Monday, December 31, 2007

Never Without Ripping

I prefer to think of elements of my stash as ripening, rather than ageing (the notion of growing older has long since lost its glamour; in fact, I'm not utterly delighted with the concept as it applies to myself) and a handspun two-ply which actually turned out the colour I intended to dye it had screamed to the front of the ME!ME!ME! queue, demanding to be knit into a cardigan. Or jacket.  A garment for the upper half to be worn over other garments, but not a shawl because I turn into my worst whine (Am I there yet? Am I there yet?) when I attempt shawls or scarves, and probably (though I will not test this) ruanas and other wraps, not to mention afghans.

At the same time, the siren call of this (but with long sleeves) was strong in my heart.

I'm not always as bright as I like to think I am; alternately I have a short memory; alternately I am learned in the ways of self-delusion, because I actually did learn earlier this year that cardigans with cut-away bottoms make me look shorter and wider and squattier than I am, which isn't my most favourite look.  Nevertheless, I started knitting:
A little wiggly at the edges, start again:
Much better.


Yeah, it's going to make me look like a cabled storage bin. Dammit.  I guess I could turn it upside-down and use it for the yoke of a raglan sweater, but I really wanted a cardigan.
I surfed and sketched and paged through the not insubstantial collection of books and magazines and sketches, and eventually decided on something approximating this.

Not as cropped, but still asymmetric, and it's looking good so far:
The colour on my monitor is pretty close to The Real Deal, and while the yarn isn't as sleek (or as drapey) as that called for in the pattern, I think it will still work.  My gauge is way different, and I'm not a big fan of knitting separate pieces and then sewing them together when the seams serve no useful purpose, and their sleeve shaping (or lack of it) isn't that conducive to upper arms with even a small amount of musculature, but I'll knit the set-in sleeves top-down anyway, so that's mostly moot.

The yarn is a wool (merino x border leicester from Cindy Genteman, I think her business is called Loom With A View, and she has lovely and interesting fleeces) and silk blend which is a two-ply only because as singles, it was thinner than I wanted, and I had enough fiber for two sweaters.  I'm pretty sure I saw a picture of the other sweater (which was indeed made form singles yarn) on someone else's blog (it was in the SOAR gallery), and I don't have a photo, but it's based on a Norah Gaughan (I think she's a genius, I just adore her sense of clever design) sweater from her lovely Knitting Nature book.

The interesting thing to me about the two-ply versus the singles yarns is that they're so very different.  The fiber blend, due both to the wool breed as well as the smallish amount of silk, is naturally lustrous, but the singles glows with a sensuous smoothness, whereas this two-ply seems to highlight each ply in an almost rustic way.  It's not uneven, it's not bumpy, but it seems rather textured, and it's another reminder of why I prefer three-ply yarns, especially when the fiber isn't super-crimpy and lofty.  A merino or polwarth or polypay or cormo (you get the gist; there are other highly crimped fleeces I could name.  Truly) two-ply spun with a similar amount of twist to the same grist would fill out the cross-section better than this fiber, and result in a rounder yarn than this.

What I've been really busy with is wracking my brains to develop designs for the next crop of classes at my local bead store.  Yesterday was the deadline, so now those artfully photographed partially finished pieces will have to be finished For Real, as the samples will be in a display case in the store along with everyone else's, and ideally should look minimally attractive, not to mention complete. 

Sunday, December 23, 2007


I may still be in sweater limbo (I've done a project's worth of rippage, but I think I have a plan. This wouldn't be the first time you've heard that, but I am the eternal optimist and ultimate gadfly when it comes to knitting projects.  It's just that I have more ideas than time and hands), but now I know that if I take this:
I can get this:
Even though I was in the middle of this:
Can you say "Short Attention Spa-" hey! Shiny things!

I've done bead crochet, and I can do bead crochet, and I do love the finished product as the ropes are wonderfully supple, but man is it slow.  

First there's the whole figuring out the stringing order if you want a pattern. Miles and miles of it.  

Then if you - gasp! - make a stringing error, you only ever discover it after three painstaking inches and fifteen painstaking hours, and the only way to correct it is to break the beads that make the pattern wrong without shredding the thread on which they sit.  No big deal if they're seed beads, but one might be less sanguine about it if they were crystals (some are expensive) or pearls (I have no idea how you'd break them without shredding the thread) or even a gemstone.  

OK, I lied, you could conceivably end off the bead crochet, cut the thread, remove the offending beads, and rejoin and start again, but I'm against joins (in knitting or beading) if they're avoidable, because they're certainly one of (a) a weak spot, (b) a stiffening or fat spot where the extra thread tails add bulk, or (c) a source of irregularity and untidiness just because it's often hard to join neatly.  Some techniques just don't lend themselves well to joins.

When I do bead crochet, I have a hard time getting optimal tension, which also makes it slow. Too loose, and the beads pop into the centre of the tube, where you can't see them, and what's the point of that.  Too tight, and the crochet hook, which is already smaller than these eyes like, finds it awfully difficult to find spaces in which to poke, let alone pull through a loop. 

I've made about three bead crocheted things, and one was even a long lariat, and I even like it, but every time I think about starting another bead crochet project, I find something else I'd rather do.  I bet the same would happen if I tried to work from home.

Kumihimo with beads has few of these issues.

While I admit to having made ONE SINGLE kumihimo rope which actually has two colours in a spiral which you can't see since they're so similar but which I've convinced myself all the same adds interest, depth, richness and complexity to the overall colour, I do have access to a book which shows patterning in colour as well as texture, so while the words "expert" and "kumihimo" could not be used in the same sentence when talking about me, I do have a little information.  

The best part? The patterning is achieved by varying a thread, or in the case of beads, a strand of beads.  This means that if I use Czech seeds, which conveniently may be purchased in hanks which means that the beads are already strung, it's a simple matter to transfer the beads onto the thread to be used in the kumihimo rope.  Change the colour to change the patterning; change the size to change the texture.  Of a strand.

How awesome is that?

True, I suspect the complex patterning that can be achieved in bead crochet may be awkward if not impossible in kumihimo, but if I decide that I absolutely have to have a supple beaded rope in ocelot spots, I can either bite the bullet and do bead crochet, or get a grip and find something I'd rather have instead.

Oh and the other best part? It's fast.  I made twenty-seven inches of rope, including McGuyvering weights and bobbins (I gave away all my knitting bobbins; I prefer intarsia without), stringing, undoing, reading the instructions properly this time, and starting again with a clue, in about six hours.  I think that's pretty fast.  It would have taken me a few weeks to do this in bead crochet, and I don't know of any off-loom beadweaving technique that can produce such a fabulously supple rope.

Can you tell I'm pleased with myself?

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Gifts

Sometimes on a Wednesday night I go to the local yarn store (there is more than one in this city; I only ever go to this one) with knitting and food for an evening of, well, knitting and eating. The crowd is variable - a few weeks ago there were only three of us, but it's generally somewhere under a dozen.

Conversation is generally rather interesting. Last time someone mentioned the commercials for medications which address the male inability to perform, and after laughing about one woman who was WAITING for her husband to need them so that she could substitute Sucrets, the nurse on hand explained how hospital ERs treat The Boner That Won't Die. Not pretty. It involves a large-bore needle. We all congratulated ourselves on our internal genitalia.

Later I watched two of the women exchange gifts, such a vicarious pleasure for me. As Barb carefully unwrapped her first gift, unrolling the green tissue paper from a soft bundle, a pair of handknitted black socks (with little thread butterflies still attached to the toes; in case alteration was required), she started laughing and handed Kay a matching soft bundle: a pair of black-marled blue-green socks.

Kay and Barb spend time together. They knit together, but not these socks. Each had to casually ascertain the other's preferred cuff and foot length (Kay has smaller feet than Barb) while congratulating themselves on their subtlety and tact and fabulous ability to keep such a delicious secret. Each tried on a sock; each proclaimed it perfect, Kay grabbing the black socks back so that she could properly finish them.

I don't think either of them needed to sell anything in order to give, but the perfection of the symmetry put me in mind of The Gift of the Magi.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sweater Limbo

Denny, you were right: a shawl collar worked really well here.
Yes, once again, my photography skills leave something to be desired, though I really don't have quite as much trouble with the small close-ups (beaded stuff), probably because I've had more practice.  And I've forgotten how to set the self-timer, which is why there's no picture of me in it.  The sweater.  Which fits well enough that I'll happily wear it tomorrow.

The sleeves aren't as tapered on as I'd thought (they don't scream "I'M FROM ANOTHER DECADE ermm MILLENNIUM") and I could have made the body longer (but I always feel that way.  I'm always impatient to start the armholes), but there's nothing seriously wrong with it, considering I barely measured or calculated anything, and pretty much made it up as I went along.

In the past I've had bad luck with shawl collars, in that they tend to prefer to be stand-up collars, not being much into the folding thing, so I was slightly concerned here.  The yarn in this instance wasn't especially independent in that it didn't have its own ideas about just how it would cross its ankles or fold its arms, allowing me to dictate posture.  I also think that the shawl collars in my past may have been too narrow, so I determined not to make that mistake again.  As the collar joins at centre back (let's see you graft moss stitch invisibly; the textured yarn helps to disguise the join but makes stitching sticky) and it looked as though the outer edge of the collar wasn't going to be long enough when it came time to sew it closed, I short-rowed until I was tired of it, adding an extra triangle (think godet) to widen the back of the collar, and then joined.

The collar is both wide enough (no cold drafts down the back of my neck) and long enough at its outside edge that I expect it to behave all day without excessive need for adjustment constantly.  At least, I hope so.

And now for some yarn pron.  Yarn porn.  Either way.  Amy quickly remedied the mind-boggling issue of my not owning any artisan sock yarn, which she managed to find in my favourite colour: sludge.


And now, the conundrum.

I have a pair of socks on the needles.  Well, one sock, the second of two, which doesn't even have a cuff.

I have two lots of delicious handpainted merino sock yarn.

It makes me uncomfortable to have more than one pair of socks in progress (but not to have multiple sweaters in progress.  That, somehow, is my state of being).

I have a great idea for a Rorschach sweater in reds, oranges and corals and all I need to do is to wind the yarn into balls.  I have enough yarn (I weighed it) and I'm pretty certain I have a good enough idea of the gauge to start a sleeve.

I have the pentagons and chevrons sweater about which I waxed lyrical a few weeks ago, but today it's not wanting me to reach for it.

There are ingredients and a plan for a Yum Sweater (very fine-gauge yarns of luxury fibers in natural colours, from way back when I only used to spin thin) which will comprise octagons and squares and requires absolutely no swatching whatsoever, because it's one of those knit until it's big enough deals.  Hmmm, that's almost appealing.

I have handspun vests which would get a lot more wear (than none) if only I'd add sleeves to them, but I'm not in the mood.

I think the reason I'm in project limbo is that today at work, instead of trying to figure out what events are fired on mouse clicks, and where they are processed, I realised that the sweater I was wearing was very, very long, so long that if I had great legs it would look awesome as a dress, and then I flashed to Kathryn Alexander's skirts, and started sketching ideas for a dress, none of which was perfect, though one did come quite close.  I may not have enough suitable yarn for a dress though, which pretty much means I'm back in Sweater Limbo.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I Got Luckier

After SOAR 2006, Nancy and I agreed on a trade, and I made this
and she made this
which is a close-up of this
which even though it's a lousy photo, you should be able to tell is a stunningly gorgeous hand-dyed handwoven silk scarf.  I'm a lucky girl.
And then this week in the mail, this (once again, my photography skills are lacking)
which is a pair of yummy merino sock blanks dyed to match my scarf. From memory.  While there are times when I'm able to wax lyrical about very little of substance for far too many words in far too long a paragraph, apparently when I'm in need of eloquent heartfelt thanks, words fail me.
I need to hurry up with the other socks, the knitting of frequency of which has been relegated to Almost Never  since it's too dark and too cold to knit in the car when I'm at long stop-lights to and from work.  I don't spend hours in waiting rooms, which would otherwise be a choice Knitting Occasion, and my home knitting is at the exciting bit, so the other socks are stalled.
See? Racing towards the finish.
No, it's not wider at the bottom, and the cables are definitely not off-centre, but apparently I wasn't too careful with the laying-on-the-desk-to-take-pictures step.  That dark streak? Errrmmm, well, that must be the result of not stirring quite often enough when I was dying the yarn (I'm guessing I was doing seventeen other things at the same time). Interesting how the width of the body corresponded so well to the length of the hank: 2 metres.  My dad made that niddy-noddy back when he was able.  He doesn't do much anymore, he doesn't even talk.  Actually, realistically, the person who was my father has long gone, leaving his wreck of a body to an ever-ebbing fragment of a consciousness.  He also made my swift, and a really nice mahogany nostepinde.  And the desk that's now in my daughter's room, and a host of toys, some with moving parts: cams and gears and handles and wheels and whatnot. I made him my first ever socks.


Back to the Blue Streak.

I just love doing raglans, and fortunately (Kate told me, it absolutely must be so) I'm one of those who is able to wear a raglan and not look dreadful.  I'm so taken with the weird pacing of knitting a raglan sweater, it surprises me every time. Somewhat.

I tend to start with the sleeves because I don't swatch much, and they serve well.  I suppose I don't have terribly long arms (I don't have terribly long anything since I'm not the tallest person in the world, certainly not as tall as Juno - did you see the picture of her folded into a seat that I would have been sprawling on?) so the sleeves don't take all that long, and make me thrill for the body, which starts off slowly - those first two or three inches take weeks! - and suddenly, magically, is long enough.  Binding off those underarm stitches fakes me out every time, because I'm also adding all those sleeve stitches - well, not all, because some of them are doing duty as underarm stitches, but still, a lot, but those bound-off stitches make me feel as though I'm about to fly to the finish NOW.

The first few rows of the Everything are painful, awful, tedious, and epic.  Then I notice that it's no longer awkward to knit around the sleeve part, it isn't tugging anymore.  But still progress is invisible.  The armhole remains perpetually an inch and a half deep.  I consider creative shaping involving many more decreases as I continue with four every other round.  I start thinking about the neck, certain it's too soon.  I'm impatient so I start it anyway.  Turns out I should have started it two inches ago.  I reconsider my neck design, and suddenly, there it is.

This weekend, most likely: the armhole is still an inch and a half deep, but I can anticipate, can't I?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pron and a Plan

So one of the Retreat sessions I took at SOAR was Playing With Carders And Fiber.  Actually, I forget the official title, but that's totally what it was about.  Denny and I set to it with a vengeance, not stopping for anything as wasteful as actual spinning to see how the batts turned out, preferring to use our creative juices for naming our blends.   I confess, some names I have forgotten (though I have the tags somewhere), though the white skein above results from our Feng Shui blend.  My favourite name by far is the one that resulted from Denny's desire to create a blend called Dead Clown, and being faced with the fact of no more primaries left, and having to make do with magenta and purple instead of red and blue, which led to Dead My Little Pony.  I think it's somewhere there in the blue marl skein or perhaps the green.

The green, I think.  I see sparkles.

Anyway, I have perhaps two ounces of fiber which really ought to have a purpose, y'know? And I've been going round and round.  Given that I Knit Sweaters (and occasionally socks, but only using commercial sock yarns because I hate spinning worsted and I'm tired of handspun socks with holes), and given that I'm bigger than newborn (a sweater for same might actually require no more than the little pile above), I had to be thinking about something interesting and inventive to do with colours.

Stripes are dull today.

I thought that a short-rowed yoke with built-in garter stitch neckband might be fun, though probably not all that attractive.  

Icelandic-style yokes are on my Meh List.

I do immensely admire Norah Gaughan, and if we weren't (probably, I think) around the same age, I'd yearn to grow up to be her, at least my knitting self would.  I'm not sure who my spinning self wants to be, nor my beading self, nor my opinionated self - but I digress.  Norah has been fitting geometric shapes together the last few years, which so plays to my weakness (as in "I love modular knitting", not as in "oh no, I'm weak in geometry"), and so it came to me:


Because their symmetries are not (oh, what's the correct mathematical term for it? I haven't been in a math class since a quarter century ago) perpendicular - in other words, the lines which divide pentagons in mirror-image halves are not at right angles to each other - when you join a chain of them one to another, you will not get a straight line.  Hexagons and octagons, on the other hand, line up rather neatly.

What you get, when you join one pentagon to another ad nauseum, is either a wiggly line of pentagons (if you've chosen a connecting side willy-nilly) or - drumroll please - a curve. Eightish pentagons should make a circle that doesn't quite lie flat, whose outside circumference is a little small, that might just, if placed over a head, mimic quite nicely the shape of shoulders.  The edge of the curve closest to the face is nice and smooth, but the edge closer to the arms is ziggy-zaggy.  How convenient! If you pick up stitches along the zig-zag edge, you're perfectly set up for some variation or another of any number of chevron-type stitches (of which Old Shale and Feather & Fan are two well-used members), which also lend themselves rather well to increasing evenly in the round.  Which means no raglan, no set-in sleeves, just a nice circular yoke flowing organically off multicolour pentagons around the neck.

In theory, at least.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Or, as I'd rather believe, because I'm flexible, open-minded, not afraid to adjust expectations according to circumstances.

Pretty sleeves, huh?  One blocked, one unblocked, both with a decent, though not terribly exciting cable running up the centre.

The truths are as follows:
1.  The sleeve, while not tight, is tapered and not ideally suited to wearing over other sleeves.
2.  The yarn is soft enough for next to the skin wear - it has some angora in it, after all.
3.  After blocking, it has a little bit of drape (OK, so I have a vivid imagination).
4.  This wasn't thrilling me as a cardigan.

And so it won't be.  

The only thing I'm keeping from the original pattern (which was not the original pattern for me for this yarn), is the cable, sort of, and the moss (ish) stitch.  Because it turns out that I'm a sucker for saddle shoulders as well as experiments in knitting, the fairly nice cable on the sleeve will extend to a shoulder saddle, BUT with raglan sleeve shaping, which will be slightly less brainless than vanilla raglan shaping.  

For my money and body, raglan armholes are cheap in terms of cognitive effort: once you've reached the armholes on your body and sleeves, you just decrease until either the sleeve stitches are gone, or the neck-hole is the right size.  Yes, you do need to account for the front neck shaping (but you have to do that anyway), unless you like neck-hole strangulation (which I don't), but there's none of the matching the sleeve cap to the armhole and then having to rip out the shoulder shaping on the body to refit the armhole to the cap, which naturally in this instance means the neck too, which is both complete and complex and impossible to duplicate (well, too much trouble anyway) when the cap turns out to have been constructed for a different armhole, which happens when you foolishly start your sleeves from the cuffs rather than from the sleeve cap, picked up and knitted from the armhole so it's guaranteed to fit.

So.  Raglan with saddles.

I have a good bit of knitting (the entire body) before I have to decide what sort of neckline I want.  Crew? Vee? High vee?  Collar? With buttons?  Without buttons? Shawl?

Either way, it's looking like the sort of garment that will just be better as a pullover than a cardigan.  Besides, I have plenty of scratchier yarns which would make perfect cardigans.


Mine mine mine mine mine.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Done, done done done - DONE!

I'm not entirely sure that it's sedate enough to wear to work at a bank though.

Monday, November 19, 2007

There's Only So Much TIME For It All

I have Pron Presentations  (seriously, they're not that fabulous that I feel justified in calling them porn).

Sleeve Pron:
I think I like it.  Naturally, the pattern from which I started turns out to be little more than a vague starting point.  The yarn for which it was written must be something smooth and round and shiny, or otherwise the designer is just a boot camp instructor wannabe, because everything is 1x1 crossed stitches, even IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CABLES.  Yes, I meant to shout.  Not only is this overkill, especially on highly textured yarn like mine (into which the stupid things disappear), but it's also extraordinarily irksome, guaranteeing that I'd never ever EVER, come hell or high water, finish it.  Ask me how far I got with the Bavarian socks in the first Nancy Bush book (like three rows, if that).

The sleeve is a little more tapered than has been fashionable the past few years, but if there's one thing I know, it's that huge bell sleeves Will Not Last Forever.  Yes kids, a fashion prediction.  I know I'm not wrong here.

The cardigan in the pattern has set-in sleeves and very deep armholes, which translate into rather wide sleeve tops.  Given that I have not yet reached the Arms With Wings stage (I've been working my biceps, triceps and deltoids, which are actually painful today - and it's smug virtuousness that keeps me doing it) I have little need for that much ease, and rather than recalculate the sleeve cap, I'm going to go raglan.  I'm also toying with the idea of making an asymmetric zippered closure and something collar-ish, rather than a buttoned straight-down-the-centre vee-neck opening, but I don't have to decide just yet, do I?

While there are times when I really couldn't be bothered, and just want to knit that damn thing in stocking stitch, I would say that this stitch pattern is just the right amount of interesting.  It has (in case the picture is bad, or your monitor is broken, slightly) a central cable on a reverse stocking stitch background, flanked by two pairs of ribbed columns, and the rest is double moss stitch, as is the centre of the cable, when it opens up.  And because I really don't know which language I'm speaking any more (I should just say here that I'm trilingual in knitting needles: I know Imperial, metric and American sizes, except for sock needles, in which I'm only bilingual, since I didn't start knitting socks or using such small needles until I came to the US), but what I know as double moss stitch is alternating knit and purl stitches, stacked two high, as opposed to [single] moss stitch, which is just knit and purl stitches alternated by row and by column.

And now for the Yarn Pron:
I'm not terribly clever with photography, and purples quite frankly stump me.  This is a sort of smokey purple which started off its life as a charcoal-brown Border Leicester fleece mixed with extremely bright royal purple kid mohair.  I finished two bobbins at our monthly eat fest, uh, spinner's get together, and have almost another bobbin complete too. 

I'm going to have lots of this: two bobbins per bump, and I'm sure I have at least six more bumps.  Maybe eight.  (I had to count.  I have nine).  This will end up as a three-ply, probably in the worsted weight area - I'm making an effort to spin a bit heavier, as I want to use this for a coat or jacket of sorts, as it's just not yummy enough for next-to-the-skin wear.  Not bad, but not luscious.   This goes a lot faster than fingering weight three-ply cashmere, even with the Stupidly Fast whorl on my Schacht.

I've finally found my mojo for Amy's necklace, and if not for the class I'm teaching tomorrow, 
it would be finished, but it's close, really close.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Not Entirely Failed

So I've been a busy girl, knitting and beading away (and yesterday, I made THREE DINNERS, so I don't have to do any real cooking until Wednesday, how organized is that!) and while I've produced plenty in the way of volume (I've made practically all the pieces for Amy's necklace), I'm not completely satisfied with what I have.

Hmm, some joined up.  The teardrop is the centre of the necklace-to-be, and the little hexagon lies somewhere about the shoulder line, but I don't think it's quite right.  I may have to lift and separate, eh, separate the components and find another way to link then together.  I have some ideas for a more fluid composition - I think this is a little stiff.

And oh yeah, I have a sleeve - I mean, a SWATCH.  It's long enough for a sleeve, though not really wide enough.  Turns out that before dyeing, I had about 18 stitches over 4" (yeah, knitted back and forth, which for me is not in itself a guarantee of looser gauge, rather, the fact that it's just a relatively few stitches is a better predictor, leading to my dislike of swatching, and my conviction of the uselessness thereof.  It's not bad for ball-park planning, but for precision, an actual piece or part of a piece of a garment is better), and after dyeing (I thought the yarn looked thinner, which quite frankly surprised me after all that swishing and simmering) I get 21.  Whoooops!

Never mind, I'll just do something different.  It's not handspun, so I'm under no compulsion to design my own (OK, so sue me, I sometime suffer under self-imposed compulsions), so in this instance I'd rather just find a pattern at my gauge  - and I have already! (Here!)

The next was a quick little experiment prompted by my need to feel good after the disappointment of The Great Putting Together above.  We're looking at a cabochon (actually, it's a bead, but who's counting?) about 30mm (a bit over an inch) in diameter, and I've used size 11 and 15 seed beads, and 3mm and 4mm fire-polished beads to bezel it, with some very pretty flat-back pearls for decoration.  The chain will probably be a double spiral rope, since I can't figure out an organic way of starting a peyote or herringbone or any other rope off the top.

I've no idea what the stone is, some kind of agate no doubt - pretty much everything is an agate or a jasper, it seems.  What you can't see in the picture is that the faceted grey beads have a soft iridescence which makes them a whole lot more attractive in Real Life.  

Meanwhile the Put Together Badly necklace is looking balefully at me, demanding a much better effort.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

I Know You Are, But What Am I?

You may not believe it, but Things are taking shape:

I have almost all the pieces done, and would have completed more if I hadn't behaved like a knitter while making the focal piece, causing undoing and redoing.  See, the thing is with knitting, you can fudge.  The smaller the stitches, the more fudge.  You can always ease a sleeve into an armhole and graft seventeen stitches to eighteen or even nineteen stitches, but when you are making a beaded open teardrop, which you start at the inside circumference, work one side until you hit the outside circumference, then work the other side, inside circumference to outside circumference again, and then zip the open edges together around the outside, which is very much like grafting, it Just Doesn't Work if there are two more stitches on one edge than on the other.

And while I know I've extolled the pleasures of cutting up wide pieces of peyote (unless you've - oh horrors! - pierced the thread): you just cut the beadwork in the middle, and the beads just slide off nicely, not like square stitch or right angle weave where you find yourself trying to extract two-millimetre lengths of thread from the inside of beads, it's decidedly less pleasant undoing a few rounds, say four or five.  Still, I suppose it's not as onerous as (once again) attempting to undo square stitch or right angle weave, though I think netting would be more satisfying, as each stitch relinquishes at least three beads, often five, and possibly more (though I don't usually do that kind of netting, but I have considered it).

So now all I need are a few more of the little multicoloured tubes, a little square donut, a little round (or perhaps hexagonal) donut and a toggle bar, and all that'll be left is the Putting Together.  Hmmm, and earrings, Amy likes earrings to match.

Monday, November 5, 2007

It's Hard Being Green

Actually, it's annoyingly easy, as it turns out.  

You know how when you go bead shopping and see something wonderful that you just have to have, and you get home and you already have three?  Well, apparently I'm like that with green yarn, and green spinning fiber, and it's not even a good selection of greens, from mint through seafoam, lime, celery, grass, pea, peacock, sage, pine, forest and bottle, and all the ones I neglected to mention, but to all intents and purposes, it's the same green.  

I already have at least two newish (made within the past couple of years) green sweaters and three green cardigans, and when I decided that the only possible yarn I could use for my next cardigan was this:
Well, something had to give.  The white blips are kinda ugly anyway.

Luckily I have dyes and a dyepot and I know how to use them.
I really was aiming for less blue, more teal, but when you don't measure, you just learn to love your creations.

In other news, Amy's necklace is progressing apace, and my new necklace from yesterday is really heavy: my neck is stiff and I have a headache, but that could well be due to lack of sleep or not enough water, the effects of both of which are not that dissimilar.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Just So

Sometimes, sometimes, you just know when you've got it right, and it fills you with a joy that is intensely bright and true.
Oh yeah, I finished the sock and wove in the ends and finally sewed the buttons on my cardigan and printed out kit instructions and ordered beads for kit refills and started making samples for a possible class at Lambspun next year and swatched and dyed yarn, but none of that comes close to making me this happy.

What I really should have been doing was working on Amy's necklace (I still have a plan!) but I was compelled forced led unable to resist the lure.

Luckily there are still more hours this day.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sock it to Me

The times I mess up the most are those times when I'm just too damn impressed with my own skill and cleverness.  Oh yeah, and when I'm totally not paying attention because I soooo know what I'm doing.

Like socks.

Like the socks I started a week or two ago, which have been progressing apace.  It's amazing how fast they go when I don't reserve knitting time to being stopped at traffic lights during rush hour. But I digress, slightly.

I more often than not prefer toe-up socks: I make a small skinny garter stitch rectangle, pick up stitches all around the edges and alternate knit and purl rounds, increasing at each corner until I have enough stitches.  The toe is cushy and stretchy, there's none of that pesky figure-eight cast on that's so tedious, or the provisional cast-on that then has to be undone as in the case of short-row toes.  

For reasons too complicated to explain (I just wasn't in the mood) I decided on the more traditional cuff-down approach, which in my case consists of a garter stitch band usually about 24 stitches wide with as many ridges as the number of stitches my sock will need, either grafted together (if my cast-on left me a long enough tail and if I'm in the mood) or a 3-needle bind-off joining cast-on to current row.  Pick up stitches along the edge where the live yarn tail is, work a garter ridge because it's pretty, and then go.

In this case, "go" translated to a 4x4 garter rib.  I was a little concerned that the yarn was a little thinner than most of my old favourite sock yarns (like Trekking or Regia 25/75 blends), and I wanted a stitch with a bit of give, rather than draw-in, as in the ill-fated socks which I described in a previous missive.

My favourite heel is the short-row garter stitch heel over two-thirds of the stitches.  It fits well, is comfortable and I like the way it looks, especially in variegated yarns.
All very well and good, so I worked my lovely heel over two-thirds of the stitches, and as I returned to working in the round, I realised that oh dear, I hadn't centred my heel on the stitch pattern.  You can't see it all that well here but trust me, it's not centred:
Actually, you can see it pretty well, can't you?

No problem, I can do anything where knitting is concerned, I'll just make the ribbing do a bit of ziggy-zaggy, ending up centred on the foot, thereby hiding my blunder.

So I did, for almost an inch, except that I forgot/wasn't paying attention/was too caught up watching The Bourne Identity with my 15-year-old and I ziggy-zagged all the way around.  Yes folks, on my sole.  On the sole of the sock, that is.

No problem, I'm a whiz at fixing mistakes, and besides, Phreadde gave me this absolutely gorgeous very tiny crochet hook, just the PERFECT size for re-laddering all those garter bumps on my sole.

It must have taken two hours (subjective time: fifteen weeks) to ladder about 20 stitches worth of bumps, and it wreaked havoc with my pretty gauge (yes, I know, it'll even out with washing and wearing), and it turns out that it's quicker and more attractive to just rip out ALL those wrong stitches and just re-knit those partial rows.

But all's well that ends well, as I'm about to start the toe.
(No, that's not a misshapen foot inside the sock but a ball of yarn).

Best of all, I avoid the boredom of two identical socks, knowing that I WILL centre the stitch pattern on the foot on the next sock.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

One More Thing

I know SOAR is over and gone until next year, but I still have after-glow.

Publicly, I have to thank Denny.  She gave me a gift, for so many good and true reasons, and that act did more than she could know.  It lifted me out of a place I never want to go again, which appeared to have no exit.


Thank you.

I Have A Plan

Oh yes I do, and it's taking shape:
Stay tuned!

In other news, I finished the knitting on this:
Which means that I can actually get going on something fun. I had to do it though, to erase my uncharacteristically bad knitting karma.

Here's the thing: I expect, every time I knit something, to have to undo a couple of hours of knitting, given that I generally alter patterns, if I follow them at all, and never ever use the specified yarn - blame that on my previous ebay habit from about 10 years ago that provided me with all the means to be incredibly busy in my retirement (around 20 years away - yes, that was a clue), and will ensure that I never die. And I rarely swatch, preferring the built-in swatching that is modular knitting.  Anyway, after SOAR 2006 I was on fire, and promptly cranked out three wildly successful sweaters (yes, I'm boasting; also, people on various blogs, having photographed them in the SOAR 2007 gallery, have said kind things about them) and then it stopped.

First, there was the not-my-handspun cardigan that had already fallen into The Burmuda Rectangle between my sofa and the wall.  This is where all stalled projects go.  They like it there, and will often stay for many years.  Sometimes I rescue them, sometimes unsuccessfully. Anyway, this was a gorgeously-coloured batch of, uh, poofy (Amy's nephew tells her that "fat" is a Bad Word) yarn (size 11-13 needles) that was too tightly spun to use for a comfy pullover, and so needed to be a jacket or cardigan.

Foolishly (see the next sentence)  I decided that since there wasn't a LOT of yarn, I should make a cardigan with cutaway fronts, you know, that looks as though someone cut away a huge pyramid of sweater from the bottom.  Turns out that cutaway fronts make me look about half my height, and about as wide as I am tall, which (given the half as tall thing I just mentioned) is really not my best look.

Discouraged my my design failure, I vowed to use a professional's expertise and  found something in the approximate gauge which looked as thought it would do the trick.  And it did. Unfortunately I didn't have enough yarn, and even though I know it's very fashion-forward to have jackets with elbow-length sleeves, (a) I think it looks stupid, (b) I think it looks dumb (yes I'm being redundant on purpose.  I'm making a point, dammit), (c) I don't think it flatters me, and (d) I'd have to extend the sleeves next season anyway, so I had to actually buy a skein of yarn to combine with two skeins from the stash, and alternate the triple strand (yes folks, three strands of worsted weight yarn gets the same gauge as not-my-handspun) with my paucity of yarn for sleeves, which naturally entailed knitting most of one sleeve before deciding that it was Not Successful.  Eventually though, success.  I even made buttons to match, though the safety pins with the little lump which are used for buttons which you'd like to remove every time you wash the garment, really don't work that well on a knitted fabric.  Still though.  Success.  I can't say it enough.  Success.  Success.

Then began The Time Of The Knitting Failures, although in truth, this time was interspersed with Knitting Successes, but as these fruits (not moldy or otherwise skanky) of my labour are no longer in my possession (I have a pair of nieces and a pair of nephews who have sweaters, two brothers who have socks, and a brother who has a handspun beanie with a bicycle motif), I can't look to them for consolation, since they are in Australia.

Back around April or so, I drove up to Toni at The Fold to sell my Jensen Tina II, a truly lovely wheel that had become tainted with bad juju due to the person who'd been using it for a few years, and simultaneously, or in really rapid succession, depending on your time scale, buy a Louet Victoria.  I don't believe in visiting new yarn stores without buying souvenirs, and in this case, it was some truly beautiful sock yarn with which I started knitting truly beautiful socks.  See?  Except that in order to actually wear them (which is almost always my goal when I knit things for myself, rarely knitting non-wearables) I'd have had to have had foot surgery to remove most of the bones in my foot, or otherwise make my feet narrower, which isn't happening any time soon.  I blame it on the pretty ziggy zaggy stitch pattern I invented.
Sock yarn is a very good souvenir, as it's usually under $20, packs well, and ends up being something I put on my feet every week or two, thinking, oh yeah, I bought that yarn at Toni's when I got caught in the ice storm and it took me ten hours to get home instead of five  Good times.

So that didn't happen, and the sock-in-progress is still.  In progress.  Though progress has halted, and will in fact be set back to the toe, where it all started.  Never mind though, I have the latest souvenir (of Chicago) socks in progress, and so far they don't need undoing.

Then, after the family knitting, and in order to have something to do on the very arduous travel home after visiting the family, I decided that the stash contained the perfect yarn for this tank top, and set about it.  Sadly, and I'm not laying blame here, the drape of this tank was such that it exposed more of my bra than I generally prefer (i.e. any), so instead of the Bermuda Rectangle which is a little full right now, the yarn got rewound.

There were other failures, but I'm repressing, because now I'm on to bigger and better things (at least in my own mind), and I finished Something.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Beads and Fame

So how cool is this?  Amy wondered if I might like to make something for her using these, in exchange for fiber.  Uh, YEAH!  The only constraints are length (either short or long) and not too overpowering, as she'd like to be able to wear it t0 work. And oh yeah, a necklace (that's my default anyway).

So this evening I went to the knitting group at my local yarn store, and they were all excited because I have an honourable mention on Knitter's Review.  Well that's pretty cool. Fame at last! Fortune is no doubt close on its heels ... or not.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Truck Stops. Who Knew?

As it turns out, rest areas are in fact well-used, probably for resting.  As least that's what I needed it for.

It all started with Oprah.  Hmm, no, it started at SOAR when Cindy told me that Nancy and Adriana were going to be in Chicago to be on Oprah.  Even though I'd just spent 11 hours each way driving to and from Bellaire, Michigan, I thought that five hours to and from Chicago to visit friends in from the left coast wasn't out of the question.  Saturday was out, given that I was teaching a 4-hour beading class at 11, but if I could get Friday off, I could leave Thursday after work, play with my friends all day Friday, and leave around dinnertime on Friday since they already had dinner obligations.

Hokay then.

I made great time on Thursday, found the hotel and Very Expensive Parking Garage ($35 for 9 hours or more) and we chattered until we were exhausted.  Beyond exhausted, actually.

Friday didn't turn out quite as we planned.  The person who had obtained the Oprah tickets was taking them (and I was tagging along) to the Botanic Gardens in the morning, and then we'd do yarn and bead store crawls in the afternoon.  Drink some coffee, eat chocolate, that sort of thing.   Turns out the Oprah connection, a realtor who claimed to Know Chicago but took more wrong turns than her Knowingness would imply that she ought to be allowed, was full of so much love that she had the whole DAY with us spoken for, and we were held hostage in her big black SUV.  

She thought that people who spin, knit, dye and bead for fun (let me emphasize that: FOR FUN) would just love to drive for an hour to shop where they sell geese in calico clothing and the like.  We did find a yarn store though, and I did snag me some more sock yarn (I will have socks for ever.  Even before this I was replete with sock yarn, but hey, who's counting anyway), and today, as I watched Pushing Daisies online (I love this idea.  It's like TiVo and a VCR with no planning!  I do wish they kept full episodes of ER though, as I was on I-55 when it aired), I started, well, socks, I mean, why not?

So, rest areas on the highway.

Due to the chattering and all, I didn't manage a whole lot of sleep on Thursday night, so the drive home on Friday got a little scary.  I received a very useful jolt of adrenaline that luckily lasted me until the next rest area, after I found myself drifting a little.  Fortunately there wasn't much traffic.

I always thought that rest areas were for sissy travellers with tiny bladders who weren't strong enough to last until the gas tank needed refilling, or for picnic lunches when there was no big hurry to reach a destination in lovely weather, but man, at 10 in the evening, you can't hardly move for the trucks.  I was a little nervous, y'know, woman alone in a Corolla, trying to sleep, surrounded by humungous vehicles, but I did make sure all the doors were locked before I reclined the seat.  The power nap was a lifesaver, probably literally.

Home again, and whoops! No instructions for tomorrow's class, still need to mix up the bread (I discovered batter bread, and I'm hooked), not to mention sleep.

I was only 15 minutes late for class (yes, I did call ahead to let my students know I was running behind), and my instructions were remarkably error-free, which is to say: none discovered on read-through, and none discovered in the four hours of teaching.

And oh whoops again: I'm expecting people for dinner, and except for the bread rising, I have no menu plan, no food, and NO TIME! And, uh, I think the grill is out of gas.

Eh, but here it is, Sunday night, I have leftovers in my fridge, my gas cannister has been refilled, I think my dinner guests are still my friends, and I even managed to teach another class today.

And I have the beginnings of a sock, and since I started it with nary a plan, now that my cuff is finished, I have to decide on a Stitch.  Garter rib?  Travelling something-or-another?  No lace, because lace in socks is weak and develops unintentional, not-the-pattern holes, at least in my experience it does.

I love starting socks this way: cast on some, knit until there are as many ridges as I will need stitches, cast off together with the cast-on edge and pick up stitches in the valleys between the ridges.  Purl a row.  Start something.

Yes.  Start Something.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

BFAC and Yarn Pron

This is the first time I've done something like this: participated in the Beading for a Cure effort.

The donut is what I used for a closure, and the second picture shows a close-up of the necklace I made.

I think the auctions are held in March or April, but I honestly don't remember.

The deal is that you sign up, send in your $20, and then get a set of beads: in this case, seed beads in black, white, yellow, orange and red, a focal lampwork bead, some Swarovski crystals, and some white chiclet beads.  You may add ONE ONLY other type of bead (I chose silver-lined dark amber Czech seeds) and all the findings you need, and you have to use at least one of every type of bead in the kit.  

Last year the colours were really pretty, but I have to say that I found this set of beads very much outside my comfort zone: they're neither sludge nor iridescent nor luster-finished nor metallic nor complex in colour (I'm most attracted to ambiguous colours that defy description).  This required more discipline than I usually have to apply to the fun things I do by choice, which is a kinda strange place to be.

And now for some gratuitous Yarn Porn:

I have no idea what this is. It may be merino/silk, or something like that.  It's my usual sportweight-ish 3-ply, and yes, the colour is true.  Hmmm, a little underplied, isn't it?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Past Travel, Future Travel

After a day of travel (eleven hours in a minvan, five people, six wheels, an inkle loom and luggage) and a day of work, SOAR seems like a distant memory, but I do have New Fiber.

Really though, it's a small but respectable addition to Ye Olde Stashe: respectable due to both the small amount (at $25/ounce, small is all I get) of paco-vicuna as well as the nice big bag from Rovings.  The picture is a bit of a cheat though: the neat balls of natural yarns on the right are old, old, old and are waiting to be made into the Yum Sweater I've been promising myself since I started spinning.  I'm thinking Something Modular, but I guess I usually do.  I wonder if I could come up with an entrelac variation that Kathryn Alexander hasn't already invented?  Nah, probably not.

Next trip: Chicago.  My friends Nancy and Adriana from San Francisco may end up being on Oprah; either way, they'll be in Chicago through Saturday at a niiiice hotel (according to the website anyway), which warrants another quick road trip.  Listen, I drove up to Marengo and back in one day to fetch my Victoria, so overnight in Chicago will be just peachy.

I also just heard that I'm teaching three classes at BeadFest Miami, April 11-13 2008.  Don't think I'll drive that one.

I tried and I tried to insert pictures of the classes, but the server blah blah blah. So sorry.