ... all in all a little more than I expected to buy, especially the books, but nothing I regret, and a lot to look forward to reading and using.
take care - conference report next post :D

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I'm bön tae Shetland

Which translates as I've been to Shetland ... and I loved it. We, the we being Lorna a fellow local knitter, and I stayed in Lerwick for 9 days. Lerwick is a small town of about 8 thousand people and has at least 7 yarn shops. Our kind of town, the perfect town to hold a knitting conference in. The trip there was trouble free, the trip back home was extended by fog at Sydney, a detour to Melbourne for refueling, back to Sydney for an unforeseen 12 hour stop over and arriving home a day latter than planned. All that leaves me happy to be home and tired, today the post is a summary of the trip .. next post I've cover the conference and update you on my knitting. Its been 2 weeks since the last post so there is a lot to write about and report on.

On our first day there, we decided a little grocery shopping was in order .. so we headed off to town to search for food, we needed to as we were staying in a self catered flat. The town is old, the building very old, our flat was only 2 minutes walk from the main post office, this was the walk that faced us every morning. The first morning we found our bearings and about 9am headed off to town to search for provisions .... it was sunny, and warm and there was hardly any wind.

While we headed off at 9am it was in fact around 3pm before we found a grocery shop ... we were distracted by at least 5 yarn shops, the visitors center and coffee. With a knitting conference in town we were on the look out for 'others like us', knitters, and at the visitors centre we spotted some and made our introductions, Annemor and Kirja. We meet them again at at a coffee shop latter in the day .. and they discussed their plans to rent a car and drive out to the Jamisons factory the next day, which was a few hours from Lerwick. During coffee we all decided to split the cost of the rental car and head off the following day. We checked that Kirja's and my phone could talk to each other, worth checking when traveling internationally, and Annemor gave me her card.

Then we headed of again to look for groceries, the next yarn shop we found just before we found the grocery shop ..... outside there was a workman shifting fleece from bales into a wicker basket.

Beside him the name of the shop ... a factory shop, Jamisons and Smith.

Inside it was like a magic cave ... lace and 2ply yarns in so many colours, and shetland fleece to spin.I didn't buy anything that day .. now we knew where the shop was I wanted to spend some time thinking and selecting carefully rather than rush in. I knew we had 8 more days to visit and shop, and I knew my suitcase had to weigh less than 23kg when I left so I had to be careful adding to it. (on a latter visit we discovered the amazing lace display in the basement .. if you are ever there, remember to ask to see it).

Later that night, back at the flat with stocks of food, we unpacked and went over the plans for the next day. I dug out Annemor's card and realized who she was .... Annemor Sundbø, author of one of my favorite knitting history books, Treasures from the Ragpile. Oh my .. it took me a wee while to calm down, and probably was much better that I didn't know that earlier or I would have been tongue tied in awe.

So the next day we met up with Annemor, Kirja, and Anne (a lecturer from the Rhode Island School of Design), and headed off to the Jamison factory. Here in New Zealand factory visits mean signing health and safety forms, going thru a checklist of dos and don'ts, and being restricted to areas that are safe. At Jamisons they asked if we wanted to wander around the factory first, or visit the shop first ... being slightly sensible adults we elected to wander the factory first, knowing the shop would distract us.

The factory was like no other I've been in, a mix of fleece, raw and dyed, at least two cars undergoing restoration, each with a sofa near by to sit and admire the work from, a large flat screen tv above one car, working looms and working mill equipment. We were allowed to wander, free access every where, and we did. We were adults, we didn't fall into the machinery or damage ourselves or it ...
I knew that much of the Sheltand knitwear was produced by machines, sophisticated colour work machines .. but seeing the huge piles of colour work knit fabric ready to be made into garments was still a surprise. This is Lorna my travel companion, as hand knitters the scale of the pile of knit fabric just awed us both.

Near the dye room there was the obligatory sample storage, where yarns of different colours are stored and kept to use in matching each batch to the right colour. Little skeins of tagged yarn sit in each cubby ... guiding the dyer.It is one of those places that looks old and exciting, the original wooden shelves, and the little trial skeins of yarn .... one of those images that one expects to see in a book about yarn, or as a designers inspiration on their workspace.

Then in the factory shop, those same colours reappear in lace, and spindrift and aran weights ...... waiting for hand knitters to turn them into garments and accessories. I can not lie, some of these came home with me ... but there were so much to choose from and my suitcase was only so big ... the selection was hard.

After leaving the factory we made our way back to Lerwick, via a beer in Scalloway(we were looking for a cafe for coffee but found a local museum and pub first), and visited some local historic buildings ...

and found ourselves close enough to eyeball a shetland sheep. There was of course knitting, and knitting talk, then the day after the trip to Jameson's the conference started ... all of that I will catch up with and cover in the next few posts.

take care
I'm off to do family things, cook meals and tidy up ... I'm already back to being a parent after 2 weeks away, but its all good.