Sunday, December 30, 2012


I've been distracted away from blogging of late, the garden grows green and at a time when we are here to do things in it, deadhead roses, raise seeds, tidy away last years dry growth. There has also been all sorts of end of year holiday things to do, visit my dad, deposit the elder cub with one of his best friends for a camping holiday (without us), bake Christmas treats (fruit mince tarts, fruit cake) ... and all sorts of salads, which are meant to be easy but often involve lots of prep and at times precooking and cooling. Then being away which involves lots of packing and unpacking.

Still there has been knitting, and some spinning, we headed out to Waimate Boxing Day, and did our annual rodeo attendance the day after. Lots of fun. My away-knitting was the Handspun sock. I decided to undo what I had knit, the gauge wasn't right for a redux of bubbles so I did a quick cruise online and founds simple eyelet pattern that looked easy and that would suit the Handspun. I'm knitting these on 2.75mm needles, not my usual sock needle of 2.25mm, and in this yarn I like the result. I also like the speed at which these are knitting up. I started on the 26th December, and mid way through the 27th I was already knitting the heel. Because I was working without a pattern I worked the heel from memory, turns out my memory isn't so good at things like toe up gusset and flap heels, so I frogged and reworked the heel. The second time wasn't a success either but in working it I did resolve the issues ... And the third heel worked out just dandy. That was the surprise, that I knew enough that i could work a heel without blindly following instructions!

By the time I reworked the heel the third time I had a really clear understanding of the structure and relationship between the sections, the heel cup, the gusset, the heel flap, and the sock circumference. That meant I felt confident to add in a slipped stitched heel cup. You might just be able to see it in the close up photo. It's not long, but just wraps the slip stitch around the turn of the heel by a centimeter or so. I made good but cryptic notes and now I'm well past the heel of sock number two. These are slightly smaller than my usual sock, littlest cub is my fit model, she has the 'right sized feet' to match the person these are for.

Because I have been finding progress so fast one these socks, and that in turn drives me to knit them even more the contiguous tempest inspired cardigan seems to be in a lull. I'm around the elbow of sleeve number one. This also was frogged. When the sleeve was about the length it is now I tried it on and discovered the sleeve was firm. After a wee time spent pouting I frogged back to where the deceases started and worked the sleeve again. This time I am decreasing every seventh round, not every forth. Small change but enough to produce a looser fit.

And lastly I've been a investing in even more colored pencils, this was a set I discovered at CultPens, and had to investigate hands on. The Kooh-I-Nor polycolor art set, 24 leads, the inner bit of a pencil, together with three Kooh-I-Nor lead holders, and assorted other bits. Lead holders are sort of like a jumbo mechanical pencil, except instead of the pencil lead being 0.5mm in a lead holder the pencil lead is 2mm, 3.8mm, or even 5.6mm. Instead of sharpening the pencil and so loosing pencil length, the lead itself is sharpened and the leadholder stays a constant length. Some of us like the way a leadholder is weighty compared to a wood-cased pencil, and how it stays a constant weight and length right down to the last centimeter of lead. I've read reviews that some people find switching out the leads 'tiresome', but since my current aim is to master blending within a tonal range of three to five shades, I expect that even if I have to invest in two more 3.8mm lead holders ( my current collection are all 2mm lead holders), I won't find switching too troublesome. There are only 24 colors available in the 3.8mm leads, although the wood cased range from Kooh-I-nor has 72 colors, but as these are super blendable on good art paper - I shouldn't feel to limited, and in theory I should become expert at colour blending. If not lots of people mix and match between leadholder and woodcased, even between brands and types. Best news is refills are really affordable when compared to artist-grade-blending pencils, and come in packs of six, so I can top up the set as I need to. I like these a lot, so much so I plan to invest in a simillar set for each cub, the Kooh-I-Nor woodless color pencil set in 24, cult pens don't stock these, but DickBlick does, for a super reasonable $13 or so. Woodless means the pencils are solid lead, but in the thickness of a wood cased pencil, and the reviews both at DickBlick and elsewhere online are that the 24 set is fantastic quality, and a brilliant price, and because they are solid usable lead not wood, each pencil lasts for yonks even with heavy use.

When I was in high school, back in the 1980's, we had school certificate (SC) and universally entrance (UE) exams, now replaced in New zealand by NCEA achievement records. Anyway, back when I was preparing my art portfolio I remember one of the panels was a serries in study of hands knitting, just the fingers, and clearly defined stitches with twists plied yarn making up the loops, drawings, acrylics and maybe a print or two. I do recall that my proportion was all wrong, but that I loved the detail of drawing the knitted structure, I have no idea what happened to my portfolio, and little memory of what else was on it, funny what one remembers, and how little things connect, from then to now.

I don't 'do' New Years resolutions, but I do sort out things I'd like to see happen, next year I want to knit, of course, and spin, but also draw more and improve at drawing, and I have a plan to work towards that should help. We both want the garden to start looking like something people actually care a out and take care of in a timely and knowing manner. But my most exciting plan for 2013 is that it be the year of brown ink. Bear gifted me three more brown inks, Pilot Tsukushi (horsetail brown), J Herbin Café des îles (coffee), and J Herbin Lie de Thé (tea). These join my existing collection of brown inks, two Diamine (saddle brown &chocolate brown), and two Noodlers (Walnut, and Galileo manuscript brown). Together with orange for annotations I plan to run the year on brown inks as much as possible. With maybe excursions into plum, and deep violet on occasion. There are of course many more colours than just brown inks in the house ...but I will try and be strong, after all if Gertrude Jekyll decided as an experiment to try an 'all white flower' garden, which then inspired gardeners all over the world for near on a hundred years, why can't I do brown ink?

So, tomorrow is 2013, do you have something lined up for next year or will it be more of the same? Take care, all the best,

na Stella

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

For years and years all my son wanted for Christmas was ...

A transformer, this year his wish came true. Although a little latter in the day and a little larger than his toy box allowed.

We've had an amazing Christmas Day, a quiet start with suitable surprises under the tree. Little cub squealed, elder cub smiled, grandad said he needed a new one as the old one was worn out. Bear and i exchanged books, inks and favorite sweets, which the cubs devoured. We shared the day with my dad who drove down from Waimate to stay - something that really excited the cubs. Mid afternoon we headed out to visit Bears brother and SIL, then returned home to sort a special family meal. Bear and I prepped the veggies, and looked forward to cooking the nicest fillet of beef we have ever splurged on.... As the new potatoes (jersey bennies - a local delicacy) and mint came to the boil the power went off. There was a big click followed by nothing.

Off in semi-permanent way, but at first we didn't know that. Do be safe we turned off the stove, and the grill, and waited. Outside the neighbors started to gather outside to discuss the lack of power. We went out and joined them. The power went off at 6:30ish, and was back on by 10pm, after a rather investing and complex series of maneuvers by men in trucks, day glow vests, safety harnesses, and even a transformer truck complete with a cherry picker extension. We had prime viewing from our living rooms. The weather has been fantastic, it is still warm and still, so much so the cubs are squirting each other with the hose and riding their bikes around and around. Steak, potatoes and baby carrots will keep to tomorrow, we had cold salad and stuff instead.

Take care, hope your Christmas has no more trauma than ours,

Na Stella

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ticking along .... Finished, nearly finished, and distractions

Wow, things have felt rushed around here, I thought with school finishing for the cubs and beginning my Christmas /summer leave that I would have all the time in the world. Turns out that thinking one has all the time in the world just lulls one into a false sense of ability, I thought I had time to garden, knit, cook, shop, parent, organize play dates for the cubs and for me ...and all that takes time, leaving me with less time than I thought. Still there has been knitting,a finished object even, and progress on another knit project, and site actions that come with being home more.

JaiHui's wristers
These were finished a few weeks ago, done in a rush, my favorite wrister pattern, cobbled together from a cable and some ribbing. All blocked and gifted to a postgrad student who had a birthday far for home, and will return to china shortly.

Ribbing around
And the cardigan is more done than not, I picked up a stitch for each row around the front and neck edges, then dropped each fourth stitch thinking the dropped stitch would add a little ease to the picked up edge. I worked 1x1 rib, increasing at the corners every second row to make a neat mitre. I worked the one row improved improved buttonhole from principles of knitting, and like the result. I have buttons, four largish vintage grey ones, hence the wide band. I worked a few centre meters of ribbing at the lower hem first, then picked up and worked ribbing around the entire cardigan.

I finished the band with a two stitch icord bind off, and now I'm working the first sleeve. There would have been more progress but bears brother loaned us a series of detective DVDs, inspector Montalbano, with subtitles which really get in the way of knitting. With the band done i was able to try the cardigan on and I like it, like it a lot. I based the shaping on a commercial cardigan I already have, a Momma Jack by Nom*d, a local New Zealand brand, and its worked out pretty much to plan. I like, but wonder why I am finishing a merino, possum, silk cardigan, which will be warm as toast, as summer approaches.

Beginning to know the materials
And as if I didn't have enough to tempt me, I've got back to drawing, in a very very beginners way, with polychromos oil pencils and developing a knowledge of how the materials layer and blend. Almost to simple to post but I'm learning, this took a little longer than I anticipated, the first five or ten layers just looked pathetic ....wimpy and and lacking any sort of feel I knew what I was doing. But I followed lots of online advice to build up layers slowly and take time ... And sure enough the form and depth of colour started to appear. Just like knitting, a simple act - repeated until one has something that is more than the sum of its parts when done. This was an exercise in using a limited palette, so only five colors, one of them white, and all of them blended and blended and layered and layered. Test patches of colour in the corner hint at what this looked like before the pencils were layered up enough. I might even try a leaf next .....or some piled up fabric. Folds in fabric were my go-to subject when I did art at high school, and wanted to draw, but knew not what. I had a corduroy jacket in mustard that I loved to render in acrylic or graphite again and again. I'd drop it on the table, and just draw the folds as they fell, different each time. I suspect the corduroy wales(lines) helped me see the volume better.

Christmas is coming
Preparations for Christmas are nearly done, the last batch of international post went away last week, missing the post deadline by two days. Tat might mean things are delivered late ... But better late than never eh? Domestic post is nearly done .... And things for cubs have been sorted, a box of 'something' is hiding user my bed, ordered, and shipped early enough to be here in time, another box is hiding out in the garage under the workbench .... That one was bought locally, i like to support local retailers, but the internet brings a huge range into tempting sight. Th local one was bought this morning whilst the elder cub lay-a-bed at home. Quite convienient at times this teenage tendency to sleep all day. And the cubs are working on the tree. We always have a difference of opinion, the cubs want the tree up December first, and I'm more inclined towards the week before Christmas. We have a small lounge and I don't fancy more being crammed into the room early than needs be. Bear I think gets a garden seat if I can work out the mechanics of bringing one home and hiding it without him seeing it.

2012 December
Take care, hope your Christmas plans are panning out, enjoy whatever holiday or break time you have, Na Stella

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

You remember the lost yarn?

Well I found it, surprisingly after a few days of frustrated searching, and hunting and stash diving. I found it not six inches away from my knitting spot! After several weeks of wet weather, we had a few warm weeks followed by a cold snap. I had adjusted my dressing to accommodate for the warmer weather and was caught out, feeling a little chilly one night and not wanting to change I to something warmer, so I pulled one of the shawls from the back of my chair, the one I sit in every night,-- and there was the missing skein!

Wooo hooo, I promptly wound it into a ball and started to knit. I tried a test verson of bubbles, a sock I made some time ago in hand spun yarn, but, this yarn is thicker and I can't use the same stitch count. For now I have parked the project, while I decide if I would like to work a jumbo version with fewer repeats, or something else entirely but still a sock.

This past weekend we had the final round of ballet events, littlest cub was in three shows, and four evening practices over the week leading up to the show. Then I needed some 'knit-throu-a-long-ballet-recital-knitting', so started something new, which I thought I could knit in the dark of the audience. And the top down contiguous version of tempest goes well, I'm having to make decisions about where to start the ribbing, and love the fit so far. But, first back to the ballet knitting.

So ballet recital knitting, two hours of polite clapping for all the wee dears who have diligently attended lessons all year and learned to move with grace and rhythm. Mostly. The average dance is a few minutes, and the lights a dimmed which cuts out any knitting with long rows, or that requires a chart. A wash cloth seemed perfect - so that's what I started. I was quite surprised at the progress, and success of knitting at the ballet, another of NaiNai's favorites, this time in Wendy Pearl luxury cotton in a lovely shimmery pale yellow green. 25%viscose and 25%cotton.

And the cardigan grows, I'm well past the waist, and have worked three wide blue bands and two narrow ones. I've one more narrow to go then it will be time for some ribbing. This time it might be two by two ....

Plus I'm loving the pattern that using yarn from a cone reveals. The lovely interwoven cross crosses. Makes me want to knit a diamond patterned gansey something.

Take care, na Stella