Saturday, June 25, 2011

Today there has been knitting .....

but I can't really show you, there are now two finished projects, and for two very different reasons neither will appear here today. One is my 2011 Take-back-the-knit Secret swap gift - all finished and ready to go, but that must remain a secret until the actual swapping happens. The other finished project was also a gift and is done, and complete and gifted. I even managed to make photos before the gifting ... but then left the photos on the SD card on my desk at work. Still there is knitting content, I've been working on the double knit mittens, and spinning (a lot), and there is a new sock club - and exciting new yarn and patterns. And I've just signed a contract to write a regular column for a magazine ... so now there are new deadlines.

I have finally made it back to the double knit mittens, these have been on the go since, oh the 1st of April this year and so far I have knit one, realized my gauge had changed as I became more familiar with the double knit method and it was way to large. I then started a second one which will become the first of a pair, if I ever finish the third. This pattern ties me to the chart, so it is 'at-home' knitting, and knitting where I need to focus. This has been pushed aside as I focus on other things .. but now it is back and in progress.

This is when I get to introduce you to Max, super sock yarn. I signed up for the VP Winter 2011 sock yarn club. I didn't need much convincing, as the yarn and colours and patterns and treats are always spectacular, but also as I am not sure I could stand the envy if M brought sock club kits to knit night and I didn't get one to go home with. There is a new sock yarn in her stable, Max, a thicker sock yarn, proper sock yarn with nylon and super wash merino, deliciously dyed, and soft. Max is designed for more than socks, but also for hats, mitts, baby wear and blankets and well ... anything that you would want to knit in soft yarn on 4-5mm needles. In New Zealand this weight is called DK short for Double knit, but elsewhere this would be called Worsted.

Vintage Purls is run by a fountain pen user, and I have tempted her across to pens that you can put ink in. Now that might not sound so outrageous, after all all-pens-have-ink don't they? Well no, not ink like you can get for fountain pens. Long story short, for now M is signing her kit letters with a fountain pen, collecting pens and inks, and this time the ink was an amazing colour ... and my envelope had the ink details recorded as she knew I would ask. Deep Magenta, yummy, I just might have to invest in a bottle for myself sometime, Diamine offer 80 colours, and many of the other brands offer an equal number.

This past three weeks I have been teaching every day on the knitting elective, which is run as a block course so short, sharp and intensive. Over three weeks I managed to take 18 non-knitters from casting on, and off, knitting purling, increasing and decreasing, cabling and eyelets. Some even went further to dying their own yarns, or picking up and edging or working lace within a boarder, and almost all played with adding pom-poms or tassels. I can't claim credit as they were a very bright bunch of motivated students who put the work in, and all designed something to hand in at on Friday, the end of the three week block. One casualty was my own knitting, after a day with knitting in my hands I needed another thing to relax with at home of-an-evening. I turned to my spinning and some of the lovely fibre that Kathy left for me last week. I suspect this is the finest singles I have every spun consistently, all due to the amazing fibre. I divided up the fibre into 6 sections, 2 of each colour and spun it into two bobbins with the same shift in colour. My hope is that I will score a almost lace weight yarn that shifts from cream to chocolate over its length, with some mottled transitions between each tone. My long term aim is a shawl that transitions from pale to dark.

My news this week is that I have signed a contract for an ongoing column in Entangled, which means four columns a year if I remember the fine print correctly. The next deadline looms near so I have been planning and writing and putting the next article on paper. Literally on paper as I am choosing to write the roughs and drafts with a fountain pen. Here I am using a c. 1955 Pelikan pen, with a fine nib filled with Pelikan Edelstein Ink in Saphire (the bottle is amazing and the ink pretty nice as well). Bear bought this pen as he is also a 1955 model, but the nib was too dry for him, luckily I had bought a vintage Lamy that wrote too wet and broad for me. We swapped and both are now happy.

Of course this leads to lots of distraction as I have three pens inked at the moment, and it occurred to me that the words might flow better if I use a different pen and ink. In the middle is a 1950's Burnham button filler with a fine nib, and to the right is a green 1950's Onoto with a lovely flex nib. The Onoto was a gift from a local knitter and I sent it away to England to be restored. The Burnham has my current all time favorite ink, Diamine Damson, a dark mystery plum colour, and the Onoto has Pelikan Edelstein Mandarin - which is a lovely bright fun orange. Mandarin sounds odd for a pen ink but it is brilliant for editing and annotating.

So what am I writing about you ask? Well, repairs, mending, fixing, and darning, activities and ideas that seem old fashioned and yet are totally in keeping with today's messages of recycle, reuse and re-purpose. In my next Entangled article I'm looking at the ideas we have about mending and fixing, and perhaps were those ideas came from. I have done a wee bit on this already for Handmade at Te Papa 2011, but this article will be more formal and look not only at the traditions of darning, a specific form of mending of knitwear, but also at how ideas of repairing and mending have shifted over the past few hundred years. The image shows a cute wee 'vintage' honey pot, we inherited it from Bears family. The pot was almost pristine when we took over its ownership, with only a small chip in the base. Unfortunately two small children meant that over the past 12 years the honey bee has lost first one then the other wing. Both incidents resulted in me reaching for the glue to repair it. A new honey pot wouldn't be a as nice (I know, I've looked) nor would it have the same family connection. As I glued the pot I realized that fixing things had been a constant in my own childhood, pot handles were glued, bikes were mended, elbows patched, rips repaired. My Nana took things way to far when she glued and used broken plates, but mending the honey pot made me aware that for many in the western world mending isn't something they do.
So I'd best head off, pick up those lovely pens and ink and sort more thoughts on repairs and mending, and knit some and spin some .....

take care

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Today I am ...

posting somewhere else ...

Some months ago I won a shopping spree at Cult pens to celebrate the 5th birthday of Dave's (amazing) Mechanical Pencil blog.
I wrote a review of one of the more luxury pencils that I splurged some of the prize money on ... a Worther Slight 1.18mm pencil, and the review was posted this week. I only recently discovered the Worther brand, and must admit that some of their products make me want an executive desk just so I would have somewhere to display such elegant things.

The Worther Slight may or may not be your kind of pencil, as writing tools can be very very personal choices for some people, and others couldn't care less as long as the pen or pencil leaves a mark. The Worther has some features that make it very different to a standard click 0.5mm pencil, things like the black silicon sheath the leads are stored in that prevent the usual mechanical pencil rattle, and almost no branding.

One of the things I like about a larger-than-0.5mm pencil lead is the ability to modify the point, rounded and soft, pointed and sharp or sharpened to a chisel like an italic pen. I remember being so impressed as a young 18 year old drafts-person seeing one of the old-hands sharpen his clutch pencil like this and use it to add bold titles to his drawings.

Enjoy if pencils or quality stationery in general are your thing, and if you are here for some knitting I'll be back in the weekend with knitting content.

na Stella

Friday, June 17, 2011


Today's post is about surprises, the nice kind, three of them for me, one for work and one for some one nearby ...
First up I came home to a lovely surprise on Thursday ... and at first I had no idea who had organised it. The whole familygot home at around 6pm, me after a very long day teaching and then a long post-marking meeting, I was sorting something for the evening meal after sending an email saying I just wouldn't make it to knitting that night because of the time and the things still to do when Bear came in from checking the mailbox with a the following question Was I expecting any fibre? No I wasn't... but fibre there was, two bumps. And my favorite colours, blue, blue grey and grey. I was completely flumoxed about who it could be from, and the lovely hand written note didn't help at all, as it was signed 'friend'. The next day KathyR asked if I had 'found' anything .. and it all became clear. The Blue-grey is perendale she has dyed, and the three greys are natural halfbreed from a farm near her -- all coordinated and ready to use. I love both of these, and I'm really happy to have them .. both might have to queue jump onto a wheel very very soon, I just can't decide which will be first.

The past two weeks been teaching in 'my' Textiles - Hand Knitting Studio workshop for two weeks. This is a course where we suspend normal classes for three weeks and mix up students across the four design degrees (interiors, product, communication and fashion) and the three study years into 'electives'. The students just have those classes for three weeks, full on, full time, 48 contact hours in 3 weeks, learning, experimenting and then presenting something that come out of what they are learning. There are lots of fun options, claymation, millinery, story book illustration, Pop-up factory, contemporary jewellery, digital textile printing, packaging, short film, .... lots including my Hand Knitting one. Its full on, I have 18 students an all are pretty much newbies to knitting, By day three all were casting on and off, knitting an purling, increasing and decreasing and some even were attempting lace and cables ... its all good, but keeps me very busy. I am teaching in a room that was only fitted out in February, so its still fairly new and white and bland ... not a great place for designing ... but I'm working on that. A team of of the communication students have been designing quite quirky graphics for the hallways and stairways and shared spaces ... which are very very cool. I've been installing subtle knit graffiti in the room I'm teaching in - using odd swatches that I have left over from past projects. I was inspired by this local project (Ravelry link), but mine is a bit more subtle ...mostly as it is what I had already swatched rather than custom knit. See the bright green bucket - that holds my teaching needles for class .. I also have a matching green laundry basket that holds the yarn that we use for sampling and teaching. three chairs, and a table leg .. it is subtle.

And the last surprise is for some one near here, I'm still working away on my secret swap knit ... and right now I am about here, with only that, that and those to knit and tidy up. I made this photo with not a lot of light ... and I love the way it naturally desaturated leaving just colour in the stitch marker. In full daylight this project is not this colour at all, far from it.

The other thing I worked on this week was spindling, and I finished the fibre I started at spindle class and wound it off ready to ply. I have already plied it - Navaho to keep the colours true, but forgot to photograph it. there is 27g here ... so enough for something. Spindle spinning was so nice that I am even thinking of starting a new spindle project ... perhaps with one of the new fibres that arrived Thursday.

Take care ... the weekend is dark and cold here, perfect knitting weather ....and I hope the weather where you are is perfect for what you want to do.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Oh there has been knitting and yarn related activity since the last post, but surprisingly not a lot of knitting to show for it. I do have yarn, and yarn making, and public knitting, and new projects, so here it all is.
Saturday was Knitters Study Group - and usually I have something new to report. I arrived at 11ish, in time for class set up --- and by 11:30 we had the local fire service mopping the hall and supervising a large fan to evacuate the smoke filled air. Some were between 11 and 11:30 a heater set a temporary curtain on fire, the fire dept was called, the fire extinguisher was emptied, smoldering bits were knocked down and a jug of water and broom used to put out the remaining flames. We were advised to leave the evidence for the fire service to evaluate rather than clean up - so we did. The fire service arrived promptly, said we did all the right things, suggested any one with breathing problems stay outside, set up their fan, opened all the doors and windows, worryingly uncovered the fire exit that was hidden under a table (stored on its end), and helped themselves to mops and brooms and cleaned up. I was impressed ..... but not up for a few hours of knitting in a hall opened up to the elements with no heaters so headed home for a cuppa-tea, so I have nothing to show. And people think knitting can be boring?

The follow up was our Dunedin WWKiP event, 1-4 at the Settlers Museum. Now the museum is a public place .. but it isn't cool to publish photos of people without their permission. The lovely J - taught knitting and took some lovely action photos of the action - and action there was. Hands were flying, people were moving and chatting and knitting ....the best bit was when J noticed the two nine year olds were completely relaxed knitting lying down and had to take a photo - look .....

I made a teaching handout with diagrams and links to cast-ons, knitting, bind off and finishing/weaving in simply because J and I couldn't teach everything a beginner knitter needs to know in 3 hours. Most people could already knit, or had knit at some point in their past but there were some newbies who as far as I could tell went away happy with the beginnings of a new skill.
I have been knitting - but shhh, it is a complete secret, my project for my secret swap partner. This is probably as much as I can show you - any more and you know the story, I'll have to frog your project and tangle your yarn (seems more of a knitters threat than killing). I am about 'here' on the chart, so only this many repeats to go before I work the ..... and the .....s

This is the wee project I worked on the bus today, I knit 40 minutes there and 40 minutes back ... more later. Another beginners wrister for the office lady who sorted all the yarn and the transport for my students and who admired the wristers I was wearing. She wanted Autumn colours - this is some of my early hand spun silk and merino and feels autumnal to me.


Last night at spinning I plied my sock yarn, the Vintage Purls one, 75% superwash merino and 25% nylon delivered in a hand dyed pencil roving (hidden under Hand-dyed fibre on her shop). Wow .. this is probably the most even I have ever spun, I wanted a three ply .. but after sampling went for a two ply, from a center pull ball. This puffs up quite a bit ... and now looks like soft proper sock yarn ... I love it. 100g and 420ish meters ... now to find the perfect sock to knit ....
Today the Hand knitting Studio students and I trekked(by bus) to the mill, and had a wonderful tour of their processing, including dying, and blending and the woolen and worsted lines and the carding and ... well everything from when the fibre arrives to the dispatch room. The students were keen and asked lots of questions ... before heading out the mill shop to buy supplies for their knitting projects. As I went around the mill again, I couldn't help but be reminded of the magic by which fibre is turned into light warm yarn ..... so much fibre .....

Now this week I do have home work, I am teaching a wee-chap to knit, and have to find a way he can knit with only one hand. I've sorted him some smooth thick yarn in bright red, and long thick wooden needles with good points, and so far we have been working on a Scottish style with one needle tucked under one arm. I'm practicing myself so I am useful when I next teach him. Belatedly I Googled and found this blog which shows knitting this way with the use of a support. I was thinking if this wee chap kept up with his knitting I would show him my knitting belt and matching pins, and he is welcome to borrow them .... but for now I want to keep it simple, without to much extra drama and 'stuff'. The technique shown in the video is what he and I came up with on Sunday, but I think it can be more fluid with practice ... so I'm thinking we might have it sussed. Of course I'm not an on this expert so if any one has any hints or clues ... please share.

Take care - update this weekend, where maybe a new sock will be started,

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Hello - it is WWKIP time!

Yes World Wide Knit in Public day!
and look ... if you are in Dunedin please join a whole host of interesting and talented knitters.

I'm part of the team (that is me in the small print!), Robyn and her team at the museum have worked with a local Opp shop who are supplying yarn and needles, I have asked all those who knit regularly with me if they would join me (the Thursday night take back the knit group) ... and I've also let people know that I'm happy to teach people how to knit. I have the lovely J - all set to teach making a cute wee cat/kitten, and I've been working on beginner project that is not too naff and is achievable in one 2-3 hour session. We are all set - the Transport lounge is lovely all tiles and 1930's fit out .... a special place to knit in many ways.

If you were a beginner knitter would this appeal?
Its hard - to find something that is cool and desirable and yet something that takes only a few skills and is easy to knit if you don't know how to knit.
I wanted to find/design a project that some one new to knitting could achieve in a few hours, the more usually suggested beginners scarf or hat or sample seems to result in boredom or abandonment or both. I knit both of these last night, and think if I can get people
  • casting on 15-25 stitches,
  • knitting a few rows,
  • then knitting 5 stitches, casting off a few stitches, knitting a few stitches, casting off a few stitches, and knitting to the end ...
  • then on the return row casting on to replace to cast off stitches,
  • then knitting every row until it is long enough to fit their wrist ... or whatever ....
  • then casting off (which they learned earlier).
Even if they didn't cast off in 'class' at WWKIP day ... they would go home with the skills to cast off on their own.

So far I have made two ... and will knit a few more ... maybe for a suitcase handle or cups or takeaway coffee cups ... or something.

And I have been spindling ..... the cop (singles wound around the spindle shaft) is growing. I took this to spinning Monday night and that is where I did most of the yarn creating. That on Monday, Knitting beginner project cuffs on Tuesday ... and not much else to show this week.

Take care
Enjoy WWKIP day where ever you are, hope some time will be with knit-sibs and please let me know of any other beginner projects that I could add to my teaching basket.
All suggestions gratefully recieved.
na Stella

Sunday, June 05, 2011

There are some universal truths

One that I recently had reafirmed is that there are some very very clever creative and lovely people out there sharing what they know ... and that results in me almost always spending money. I'm talking about Handmade at TePapa, where I met the absolutely amazing and friendly and wonderful Sourkraut who sells the most amazing spindles on etsy. Of course her away from Ravlery and etsy name is not really Sourkraut ... but Francis, and I am such a language klutz that Sourkraut was always the first name to surface in my mind.

I bought these, how could I not? The first is a 29gram spindle with a Purri whorl and a rimu shaft with a stg (silver?) Bunny, the second is a Nostepinne in Pukatea. All native to New Zealand woods and all beautifully made, shaped and finished, a designer jeweller by training her work is jewelery ......I really tried hard not to buy more. I have already asked Bear if he would consider gifting me one of these for my next birthday so I resisted and resisted taking one home with me as well. I love this bunny, I have a deep appreciation of pre-victorian Arts and Crafts work and motifs and the history that inspired them and this has that feel, an object well made by some one who knows how. And I love the floppy feel of the hard silver bunny, the weight of the spindle and that the hooks and yarn stop are silver.This spindle and nostepinne feel like luxury things to use, and yet are very easy to use and defiantly practical.

I had a mental note to take a wee snatch of fibre with me, as I had booked into Francis's spinning class, one hour 45 minuets of teaching. Now I'm not the worlds best packer, I always forget something (this time it was my toothbrush - still sitting in its travel box on the bed at home waiting for me to pack it when I returned). So as I dashed around the house collecting and packing I kept thinking of the fibre I needed to select and pack .. and then didn't pack any. Francis was so organiseed that she had little kits with plain spindles ... and a selection of lots of little bits of fibre. Even her 'budget' learner spindles are amazing, look at the neat grain in the wood, and they are small and light, and nice to use. By then I had done my dash so to speak on spending what was in my purse ... so I had no ready cash left and the automatic teller nearby was out of order. We did come to an arrangement where Frances went home with a project bag .. and I got a starter kit with fibre and spindle.

oooooo this may be a little misleading, as Francis started us all on white combed perendale, and once we were spindling - suggested we play with the colour fluff. Look she even put in pencil roving! Now yes I can already spindle, but I learned things, like spinning from the fold and even more simple had the idea of the importance of staple length and amount of fibre to hold for spinning reinforced. Some times I need little reminders to keep me focused on the little easy things that make 'doing' more successful.

Even better we covered Andean plying .... and making an Andean bracelet. This is for me a little leap into one of those areas where my mind can't quite work out how it works ... but it does. In time I know my mind will put together all the bits so I understand how looping yarn around your hand in a figure shape ends up in a bracelet that then allows you to ply from both ends at once - but for now it is a magical moment along the lines of - 'Look it works". This is my plying ..... just enough for proof of principle.

So what did I knit whilst I was away .. well fish, until at least Sunday night on the plane home. At that stage ... the fish in progress had an 'unusual stitch count' .. so I decided that was a clear sign to stop. Several fish were added before that point, so I will update the fish count at some point.

Then I came home to family, including this fluffy one, so I'll leave you with a triptych of Yo-yo in the living room window. (Please ignore the lack of window cleaning ...)
take care
na Stella