Thursday, 29 January 2009

cubic zirconium

Spot the fake:

Well, it turns out (quite devastatingly) that the whole thing was a con. I had completed the mitten cap and was about halfway through the thumb when I asked Tim to try the mittens on, again, for the umpteenth time.
And he told me that it wasn't me, it was him, it wasn't that the mittens were too small, just that his fingers are too long.

And it is true, they need a bit more length before the thumb gusset starts and
to be a bit longer overall (although I had already added six rows in the mitten cap). I was loving this project. It is one of the finest gauges that I have knit at and with recycled yarn to boot and it was coming along so nicely, or so I thought. I cannot bring myself to frog them and thankfully have enough yarn to simply start again. It will also give me an opportunity to go down a size to 2mm needles to knit the ribbing. I've already bought the needles for the purpose, I just have to take a small rest while my broken heart recovers.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

pinking shears

I am really bothered by sexism. Perhaps it is because I studied English and Linguistics at uni that I truly believe that language makes our world. And that is why statements like this really piss me off:

Every seamstress? And what are 'seamsters' of the world supposed to use? Blueing shears? I'm thinking of renaming them in general my beigeing shears to get the right neutral tone.

A dear friend of mine was set up on a blind date with a guy, in part because the mutual friend thought that something that they had in common was that they both sewed (or that's how I understood the story). A romance, a marriage and a beautiful baby boy later I expect that the man in question's advice to his son on how to meet girls will be, 'learn to sew!'

Less sexism in the handcrafts world perhaps?

Monday, 26 January 2009

not so fine

I was prompted to borrow the book Knit so Fine: designs with skinny yarn from the library because I had previously seen Lisa Myers' Travelling Stitch Legwarmers (Ravelry link) in an past issue of Interweave Knits. I want to knit those legwarmers so I wanted to have a look at this book!

The book begins with some good short chapters on skinny yarn, including the
benefits of knitting with them - the shaping advantages, the seaming advantages, the fit advantages, the stitch definition advantages. But what is skinny yarn? The authors classify anything 8 ply (dk) or lighter as a skinny yarn. 8 ply - skinny? I beg to differ. 5 ply (sportweight) or lighter, yes, but 8 ply?

And then there are the patterns - what a disappointment. Apart from the travelling stitch legwarmers and a pair of similarly styled fingerless elbow gloves, there was nothing in here that interested me at all. And for all that is written about the fit and shaping advantages, a number of the patterns are really shapeless and there appears to be no great advantage to knitting them in a fine yarn.

twelve sharp

Ok, I read a book, so to speak. I loved these Stephanie Plum books when I first started reading them - they were, on occasion downright, laugh-out-loud hilarious. The schtick got a bit tired after the first five or six and here we are at number twelve.

Lean Mean Thirteen was actually one of the books that I read last year that didn't even merit mention (there you go, out of order and I didn't even realise). It seems as though for Evanovich the crime storylines are just vehicles for the humour and in each book they become more and more outlandish, and she is more and more out of her depth handling them.
Some of the hilarity is still there in Twelve Sharp but it is a very uncomfortable bedfellow with the main storyline of identity theft, kidnap, stalking and psychosis. I was also very uncomfortable with the scene in which (spoiler here) an eleven-year-old child shoots a man.

It also really struck me (and annoyed me) that although Stephanie is supposedly a 'bounty hunter', all too often her captures of fugitive criminals are actually made by Ranger or one of his employees. So she's not really even doing the job herself but constantly being saved by big silent men in big black cars named Tank (and that's the guy, not the car).

Twelve sharp? Ah no, time to retire.

Friday, 23 January 2009

eight carat diamond

I've worked the thumb gusset on the mittens and you can see the eight-stitch diamond pattern coming up on the back there. It's a simple knit-purl combination - good and subtle, very manly!

I'm really enjoying knitting with dpns which I hadn't quite expected - magic loop can get a bit tedious with all that pulling through. Although maybe I just really love the feel of the bamboo in my hands.

I think just one more row even to go and then I put the thumb stitches on some spare thread - exciting! That's something that I really like about knitting an item that I haven't done before - learning the ins and outs of its construction.

The recycled yarn is going well. It breaks a bit more easily than commercial yarn. I'm not sure whether that's because it is lambswool but I have to be careful when I give the yarn that extra little tug when changing from one needle to the next. And it's great when someone asks me what I'm knitting with and I can reply, 'J Crew' (which is not a yarn brand at all but a fashion lable).

Thursday, 22 January 2009

the joy

This pile of yarn is going to be my Joy. The cardi that is, from Rowan's Vintage Style. Ah, I remember the day that I came across Rowan. I had discovered knitting and then I discovered that there were actually patterns worth knitting. Pre-Ravelry I had a word doc full of pictures clipped from the internet of Rowan patterns that I wanted to make. And Joy was one of them, so it is actually since a very long while ago that I have been wanting to make this garment.

As such I am going to take my time with it, I am going to make sure that it fits beautifully, I am going to frog sections if they are not right, I am going to carefully model the size and shape after my favourite fitting woollen cardigan.
The original Joy pattern calls for some five-and-a-half thousand, yes my friends thousand, tiny little beads but many smart people have been substituting in a purl stitch. I will be following their example.

It's going to be a joy to knit, isn't it?

(And if it's not, there's always Lombard or Fontaine or Lisette or ....)

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

the ecstasy

Some say there is no going back. I say, what the heck, you never know. Actually, early on during our stay here in the US I saw a very cute doll's house at Value Village in Redmond. I rang the next day to ask whether it was still there but the woman whom I spoke to sounded very vague about it and when she finally got back on the line I had to remind her what it was that I had asked her to check on. No, no, she told me, no doll's house. But I didn't believe her so I went back anyway and there it was.

So, back to Tukwila, back to Ikea, back to Goodwill, back to the sweater aisle. Quick panicked search of the rack - not there. Panic is not a good shopping mate. On closer inspection, in the correct size section of the rack, there it was - my Talbots cardigan.

the agony

I went thrift store shopping at Goodwill in Tukwila yesterday. We had driven past the store on a previous occasion after a trip to Ikea which is also down in that part of the world. After a visit to one superstore and actually in the process of getting lost trying to find another one (Home Depot), Tim didn't really have much goodwill left for thrift shopping. But I caught up on it yesterday and the trip delivered up this yarn, recycled from a Talbots brand short-sleeved sweater.

It's a purpley red, heathered with tiny flecks of bright pink, 80% wool and 20% cashmere, very soft. But I am kicking myself that I didn't get the matching cardigan as well. I was looking at the colour with another slouchy beret in mind and it didn't even occur to me that the amount of yarn from both the short-sleeved sweater and the cardigan would certainly deliver up enough yarn for an adult-sized sweater for me. So far I have only knit accessories and children's wear from recycled yarn because I have been confident that I would have enough. It's one thing to run out of commercial yarn on your last sleeve and have to search around for another ball in that dye lot. It's a whole other matter to run out of recycled yarn on a project and I haven't yet dared try an adult garment.

I have had it in mind that I needed to search for two identical sweaters (what's the likelihood? well, I have on occasion seen a number of identical sweaters in various sizes which I'm guessing were all donated by a company but they were bright green and partly acryclic so not for me), or a very oversized sweater, or a full-length cardigan in order to get enough yarn. And here was a twin set and it didn't even occur to me.

I think there may be a trip back to Tukwila tomorrow. I wonder if the cardigan could possibly still be there?

Sunday, 18 January 2009

diamonds are a girl's best ...

So there's a book quite amusingly (in my opinion) titled Never Knit Your Man a Sweater* (unless you've got the ring). It follows through on this amusing concept with 22 projects designed for every level of a relationship. Further, a few of the projects are diamond themed including the Flip Your Lid Diamond Mittens (Ravelry link) - fingerless gloves with an attached mitten cap.

I've cast on for them in a grey lambswool that I recycled from yet another J Crew sweater. Again weight wise I'm guessing a bit. I'd say that what I'm knitting with is possibly finer than the 4ply/fingering weight that the pattern calls for but I'm not sure whether I'm getting gauge - it's hard to tell from the ribbing. The good thing about them is that Tim can try them on as I go.

The diamond element is a knit/purl diamond pattern on the back of the hand which adds a bit of interest to the knitting. The diamond pattern, however, is an eight row repeat and the increases for the gusset are a three row repeat which is not very compatible so there's a bit of keeping track to be done. This is ok while knitting but I find that once you put them down (for instance, in order to go to bed) it can be hard to remember where you got to.

And I'm back using bamboo double-pointed needles because that's all I have in 2.25mm. I'm really enjoying it. Magic loop is a great method but it is nice to change over and do something different every now and then. I particularly like the feel of the bamboo in my hands. Makes me think that I must try some of those Addi Natura bamboo circular needles.

Working with recycled yarn is a great thing to do - I've noticed more people expressing an interest in it recently and I really encourage anyone who is inclined to give it a go. It's cheap enough to go to your local op shop or thrift store and buy a jumper/sweater in a colour or fibre that you like. The undoing of the seams and the actually unravelling can be a bit tedious but I find that destruction, like when you prune roses, can actually be quite relaxing. So although I am trying to use up what I have, in the past few days I have acquired three more garments to unravel - a red lambswool vest from which to make myself another slouchy beret, a red heathered wool/cashmere sweater for another slouchy beret and a taupe silk/cotton cardigan for, oh, something will come up (aka as 'for baby bear' because that's always something that I want to knit).

Friday, 16 January 2009

silk shells

I've also been doing a spot of crochet.

The vital statistics
I just pretty much made this up as I went along. It's row upon row (right side and wrong side) of shell stitch with five trebles (English terminology; double crochet in the US) per cluster. I crocheted until the yarn ran out.
Yarn: Art Yarns Silk Rhapsody, shade 130. A partial ball of this was thrust upon me (in the nicest possible way) at a recent yarn swap in a 'here, you'll think of something to do with this' moment. Famous last words. It had to be something for baby bear because these are not colours for me and it had to be super-fast because I didn't want this partial ball of yarn floating around in the closet for the next three years.
Needles: 5mm crochet hook
Start to finish: 14 January 2009 to 15 January 2009

Comments: My favourite use of variegated yarns is garter stitch but it really didn't fit into my knitting schedule and I wanted it to be fast. Which it was - crochet done within a day and buttons sewn on this evening. I'm really liking this cowl idea for small children. I've sewn on four buttons and because the crochet is quite lacy this be buttoned up any way you like. It's also fascinating to see how the yarn has pooled almost in vertical stripes. Curious that the stitch count and the dying pattern should interact this way.
Verdict: Hmm, crochet just isn't knitting but I'm pleased enough with the final result. Pleased that I thought of something to do with the yarn! It will look cute on baby bear and that always makes me very happy.

fern glade

I've been a bit distracted lately. I'm not sure by what. That's usually the sort of line that launches you off into a litany of domestic disasters and life-and-death near misses and so forth but no, I really mean it. I'm not sure what. But I have been knitting.

The vital statistics
Pattern: Fern Glade by Megan Marshall from Knitty Winter 2008.
Yarn: recycled from a purple J Crew sweater that I bought at a garage sale somewhere in the back blocks of Issaquah not long after we arrived in the US. The yarn was pretty fine so I knitted with a double strand.
Needles: 3.5mm Addi Lace for the ribbing and 4mm Addi Turbo for the rest. Magic loop - love it.
Start to finish: 28 December 2008 to 10 January 2009.

There are two options for this pattern - fitted and slouchy. I cast on for the slouchy version but seem to have ended up with the fitted product. I attribute this to gauge issues - I'm still feeling my way around how to assess what weight my recycled yarn is and further what you get when you knit with a double or triple strand. So what I'm saying is that it's not quite as slouchy as I would like it to be. I did block it over a 10 inch plate (because that's what we have) rather than an 11 inch plate as the pattern suggested. Perhaps when it gets a wash I'll do another block although I'm still not comfortable with the effect that stretching the entire hat over a dinner plate has on the ribbing.

I haven't made much from Knitty and have certainly never before jumped at a pattern as soon as I saw it. This was certainly the right choice though; it's a straightforward knit - rib, increase, lace, decrease - and the fern glade lace is great. I particularly like that there are increases and decreases on every row as this gives a great effect. I'm also very happy with the slouchy beret style per se. I had been looking for something that was not a beanie and tried the wide-brimmed hat from Vogue Knitting but haven't felt that that suited me either. I now think that the issue is that I don't like something jammed down over my forehead cutting my face in half. With the slouchy beret I can push it back to my hairline so that it frames the face just so. This is important stuff, you know. Thirty-four years and I've finally worked out a hat to suit me.

Verdict: very happy and see more slouchy berets in my future knitting.

Monday, 12 January 2009


First project of 2009 and first completed project of 2009! Yes, another baby hat, this time out of recycled cashmere and I tell you, it was such a joy to knit with. Really soft and the loops just slipped through each other beautifully.

The vital statistics
baby hat from Leigh Radford's One Skein.
Yarn: cashmere recycled from a sweater purchased the previous weekend at Goodwill. Still have heaps left so there will be more items made from this.
Needles: 4.55mm Addi turbo.
Start to finish: 8 January 2009 to 9 January 2009.

What can I say about this pattern that I haven't said before? Perhaps that I would like to find another lace edging to try out on it, repeat of 18 stitches (or just nine really). Must find a copy of Barbara Walker somewhere ...
Verdict: cashmere bliss.

Saturday, 10 January 2009


I was going to call this post 'purple reign' but murasaki (Japanese for purple I believe) is such a lovely word. A new year and I have three purple lace(y) knitting projects on my hands:

Swallowtail shawl - damn that shawl percentage calculator! I truly thought that with the 19 budding lace repeats finished that I was halfway through the shawl. Turns out I was wrong. After having been busy with this baby since late November 2008, I have finally worked out how to read the charts for the lily of the valley border. Frankly, in the download currently available, I think that it is badly laid out. Anyway, after having puzzled over how to approach the border it finally clicked when I sat down to start on it today. And with understanding came the realisation that there are 22 rows in the border which is about double what my initial calculations had allowed for. So there are way more rows. So I'm only 30% of the way through! On the bright side (and there usually is one) the shawl will be larger than I had expected which I am happy about. There will be a separate, long and boring post about nupps.

Baudelaire - a bit neglected, poor things. When I last worked on them it was to remedy a whole lot of frogging that occurred after the discovery of a couple of dropped stitches. All very traumatic. I have now completed the heel on the first sock and it's time to just knit right on up the leg but I've still got a bit of a mental block about it (must have moved there from the swallowtail shawl).

Fern glade - had I mentioned this yet? In my ongoing search for something to keep my head warm that is not a beanie I cast on for this a week or so ago. It's going well, almost all of the eight repeats completed. The lace pattern is great - there are yarn-overs and decreases every row and it certainly does make for a more pronounced and textural knit. You can also get sharper angles when you decrease on every row.

I cast on for the slouchy version (120 stitches) but I am using some recycled purple yarn (100% lambswool from a J Crew sweater) and I expect getting a tighter
gauge than called for so it is presently pretty snug. I'm hoping that a good blocking will help to slouch it out. This is one of the challenges/adventures of knitting with recycled yarn for me - I'm never quite sure of the gauge and while you certainly can knit with two strands of the yarn together if you need something thicker, what if you need something in between? Sure, you could knit a gauge swatch but really ... Oh well, I guess that you just make do and improvise and learn along the way.

I'm expecting fern glade to be finished pretty quickly and next on my practical knitting list is the Flip Your Lid Diamond Mittens (Ravelry link) for Tim. Recycled yarn - a nice soft grey J Crew sweater (again - their lambswool sweaters fill the thrift stores). It's currently knitting up at 30 stitches to 10cm on 3.5mm needles and the pattern calls for 36 stitches so I might go down to 3mm and see how that goes. No, no, I haven't cast on for them yet, I've done a gauge swatch. See, I said that I'm learning.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

last minute finished knits II

So, I also managed to do that finishing on the baby cabled cowl which brings my total finished knits for 2008 to a grand total of twenty-one. Wow!

The Vital Statistics
Pattern: my version of Olga Buraya-Kefelian’s Cabled Cowl
; I made it much shorter because I didn't want it to wrap around baby bear's neck twice as I felt that this might be dangerous. As such I also chose my own yarn (one that was in the cupboard - yay!), my own stitch count and my own cables. So really, all I did was follow the general layout of welt-cable-cable-edging. I used the double knit slip stitch edging from Annie Modesitt's Backyard Leaves scarf pattern. Cables were a five-stitch wide version of marriage lines (basically a zig-zag) and the peek-a-boo braid from Vogue Knitting Stitchionary Volume two, Cables: the ultimate stitch dictionary.
Yarn: two balls of vintage (judging by the ball band) Emu brand baby blue 4ply/fingering weight (yarn held double) that I bought at Value Village. It was a bit scratchy so I gave it a good wash in hair conditioner and that worked a treat.
5.5mm bamboo straights which was a bit odd actually as everything else that I have been doing lately has been on circulars. 5.5mm is also just about the maximum size needle that I am comfortable knitting with.
Start to finish:
19 December 2008 to 30 December 2008.

Comments: Designing your own stuff is really quite difficult, even when you are borrowing generously from someone else's design. There is so much to take into account - stitch count and whether the welt will end on a knit row or a purl row before the garter stitch edging and how the two cables would interact.

I attached four buttons and made neat little buttonhole-stitched loops for closures. I had originally considered metal buttons for this project with an engraved or embossed design and thought that I had some on hand. Couldn't find them though so decided on something else that I had on hand instead - flower-shaped shell buttons. These turned out to be a great choice - they look wonderful against the baby blue and baby bear recognises them as flowers and is pleased by them.
super happy with this project, it turned out better than I expected and looks just gorgeous on. It's something that I would like to try again and experiment with all those variables - yarn, stitch count, cable patterns.

Friday, 2 January 2009

42 again

Twelve months ago on the last day of 2007, I was sitting in the office knitting socks in 42 degree heat. That's 42 degrees Celsius, folks which translates as way too hot to do anything other than sit in an air-conditioned office (107.6 degrees F to be precise).

Well, sometime yesterday it probably hit 42 degrees, but this time Fahrenheit (about 6 degrees C). What a huge difference though between one 42 and another, least of all that we are living on the other side of the world.

Now, what were some of the things that I thought I was going to do in 2008?
  • "get really productive on the re-use/refashion front" - hooray, yes, I did this. Out of all the things I made last year, a good half were from recycled materials.
  • "keep knitting" - yes, managed that too. The great number of finished objects is mostly due to the fact that I finally completed a number of long-standing projects. I have also instituted a three-project-at-a-time knit regime which is working well for me.
  • "participate in a swap" - Secret Pal 12 - hi Shannon!
  • "keep reading" - oops, fell off the perch here. I did read a few books in 2008, mostly crime fiction which I didn't make any note of here. Of the four books that I had hoped to read in 2008 though, I only managed to read one - The Careful Use of Compliments. I am about halfway through The Poisonwood Bible and I was loving it, it's just that I put it aside for too long and now don't know whether to pick it up again or go back to the beginning. Either way I can't get back into it until I decide and I can't decide.
So, in 2009 I'll have to make it a priority - read more books. The knitting habit is so ingrained now that I can't imagine ever stopping, as is the re-use/refashion commitment. This year I want to make extra effort though to use the things that I already have in my cupboard. I don't want to see my stash grow, I want to see it diminish as I work through what's there. And sewing, there is so much sewing that I want to do and so many fabrics that I have piled up, just waiting for the dressmaking shears.

I've also learnt some stuff these last twelve months:
  • moving to a foreign country is hard work.
  • it's really hard to do good knitting, and by this I mean knitting that is handmade but appears to be of commercial quality because that is what I like my finished objects to look like. My hands-down favourite project for 2008 though was the tomten jacket which is actually quite rustic. Perhaps it is something to do with the pattern but I really felt like it turned out looking exactly the way that it should and strongly recommend this project to anyone. Baby bear has started wearing it and she gets so many compliments on it, which in turn of course delights me.
  • knitters are the best people in the world - thank you to the lovely Seattle stitchers who have welcomed me into their lives.
  • I like to knit lace from charts and cables from written instructions.
So here's to a well read, handmade, beautifully finished 2009. Yesterday I embarked on a slipcover for one of our couches, so I've made a good start!