Sunday, October 28, 2012


Little cub and I are knitting a shawl together, as a KAL, a knit along, just the two of us, her first lace project, and so i am really knitting each line at the same time she is.

The shawl is Connie, by Vintage Purls, and progress is slow as we both come to terms with the lace pattern. I'm imagining after a few repeats we will both being much much quicker and there will be more to show. Fr now we are just over one repeat. Little cubs is pink, mine purple, and here is we're our Gage's differ, I must be more uptight in forming my stitches and she much more relaxed. I know the lace is not as well defined in hers .... But I'm reluctant to say anything yet, I want to see how the next repeat works out for her.

There is also a new spinning project, and new fibre, this lovely braid of Romney was the first installment In the inaugeral Vintage Purls fibre club, together with yummy eats, and hand care goodies. 100grams of luxury shiney fibre in deep jewel colors, named Night Songs, and as yet I have no idea what to do with it. One local spinner spun hers and had it knitted up within days, into Milo, and it looks amazing. For now it is mine to admire, and dream about.

This week is one of the busy ones, our graduating students present their final collections over the next few days, which means lots and lots of presentations. I suspect I will need lots of relaxing knitting to come home to.

Take care

Na Stella

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I've been knitting, more washcloths, and a little on my tempest inspired cardigan, but this post is all about my youngest cubs knitting.

Look, little cub knit this mostly on her own. I'll admit I helped pick up stitches for the body, and the ears, and I grafted one ear closed. Everything else was her work. I'm so proud, for lots of reasons, mostly because she choose the pattern, choose the yarn, and kept working until she was finished. I'm impressed that my ten year old could handle instructions for working on dpns, and even made a leap to translate those to knitting on one circular. That she knit in the round, easily and without fuss, ssk'd, and k2tog'd, worked lifted right and left leaning increases, and followed a pattern. That last bit, following a pattern is amazing in itself given that I often deviate away from instructions. And last week, while watching that documentary about tigers with elephant trunk 'cams', she realized real elephants had tails so added one, mock i-cord with a tuft. Her elephant is called Oddy, and has one purple ear (she grafted that one closed herself!), which is the reason for the name, it's a bit odd, and another way she made it her own. The pattern is Elijah by Ysolda, available here. I've. It knit it, but feel actively involved enough to recommend it, no seams, all in the round and with clever shaping details that make positioning the legs, arms, ears and eyes really easy.

Meanwhile I have been knitting mores washcloths, fuller details to follow in another post, but first shown here is number five, Dewdrops washcloth, one of four in Clothquartet by Tricksyknitter, you can find the pattern free here. I think I have one more ball of cotton, so there will be another two more at least, not sure what pattern those will be ... but the plan is to have each one different, and report back at the end.

So with the elephant done little cub and I have started a shawl KAL ... hers is pink, mine pale purple. Her first lace! No pressure, and as J says, it's knitting, not like its a competition or anything.

Take care, na Stella

Saturday, October 20, 2012

3 hours later

And I have a mini-diy-spring loaded book press, ideal for working on the binding edge of book-blocks. I do need to make small adjustments tomorrow, such as providing a little more play in the holes in the top platen, and a wee bit of sanding. I'm not even sure I need to decorate it with liberty wall paper, the plywood cleaned up nicely.

Thanks Bear we don't have a powered saw so there was much hand sawing with a fine toothed saw.

Na Stella


Today's post is about frustration, I've been making more books, and getting interested in how to make my binding process a little more polished. I love the way coptic binding lets a book open flat, but not so much the way that the spine moves of its own accord when the hard-cover is glued on. That often results in this sort of messy spine. See how the pages Inside the spine are all over the place instead of nicely lined up? I've been playing with journals bound with softer covers, and spines, more moleskein like than a hard bound book, semi soft maybe? The blue one is a bit of a dud, but I'm learning and making each one taught me something on how to make my bound books better. The paper is a lovely Japanese wrapping paper I picked up in Napier, I have one sheet left.

As part of wanting to do-better I turned to the wide world of online content and found some nice tutorials online that involved preparing a book block for casing in. Did you notice, I'm picking up all sorts of new terms, the innards of a book, the pages all stitched together are called a book block. Casing in is the action of inserting the book block into the case, which is another name for a cover. Then there are other terms, like mull, which is a gauze fabric glued over the sewn edge of the bookblock to stabilize and strengthen the spine. Some people use paper, or gauze, or even special Japanese tissue. I decided that this was worth investigation if there was a potential of making a tidier book. I also needed to investigate just how less flexible book made this way would be compared to a Coptic bound book.

Finishing the spine with mull or mull like stuff requires clamping the book block with the spine exposed. I could do this with stiff cardboard and clamps, but saw a neat idea on you tube, I've linked to it here. Why do things the simple way when one can build a jig seems to be our family motto.

Then I saw another neat idea on you tube, for a combination sewing frame and book press. It wasn't the combination frame and press I thought was neat, but the springs to hold the boards apart. I decided to combine the two ideas, seemed like a sensible thing to do.

So Bear and I went shopping, eventually after visiting two big box hardware stores, one engineering place and a closed wood work specialist we found all we were looking for in the sizes we needed. Most places stocked a weird variety of coach bolts, in metric sizes and wing nuts in American non-metric sizes. It matters, it really does, you cant see the difference by looking but if I was to screw a non metric threaded wing nut onto a metric threaded coach bolt ... there would be a promising start and a sudden tightening and locking of everything as the slightly different threads jammed and stuck.

We ended up with this, two bamboo laminated chopping boards, four coach bolts of 8mm diameter, (3 shown), four springs, a set of bumpers, and five wing nuts. Five because I knew if I bought four I would drop one, be unable to find it and end up back buying another one. And washers, the largest we could find to fit the coach bolts, to distribute the pressure as much as possible.

Bear and I marked drill hole positions, using measurements rather than the laminated pattern of the chopping boards. we discovered the boards are not square or symmetrical .... which really annoyed engineer Bear. We fired up the big red drill press, and drilled holes, just like in the tutorial but four not two. I like my big red drill press, it runs smooth and quiet, and was a gift from my dad. I think all middle aged daughters deserve their own drill press don't you? The project looked good, then holes were neat, we stuck on the bumpers, and set about assembling my DIY bookpress.
Right up until the moment of failure it looked like this, very promising, so we inserted a large old dictionary and set about tightening the coach bolts up so the 'coach' part of the head would seat into the wood and fix permanently in place. We tightened, and tightened .....
And the heard a loud crack, the board had cracked. Now if I had followed the instructions this probably wouldn't have happened, but I had to 'Improve' on the instructions, and introduce more stress with four coach bolts than two coach bolts would create. So I headed out to the better of the two big box stores to look for plywood. Plywood is stronger than laminated chopping boards, or so we thought. They had a cut-shop where I was able to have my 600mm x 900mm 17mm thick ply cut to size, but the sign said no cuts under 300mm. So I opted for just over 400mm squarish. I figured a book press made from two sheets of 600mm by 900mm ply was a tad larger than convienient.

This time Bear and I are thinking we might not set the coach bolts so near the corners, but maybe set in a third of the distance from the ends, we can reuse the hardwear, the drill press is set up. The ply is not as nicely finished on both sides as the chopping boards, but I am thinking I might finish the top with a piece of thick wallpaper ....and I have to buy another set of bumpers.

Today my plan was to take the bookblock I had prepared earlier and explore mulling the spine ...but it is 3:30 and this is as far as I have got. Two sheets of ply and hardware to make a diy book-press. seems just like where we were this morning, Maybe tomorrow i can explore mull, maybe not.

I am knitting, my Tempest cardigan grows slowly as only a cardigan knit on 3mm needles can, and I'm still working my way through washcloth textures. Here is variation four so far, seed stitch edges and a kind of modified garter rib centre. I need to look for a few more textures to knit, details next post.

Take care, oh and I haven't dropped a wing nut, I still have all five.

Na Stella

Saturday, October 13, 2012

New yarn, new project

Short post today, two new yarns, as a result of recent spinning, and new projects.

First up yarn, just finished, two batches - both spun woolen. I've not even had a chance to calculate the yardage yet. The finer of the two is a heavy fingering two ply, a mix of merino, alpaca, and silk, the thicker a straight merino, which transitions from deep purple green to pale 'out side green'.

Then the new project, a wash cloth, or rather the first of a set. We drove up to my dads in Waimat yesdterday to collect elder cub, and then back bome. Bear has a Billy Bragg concert to attnd tonight so didnt want to risk arriving back to late today. None of my knitting was travel knitting, so i thought washcloth time. I have several balls of this cotton yarn, Rowan Purelife DK naturally dyed, 100 % organic cotton. Scored on the swap table at Unwind earlier this year. We use washcloths in the kitchen and bathroom, and the kitchen ones eventually pick up a grubby tint, most likely from wiping up coffee grounds, and spills. My plan is to knit a new set, already stained with the colour of coffee, what do you think?

The first cloth is all done, a lovely new pattern, a blend of the classic start at one corner diagonal dish cloth, and Chinese waves. The best thing about this pattern is the increases automatically shift the Chinese wave pattern over a stitch, so I never have to remember if I am on row 2 or row 4! I found the idea here, as Nai Nais favorite washcloth. The only change I made was to add two extra stitches and work with a slipped stitched edge.

With lots more balls of cotton to use up, and the current batch of wash cloths looking tired, I've already startd another one. This time double bump wash cloth, by Missy Angus. S far so good. I've always admired the photos which show a stack of washcloths, all coordinated by clour, with different textures. I'm knitting these on my signature straight needles, which every time I use make me sigh with delight. So smooth, so polished, so well balanced, so pretty, and so pointy. If only they came in sock sized circulars.

Well, best go, dinner to sort and Bear to send on his way, work and school for all this week. Bear and the cubs have had a week off, so there will be back to school, and back to work things to sort like bags and books and rain coats, and sun hats.

Take care, na Stella

Tuesday, October 09, 2012


Look! A hole in my owls!

Right at the back of my right armscye, where the underarm graft meets the back, how sad. And yet in another way shows just how much wear this cardigan has had. Still I have a tiny amount of yarn left, and I will try and mend this. The original yarn was a felted yarn, plied but not strong. Already I have repaired the cuffs by knitting them. Owls was knit in January February 2009, so has three years of hard wear. And I have worn and worn this cardigan.

I will try and record the mending process ..

Na stella

Saturday, October 06, 2012


Just a quick post today, I have to return to work tomorrow, at which point I will find out what the timetable looks like for nest year. I left with concerns about the delivery of the courses I teach, in particular the 'theory' course which had been relegated to a finish time an hour latter than the other courses. I was 'strong' during the week I was on leave and didn't check my email, if you hear a frustrated cry from this side of the globe tomorrow - it might be me in response to the proposed timetable.

Contiguous tempest
Meanwhile I have been knitting, spinning, and sewing, first the knitting. I restarted my top down contiguous cardigan. So far so good, I am well into the sleeve head and so far the shape of the shoulder and sleeve looks promising. I have tried the yoke on, but the addi circular needle i am using has a twisty cable and there is not enough weight in the yoke yet to make the cable behave. When blocked this yarn blooms amazingly, the effect of the possum, so I am expecting the shoulder 'seam' to I prove when blocked.

Spinning on the Pipy has gone well, and one thing I really like about spinning woolen and being home on leave is the speed at which fibre can be spun. I am near the second bobbin of 220 grams of fibre. Friday Judith Mckenzies plying DVD arrived, courtesy of the recent interweave sale. I thoroughly enjoyed watching, as i spun, she has a lovely clear manner, nice voice and explains and shows why she does what she does. If I had watched the DVD before spinning this I might have planned a three ply, but as I am planning a lace shawl this two ply is probably best.

The other thing I have played with this week is tambour chain stitch. I decided that it was best to stop stitching random patterns. The issue with random unplanned stitching is that it requires no precision in forming stitches, so I want searching for a pattern to chain stitch, well first I went searching for thread. I'm using heavy polyester thread made for quilting, as that is the kind that local shops have in stock. Having found thick thread, i went looking for a pattern to stich for practice, In one of my William Morris books, (William Morris by himself, designs and writings edited by Gillian Naylor - an amazing treasure of images and ideas), I selected 'design for bayleaf', and slightly simplified the lines to suit the chain stitch. Once I have the outlines worked, the next stage is to add shading with a slightly lighter colour green, and I have a dirty yellow that I hope to use as well. All the tambour hooks I ordered arrived, and yes the ones from are much much nicer finished and balanced than the offerings. Review and update to tambour info page shortly. For now my practice is on white cotton lawn, I prepared the pattern the old fashioned way by pricking the design onto paper, rubbing powdered charcoal to transfer the pattern to the fabric, then I finished by outlining the charcoal dots with water colour paint. Time consuming but no more so than using tracing paper, or a pencil and light box, plus really really effective, and fairly easy. I used a sticky roller to remove what charcoal remained after a good shake outdoors, once the watercolor lines were dry.

Next stage in my tambour learning, once the leaves are complete is to move to working with organza and sequins and beads! What fun .... I even have sequins coming from and a wonderful book to guide and inspire.

Take care,

Na Stella

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Finished object, and returning to things left unfinished.

What happened to the past week, forgive me, it has been a week and a half since I last blogged. Things were busy, I suspected I was getting a cold, still do, the preliminary symptoms have come to nothing. Last week was the last week of term so there were things to do. I had a constant stream of students making enquiries about when they would get their marks back. My standard reply was that mine were done (true)' and that I was waiting for the rest of the teaching team to finish (true), and that organizing other adults was at time like herding cats ( all to sadly true). They took it well, the students, and on Friday I handed back what's could, including the three as yet unmarked, with what marks I had and a note that they had passed, one mark was still to come, the so the total would go up.

Then Bear came home, from two weeks in Christchurch helping with the 'rebuild', and the cubs started their term break, with birthday part invites, so the past few days has been a whirlwind of finding appropriate presents, within budget, and ferrying cubs to and from. In amidst all of that I knitted some, not a lot but I finished a sock, and spun, and distracted myself and little cub with sewing a new dress. Today I am indulging in finishing two books for bear, ones I printed out way back in march 2012. Feels nice to have them finally being works on.

Alien pirate socks
Little cubs pirate socks are done, not blocked in water, but blocked on feet, immediately. Being pale green, and with the eyes the skulls have a slightly more alien feel than a pirate feel, I imagine in blood red, white or black these would be spectacular.

Close up of alien eyelet
My change, was to knit the heel flap in eye-of-partridge, and to bind off with Julie's magic stretchy bind off. Oh and to add eyelet eyes to the skulls on thleg section. I knit the medium size, to fit a 9" foot, and have 18 grams of yarn left over. Not bad considering with all the twisted traveling stitches this is a dense sock. I am having thoughts about how I could make use of the skull motif with the eyelet eyes in a more floating alien way on another pair. The pattern is Pirate Danger by Jeannie Cartmel, a well written pattern as far as I could tell. I don't always follow instructions ... so can't be totally sure.

New green dress
Here is the little cubs newest sewing effort, the green floral hidden behind the sparkly silver number. If it were not for the sparkly silver, black jeans, purple shorts and leggings covered with hearts also in her wardrobe I would wonder about the image she presented to the world. Taken on just her preference in dress fabrics, cuts and lengths, she seems to lean towards the uber conservative small town girl. Still that is better the if she were to lean the other way.

Today I am sewing, books this time, guitar chord books for bear. These are two blanks I printed off for the bookbinding class I taught at unwind earlier this year. No one wanted to bind guitar chord books, the class preferred grid, knitters graph, lines, dot grid and plain pages. No worries I knew Bear would want these, and today seems a good day to complete both. Once the stitching is complete, the blanks get a good press to set the stitches, and then I will cut, cover and assemble the covers. I

Book binding, guitar chord books
And finally spinning, I am on leave this week, taken as the cubs are on rearm break. Bear is on leave next week, to cover the other week of the term break. Because I would be at home, and able to spin a lot, I decided to spin on my Philip Poore Pipy wheel. This came after a conversation with Bear where we were discussing how 'full' the house is, how much 'stuff' we both have. I suggested that a traveling wheel in bag plus three other wheels in the back room, and the big Grace wheel in the living space was part of the clutter and I should maybe sell one or more. Bear was horrified, and said no, I should use them. So this week I am using the Pipy, and I am loving it. For some reason I thought woolen spinning was best on a scotch tensioned wheel, but the double drive Pipy is a dream to spin woolen on.

Phillip Poore Pipy
Perhaps once the tension is set to a beautiful delicate pull in, any wheel works well for most spinning? The blend is a carded batt, or batts from Do Arnot, in Oamaru. In the past I have spun Do's batts worsted, short draw and found them not as smooth as the combed top that others sell. This time around spinning fine supported long draw woollen I am really enjoying the carded batts, the fibre flows easily and the prep is fantastic for woolen. What was difficult for worsted is perfect for wollen. The blend is 'Lichen', and a mix of merino, alpaca, and silk with the proportions not identified. The colors are amazing, fawn, gold, green, brown, purple, silver .... all in a combination that works and has life without drama.

Time to go and finish the stitching on the books, and see how little cub is doing with making butterscotch cookies (all on her own - I like this side of growing up).

Cheers, na Stella