Saturday, May 26, 2012

You get what you pay for ... mostly

This past week I relearned that I get what I pay for, and sometimes paying for convenience back fires, and I end up taking the long road to do something properly. This seems to be a lesson that I have to relearn every so often, in  a wide range of situations. This post is mostly about me relearning that not all beads are nice to use, that even when I say I will set a project aside and deal with those with more urgent deadlines sometimes I don't, and that cats still want to sit just on paper - especially if you are reading something from it.

This time I relearned about bead quality. Next weekend I am teaching at Handmade, two classes, a beginners learn to knit class, and a more advanced class for those who can already knit introducing the use of beads in knitting. I've worked my samples, showing three ways to add beads, and had a project all planned - with hand outs and instructions - but I didn't have a lovely new unused project to show and tell how great beads can look. So I dug out my bead collection and set about knitting a beaded wrister, but none of the beads I had at hand were the right size. I wanted to use fingering alpaca, in soft black and grey but all the beads I had at home were too small - no problem I thought, there is a bead shop in town, I'll just head there and buy some that are the right size. So I did, the choice wasn't great, and the beads were not strung. That alone should have alerted me that the beads were not the best. This was what I found, size 6, orange glass and pink lined glass. In the shop they looked fine, back at home they looked awful, each was a different size and shape, and many were misshapen. That was last weekend,

This weekend I headed up to Oamaru, Enterprise Beads and bought some lovely even and perfectly matched beads, in size 8. Size 8 is a better size for sock yarn and wristers to my eyes. Compared to the first purchase these were not only nicer, there was much more choice - they were strung. Beads being strung on a thread is a simple thing but one that proves that each has a working hole, something not all beads can boast. And even better the beads were cheaper ... much much cheaper.  I bought white because for teaching I wanted drama, clear definition and a nice strong effect against the black alpaca yarn.
The only problem with making decisions in a well stocked bead shop is that it is easy to decide to buy other things. So three strings of these lovely black- grey and silver mix beads came home, as well as these lovely mixed pastel ones. I told myself that I didn't want to be caught out again without size 6 beads in the house.
The other bit of prep for the class was to locate some vintage fine crochet hooks, English size 4, and smaller. I had two already and some that were size 3. I found the size three a little big to pull yarn through the size 8 beads and began to worry that my students may not have all found hooks to bring. The local 'designer' opp-shop has a fantastic store where they clean, and sort and display all the best of what they have, and when I asked the staff pointed me towards a wee set of drawers holding dozens of crochet hooks. I found seven in the sizes I wanted, 4 size fours, one size 5, one 5.5 and one 6. Two even came with little metal caps to keep the hooks safe. One is a little bent at the non-working end, the rest had very light touches of rust - but a light rub with fine 0000 steel wool cleaned them up beautifully. Each is now smooth and ready to go - and at the grand sum of $1 each I am happy.
And while I was dithering around trying to work with beads that were not right, I kept knitting on the Clarie cardigan. I've finished the short rows that shape the neckline and for now the knitting is straight back and forward with raglan increases. This might be a useful cardigan, soft grey, and with a touch of crochet lace around the neck line but it is otherwise plain as plain can be - there is nothing but stocking stitch until I get to the cuffs and hem - and those are a long way from the neck. I'm working on 2.75mm needles, so this might take a while.

As a smaller child little cub was terrified of animals, dogs that bounce still make her stiffen and clutch the hand of a nearby adult. We can't explain why she reacts like this, and nor can she, as far as we know no animal has ever even hinted it might like to have a taste. And she has been around a lot of cats and dogs and other animals in safe ways - her fear seems to be deep and primal rather than learned - and we are working with it. That being said over the past four years she has become more and more accepting of our cat, and the cats of others. To the point she will now let a cat sit on her, or beside her, and she will pick up a kitten if it is small. This is great, because she used to edge out of the room nervously complaining the cat, any cat, was trying to 'get-her'. Yesterday was another first in her accepting animals, Yo-yo sat on her music as little cub practiced ukelele. I loved explaining that sitting on paper, especially paper that you were reading or using was an age old cat trick. Little cub accepted that and went on to improvising a tune of her own rather than reading the music.

This week is a tad frantic, Bear is away Monday and I'm away Friday to Sunday, but now I have beads and hooks - well I'm all set.
Take care
na Stella

Saturday, May 19, 2012

New but not what I should be doing ...

Over the last few days I've been working on a new project, I shouldn't be, there are several things that need to be sorted by the end of May. I've got a set of teaching notes to update, and a new teaching project to turn into samples and instructions that can be understood by others. You know, ones own scribbles and cryptic notes are enough for oneself - but rarely understood by other people. Have I been doing those things, no, and I have been making what seem like valid excuses Before I could make headway on one project - I needed to make a trip to the bead shop, and the stash. I've now done both and really should be starting that one tonight. For another project I need to find the file I used in the last class, and I've just done that now. But in the meanwhile I decided that the best thing to do with deadlines and things that needed to be done ... was to set up a new knitting project.

 There is method in my madness, the new project is a simple cardigan, mostly stocking stitch which will provide me the mindless knitting that is needed along side more challenging projects. You may disagree, and you are probably but I find most knitters, most crafters are the most excited and productive with several new projects on the go at once. So far I've cast on and worked the first 6 rows. The swatch was knit weeks ago, and blocked, I've done the maths, and made plans for a top down raglan, with a wide shallow neckline. The cast on row has been set up with stitch markers for the increase points and so it begins.
The swatch was finished a few days ago after languishing in the workbasket for weeks. I picked up and added a stocking stitch neck bank, and grafted it down. I liked the effect, and think that I will use this for not only the neck but the front bands and the hem. Maybe deeper for the hem. The cardigan is based on the now out of print Claire cardigan, but converted to be top down, in the round, and at a gauge that suits sock yarn. Basically I'm using the photo to create something similar. I was playing with having the crochet lace as a lace band .. but the idea didn't pan out as nicely as I thought it might, so I will revert to using the crochet over the top of the raglan cardigan. That way the lace will disguise the evidence of short rows that lower the front neck. Even when worked invisibly, using all the tricks I know to rearrange the wraps and conceal the short row turn ... there is often still a visible hint of 'something' in stocking stitch.
The other change I'm making is to insert a row of garter stitch boardered eyelets just above where the crochet lace will attach. I used eyelets to differentiate between two area of my swatch knit with different sized needles and I liked it, like it a lot. The top edge of the crochet is a little like the eyelets and I think this is will provide a nice transition between the neckband and the crochet. Besides I'm fighting the urge to make this fancy and add all sorts of little pattern-ey things. Two things stop me, I want a simple grey cardigan, that is elegant and will work with a lot of my wardrobe, and I want a simple knit, a mindless knit. Tonight I will make a start on the short rows ... and plan the graph for my beaded wristers for my Handmade class. I've been collecting lots of ideas, and have pages and pages of notes ... but this week is the time to turn those notes into material that is useful to others.

Take care
and have a quiet week, I hope to, it is the last week of formal classes for most of my students, so at work there is a quiet uprising of the kind of student stress that is contagious. Luckily I work with a great bunch of people who are very good at remaining calm in the face of stressed students. I hope to do the same.

Na Stella

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Banjo-Helen - the blanket is done

and there is a new wip (work in progress) to report. Last weekend was the Annual Knitters study group camp, and as usual I didn't take a camera - but others did so you can catch up on a little detail here at Shoebox Sally's blog. I'm in the first photo, way down the end of the table - next to Pam, and Lorna our local knit guru is the one standing at the far left right next to Pam. All in all there were fifteen of us and we knit lace, narrow lace trimings. Some of us with more forethought than others, mine has been rethought.

 But first things first, the Banjo-Helen baby blanket is done, blocked out to 42" from side to side and relaxed to 39". I have come to expect that - some relaxation over the few days after the blocking is released, as the knitting finds its own shape and size. Here the blanket is in the last of today's daylight, at around 5pm ... it was either that or lug it to work and photograph it during the daylight hours. Given that we had snow on the hills forcast for today, which translated into sleet and rain on the lower parts of town and work - that seemed a tad extreme. Yo-yo as usual turned up to supervise. I'm rather pleased with this, its a large soft, squishy blanket with an interesting centre and a nice chunky lace edge. Details, handspun blanket knit on 5mm needles, edge on 4mm,  a modified version of KnitSpots Rosebuddie, knit without any roses between the corners, and omitting the lace band before the edging. I suspect I could knit this again and again -  the corner increases are rather lovely. I've knit this before, in pink handspun, and I suspect I'll knit this again before too long, just one of those patterns that is worth returning to.
 So Knit Camp, the project was lace edges, in linen or cotton, as used on fabric. There were several variations available to chose from, and this wee one with the leaves caught my fancy. We were presented with two options, to knit the lace, then to attach it to a circle of linen, or to finish the edge of the linen and then knit the lace onto the finished edge. Me being me, I decided to knit my lace onto the edge as I worked the lace. I was using 2mm needles, and liked it well enough, but now I'm home I think the lace is a tad open and I'd like to knit it on smaller needles, so I've switched to 1.75mm to see what effect that has. The last leaf is knit on the smaller needles - and I think I prefer that gauge. Its firmer,  less floppy and the pattern cleaner, sharper.
Here is a close up of the edge, first I thread marked my circle on the linen, then I marked a second line 4mm inside the circle - also with thread. I then worked blanket stitch over the two guide threads. Once I'd completely worked around the circle, I took my small sharp scissors and trimmed away the fabric outside the blanket stitch. I then used a teeny tiny crochet hook to single crochet around the blanket stitch. This crochet chain provides the loop that I pick up and knit(purl actually) together with the last stitch on the lace edging. My linen choice was limited to pink or green, what I had at hand, whilst the local shops had only white and shades of cream linen .... ideally I'd be working the edge in a yarn that was the same tone or shade as the fabric.

and no, I am not usually a lace doily kind of person, but I have got a linen lace basket liner that I use for serving baking. Knit from the same green yarn - these two projects together will make a nice set of cloths for the table. Imagine this under a plate of warm scones, or muffins.

Yum ... and I'd best go, its now nearly 7pm and I'm sure I could be useful in the kitchen as dinner is readied.

na Stella

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

There is almost always a bit that needs a little tidy up

I've realized that, over time, that there is invariably something that needs a little polish, a little tidy, a little tweak or something before it can be called finished and done. I've come to expect that with my projects, as I near the end I start looking more carefully at the whole, at how might appear to someone who hasn't been part of its making since the beginning. This post is all about those kinds of end of project expectations, how I now see something that I can improve, that I think I can make the change easily, and and the usual expectations around finishing and blocking.

Banjo-Helens baby blanket is no exception, there very first corner of the lace needs replacing. At the time I started the edge I decided to start just before the corner, and somehow that would be better when I finished. Now I realize that the corners work better if I have short rowed them so there are double the rows and the edge can stretch around the corner easily. Bother, but fixable. I will cut the yarn just after the corner, and frog across, then I should be able to unravel back to the start of the lace edge. Should is the term, I'll report back next post and let you know if what should have been possible was.
And this is the blanket in its near final finished form. I'm expecting it to grow by about one third when it is blocked, making this a cot sized blanket. A cot sized but that also be used as a play rug, or a car snuggle or folded into a thick pad to provide a warm barrier against the chilly winter winds in Central Otago. Most of the time those winds come straight off the snow of the mountains, or the glacial lakes - either way its  a cold wind most winter days. I'm also expecting this to be done tonight .... all going well and no dramas.

I'll  see.
Take care.
na Stella

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Cleraing the decks

Today's post is all about clearing the decks, a sort of work basket tidy up. There are a few items that have been in the work basket for quite a while now, gloves and socks and a beret, gloves, not to mention the fish blanket. The beret and fish blanket seemed to be permanent residents of the work basket, and perhaps I need to mention that when I say work-basket, both of those projects no longer seem to be in possession of a work-permit. The easiest projects to deal with are always the most recently cast on, the enthusiasm for those is higher, especially if they are simple projects with few modifications and so are straightforward to work.

 Bears Ass-kicking hat is done, cast off in a flurry of haste on Wednesday night. I was seriously worried that I wouldn't have enough yarn to complete this. So worried that I had searched online for more, only to find that it was now only available in a thicker yarn. I posted on Ravelry to see if any one local had more .. and then in the words of Brenda Dayne knit like the wind. I know that yarn lasts as long as it lasts, and no change in speed, or duration, or location make any difference to the number of stitches and rounds that can be knit with a fixed amount of yarn on set needles, in a set pattern. Knowing that doesn't stop the agitated and slightly mad rush to finish that always occurs when there might not be enough yarn. Blocking occurred yesterday, over a cleaned (especially) ceramic pot plant pot, stuffed with plastic shopping bags tangled into a ball to hold the shape. We seem to be enjoying more sunny days that could be expected for this transitional time of late Autumn, and it was nice to have another sunny day to dry the hat. Some how I always think that when something is dried in the sun it retains a special kind of warm feeling, that the suns rays leave more warmth than if dried in a more artificial way. Silly - but there is something special about snuggling something that has dried outside in the sun.

The hat suits Bear, blocking relaxed it slightly, so it is a little looser than before, and longer, which provides a tiny turn up. Bear is old school in many things, so beanie hats have turn ups, they are not slouchy, even if other guys wear then a little slouchy. Still this hat provides Bear with options, even if he doesn't take advantage of them.
There was enough yarn, just, I finished with 6 grams remaining, which is not much. As directed by the pattern I wove the ends in very neatly. The inside is different to the outside, the chevron pattern slightly denser, and the ribs skinnier. The suggestion is that with the ends finished neatly the hat can be reversible - and I think I even prefer it this side out.
The other 'need' to finish soon project is Banjo-Helens baby blanket. Babies don't wait for knitters to finish before being born, and babies due in winter should have winter weight warm blankets - so there is a need, a clear need and I'm keen to finish.  I'm nearly half way around the edge with the lace bind off. I've switched to 4mm needles for the lace edge, after working the blanket on 5mm needles. One edge seems to take an evening, so there is two evenings knitting to go, at least. I've made a  modification in that I'm working short rows in the lace around the corners for two full repeats of the lace boarder ... just where it meets the lace corner increases. I've only worked the first corner so far, and am about to work the second but so far it looks fine. That only leaves a few projects in the wip-basket, a pair of wristers for a learn to knit class I'm teaching at Hand Made in June, the Beret which needs some decisions made, the fish blanket which is a slow-cook project so no hurry there,  a pair of socks which will be my relaxing knit at knit camp this weekend. And the Sanquhar gloves,  which may take a while.

Right now I seem to need a little control, to feel like I own my knitting rather than it owning me, and the easiest way I know to regain control is to finish wips.
ok - best go, the bread has done its second rise, and needs to be shaped ready for the oven, the elder cub wants transport, and the little cub has asked for some bike- time. Weekends are nice, I like having time to do these kinds of things.

take care