Saturday, February 25, 2012

I said that there would be a new project

 this post, and I was right, a new pair of gloves. The spurs for this was the the Knitters study group, where meetings are very formally informal, classes are ever 5 weeks thereabouts, and the curriculum for the year is set at the start. Project lessons focus on particular traditions, styles or details of knitting. The previous classes have been on lots of different things like ribbing, Fair-Isle style colourwork, lace, cables, Peruvian hats, intarsia in the round, socks, mittens, reversible cables, slipped stitch paterns, ... all manner of things. This class is the first of two on Sanquhar mitts. When  I have time I like to do a little prep for the class, google the knitting technique or style, and look in my knitting library for any hints or projects or inspirations.

I liked what I found, especially the more modern adaptations of the Sanquhar knitting style, like TomofHollands pencil clase, and the ones with the QR code on the palm (scroll down, and as a scarf with mitts (I nearly bought this one as well but queued it instead), I also found info about the tradition and history of the mittens, about how they were hand made often to order, with the customers intitials knit into the palm side of the cuff. There are some amazing image resources at various collections online sites, Future Museum South West Scottland, and even as part of the BBC History of the world site. I liked the pattern by Beth Rinsel Brown called Compass Rose Gloves.
This is me a bare 24 hours after the class finished with the beginning of the left glove. Most of the class are working a fingerless mitt, at a larger gauge but I love that the class allows for customization of the project. In class I managed two repeats of the corrugated cuff pattern. Like all colour work this is addictive, I just want to knit one more repeat, or the first bit after the cuff or the year, and then the set up for the compass and rose pattern. The yarn is vintage Vintage Purls sock, so not superwash making it ideal for colourwork. The darker yarn is Slippery Jim, a dark grey not as brown as this shows, and the other is Now-We-Are-Two, from the birthday party celebrations of the Vintage Purls Toddler bash (when her company turned two).

The needles are teeny tiny ones, Susan Bates, sock needles, a set of five in shiny pink sized US00 or 1.75mm. Yes .... teeny tiny, and in the Susan Bates set there are four sets of five needles, 1.5mm, 1.75mm, 2mm, and 25mm. Apparently the pattern for children's, small women's, women's, small men's and men's is all the same, cast on 90 stitches, and the different sizes are achieved by using smaller or larger needles. I love the effect of the teeny tiny (sorry just like repeating that the needles are teeny tiny) needles on the gauge, here I have 30 stitches in 2.5 inches (give or take - its not being blocked yet but fits neatly). The fabric is smooth and fairly dense, I can see how these would be warm and hard-wearing, and I love the detail  - that the letters are able to have serifs and shape rather than being blocky and modern.

The Deciduous shawl is up to 20 repeats, and I've got my head around the twin tension systems of the Aura wheel ... but knowing that is so different from knowing how that I'm still struggling to put my intellectual knowledge into practice when I use it. I suspect the Aura is more wheel than I'll ever need, but she is an absolutely amazing wheel, and if I was to buy my 'one-good-wheel' all over again - I suspect an Aura would be in the running.

well - off to see if I can complete a repeat or two of the rose and compass, and finish the thumb gusset. Colour work and gloves -- all those small bits that one can tick off makes for a nice sense of achievement with a project like this.

Take care
na Stella

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Nothing to see here

This is the post that honestly reports that I have not been knitting much, or rather that what I have  knit since the last post isn't really much .... still best to report in. So today I've got a quick update about the project that is growing so slowly that it hardly shows ... and I realize that its only going to get slower and slower. I've also got another new toy, not mine but on loan, so I'll share. Finally there is a new edition of Entangled up... with an interview with the amazing Verb-for-keeping-warm people, Jacey Bogs, Granny squares in their new role as a vampire accessory, and  I've got an article in it on how to minimize waste when making things and it comes with a pattern! Not knitting but sewing, a very easy and I think rather elegant bathrobe. The pattern is cut in a very traditional way, no need to buy a paper pattern, just fold the fabric up as instructed and chalk your measurements out on the fabric then cut. The design comes from an era where fabric was precious and so the design makes advantage of the entire width and length of fabric.
First up is Deciduous, a lace knit shawl, knit from the centre out. There are numerous ways to knit shawls, from the top down, from the lower edge up, from a mid-point out, and from one tip across to the other tip. I'm not experience at all of those methods, and for all I know there may be more. Deciduous is knit from the top down, starting with a wee set of 2 stitches and increasing and increasing and increasing until the shawl is complete, So every second row has increases cleverly concealed into the lace pattern, and thus every second row gets longer and longer. The pattern repeats over four rows, and the stitch count increases by 8 stitches on the first row, and 4 stitches on the third row. Twelve extra stitches every repeat, Above is what Deciduous looked like last week, and here is what deciduous looks like now, to me there isn't much change at all. But I have gone from 12 repeats to 17 repeats. Last week I could knit many repeats a night, now knitting a repeat or two  seems a good accomplishment. I know that soon, completing a repeat will be more than I can manage in an evening. That is going to make for very boring blogging - as this green sort of scribbly thing gets incrementally larger in a way that is hard to notice.
I know there will be a new project this week, as the local Knitters Study Group is meeting, and we are working on Sanquhar mitts. I simply can't ignore the opportunity to knit colourwork, and historical colour work  at that.

Then there is this, a bright  new Aura wheel. I've been asked to learn how to work this wheel so I can be the go-to demonstrator at Unwind. How could I say not to that request? Bear is a tad worried that after this I'll want to buy one (he called the one who requested I learn an enabler). So far I've only spun a little on the Aura, and yes it is different to other wheels but I think not so different that it can't be mastered. And yes there are a huge range of adjustments that one can make ... I think I will see how I go and then write a review.

Back next week, with a new project, reports on the ease with which I'm adapting to the Aura and slow but steady progress on my Deciduous shawl.
na Stella

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

New toys

Really knitting is just arranging yarn with sticks, nothing more. I know that in times gone by knitters worked with quite primitive sticks, smoothed twigs, or wires ... or bone shapped and smoothed to the sizes needed. In theory a good knitter is a good knitter and the needles are much less important than the knowledge or the yarn used. But in practice - good well made elegant tools are always nice to use. I perfer to use materials and equipment that just works well, that way I can get on with the process of knitting (or writing, or working, or stitching, or drawing, or baking, or whatever it is that I'm doing).  Todays post is mostly about a new knitting toy that I've been enjoying, and a little update on the current lace project.

In the beginning when I learned to knit there were straight needles, long plastic or metal ones with stops on one end that displayed the size. I knit many things on those needles, mostly metal but sometimes plastic. Then in the mid 1980's (yes I have been knitting that long) I discovered a particular brand of knitting needle that were steel cores with a bright translucent plastic casing. I thought they were amazing - the different sizes were colour coded, and when you shook one the steel core rattled. I can't even remember the brand. Latter around 2000 I discovered the online knitting community and inspired by them branched out into dpns (double pointed needles). Metals ones were available here, but soon I was ordering lovely birch dpns, and addi bamboo dpns, Lantern Moon, and even Crystal palace dpns. Each seamed nicer to use than the last and my knit kit seemed to be constantly upgraded as I found better and nicer tools. I read about circular needles - so I bought some, and even invested in a set of interchangeable Denise  circular needles. I felt so prepared for knitting anything. I'd discovered knitting in the round and this set let me do that. Of course the Denise set also tended to come adrift at odd moments and didn't have needles small enough to knit socks. I tried to magic loop socks but really didn't find it a pleasant process.

Finally some one took pity on me and offered to send me 'good' circular needles to try - I accepted and was sent a pair of KnitPicks 2.25mm sock needles. Wow! I finally understood that the quality of the join, how smooth and flexible it was made all the difference in how easy a circular needle was to use. The better the join, the smoother it was, the more flexible the cable was, all that contributed to a nicer to use needle. Around that time KnitPicks launched their interchangeable needle set, and I meet two local knitters who had brought sets back from the States. I was in awe at the pointy tips, the flexible cables and the secure way it all fitted together. I sold my Denise set to fund a full set of Knit-picks interchangeable circulars complete with binder (they called it the Options set but don't offer it with the binder anymore), had Bear call in professional favors to forward ship the order from a US address to a NZ address (KnitPicks wouldn't ship outside of the US) and paid a small fortune in shipping - but I was happy. A few years latter  KnitPicks were available in New Zealand, and I picked up extra cables and wooden harmony tips. I thought I was set, the needles were all I could ask of a knitting tool, flexible cables, pointy tips, secure join, and several kinds of materials to choose from (metal, wood and plastic) all in a neat zip up folder.
Then my local pusher was incredibly mean and showed me the latest knit kit from Hiya Hiya. I  have had Hiya Hiya needles before, little short glove needles for working the fingers, and  a few circulars. Nice I thought but not nicer than my current set up. These new Hiya Hiya circulars are amazing, I've succumbed, I ordered a set and once it arrived my other needles haven't left their zip up case.
First up the case is flat, compared to the 'other set' its tiny and yet it holds pretty much the same equipment. There are needles, in sizes from 2.75mm to 5mm, with space for at least as many more tips to fit, there are cables small enough to knit a hat and long enough to knit a large shawl, and the little grippy pads, each in its own storage area. This is so much easier to tote around and prettier with its silk cover. Inside are the tips, and each has its size etched smoothly on the tip to prevent confusion. The tips screw fit to the cables with a long thread, and are tightened using two wee grippy pads. All that is good but the best bit is ....
here, at the end of the cable there is a wee swivel. The cable swivels easily and is amazing, no more twisty curly kinks as one knits. That feature alone is one of most valuable improvements  - kink-less knitting. I guess that sounds really weird, and if you didn't knit it would be, but if you knit, and knit with circulars you know how annoying it can be when the cable builds up twist and starts to fight back. Some one at Hiya Hiya is a knitter, and not only that but a knitter who thinks about what would make knitting better ... I like that.

So I've been knitting with my HiyaHiya, a few rows here and a few rows there on my Deciduous lace shawl, and loving every bit of it.
Oh and I apologise if you now need to investigate Hiya Hiya needles, but you would rather I shared than kept them as a secret wouldn't you?

take care
na Stella

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Sunday here, over the past few days there has been quite a bit of knitting time. My dad had cataract surgery on his right eye. As he lives alone I did the dutiful daughter thing and headed up to Waimate to take him to Timaru hospital, I stayed over to make sure he was ok and to take him to the post-opp clinic the day after. He is fine, grinning from ear to ear. One of the reasons he was so happy was the medical staff kept asking him what medication he was on and when he told them 'none' - they told him there were very few 70 year olds who were not on any meds at all. That made him feel all healthy and fit for his age - and gave me hope I might inherit the same health. He says there is no pain, he can now see clearly so has his depth perception back. Depth perception is very important to Dad, he found with he was unable to hit nails and rivets and weld things with only one working eye - mighty frustrating for a someone who lives to spend time with mechanical things in his workshop. Fixing vintage tractors, motorcyles, cars and rotary hoes for my Dad is sort of like knitting for me, we both have to be doing something, making something, busy with something. Being unable to work in his workshop because he couldn't see well enough really upset him. As a dutiful daughter I stayed with him overnight until I knew he was ok, I planned to read some papers I have to review (for work) and knit. The papers didn't get read as he preferred the  lights to be off making reading all but impossible so I knit instead.
 I did get quite a wee bit of knitting done, the foot, heel turn and part way up the leg of Teosinte . The pattern repeat in this is very intuitive, easy to pick up and put down. The heel was short rowed just like the toe, picking up double wraps as one works the second half of the heel. When I was knitting more of my socks with short row heels there was quite a bit of information on how to work the turns without getting any holes. 
 The  method used for the short row toe and heel in Teosinte is quite pretty, with almost a decorative braid formed by the double wraps up the diagonal from the heel to the instep. In this yarn - slightly more variegated than most of the Vintage Purls I have stashed - this works well and looks very pretty.  

The other project that has had some 'lap-time' is Deciduous. The lace repeat is only 4 rows, and the reverse ones are purled - so only really two pattern rows. The lace pattern is called Tiny Leaf - and right now I'm trusting the pattern as what I'm knitting isn't as 'formal' as the images on the pattern. I assume that once blocked my bumpy knitting will look like the tiny leaves of the finished photographed lace. Progress is fairly fast, but I know that as the rows get longer and longer each one will take longer and longer to work. I'm just done on repeat number 12 .... of twenty something, as some one once said "I might be a while".

Short post this week, I'm off to ring my Dad and check he has remembered to use his eye drops as instructed, three different ones four times a day for two weeks then a new regime. Dad probably doesn't need reminding but it makes me feel like a good daughter if I ring him.

Take care
na Stella

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Wednesday ...

Today is Wednesday, and there are two finished projects, my Rosebuddie baby blanket is cast off, and blocked and dry, and the second Garn Washcloth is also done. Now in the scheme of things they are both knitting projects and both are now done, but Rosebuddie just is the prettier of the two and so gets much more blog space. 

I Russian grafted the eight stitches of last row of the lace edge to eight stitches that I had picked up from the cast on for the lace edge. Russian grafting is a wee trick I learned ages ago from Lorna, one of the local knitting legends. Russian grafting is much easier than grafting garter lace and pretty much disappears into a garter pattern.  between the two peaks of the lace edge there is a teeny tiny wiggly line from the Russian graft. I've got a video tutorial in the side bar but there are other video tutorial on YouTube to look at as well. 

Once, a long time ago, I was a beginner knitter. I didn't know much, let alone follow all the detailed instructions about how to read a pattern all the way through before beginning and how to finish a project. Blocking was something I discovered at point, blocking sort of settled hand knitting down and made it look more polished, more finished, more professional. Every now and again I tried lace, but really the result didn't grab me, it looked a lot like this. Kind of lumpy, kind of bumpy, and not really pretty like colour work or cables could look. Then I found out about blocking and while I know blocking won't fix a nightmare of a knit it will make a good knit look amazing.  

So Rosebuddie was blocked, that means that I mixed up a sink of warm to hot water with a gentle wool friendly soap and let Rosebuddie soak for a full 10 minutes. I drained the water, replaced it with clean warm water and let Rosebuddie soak again for 10 minutes. Then I spun Rosebuddie out in the washing machine on the spin cycle to remove the excess water. Then the blocking mats came out, I used to block on the floor, direct onto the carpet. I'd vacuum it clean and pin whatever I was blocking out on top of dry towels. Then I discovered foam mats that were sold to cushion camp stretchers and I used those. About a year ago a traveling knitter brought me  KnitPicks blocking mats in her suitcase from the US, and shortly after a few of us discovered that the local hardware stores sold 'play-mat/gym-floors' that were exactly the same but larger, 600mm square not 300mm square. Another local knitting legand, M from Vintage Purls, shared her discovery that stainless steel TIG wires were perfect blocking wires and cheaply available from engineering supplies. Though work I found that boxes of T-pins were available from hairdressing suppliers (I know not why - please don't ask), so I bought a box of 300. The points of the lace edge were threaded onto blocking wires,  the damp  blanket pinned out square and left to dry.

Look, blocking is amazing, the edge is flat, the points are clear and the lace pattern is opened up so it can be seen. 

and Rosebuddie has the most amazing drape, and just looks 1000% better than before it was blocked. 

The other project off the needles is Garn 2, a cotton linen blend washcloth, that uses the remaining 25g of the ball of yarn. When I cast off I had about a meter of yarn left, so frogged back 3 stitches and added a wee double knit loop .... just to make the most of the cotton linen yarn. Looks like one of the ends might have escaped, so a wee trim could be needed.

All in all - not a bad mid-week post.

take care
na Stella

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Are we there yet?

Its Sunday, blog post day, and part of me wants to blog tomorrow. For tomorrow I would be there, there being at the end of the lace edge on Rosebuddie. But I'm not there yet, and in fact as parents we have both banned the question 'Are we there yet'. Any cub who asks 'Are we there yet?'is themselves asked if they would like us to stop and they can get out and walk there. We allow 'how far to' questions within certain limits, after the first question we expect them to notice and make note of the distance on road signs. So no ... I'm not there yet, but I'm very very close. I've also got a new sock on the needles to introduce, and its a long weekend here in New Zealand so with an extra day I felt I had the time to finish  some half made books.
Heading into the last corner of Rosebuddie

So this is where I'm at, less than 10 repeats to work and I'll be done. About now I really should check that the remaining stitch count is neatly divided by the number of stitches I need to complete a whole number of repeats. I checked at the beginning but that was some 600+ stitches ago and sometime little things happen to change the stitch count. Little things like when two stitches cuddle up together and act like one, or two plies separate and make one stitch look like two stitches Best to check now while I still have a few repeats to adjust things in should adjustments be needed.;

First sock of 2012
This is the first sock of of 2012, and I think my 53rd pair of socks since 2006 when I discovered sock knitting. This particular beauty is Teosinte, by Anne Hanson aka Knitspot, and I'm knitting it in a Vintage Purls yarn, Archimedes. The toe on this sock is a provisional cast on toe, and is short rowed to create the shape. I haven't done a toe like that in a long time so it was fun to see the toe shape appear out of the short rows as the wrapped stitches were collected and knit. The lace is lovely, and easy to remember and seems to suit a more stripy yarn like Archimedes. I knit most of this at a Staff-development session Thursday of last week, where the Management gathered up the entire teaching and admin staff into one huge space and greeted us for the new year. The institution in which I work has a tradition of greeting the academic year with a whole day meeting and associated planning sessions. After some 11 years I've worked out that the morning whole institution meeting makes for very good knitting time. 
Four more books
And this sunny yarn arrived durring the week, the first installment of Vintage Purls Summer sock yarn club in light lemon yellow with a shawl pattern - Demelza. There was also fudge - but that is long gone, and look little knitterly sticky notes. This is not a colour I would have ever chosen but it is so bright and yellow that I am wondering why I'd never considered this colour before. Defiantly on my to knit list. 

With the extra day this weekend I was able to spend some time finishing the books I had part made. Here are the last four of the six I have mostly done. One or two of these are earmarked for particular friends, one is for me and one is for the birthday stash. You know the birthday stash?  A small collection of things one has put aside knowing that there are birthdays and similar events going to happen. The birthday stash prevents last minute panic buying of weird gifts. Rosebuddie is headed for the 'so you are having a baby' stash, but I'm going to have to add a non-pink blanket as well as not all babies are girls, and some parents really don't like their wee boys in pink or pinky purple.
Some assembly required

Of course these are not totally finished yet, the book blocks (pages) are assembled, and the covers assembled and covered but the two have not yet been attached to each other. That is the next step, but I've found that letting the books dry out completely after each glue step makes the process neater and easier. I'm also playing with different weights of card for the covers. I have not found book-board available locally, but I've not really looked beyond art supply shops and larger stationery stores.  I do want to try Michael O'Brian in Oamaru,  as I have heard that he does sell some book making materials. Problem is that that most times I've been there, its been after hours or he has been just locking up to to go to lunch. There is a Youtube video explaining more about his work here, where he mentions apprenticeships,  part of me wants to inquire about learning bookbinding from him ... but right now there just isn't the time. 

What I have found out is that thicker card is less likely to curve when glued and dried, but is much more difficult to cut to size, thinner car dries into wave and curl shapes when glued .. unless I press it flat until dry. I can press it flat easily, but do wonder if the curl will return if the book is ever in a high humidity area or subject to some sort of mishap involving liquid. These are made with a ply-card, not the thickest I've used, and not the thinnest. I'm still exploring the materials available here and thought the ply - card, made of layers might be a little like ply wood, stronger and stiffer because of the layers. 
Surprise! - these are for Ngaire

There were two that I made and covered yesterday, with brown paper, and the last of the thicker card that I had on hand. I had a request for 'more' of the brown paper covered journals, so here are two more. One has plain paper and one has a knit grid. What I have found out is that books can be made in hundreds of different ways, and right now I'm liking the quite square spine with the french-groove hinge, and the inner book-block coptic bound so the pages open and lie flat easily.

I think I'll head off and work on the last of the edge, and then see if the book covers are ready to have their inners inserted.

na Stella

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Confirmed (I think)

I think I've confirmed that there is enough yarn to complete the lace edge on Rosebuddie! I know, its all in the details today, what is that saying about small things amuse small minds?

Rosebuddie nearly off the needles and able to be seen flat
Rosebuddie now has over half the lace edge worked! The lovely thing about working the edge sideways on knitting is as the edge is completed the stitches are released from the needle and one gets a feeling for the true size of a project. Not only the size but the look, the way the colours in the handspun yarn are playing out in the knitting, and the proportions of each section of the lace. This is a time when I catch myself repeatedly smoothing out the lace after each few rows and just admiring and looking. I can't be alone in that can I? A sort of mix of pleasure and surprise at how something that has been bunched up on needles looks when relaxed and flat.
The details of the yarn usage are:
  • before the edge started I had 49 grams of yarn remaining, 
  • after the first corner was worked I had 38g of yarn remaining, 
  • after the second corner I had 28 grams of yarn  remaining. 
In theory those numbers confirm that I need 10-11grams of yarn to edge a side, and I will finish with a small amount of yarn left over.
My new 'old' dress

And the dress, back view as the fit across the back lower waist and the swing of the skirt are the features I most like. I'm not sure what Bear did but his photo makes me look slimmer than I feel just now, I like it, wonder how I can do that in real life? I shortened the dress considerably, as the original length, to nearer the ankle than the calf seemed dowdy. This length is a nod to fashion but not quite the short flippy mid thigh skirt length that seems so popular right now but so wrong for someone of 'my age'. I'm also elegantly pale or deathly pale depending on your view on sun-tanned skin, but that is just a fact of living here, working when the sun shines and being the kind of knitter who sunburns failry easily so tends to avoid direct exposure to the sun.

take care
na Stella