Monday, December 28, 2015

Post Christmas update

Christmas is an odd time, supposedly it is about catching up with loved ones and showing them you care, but if you pay any attention to advertising it is about spending money. As a family we have always kept it 'clean' and tried to make sure we show our family we love them and are Interested enough in them and what they do to know what they like. As our Cubs have grown the commercialization has crept in, it's hard not to buy your kids the keyboard of their dreams, or a leather hand bag so they don't have to carry a school back pack to town. and throughout all of the slight angst about 'have I got the right thing' there is knitting.

This year I jumped into the advent sock knit along. Starting on the 1st December the KAL has a clue per day in the lead up to Christmas, each clue instructs you to pick a colour and knit a pattern, the pattern for the day is over the number of rows that matches the days date. The blog with the the clues is here. The Ravelry group is here. My socks stalled on December 23rd, but I have intentions of finishing them soon, maybe even this year. And I set of without really thinking as I wanted a matched pair so initially knit both socks the same, but soon realized that would result in thigh high socks, so returned to knit alternatly on each sock. There is a cunning plan to the order of knitting so the socks end up the same length despite subsequent clues being a different and increasing number of rows.

This Christmas I managed to set a trend for myself. A few years ago Bear took up guitar. Since then he's has invested in a few high end guitars, a Strat, a luthier made acoustic, and a Gibson electric. At the beginning of his learning I spotted an acoustic guitar, a 60's or 70,s Aria, made in Japan in a general junk shop. At the time Bear had a thing for Japanese made guitars, and I bought the Aria for $50. The person selling the Aria handed it over for inspection with the comment that , it had a string missing'. Clearly they didn't know guitarists changed the strings regularly and a missing string wasn't a problem.

This year Bear spotted a vintage classical guitar in Port Chalmers, a 1960's or 1970's Schaller Scholar, made in Europe, he went home to research it, decided it was worth having, and before he got back to Port I nabbed it for $45. I may have set an impossible trend - to only buy guitars under $50. It makes a nice foil to guitars that are priced with four digits. In doing this sort of gifting we try and demonstrate to our Cubs that it isn't about a dollar value, but about working out what the person likes that you can afford.

It seems to be rubbing off, little cub went to high school this year, and chose to do Music (bass guitar - says she will not do music but will continue to learn bass next year), French (not as much fun as she thought it would be - the pancakes on open day were misleading ), Art, Fabric technology, and Wood technology. She finished the year with the the top prize in wood technology for her year. In one semester she designed and made a cam operated toy, a pencil holder, a set of coasters, some wooden pendants and a book binding cradle. That would be six books on top of my new book binding station waiting for 'cases' or what most of us would call covers. I need to visit the supply shop when it reopens after new year for grey board to finish these.

The design had to include a drawer, so she made sure it fitted my pin vise, square and bone folders, it is lovely and all finished inside with green flocking. The handle we picked out together as she told me she needed one for wood technology but not why.

Under the lid she constructed a book binding cradle, with sufficient gap at the bottom of the V to allow me to punch holes in the signatures. The most amazing thing to me is neither her or her teacher are into bookbinding but she worked with my little cardboard temporary one to determine what was required.

I am one proud mum.

I suspect this way of doing Christmas came from my own family. This year my dad found two old spinning wheels for me. The first is an update exciting ashford traditional circa 1970 or earlier, with one whorl and two bobbins (contact me if you want it - happy to gift to a local home). The second is much more exciting, a Jennings with a metal wheel. Complete with four bobbins, lazy Kate and ninny noddy.

The Jennings wheels were made after WW2, and used a metal wheel as found on treaddle sewing machines or such. More info here. There is something lovely and utilitarian about this wheel, it embodies ideas of making do with what is to hand.


Correction - the wheel is not a Jennings, but rather made by Harold Smithies, so is a Smithies. It is one of 90, made after 1976. I have one where the post height is not adjustable. Updated on 8th Jan 2016.




I know the kind of ideas behind restoration, and about keeping things original to maintain a connection to history. And most of me agrees. It for some reason I see this wheel cleaned up and without it's dull burning brown and black paint, painted a bright fun contemporary colour like orange, or pink or lime. The flyer hooks are welded into the flyer,and the hook has a lovely almost whiplash flick to it. I've no idea when the restoration might occur, and vie not even spun in the wheel yet, but knowing how Zoomers metal wheel spinning wheel works I'm positive without any evidence from actually spinning on this that this is a keeper.

So that was Christmas, or at least part of it.

Take care, Na Stella


Saturday, December 19, 2015

New kitty and books

So today our new kitty made his way outside, we adopted him two weeks ago and the deal was house arrest for two weeks so he would aclimatise. Today he went out, and in, and out and in, and out and in. He knows how to use a cat door and to come home. When we adopted him he came with the name Nova, from Casanova the suburb he was found in, but Bear didn't feel right having a Cat named Nova, so today asked that we call him Frank.

Frank is young, about five years old, and still likes to play, and climb into any possible cave like place. This is Frank exploring the market trolley.

And it's December, I've finished work, and have time for other things, like making books, and gardening.

Today I finished off three knit books (Star Wars, dot print, and nautical map), and three dot grid books (red with flowers, green marble). There are two more books in the press - and six more to make covers for.

There might even be Christmas knitting being done.

Na Stella



The pink cardigan is done, blocked and waiting for the right time to wear it.

Pre block

I based the hem in place before stitching it down. I could have pinned it but sometimes pins instroduce distoriation that affects how the layers sit.

Old fashioned basting, and slip stitching, in the past I would have grafted a hem like this in place, but I always ended up with a ridge on the right side no matter how loose I stitched.

So this time I loosely stitched one side of the cast on loop to one purl bump, it worked well,

Post blocking it looked smooth and much neat, And the reverse

No sign of a bump on the other side.

More soon,



Friday, November 13, 2015

Well I could go back and fill in the gaps,

Or I could just pick up with where I am now. This year the blog has been a lower priority, there has been lots going on off line and simply put - sitting down to make photos, blog and even think has been more difficult to fit into the hours available. With the end of the year drawing closer it seems easier to find time. The garden is in, sort of, weeds cleared, and some plants in, more growing from seed waiting to be big enough to transfer.

I seem surrounded by people with a handle on gardening, they have gardens that grow things, sweet peas and vegetables. It has rubbed of, up until now I've usually got seedlings in and then left them to their own devices. Being plants - they don't much in the way of devices - so left unwatered and alone they struggled. This year I am determined to do better, so we have herbs in, more strawberries (not enough - there is never enough of those), and sugar snap peas (Cubs choice), and sweet peas. The sweet peas are the driver, when ever I'm gifted a bunch I want my own garden to be filled with those - so this year I ahve bought seedlings, and raised seeds. Some of the seeds we gifted from Julia, others bought. This is the third batch of seedlings we have raised from seeds and so far it's looking good. I need to say it's mid spring here so gardening time for us.

I finished the cardigan of the last blog, it's high wasted but suits a few dresses I own and wear. I wish there was more of this yarn, a mohair merino blend that is lovely to work and warm to wear. I felt like I played chicken with the yarn, but everyone is right, three skeins of sock yarn will give a little lightweight cardigan. I had six matching buttons, in two sizes, and figured I never do up the lower button on a cardigan - so placed them close enough to reduce any gape. The pattern was April come she will and I followed it moslty until I got to the underarms - then I just went ahead and finished it as I thought I should, with a deep band so single ribbing and button holes where I wanted them.

I've also being playing yarn chicken with a different cardigan, Featherweight, which I've knit before in lace weight. This time I am using sock, a rather bright pink sock yarn. Trouble is I bought three skeins, but broke into one to use as a contrast on a hat. So I have 2.6 skeins. Featherweight is a 'casual' cardigan, and i am knitting it at a less firm gauge than I usually would - and I don't might it short in the body - so it should be fine.

I've also made some changes, like a faced hem for the cuffs (still thinking how to do something similar on the body and not the front and edge finish), and full length sleeves. I have just over 100 grams left, to work the body and then the front-neck band. It should be fine, or at least that is what I keep telling myself.

It is a bright pink - but not quite as bright as the image suggests. Will look great with navy blue dr martinis and a dark charcoal dress. Maybe.

Na Stella


Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Cardigan - hanging in mid air

I finished the last cardigan, Newsom, and I've not yet done the final photo or update, small issues like end of winter and finding time. But I have been wearing it and loving the addition to the wardrobe. I've also been fielding requests for the pattern from people at work - non ravelers. Newsom is a paid pattern, so is Slanted Sleeven. I struggle with requests to share patterns, in the old days you simply loaned them the book or pamphlet once you were finished, now knowing the designer deserves the recognition I tend to buy a second copy of the pattern and print it out and give it to them - but when that happens a lot I find myself wondering why I am covering the cost and maybe I should just email the link so they can buy it themselves. The copyright dilemma aside - I'm finding cardigans useful, I know I have several cardigan amounts of yarn in my stash and I wanted to knit another.


Despite liking cardigans I find I'm quite fussy when it comes to patterns, preferring fitted, shorter designs knit in fingering weight yarns. Those patterns seem to be in the minority, and ones that work with variegated yarns even less. Recently April she will come, was released, and was free for a short time (now it's a paid pattern). I had some lovely alpaca mohair merino hand dyed in shades of purple that needed to be a cardigan. The yarn was dyed by an Indie dyer who isn't active right now, and it's beautiful.

I cast on and knit the larger size, but realized when I completed the yoke that was not the right size for me, so frogged the work and began again in a smaller size. 'April she will come' is a top down seamless raglan so easy to try on for fit as it is worked, and when I tried it on I realized I wanted to slightly raise the back neck - as the pattern has the front and back pretty much the same. I'm not sure about most people. It my front and back are different, and my clothes look better if they reflect my body shape a little. So when I cast on for the second time I adjusted the numbers and worked 8 short rows from mid shoulder to mid shoulder across the back.

The cardigan has lace motifs on the sleeves, which are only partly charted, and I'm ok with that. The placement is regular enough to easily work out how to continue the pattern. Well that was what I thought, seems I made a mistake early in the pattern. See the lace? Seems the motifs should be not so centered but spread across the sleeve more.

So I slipped the work off the needles and frogged the errant rows. I frogged back to a plain knit row - as I'm not confident enough to pick up a lace row with yarn overs and knit three togethers.


To put the stitches back on the needle I pinch the live row between my thumb and forefinger. Then I scoop up each stitch with the needle in the left hand. I don't worry about how the stitches are oriented. Just about catching them. If one drops I pick up the easiest live stitch, again I don't fuss with repairing a dropped stitch - I just catch them as they appear. Once I have all, the stitches I worked a slipped stitch row, I slip each one from left to right needle in turn - and this is where I fix any that sit funny, or were dropped or split. If I remember I also put back the markers, mostly I don't remember and I add them on the first row I knit.

Then I make sure I know what row I am on and begin knitting. And I try and avoid making the mistake that resulted in the frogging. But I'm human - and I've been known to make the same mistake several times.


So here I am, on my way to finish the yoke, the yarn is beautiful - this image probably represents the colour best.

Take care, na Stella.







Saturday, September 05, 2015


Seems that blogging has become intermittent - much like the knitting. I did finish the second pair of Rainbow mitts, and I've started and restarted a cardigan. I made a mess of the warp in then loom - suspect it was messy right from the start - and after a heroic effort to selvedge the warp I came to my senses and cut the warp off leaving the loom naked. Today it's all about the mitts, next post the cardigan with stitches off the needles.


Here is the second pair of Rainbow mitts, this time the larger size and the larger needles. I think I could make another pair - the smaller size and larger needed and they would fit even slugger around the fingers and hand. With the larger size I was able to work the standard wrist shaping. Also different this time - I didn't rib the ends of the fingers. I'm still not a fan of rolling stocking stitch edges but these don't bother me to wear as much as I thought they would. I'm beginning to think of this as the Goldilocks mitts, First too small, then too big and maybe the next will be just right. It's not the pattern, after all I didn't swatch or use the yarn specified - I just cast on and went. And with stocking stitch there is very little pattern pull in as would happen with ribbing or cables. I am beginning to wonder what would happen if I worked the palm in a rib or a heel style slip stitch, which would pull in where most needed.

After dying about 5 grams of each colour and knitting two pairs I still seem to have enough yarn to knit another pair of mitts. Really each finger must use only 2 grams or so.

I worked the same cuff hem on these mitts, picking up stitches onto a second circular needle and working the inside hem down before casting off both sets of stitches together. This time I made the cuff deeper. I do like the finish,and think it (like the iCard cast off) might become a regular technique.


This is one of the nicest details about the mitts, the thumb gusset. The decreases are not simply repeated, instead the designer has considered the way the had is shaped and adapted the decreases to fit that shape. There are four decrease points, which work as three points, one up the midline of the thumb, and one either side. It makes a subltle but intelligent detail.

And it's snowing today, so a perfect day to wear something warm and colour full like these.

Na Stella.


Saturday, August 08, 2015

Loom upgrade

A while ago I bought a loom, after a lot of reading, and thinking and a small amount of playing with a table loom I decided that a floor loom was something I wanted to explore. I read around looms and found there there were five main types,

  1. Jack looms, large table loom technology in that it uses one lever one shaft moves technology.
  2. Counterbalance looms, shafts work in pairs, and balanced in pairs, if one shaft goes up then it's partner needs to go down which is nice and smooth but has limitations as to combinations of shafts the can be moved.
  3. Countermarch looms, where the shafts are hung in balance with weighted lamms, which are more challenging to set up but offer flexibility, these seemed to have sub variations like vertical and horizontal.
  4. Dobby looms - which I never really understood and seemed a step that experienced weavers made.
  5. Jacquard looms - which like dobby looms seemed beyond the beginner.

Beyond those categories there were differences like how many shafts, and how the looms was structured, it's frame, and how many shafts it had. For a newbie on the outside the choices were fascinating - and complicated by the fact I wasn't in the market for a brand new loom so had to select from those on the second hand market. And even more so - those for sale locally, floor looms are large and transporting one far would require an extended budget. I watched looms on TradeMe ( like eBay - but here) and made note of features and prices. Looms being sold generally had little support materials, and were used - sometimes disassembled, and just a pile of lumber with a promise it could be a working loom. Somewhere in amidst all that I found and settled on my Loman loom. It was in great condition, well loved by its weaving owner, and came with introductions via knitting friends, and turns out it even came with transport assistance.

Best of all it was affordable, a fraction of the price of a new loom - which just wasn't going to happen. Like the older spinning wheels I have, the loom was of its time. The heddles were hand tied string, that worked but didn't seem as precise as newer Texsolv heddles. Well, in the last week I committed to replacing the heddles, I ordered 800 new heddles, 200 for each shaft. I was told this was 'a large amount for a loom' in the kind of voice that said - are you sure you want so many. But I thought I might as well set it up for all eventualities. Turns out that it was a wee bit of effort to remove the old heddles and install new ones - not something I'd want to repeat too often. Not difficult just - fiddly.

First I had to remove the shafts from the loom, and then remove the old heddles from the shafts. In the original configuration the shafts were held apart by metal rods - which were locked in place by age and some other force. It took Bear and I a wee bit of time with pliers and gentle persuasion to remove the rods at each end.

I couldn't for the life of me work out how to put the spacing rods back once the new heddles were fitted on the shafts. There just wasn't enough spring in the wood or heddles to allow the top and bottom shaft to spread apart far enough for the rod to slide into place. So I decided to set these aside on the rational that many looms don't have metal spaces and rely on the heddles to support the lower bar of the shaft.

Then I put the shafts back on the loom, which was a two person job. Now the shafts are not stabilized by the end rods and the texsolv is slippery - the arrangement can slither off the shafts with a single mis- tilt.

Then it was and easy job to spread the heddles out and count out what I need either side of the center point. One question I had before this was did weavers cut the heddles or leave them joined - and reading around didn't answer the question. Some did and some didn't. I found having the heddles joined made it easier to separate each one and stop them riding over and under each other. The other benefit is that I can find the center point easily as each shaft has two set of one hundred, the gap between is the exact middle. Once I have the warp threaded, and then sleyed through the reed I still have to tie up the treddles and balance the loom. The next 'improvement' or investment is a new reed - the one with the loom is 8pdi - and I think a dinner one would suit what I want to weave more, and be stainless. I'm still deciding if I do that this warp or sometime in the future. Those two things in place and I will have double the 'cost' of the loom but essentially will have a brand new loom.

Knitting continues - first pair of fingerless rainbow mitts are finished and gifted, they were to small for me, second pair is on the needles, or rather on stitch holders waiting for needles.


This is the fiddly stage, but it's kind of fun and the second time around I understand the detailed instructions that say how to arrange each finger and where the tail of yarn needs to be. The tail is used to graft the joins between fingers closed - so it needs to be where the join is.

Take care - we have a another snow day here, na Stella.











Saturday, August 01, 2015

Fiddly but fun

I finished the second mitt, and this time i recorded how I worked the cuff. Inspired by a comment in a Historic knitting forum about Monmouth hats being worked with a picked up facing worked down and then cast off at the brim - I tried that on the first cuff and liked the result,

I worked the pick up round with and extra needle, it was a bit fiddly-clunky but ok. For every stitch I made sure the yarn passed around the pick up needle - forming a loop that I could later use to knit with.

Here is a short  video showing the process, it might make less sense if you carry the yarn in the right hand - but this worked for me. The goal was to create a stitch with a yarn over over the second needle for every stitch knit. 

After the pick up row I tucked the extra needle inside the mitt and pulled the tips out through the knit fabric. This stopped them from waving around and getting tangled in my working yarn and needles,
When I worked the hem - the pick up round of stitches looked loose, but i knew from the previous mitt that it would settle once the facing side was knit.
Here you can see the picked up stitches on the second circular needle, waiting to be knit once the hem was long enough.

When the outer hem was long enough I went back and knit the inside facing, at first the picked up stitches pulled out and elongated but I didn't worry. I knew from working the previous mitt that the elongation was temporary.

When the inside facing was the same length as the outside hem I transferred the two sets of stitches to one needle. One for one, in turn from the inside and outside needle, some people like to knit stitches off both needles but I find it less fiddly if I transfer them before I knit.

Then I cast off as loosely as I could, I wanted the cuff to stretch. I knit each pair of stitches, one from the outside hem and one from the inside facing as it it was a single stitch, and the purl that formed on the reverse of the work made a nice decorative row behind the cast off chain.

And here they are all done, it was a fun knit and I plan to make a second pair in the larger size - seems I am not a teeny tiny petit person.
Na Stella