Saturday, 29 January 2011

the incredible tedium of beading

Wow, does beading ever break the rhythm of knitting. But it looks pretty cool.

ps. Kieran Foley has a pattern, Fleece, in the latest Knitty and it's free!

Friday, 28 January 2011


My FedEx package has arrived in Utah! But as it turns out, I've already been there.

Yes, last year we had a long weekend in Salt Lake City (that coincided with Tim having a conference there and a night in the Grand Baroque Hotel, I mean, Grand America).

My trip to Salt Lake started when I borrowed the incredible book Knitting America: a glorious heritage from warm socks to high art by Susan Straw. There were lots of examples in there of incredible knitting done by Mormon pioneer women so I took my obliging family off to the Daughters of Utah Pioneers' Pioneer Memorial Museum. It was mind boggling. Truly, my mind boggled - at the museum itself, at everything in it, at the hours and hours, weeks, years, decades worth of work that must have gone in to the amazing array of handwork that was on display.

About the display - I am no museologist but I love to visit museums and I do think that this one qualifies as distinctly old fashioned in its manner of displaying the collection, the whole collection, all at once it seems. There is case upon case containing shelf upon shelf of quilts, lace, needlework, hair ornaments, jewellry, what-nots and what-evers. In fact there is so much on display that you can barely see any of it for all of the stimulation crowding in upon you on the next shelf, in the next case, on the next floor.

And this was sad because what they have there is absolutely amazing, I don't even know where to begin (which is sort of like the experience of actually being there). I really felt addled by the end of our couple of hours of visit and also a tad teary at the idea that I am here, a hundred years later, still knitting and crocheting and sewing (and in America), a sort of kinship with women a world and lifestyle away from my own.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

colour by numbers

I love the Babette blanket from Interweave Crochet back in Spring of 2006 and I would love to make one. While I'm quite happy to crochet a hundred-odd squares, I'm not prepared to purchase the requisite 17 skeins of Koigu Premium Merino. So, the colour scheme - if you are going to substitute, what to do about the colour scheme?

This is where my cerebral tendencies kick in and I completely overthink the entire thing. First of all, I had to get an idea of what the entire blanket actually looks like, so I printed out the schema, enlarged it and coloured it in (added bonus here of acquiring 15 new markers).

Which is all very well and has left me with a pretty piece of paper (and a great marker selection) but more uncertain than ever. I'm dilemma-ing about what ratio there is of one colour to another; how often are certain colours adjacent to each other and on what scale; how did the designer come up with this colour scheme, randomly or according to some great underlying organising principle; and what was it? Trying to work that last one out may well be the end of me. It is probably also completely pointless because in the end I think that the colour thing really is just intuitive (which irks me no end in its own way).

Anyway, there are dozens of wonderful Babette projects on Ravelry, quite a few of which I like better than the original, particularly one that is Gustav Klimt inspired, all yellow and gold and ochre. While they are not my colours, I could maybe see using something by Hundertwasser as inspiration.

ps. My FedEx package has left Orlando, Florida and the next scheduled tracking update won't be until Thursday. Perhaps it's on a train? Where will it end up? Stay tuned!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

(virtual) road trip

I may have accidentally bought something quite heavy on ebay and it is now travelling via FedEx Ground across the country from Riviera Beach, Florida to Seattle, Washington. I can track its whereabouts online and will be doing so excitedly for the next few days (estimated arrival date is 29th of January).

After being dropped off (or "In FedEx possession") at Riviera Beach, it continued on to West Palm Beach and is already in Orlando which is a journey of 281 kilometres. I can't wait to see what route it takes across the country. It's going to be way better travelled in the US than I.

(Thank you Google Maps.)

Monday, 24 January 2011

spot the odd one out

I bough this sweet t-shirt for little miss bear a few weeks ago at the thrift store. I loved that it had embroidery and some appliqué on it, that it was brown instead of pink or purple (for the most part).

I was, however, a little dazzled I think by all those sequins and failed to notice a small hole bang in the middle front. I am all for second-hand and recycled clothing but I draw the line at rips and stains.

So what was to be done? Well, mend it of course. This is usually very difficult on cotton jersey but fine when you have a lot of surface decoration to blend in with. I still have scattered around on the floor a few blue sequins from the mermaid outfit last Hallowe'en and I found some random silver sequins that had fallen off another dress-up. With some pink sewing thread and under my daughter's close supervision (she was practically sitting on me as she is wont to do these days, so close that I was a bit worried about her proximity to the needle) I strategically placed a couple of sequins.

The best part about all this was of course her company while I mended and the chat that we had about how mending the t-shirt meant that she would be able to keep it rather than it being thrown out (or more likely recycled into something). I truly hope that I will give her more with this top than just something to wear.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

relax your inner ear

I first started doing yoga some 10 years ago. There was an Iyengar studio just around the corner and for those first many months I had to force myself to go, literally haul myself out of bed to make a 10am Saturday class.

It got to a point, of course, where I was up and dressed and out the door, on my way to yoga without even thinking about it. It wasn't any longer a decision to go, just something I did. Ah, the first of many transformations along my yoga journey, including an end to lower back pain and the ability to relax my inner ear without falling over from rolling my eyes.

So I've done yoga on and off over the last decade: only once during the three years we lived in Sydney, twice a week before my first pregnancy, only prenatal yoga since. And then yesterday, my first regular class since coming to the US. And it was great, I loved being there, loved being in a yoga studio, concentrating on rotating my inner thigh outwards while pressing down with my big toe. And, as with many things in life, "the trick is to keep breathing".

(Image from Gray's Anatomy via Wikimedia Commons - "Right human membranous labyrinth, removed from its bony enclosure and viewed from the antero-lateral aspect. (G. Retzius.)")

Monday, 17 January 2011

swatch and wait

Last week on Friday was a wonderful mail day - three skeins of Rowan Pure Wool 4ply in Eau de Nil arrived from a fellow Raveller, as well as a skein of Vintage and a skein of Debbie Bliss Rialto in shade 26 (the yellow). Having all of my materials assembled to make Nine Lives, I proceeded to swatch. And how do you swatch for a shawl? Well really, you just start knitting it. I have completed the plain stocking stitch section and am up to the first lace chart, but it's hibernation time for this as I have other things to work on (oh, the restraint!)

Here's something else I've been testing out: Annie Blatt Fine Kid which is a sport-weight/5ply blend of 51 per cent wool and 49 per cent mohair. It was on sale at Weaving Works and I found myself with five balls (that was all they had, ok). Now the question is, what to do with it? I know that many beautiful shawls are made with Rowan's Kidsilk Haze (which is actually somewhat finer) but I have a pretty full plate of shawls at the moment. I would actually like to make a garment with it, maybe just a short-sleeved raglan t-shirt, seamless, deep scoop neck to wear as a layer when it is cold.

So of course the next question is, what pattern? I'm thinking along the lines of Veera Välimäki's Folded or Lisa Richardson's Analise (seventh image down). Or maybe Kim Hargreaves Mae, but with sleeves. There are gauge issues and shaping issues and details issues with all of these though - Folded is seamless but the neckline is not deep enough; the neckline on Analise is great but the gauge and yarn are totally different and it is knit flat and seamed and not long enough; Mae is a lovely shape but doesn't have enough sleeve and is also not knit seamlessly.

The sensible response to this is indeed to just customise the pattern or develop my own. Hunh, just? That is way more thinking and maths than my brain is currently capable of. In fact, the prospect turns me right off knitting something which defeats the purpose. Any suggestions would be very welcome.

Oh and yes, the swatch there is done with 3.75mm needles and then 5mm needles (any excuse to use my Lantern Moon needles). The fabric is too loose on the these though and I found the fabric produced by the 3.75mm needles to be quite dense (although it was only 20 stitches to 10 centimetres).

Finally, the Filatura di Crosa Gioiello knit up into a 'swatch', also known as the beginnings of Carina Spencer's Whippoorwill. It won't be actually because on 4mm needles I found this fabric too loose. I'll try again on 3.5mm or 3.75mm. I tried striping it with a plain yarn - no, didn't like the effect at all and remain uncommitted to the Gioiello itself. I will need to see a larger piece of fabric before I decide whether that gold strand works or not. Again, your thoughts?

Saturday, 15 January 2011

the incredible mr ripley

I believe that his first name may have been Lazarus.

The Vital Statistics
Pattern: Ripley by Ysolda Teague.
Size: Larger than large.
Yarn: Naturally Harmony 10 ply, colour 02 which is a dark rich brown; 1.6 skeins. This is a really interesting yarn. Rather than plied, it appears to be felted. It knits well and creates a lovely fabric.
Needles: 5mm.
Start to finish: 5 January to 9 January 2010.
Stash/recycle content: Hmm, what can I say. I already had a skein of this in the cupboard which I bought some time ago out of curiosity for a potential project (I then realised that the project called for the dk weight so that was the end of that). In order to use it up by making a hat, I had to go and buy another skein.

Comments: My first finished item for 2011! I resized this hat to suit the worsted weight yarn that I used which is a bit of a first for me (the resizing that is). I knit the largest size with six extra lace repeats which translated into picking up 12 extra stitches. I made a pleat every fourteenth row (instead of tenth) and folded it down to the fourth row (instead of the second). The pleats were 18 stitches, 1 stitches and 14 stitches wide. After the pleats I knit for 14 rows and did the decreases in six sections (as in the pattern but started with 15 stitches in each section). I then blocked it on a large plate.

Verdict: I made this hat for myself. I have never been keen on beanies and was delighted when I discovered the concept of the slouchy tam and this design was a bit different with its pleats on the side. Unfortunately, it turns out that what I don't like about beanies is not only the sitting straight across the brow aspect but also their hugging the head quality. This hat was still head hugging and didn't look good, on me. So I blocked it, vigorously in the hope of achieving some volume and the fabric just didn't have enough structure to support that. It was still head hugging and now droopy, on me. I was very disappointed.

But my friend Olivia has much bigger hair than I (not in a hairspray way but in a thick and wavy lovely way), so I gave it to her and it looks great. That's her modelling with a peek of her adorable baby's ear.

Friday, 14 January 2011

i dream of knitting

Truly, I do. Well, daydream at least. That's how I fall asleep - I snuggle down and think about what I'm knitting, what progress I've made, what my priorities are for tomorrow and what I would like to make. I'm always fast asleep before I get to the end of my knitting project wish list because it's, well, endless.

Here are a couple of things that I'm currently dreaming of:

Nine Lives - from one of my favourite knit designers, knit/lab. I've been considering the colour dilemma which basically went along the lines of 'which red?' and 'if I use a different yarn, should I try to get all four colours in the other yarn?' and 'or should I mix the Rowan Pure Wool 4 ply and the other yarn?' and 'or what other colours in the Pure Wool 4 ply could be India?' and ... are you asleep yet?

Anyway, looking at the colour cards for the Pure Wool 4 ply I was very taken by shade 450 Eau de Nil and set about procuring some of that. I chose a slightly darker pink, 449 Vintage and bought some Debbie Bliss Rialto 4 ply to substitute for the purple and the yellow.

Now I just hope that the silver beads that I bought won't be too heavy (in a visual sense). I'm waiting for some of the yarn to arrive so will have a better idea when I can see all the materials alongside each other. Oh and the India inspiration? Out the door. Oh well.

Whippoorwill - Another shawl. I should backtrack a moment (or a year) and say that this was one of my great knitting realisations of 2010 - the semi-circular shawl. It all started with Daybreak which, while not strictly a semi-circle was my first project that distorted that traditional triangular shape. And so much easier to wear. I'm not sure whether it is just now because I am on the look out for them, but there seems to have been many more semi-circular designs available recently. And I love this one.

When Tim saw me working on my Tibetan Clouds (un)Beaded Stole a few days ago, he queried 'another shawl?' and I do seem to have become a shawl knitter of late - ah, six completed in 2010. And he's right, in order to justify it, I do need to make them different, something that I don't already have. So for Whippoorwill I was having a think about just that - what is something that I don't already have?

And I decided on something pale, with a strong band of colour along the bottom. I knew I was looking for something that was just off-white, with maybe some flecks or a filament of colour through it. And at the yarn store what I came across was Filatura di Crosa Gioiello, with the added bonus of something else that I don't have - sparkle (um, so not me). Anyway, I was thinking that the texture and colour in this yarn would give enough interest and I could possibly stripe it with a plain off-white yarn to tone the sparkle (and texture) down.

And for the bands of colour - probably a blue. It would be great to find a sweater at the thrift store to recycle for this, to balance out the fact that I bought new yarn. Ooooh, or how about even black? I already have some that I bought at the thrift store ...

I'll sleep on it.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

first book of knitting

Ha ha, so not true - my library is overflowing but I just loved the elephant pattern in this book. And that 'little boy with his hands in his pockets' on the cover.

Again a purchase from my favourite second-hand bookshop here in Seattle - Magus Books on 42nd in the U District.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011


Here's something that I haven't tried before - beaded knitting! Not on my list of resolutions, not recycled, predominantly not from stash - better make it a priority.

Actually, I just wanted to create an opportunity to wax lyrical about knit/lab. I recently knit Kerchief in exactly the yarns and colourways that the pattern recommends. I love the shape of it, the colours, the combination of lace and stranded knitting which I think is really unique and works so well in this design.

There are many other fabulous knit/lab patterns - exquisitely fine lace, beaded lace, stranded knitting that reminds me of old-fashioned wallpaper (in the very best way) - and the lines and motifs of many of the designs are really innovative. Also the photography is fantastic - very inspiring. I really encourage you to click over and have a look.

And now I have my sights set on Nine Lives - again some lace, some stranded colourwork and this time beads to boot (hence the purchase of 500-odd size 6/0 Matte Metallic Silver Round Japanese Seed Beads from Fusions Beads). The red used is the same as that in Kerchief - Rowan Pure Wool 4ply in 436 Kiss - and while I loved it as a band of red, it is not quite the red that I would like to have an entire stole from.

Why is it that some designs are so much more difficult to re-imagine in a another colourway? Particularly when a certain inspiration has been alluded to - I had a lot of trouble choosing a yarn for the Tibetan Clouds (not) Beaded Stole because all I could keep thinking of was the saffron of monks' robes, not a colour I would consider wearing or working with.

The inspiration for Nine Lives is apparently a book about India and with India, I just think of spices - more orange, tumeric, yellow, mustard - more not my colours. So the dilemma - what colours to go with? The website exclaims that it is "an opportunity to go crazy with your favorite colors" but I'm kind of stuck on the Indian influence. Maybe I will stick with the red, just choose a different shade, which means a different yarn, which means what yarn? Unh, I'll need nine lifetimes to work this all out.

* The knit/lab designer, Kieran Foley, also has a free pattern - Cold Mountain - available through Knitty.

Sunday, 2 January 2011


Happy New Year!!

I'm very excited to look back at what I made in 2010, check on my resolutions, and look forward into 2011. First of all what I made - the tally and break downs:

projects - 36

knit - 24
crochet - 5
sewing - 7

hats - 7
shawls/cowls/scarves - 9
adult garments - only 1!
baby/child garments - 6

things for me - 13
things for my children - 10
things for my husband - 0 (oops)
gifts - 7
charity items - 5

recycled/stash content - 31

Here's what I was thinking about a year ago:

... twice as much sewing. And this year, this year it's s-t-r-e-t-c-h; yes, I am going to come to terms with sewing knits. I now have my machine and overlocker set up side by side in my own sewing space so there are no excuses! And I'll stick with crafting from stash and reading books again.

And how have I done? Well, I completed two stretch sewing projects, a pair of underpants and the little hat and vest combo, as well as trying out some alabama projects. I'm very happy with the other sewing that I did - the baby quilt, book cover and dress were all quite complex projects for me and two of them were completely of my own design. I did lots of crafting from stash and using recycled materials and I read, I read 27 books. But as for Tim's Great Garment of 2010 - oh dear.

So, 2011. Riding high on the successes of the previous 12 months, I'm going to actually write them down. My resolutions are:

- read at least one book each month
- complete knit projects that are more than one year old: faux prussian stole, baudelaire socks, diamond mittens
- complete sewing projects that are more than one year old: doily quilt
- a garment for Tim
- craft from stash and use recycled materials

Stay tuned!