Saturday, November 27, 2010

Summer colds ...

are strange, when one has a cold there seems to be an internal drive to cuddle up, sip hot citrus and honey drinks, keep warm and snug. All that seems better to do when the weather is wintry, and the days dark and cold. In summer .. well being full of sniffles and a 'thick' head feeling is less straightforward to treat, cold orange juice (yes), but some how wandering around in bare feet and tee-shirts seems wrong, and yet if I add more layers them I am too warm. As you might have guessed I have a summer cold, its 23 degrees Celsius (73 degrees F), and warm and sunny and I have the serious head thickening sniffles. I've been sleeping a lot and sitting without doing much - odd for me, there has been a little knitting, but mostly spinning - easy things that don't require much input from me, things I can do on autopilot. I find my self sitting with my knitting on my lap, with no progress and not even following what is on tv .... still the sun is shining, and its warm and the days are longer and sunnier so I'm not complaining.

I've spiraled my way up the first sock (Spiral Bound by Vintage Purls). The spiral finished very neatly into the 2x2 ribbing.

So with the first sock done I cast on 6 stitches, increased madly in pattern, and worked the toe on the second sock. These are designed as mirror images, so one spirals clockwise and the other anti-clockwise. It is easy knitting, just round and round with a little kfb here and a k2tog there.

I'm not sure if it is the head cold so a need to do simple things, or that most of the projects on my needles are worked from charts .. but I found spinning called me more than knitting this week. So I've been treadling my way thru the scrappy swap fibre, I thought if I had it all spun before the end of today, then I could ply it at spin night tomorrow. But feeling like I do I'm not sure that I'm going to make it to spin night, at home I can blow my nose and ditch tissues into a waste paper basket beside the chair and keep spinning. Out visiting that might not be appreciated, and I'm not keen on sharing this feeling with my spin friends. As for the spinning, it could still go either way, beautiful ugly or just plain ugly ....

take care
na Stella

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The shortest path from Virginia USA to Dunedin New Zealand is

apparently via Vientaine Lao PDR!

A few months ago I blogged that I had found a Stirling silver ball point pen amongst my Dads work-tools, and rescued it. Then Bear offered to buy me a matching Parker 75 fountain pen and sourced one on line. It duly arrived and was blogged but had a medium nib rather than the fine it was advertised as having. No problem the seller had several for sale and they were all good, and obviously had picked up the wrong one and so sent off a slightly different one. In all other respects it was as advertised, so rather than return it and wait for another I paid a little more and had a xtra fine nib sent at a very good price. That was over 4 weeks ago .. and I had begun to wonder if my parcel had gone missing. Turns out it has traveled to New Zealand from Virginia via Lao! As the seller said when I told him 'Crazy!', so next time your mail takes longer than it should .. perhaps it has taken the scenic route?

There has been some knitting this week, a wee bit on the super secret project of which I can not blog, I worked my first ever Nupps. I totally agree with all that I have read about these things, you really do have to work the nupp stitches very very loosely ... very very very loosely. So far I've only managed Nupps with 5 loops, I will attempt at some point ones with 7 or 9 ... but not yet. Five is fine for now.

My spiral bound sock grows, these are a little snug on me ... I suspect they will become elder cubs as he has leaner feet. Shush ... don't tell and I can make them Christmas stocking presents.

Monday night I spun about half of the scrappy swap fibre ... I'm not sure if this will be as ugly beautiful as M's or just plain ugly. I am trying to spin it from deep blue at one end, thru purple, reds, into orange, and rust then yellow, to green and finally pink. The idea is a stripy blanket or hat or scarf .. but only time will tell if it is a wild experiment with a weird outcome or a good thing to do.

And it is 'that time of the year again' - where I can point you at the end of year show work of the schools students. I'm just going to leave you to look if you want .... I mostly teach the Year threes, the graduates .. and as usual they are all individuals. Which is exactly what one wants in a design graduate ... unique outcomes.
Besides as an 'insider' to the process, I do tend to loose a little focus, remembering how far the student has come, or the risks they took, or all the little out of their hands dramas that may have shaped their collection. Those can range from the wrong type or colour or amount of fabric being shipped, to dyepot disasters, to commercial printers letting students down, to models arriving for fittings and then departing before the show and the replacements not being a similar size or look. As usual - its a team effort, the students and all the staff, and every one almost without exception did amazingly - don't you think?

take care ...
and don't trust the international postal service for directions :D
na Stella

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Not much kniting going on around here but

I am spinning and getting ready for more spinning. I managed a bare 2 rounds of the Shetland blanket since the last post, and possbily a few rounds of the sock d... and the rest of the time went on spinning. I tried to knit more, two nights I took the blanket out and tried to work it ... but those nights I wasn't up to lace knitting. The pattern didn't seem to line up, things didn't seem to align with the yarn overs of the previous round. All of that left me with a sense that perhaps I wasn't ready to chart my own lace edges and I should have just left it be. Then last night I took the blanket up and again tried 'one last time' to work the third pattern round of the chart ... and success! That time it worked just fine while I watched Top Gear but when Ultimate Force started, a series Bear likes and I don't mind, - it was a particularly brutal episode that forced me to retreat to something more mindless to do with my hands. I told you knitting was my excuse to watch trash tv - and some of you didn't believe me, but it is true.

So the blanket with two more rounds than the last time you saw it looks like this, pretty much the same as before but with more holes - see

So I had to find something to do with my hands that involved less thinking, less focus - and preparing fibre seemed a good way to go. I had 116g of fibre from a 'scrappy swap', I was invited to join but wasn't quite sure what one was. I'm still not sure, but it was fun, one sends away 100g or so of fibre, and in return one gets back 100g made up from a wee bit of all the sent in fibre. So I had 116g of odds and ends of all sorts of fibre. Mmmmmm, Morag spun hers and plied it with her scrappy swap fibre from the first swap and ended up with yarn that was beautiful-ugly. Because the fibre was all so different I thought it best to diz it to an even thickness before spinning. I'm glad I did - now I have a basket full of smooth pencil roving all ready to spin.

And then there was Monday nights spinning, Monday night is Spin night in town, a group of us take turns to host spinning and we spin, and chat, and swap fibre and fibre stories and catch up on gossip. Monday I plied my Targhee from a Verb For Keeping Warm. It looked good when I plied it, but when I set it it puffed up and is now probably one of the most elastic yarns I've ever spun. Targhee is not a fibre type commonly available locally but it is one I will look out for.

You can tell that I'm still a beginner by the thick and thin plies in the photos .. but oddly the yarn girth (wpi) seems fairly consistent. Work is quietly frantic, as we hurdle towards the end of year show .. lots to do and lots that can't be done until the day/night of the show. Fingers crossed, break a leg and all that?

Take care, Na Stella

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sunday, windy sunday

After a week of warm and sunny days which all ended in rain, spring storms, today we awoke to a day with grey edges. Dark grey, so far there has not been any rain, but there is blustery wind, the kind that dries washing on the line in half an hour, and also tangles it up so it is wound around and around the line and takes more than half an hour to untangle it. There has only one project knit on this week, the Spiral Bound sock ... somehow that was all I wanted to knit on. I tried to knit something with a chart one night ....... but I was too distracted by what was on tv and ended up frogging a round or two and reverting to simpler
knitting. And I'm waiting to hear if I'm teaching knit things.

Given this sock has been my main knit project it has grown quite quickly, from a bare toe to well past the heel. Off the foot this sock seems to have a twisty life of its own, the heel and sections between the spirals collapse and hide away - giving the sock a rather odd shape.

On the foot the sock looks much much cleaner, there are four spiral 'mock-cables' that rotate around the sock ....

...with one snaking up the middle of the heel before coordinating with the others and taking its turn as part of the quad of spirals winding up the leg. Of course when something works out as well as this visually ... it seems almost wrong to stop knitting it. I am not sure if these socks are for me, or Bear or (yulp) eldest cub. He now has feet only one size smaller than me (at eleven!), and has begun raiding my sock drawer for sports socks when he runs out. He has plenty of socks, but being a pre-teen they don't always make the trip from the worn-pile in the corner of his bedroom to the laundry. And of course if they don't get to the laundry .. they almost never come back washed, dry, and matched.

Friday I had a email letting me know that the the group deciding on who would be selected to teach at HandMade 2011 would be making their decision soon. I put in a proposal, two actually .. and had almost forgotten with all the end of year things to sort at work. The email said they will let me know Friday the 15th of November ... which is this week! In the meanwhile - even if I'm not teaching, there will be lots of wonderful things on offer, so bookmark it in your diary 4-6 June 2011- Wellington (New Zealand).

take care - I have to go and spend time untangling more dry washing on the line and bring it in, and make the chilli con carne for dinner tonight - Yum (the red beans are in the slow cooker !).
na Stella

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Midweek post!

Yes, a midweek post, which means that life seems to be in control enough to allow a breather midweek! I can't tell you how relaxed that makes me feel, today its a quick post, I've made progress on the Spiral bound sock, and I'm charting and knitting my first lace design .. in a small way.Yes laugh if you will, this is the knit-blogger who once said that she didn't understand lace, and if she wanted holes in her knitting ... well that actually she didn't want holes in her knitting. And here I am now playing with lace and charting it to extend to the edges ...... how things come back to haunt one.

So the sock, Spiral bound, grows, slowly. After the weekend I had a day in Auckland, leaving in the morning and returning late that night .. and while there was reading about textiles, and I did take my knitting with me. My visit was to look at a students work that was a masters on knitting in the round (Whole garment technology), with all that I didn't actually knit, the day flew past and there was lots of talking and note making, and walking, and meeting and greeting, and shuttles here and there, and those airplane seats are so narrow ... well you know. So here are the socks, really only a days knitting, Tuesday, and nearly at the point of working the heel. I know from the photos that the spiral twists up the middle of the heel in an interesting way .. so I'm looking forward to working that.

Then there is my foray into lace modification, and charting. Oh I'm a long time chart user, loving the way that charts allow a visual representation of the pattern. I've made my own colour work charts, and re-charted lace with its repeats in so I could understand how it fits. This time I'm charting a lace pattern and extending out the pattern at the sides to fit into the increases at the corners of my blanket. I feel so pleased with myself that I understood the principles of yarn overs adding stitches and being paired with k2 and ssk to balance out the lace. I know that is all very obvious, but to me it seems a real step in my understanding to be able to chart it all and be fairly confident it will work - (of course it could all go pear shaped and I don't have a life line in yet). I'm two rows in and so far so good, the holes line up and the stitches fall as I expected them to in the corners.

So there is still work, but the marking has mostly moved from the to do to the done pile. I so enjoyed using Diamine Pumpkin ink to record my comments in their workbooks (do more of this, extend that into some of this, what do you think of what you have done ....and where is the rest of the work?). Now I'm wondering what of the colours I have I can use to write my final comments for my graduating students - they go in with their degrees - last notes from all of us which is a nice tradition. The show is in a few weeks (if you are local ring the school if you want tickets - should be fun and will be the first time in a new venue), then we have graduation on the 10th of December (Jenni as a perpetual adult student myself I'll be cheering you on - you have to be there - its a great day, bring your knitting), them I'm on leave ... in a little over a month.

Which leaves me wondering where did the year go?
Take care
na Stella

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Mending ...

Mending, one of those chores that I tend to ignore and put aside. I'd much rather knit new yarn into new things, or frog a project and knit it into something new and exciting than mend. That said usually there isn't much around to mend, most of our clothes tend to be buttonless nowadays, tee shirts and stretch tops, so replacing buttons is not a weekly event, yearly perhaps but not weekly. The same with holes or worn bits, clothes are just cheaper and more plentiful than in days gone by .. for lots of reasons, economics of production and scale and trade, and expectations and standards of living, not to mention use of hard wearing synthetics to add durability to things. There are a few times when I will mend things, and more and more the things I take time to mend are the things that I've taken time to make. This week I sat myself down and mended smallest cubs sock, the one with the hole in the toe, and I checked the blanket was all done by piecing it all together (it would be easy to miss a square, cast off prematurely and delude my self), and I started three new projects (two with charts galore). Yes it is official - I have no self control when it comes to keeping the pile of knitting projects beside my chair in check.

So mending, a few weeks ago I posted about the hole in smallest cubs sock. One thing I have realized about kids is that if something is uncomfortable they won't wear it - but they will sit playing on a cold hard floor in the most uncomfortable position to play ... go figure. I just knew that if I darned this sock there was a risk that the slight bump of the darn would mean the sock was rejected. Oh in the old days, when socks were mended as a matter of course I doubt a child or adult would have dared mention the discomfort of a darn least they be told how ungrateful they were and left with holes or had to mend their own. But I live in a modern world so my kids, well when I said they were works in progress that includes the part where they say what they think instead of stopping to consider the consequences. I could just imagine my youngest telling me 'it feels strange'. So I decided to reknit a new toe, first I snipped a stitch just above the hole.
Then I raveled stitch by stitch one row of stitching, you can see the hole more clearly here. It was a good size - large enough for a toe to poke out. Because this was a worn sock, one that had been washed a few times - the stitches behaved beautifully, and held around waiting for me to pick them up.

Once I had separated the end of the sock with the hole from the rest of the sock I picked up all the stitches onto my standard sock needle (2.25mm). One advantage of mending ones own knitting is having a record of needle size and stitch counts to work with.

Then I headed off to the stash of left over sock yarn and sorted out one that would work with the pink.

Blue it was, I started to knit, decreasing 4 stitches as per usual every second round until I had the same number of stitches I had cast on for the sock.

Then I grafted it closed from the outside, over a darning mushroom. Handy things those darning mushrooms even when one is not darning.

On the inside the new section is a little less fuzzy than the original section of the sock. I wove in all the ends, the one from unraveling the sock, the one from starting to knit with the blue, and the tail from the grafting the toe closed.

And all done, possibly a bit weird to have one blue toe on a pair of socks - but a successful mend. Time taken - less than one hour all up including a cup of tea and stopping to hunt for a suitable yarn to use. I briefly thought of replacing the second toe 'just-in-case' but a quick examination showed no sign of a hole forming. It probably was as I said, unkempt toe nails that caused the wear and tear.

So the blanket is all there, I've checked as did Yo-yo the cat. I half expected to have her curl up and sleep on the blanket .. but no the end of the hallway was in direct sunlight so she stretched out and sleep there. My next step on this project is to locate a yarn to seam it with - odds are there is something in stash, when that is done I have a wheel of white ready to use as an icord edging - then it will be ready to block.

Knitters Study Group was Saturday(yesterday). We have two sessions on Estonian knitting, the idea is a small sampler type project ... I've started an alpaca scarf. This is loosely based on one in Nancy Bush's Lily of the Valley Scarf in Lace of Estonia, but I'm planning to work the body of the scarf in the Greta Garbo Hearts Number 3. My scarf will be wider to allow 3 repeats of the hearts across the width of the scarf .. and so far so good. I've worked the edging -and thought I'd work the other edging then work the two ends of the scarf at once ready to graft together in the middle.

And then there was knit night, where I needed a project with no chart, one that could handle conversation, distractions and stop start knitting. I was tempted by Heart of Glass by Vintage Purls, and I have the pattern but seems I used the yarn in the sock kit as the contrast in my Nightingale. Nothing else in stash seemed right for Heart of Glass ... so I started Spiral Bound instead. Its fun .. a nice straightforward knit at least for now - that might all change as I get to the heel which like all her heels is nicely planed to fit with the stitch pattern.

There is a third new project on the needles .. but that one is a secret project .... one I can't blog, yet .... but it has a chart and colour and is soft and squishy.

So with any luck this week will be clearer, with less time allocated to meetings and marking - except I have only 4 weeks of work left this year so my time will be full of meetings and marking. But it is spring, it is warmer and the evenings are lighter so there seems more time to do things in. Take care .... hope your knitting basket is full of fun stuff