Monday, 27 May 2013

the coffee pot theory of creativity

Ah, rather than the crack pot theory. Or maybe it's really a theory about motivation, that it's all bubbling around like coffee in a percolator* until something comes to the top and threatens to spume out in a great cloud of steam unless you do something about it, right now. I am actually serious.

I had one of these moments on Friday evening past - just had to get the patterns that miss bear had chosen  from Intemporels pour enfants: Modèles et patrons de 2 à 8 ans traced off. All eight of them, and the little boy's shirt as well, traced, cut out and collated.

It remains to be seen what the time lag will be on actually cutting the fabric, pinning it together, sewing it up, doing the finishing touches. Stay tuned, grab a cuppa.

* odd metaphor for someone who doesn't drink the stuff but oh well.

Monday, 20 May 2013

are we there yet?

Really, what more is there that I can tell or show of this knitting project that I haven't before? I'm working on it - same story. Repeat 7 of the second side looks just like repeat 6 and just like repeat 5 and - same stitch pattern, over and over.

I had three days free last week (instead of my usual three-quarters of a day free) and I swore that I was going to knit a full 20-row repeat each day. Well, I managed to knit on only one of the days (ahem, knit on this, that is) but I did crank out an amazing 26 rows, more than one full repeat! So, I am currently seven repeats in, two and a half and an edging to go. Definitely before this project turns three in December!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

gaspard grows up

I'm having a wonderful time knitting this little pullover. I have finished the kangaroo pocket and cast it off with a neat three-needle bind-off that attaches it to the neckline (note to self with regard to three-needle bind-off: for goodness sake, don't forget to actually cast the stitches off, not just knit the two pieces of fabric together).

Just the sleeves and ends to weave in to go now. The pattern even includes a schematic for where to pick up the stitches along the armscye (for me of course this is going to be around the armscye as the body is already knit in the round and the shoulder seams grafted; will have to compensate a couple of stitches for that too). Am debating whether to knit the sleeves flat or in the round and if I knit them in the round, what sort of faux seam to use, whether to knit the garter stitch cuffs flat and then how to seam them.

I also have to figure out how to get through the day with baby b wearing underpants because he is growing up too. I think that's why I am concentrating so much on the knitting.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

the mismeasure of yarn

This madelinetosh tosh merino colourway is really wonderful - graphite. See the greys and browns and even almost green in there? This was my second time knitting windschief from this very yarn. The first one had taken only a fraction more than half a ball and that was a large size so I was sure that this medium-size one would be no trouble.

Alas, I suspect that I didn't have a full skein to begin with because I got to the point above and realised that there was no way that I had enough. Subsequent measurement has revealed that 36 grams is in no way half a 100 gram skein. I'm disappointed. The idea was to use up stash so to buy a whole new skein would defeat the purpose and probably not blend in well anyway, given the hand-dyed nature of these colourways. Maybe make a child-size version?

With a nod to Stephen J Gould.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

currently knitting

No sooner had I cast off the ribbon-tied wool vest, than I cast on with great haste for Gaspard le Grand in madelinetosh tosh dk in colourway 'composition book grey'. Today I made it to the underarms and dropped a stitch at either side (I'm knitting in the round again instead of back and forth - really strange construction this design but I'll get to that later) in order to create a faux seam, á la Elizabeth Zimmerman.

I actually ended up doing it on the interior of the garment rather than the exterior. It doesn't look like much more than a line of reverse stocking stitch but I think that the EZ-style seam (where you pick the stitches up one rung, then two rungs, then one rung, then two and so on) does add a little more stability.

Anyway, I am loving how this fabric is turning out. The tosh dk is lovely springy yarn and I'm delighted to be knitting in this colourway. Grey is so elegant, so stylish, graphic, so beloved by architects, so looks like the stuff that other stylish knitters knit and that I aspire to. Grey is just so not me.

I used to wear dark charcoal grey in my twenties but at a certain point couldn't do it anymore, didn't feel comfortable in it, wore it and felt old, old, old. This was around the same time that I suddenly became comfortable with navy blue which I had always thought matronly. So there you go. So clearly this knit is not for me, it's for baby b who is so gorgeous that he can carry off anything. I've got a bee in my bonnet at the moment about knitting for my kids - after this I'll be casting on for Mini Manu for miss bear. Or maybe Brock in some Orange Flower BFL/Silk Fingering Weight that I'm awaiting in the mail. And I bought some Rowan Cocoon recently that I thought would be great for a Fisherman's Pullover. Ooooh, I love to knit!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

ribbon-tied wool vest

The Vital Statistics
Pattern: Ribbon-tied wool vest by Erika Knight from Simple Knits for Cherished Babies.
Size: 3 to 6 months.
Yarn: Patons Australia Bluebell Merino 5ply (100 per cent merino) in colourway 0100; 1.3 skeins.
Needles: 3.25mm and 3.75mm.
Start to finish: 22 April to 8 May 2013.
Stash/recycle content: Yes!! I have had this yarn in stash since ... since ... long ago.

Comments: I love this book by Erika Knight and have already knitted a few things from it - the Baby's Beanie Hat, Chunky Knit Cardigan, Garter Stitch Wrap Top). I even drove for what seemed like miles to borrow it from a library when I was pregnant with miss bear (now our local library, ha ha). Both times when I was pregnant I had lofty hopes to knit a handful of these little vests, one in each size, but I am glad that I didn't. Cherished as my babies were, this is not a simple knit.

Admittedly, I made things harder by modifying the structure a lot by converting it to seamless but I think that if I hadn't, and there had been seaming to do, it would have been even more work. Of course, there wouldn't have been the brain power required to convert it (ok, not a lot of brain power but I don't have much to spare!) if I had simply followed the pattern.

Modifications I made were:

- knit in the round to the underarms with a fake seam (one stitch knit in reverse stocking stitch) and used this neat TechKnitter trick of crossing the stitches over where I divided for the underarms. Techniques like this are great to know with the increase in patterns with seamless structure.

- made the neckline decreases one stitch in from the neck edge.
- grafted the shoulders with Kitchener stitch instead of using a three-needle bind-off.
- knit the sleeves from the top down using short rows to shape the sleeve cap. How did I work that one out?? I just winged it!

Now that is not a common approach for me. By winging it I mean I figured out how it should go (must surely go?) instead of actually checking one of the many patterns on hand at my disposal with top-down sleeve instructions to check how it is done.

The pattern directs you to cast on 50 stitches for this side, to knit for 2.5cms and then decrease 1 stitch at the beginning of the next 10 rows, finishing with 40 stitches. That's the sleeve head shaping and that's what I was cogitating about (cogitating - thinking but with more effort); how to achieve that with short rows?

As I write this, I realise that I got my numbers wrong, I assumed an end stitch count of 30 stitches - oops. Anyway, it worked well in my opinion. Here's what I did:

Even though there were 30 stitches at the end (in my version) there were still 50 lines of stitches travelling all the way to the armscye. So, I picked up 48 stitches (2 stitches less to compensate for the seam that I wouldn't be working because I was going to knit the sleeves in the round) and commenced knitting in the round.

I knit to the halfway point (that is 24 stitches to the the top of sleeve), then worked in short rows (knit 15 sts, wrap and turn; purl 30 stitches, wrap and turn ; knit 31 stitches, wrap and turn; purl 32 stitches, wrap and turn and so forth) until there were 10 short rows (last short row being purl 38 stitches), picking up the wraps as I went. The Purl Bee's short row tutorial was really helpful here because I always get the pick-ups wrong on the purl rows.

One more wrap and turn and then I continued knitting in the round, picking up the last wrap made, then knit straight for 2.5cms. I knit the ribbing back and forth as I always do because I really dislike that jog when you cast off in the round. Quick flat seam to join the ribbing and done.

The ribbon I'm not so sure about. The effect is lovely but I wonder about safety. I stitched the ribbon to the neckline at the back so that it couldn't come loose but cautioned the mum-to-be to just remove it altogether if she wasn't comfortable with it. Ideally it would be sewn together at the bow but then the top would not go on over a baby's head.

The Bluebell does make for a lovely fabric (I used it to knit both of the baby blankets that I have made) but I wish that I had used a needle size smaller for better fabric.

Verdict: The final product is darling and now that I have it worked out I'm sure that any future versions would be much simpler to complete!

Sunday, 5 May 2013


TREN-er-y? or tre-NERR-y? Trenerry is the name of the street where Country Road had its headquarters once (originally?), but I'm not sure how I'd pronounce that either. Anyway, Trenery came into being while we were living in the US and I wasn't really sure why it existed alongside Country Road (but I do now thanks to google, it's supposedly for the slightly older crowd).

I wonder how well the brand is doing (or not); I saw a pop-up clearance store in the city a few weeks back and have seen a lot of it at the op shop. Brand new stock at the op shop - I picked up these two shirts at the Salvo's in Elsternwick on Friday and left two behind. They're an XL and an XXL which perhaps explains why they are excess stock but that's fine because I bought them for the fabric, to cut up and sew into something else, so the larger the better. Maybe something from miss bear's wish list.

I love things to be handmade but it is also important to me that they are extremely well made and that starts with the materials. For the longest time, somehow the fabric on the bolt just never seemed to be of the quality that I saw hanging in the stores. (This may well have been a function of where I was shopping, both for fabric and for clothing.) But even since stores stocking much better quality fabrics have opened (Tessuti, The Cutting Edge), I still experience some anxiety about matching fabric and project. This way the work is done for me and I get commercial quality fabric that is just perfect for a blouse. Possibly (hopefully) I have also saved some money on yardage, although these blouses were pricey at $15-odd each. Still, I prefer to be re-using something that already exists and to have my money got to the Salvo's so that's great value already.

Friday, 3 May 2013

a fresh breeze

I've been in a bit of a knitting funk lately. Something that I was working on for a good month - a cardi for miss bear to wear to school - has taken up a lot of knitting time and energy and has simply not worked out. I finally just binned it today and feel so much better. Yesterday evening, so desperately wanting to knit something that worked, I cast on afresh. And finished it today.

The Vital Statistics
Pattern: Windschief by Stephen West.
Size: Small.
Yarn: Classic Elite Yarns Portland Tweed (50 per cent wool, 25 per cent rayon, 25 per cent alpaca ) in 5046; 0.8 skeins.
Needles: 4mm and 4.5mm.
Start to finish: 1 May to 2 May 2013.
Stash/recycle content: Well, I didn't buy yarn in order to knit this so I suppose that means it came from stash ...
Comments: Such a great design and it comes in three sizes (small, medium, large) which is great for when you offer to knit someone a hat and they say 'oh lovely but I've got a really big/really small head ..." This is the pattern for those moments. The yarn was an impulse purchase when I was $5 off filling up my loyalty card at Weaving Works in Seattle. I found it a little scratchy so hope that it works well for a hat.
Verdict: I can see myself making this again, and again, and ...

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

april reading

The Day is Dark by Yrsa Sigurdardottir and A Burial at Sea by Charles Finch  - more murder mysteries, great reads, both of them.