Sunday, December 28, 2008

Rather Good

I was going to title this post Rather Productive, but then I flashed to this delightfully silly site with my favourite Viking Kittens [edited to add the link - I did say it was silly], and went with whim instead.

I did say that Mark I of the donut bail was more of a concept study than a finished product, and I am much more pleased with Mark II.
The bit that fits over and holds the donut is the same, but the part that does the hanging from the necklace thing is far more to my liking; more texturally interesting I think.

This is what I was thinking of, pretty much, when I started playing with floral medallions last night.
Actually I was envisioning a bracelet in which five or six of them were connected in a row, but as I had enough of the centre aqua/lilac beads only to make three medallions, I went with a necklace instead.  To tell the truth, you probably don't need more than three for a bracelet, since the interesting bit is generally what sits on the outside of the wrist rather than the inside, which could just as easily be plain open rounds (i.e. without the floral bit), but I'll leave that for later, as right now I'm going for a walk.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Thrill of the New

There's nothing like the sweet satisfaction of starting a new project, unless it's the virtuous smugness of starting a new project after the current one is done, but today all I have is sweet. Which will do nicely.
I'm the Queen of Small Amounts when it comes to fibre shopping: I want everything, and the only way that's going to come close to happening (and then even not so much) is if I don't buy in bulk. This of course means that I end up with smallish skeins of yarn, even if I combine a number of different fibres, which is why I have so many richly-coloured yarns in twelve-ounce lots. I three-ply, often from three different rovings, since four ounces seems to be the quintessential put-up when it comes to bundling spinnable fibre.

It also means that I rarely have enough of a single yarn for a project (read: sweater. Smaller handspun projects are on the rare side), so that when I do (which invariably results from having bought a fleece, against whose charms I have no antidote, or at least no more than what amounts to token resistance) it's an event of great import, and requires many hours (in meetings or while waiting for a build or an update or a download or when I can't fall asleep at night or when I'm taking a brisk walk or driving) of contemplation, sketching (not while I'n driving though), guessing gauges and then calculating everything as though my guesses are on the nose. They're generally at least close.

I tend to change my mind along the way, sometimes radically, but often more in detail than overall aesthetic.

What I wanted with my three pounds of wool-kid-silk blend three-ply yarn was an A-line jacket. I vacillated between the yoke knit sideways with an under-bust cable, knitting the sleeves and yoke as one, working short-row godets to shape the skirt, using inverted pleats, but in the back of my mind I was thinking of a jewel-toned jacket by Luisa Harding (click on "Index") in the Best of Rowan book, only I didn't know it until I found it while paging through my knitting book collection, no doubt looking for something else. 

I don't care for the collar (too wimpy) or the dropped shoulders (too eighties), but I like the way it's made in panels, each with a cable down the centre, and the way the sides of the panels get decreased away to nothing, so that the yoke is just all cables.

I can also do better than a garter stitch bottom edge, hence the above picture, which is the cuff of the first sleeve which hasn't yet been joined into a circle. Once that's done, I'll pick up stitches around one edge, pick a cable of which I have eight which meet my criteria: including exactly two purl stitches at each edge, the cable panel is 24 stitches across. The three that couldn't be kludged up (by adding another repeat or part thereof) or down (generally by changing 6-stitch cables to 4-stitch cables, which is actually better for this project since all of the cables I'm using fit this paradigm) to fit will become either cuffs or bottom edges or part of the collar.

I'm pretty psyched. I think this'll be awesome.

I was industrious and dutiful though, and finished another class sample.
I love technology, and the way I can listen to Fresh Air and Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me and This American Life and oh yeah news too while I bead. I love that they save it all, and all I need is an internet connection. Not that I require noise at all times, and it's actually pretty useless when I'm writing instructions or figuring something out, but when it's just doing More of the Same, the whole experience is enhanced.

I also did some experimentation, and while I like the way that the medallion on the left has a sturdy, raised frame, I don't so much like the way that it squishes and distorts the floral motif in the middle. The medallion on the right will easily zip together with another the same and will make a somewhat fluid, fabric-like surface, whereas the technique I used (and didn't complete) on the left will be better suited to free-standing components which need to be stiffer.
I'm not done yet though.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Oh Yeah

I got sucked into a House marathon on USA, and my rule about TV is that my hands have to be knitting, and so as you can see, I was so right about Hypnosis.
Janel's pattern had you work the motif over 30 stitches for a 60-stitch sock, which doesn't work for me with the sock yarns I tend to buy: I invariably (as in I can't remember if ever I have not) use 72 stitches for my socks. As it turns out, all I had to do was to add an extra purl into each section, and do another set of increase/decrease pairs, and I was golden.

Right now, I can't decide whether to stop here, where the stitches on my needle read (k1tbl, p2) around, and work a heel using this repeat (it would be pretty), or complete the pattern and work the heel over (k1tbl, p4) or work another half repeat to end once again at (k1tbl, p2) but rotated ninety degrees. Or not. 

It's still fractionally shorter than I usually make my cuffs (but I don't have rules about cuffs), but on the other hand, ribbbing always uses more yardage than not, but on the other other hand I can always get more, and it's not that expensive.

Meanwhile, I should probably get on with the class samples, instead of slacking off and making stuff for my etsy shop.
In my defence though, I started off with a class idea that didn't quite pan out, and since I liked the colours and had an inch or so done, I decided to complete it anyway.
And earrings, well, they don't take that long, and I had the beads out anyway for another class. Really I did.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


I can't stand it any more.

I knit for pleasure, and while the yarn is lovely, and it looks beautiful, I'm not enjoying the knitting of this one bit.

And furthermore, the thought of picking up the dropped stitch that I can see (there's an invisible dropped purl somewhere in the neighbourhood, but as there's all sorts of crossness going on, I can't find it right now) and laddering it up through the back loop is more than I can bear.

So I'll just start again with Hypnosis from Janel's lovely, lovely book.

Even though her gauge (and the pattern, as written) don't quite match my yarn/standard sock size/number of stitches/gauge, the design will size well for me, I think. If I want to (and I might, perhaps) I can even emphasise the single columns of knit stitches by working them through the back loop, but at least I don't have to do all those crossed stitches, which really was diluting my joy.

I can get it back though, because I just know that this will be so much more pleasant.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Quiet, But Not Entirely Unproductive

I've been making class samples, or trying to.

Most of my classes tend to be in the Intermediate to Advanced range - at least, I think so, but then I'm not terribly good at evaluating difficulty - but supposedly people want beginner classes. The thing is, often what is easy to do looks sort of sparse and barely finished, but I think I've come up with a bracelet that is easy but full enough to get your teeth into, if you know what I mean. It's not hard to make, but it is blingy, and it does take a while (but then so many things worth doing take an investment of one kind or another).
I don't know why, but I'm ever so slightly obsessed with stars.
This works, but it's not stable enough. If you squeeze the points laterally, it poufs up like this, but if you sit on it, it squishes quite flat. Not quite determined enough, in my opinion: I might have to figure out how to give it a bit more backbone, so to speak.

I'm quite pleased with the rivoli pendant though, even though it's hanging from a rather rustic leather thong.

It's not terribly difficult (but I wouldn't recommend it to beginners probably), but the multiple layers and passes give it a nice depth. Might be fun to connect a series of them to make a bracelet or a more complex focal for a necklace.

The socks I told you about last post? Still pretty, but progress has slowed. Turns out I haven't really changed my mind about twisted stitches.

Way back when Nancy Bush published her wonderful Folk Socks,  I determined to knit a red pair, the Bavarian ones I think. After half a row of knitting through back loops, I realised that I'd have to be institutionalised if I continued on with it, and instead made something completely different, though still socks. It was sock yarn, after all, and I don't have any interest in knitting a sweater on size zeros, even though knitting my cashmere-silk handspun (excuse the blurriness) on size twos really didn't seem like much of a hardship at the time.

When I decided on the Baroque socks, I was certain that I'd become that much more mature and laid back and besides, they're really pretty, and how onerous could two socks' worth of ktbl be?

Not so bad, if all you were doing was ribbing, but extremely tiresome when you're cabling and your eyesight makes you feel older than you think you should feel. What you have to do is to order stitches One, Two and Three thusly: Three, Two, One, with One crossing in front of Two and Three crossing behind, or vice versa. It's especially tedious when it's EVERY SINGLE STITCH in a friggin' round, which fortunately happens only every eighth round, but still, my patience is wearing thin, and I'll tell you this: Sock One is not destined to be an exact match for Sock Two.

I've been offered four teaching slots at Bead Fest Portland next year, yay! I can't go to Philadelphia in August, as it's right over my daughter's birthday, so I was hoping for Portland. Plus, well, Portland! Seafood! More yay! 

Although, funnily enough and coincidentally and all that, SOAR is in Oregon next year too.

The other day I surfed to a blog in which the blogger had Pay Now buttons to sell her beading kits, and part of me thought "What a good idea" while I wondered if it really was. I'd totally be preying on people's tendencies towards impulse purchases, which in these times of economic Armageddon isn't exactly kind, is it? And I can't find anything [that I can completely understand] in the Blogger Terms of Service that might preclude commerce on a blog, which would certainly make my mind up for me.

Friday, December 19, 2008

True Confession

I'm weak.

Sometimes I just can't help it.

I'm a one-pair-of-socks-at-a-time kind of girl, in both the wearing and the knitting departments. I like to have a sweater going (because that's pretty much what I like to knit, except when I make skirts, but that was just that one time. So far) as well as a sock project, which lives in my car and is there for me when I'm waiting for stuff (the dentist, the gynaecologist, long traffic lights in summer when I'm not wearing gloves and it's not too dark in the STATIONARY car to knit, and so on) or when I don't plan quite well enough at the tail end of a project. For the next project. So that I can start it as soon as I'm done with whatever the current project is.

One pair of socks at a time, that's what I do.

And then, shortly before Thanksgiving, I accidentally discovered a Very Dangerous Place and was extremely weak in the vicinity of the sock yarn pages.

Frankly, it's all Amy's fault.

About a year ago she was aghast that I had no artisan sock yarn, which she promptly rectified, and I made those green socks about forty-nine times. Turns out that merino sock yarn really does feel yummier on the feet than regular 25/75 nylon/wool sock yarn (though it's pillyer), and even way better than the 30/30/40 or 25/25/50 or whatever the percentages are when there's cotton or chitin or something else with the wool and nylon, which is my excuse for my spendthrift ways. 


Anyway, there I am at knitting Wednesday, one sock down and the toe of the next looking respectable, loving the yarn (Trekking XXL, which is really ingenious: four plies, each changing colour independently, leading to non-repeating tweedy stripes. Brilliant. I should spin sweater yarn like that) and loving the sock and looking forward to finishing the second one so that I can wear them, knowing there'll be none of the anticlimax that comes of finishing wool garments in summer, knowing that I could wear them as soon as I finish them, and what do I do?

Even though it's put out by one of the big yarn companies, it looks and feels like an artisan yarn, but that's not the point. I mean, it's loveliness is the point, and the fact that I just happened to have an extra set of sock needles with me (they had stitches on them, no rows, just stitches) did me in completely.

I bought the yarn, put down my toe-in-progress and started these socks, which are Just Lovely So Far.

And I know my feet will be happy.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Friend Dan

I know anyone can just make a video on YouTube, and it doesn't make you famous or special necessarily, but Dan was just about my best friend in preschool, we grew up around the corner from each other, and a song he wrote with his band back in The Day was voted best South African song of the twentieth century and has been recorded by Josh Groban, so he really is special:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Making [A] Bail

... a bail for a stone donut, to be precise. My stitching is a little wonky, the seed bead colours in the photo are absolutely not true and appear to not match the donut colours, and I ran out of thread before I could add the embellishment, but in spite of that, I'll declare this a success.
It's the concept.

My original idea was to use the same thingy, more or less, but twisted ninety degrees, as a bail for a teardrop-shaped pendant, secured with nifty wirework, but the shape of the bail didn't hug the curves of the pendant well enough - at all, in fact - so that was declared something of a dead end while I continued doodling on the same little piece, ending up with a very ugly something (what was I thinking when I chose those colours?) which actually did give me some very interesting ideas for a chain, even at the same time as the above idea bailed me out.

Groan, yes. Not entirely sorry: I'm a sucker for indulging in bad puns.

So this necklace and the above bail make two more class samples for spring.

On the knitting front (no pictures) I have a double waistband casing which might require a different final joining/finishing than the one currently in place, which is a little bulky.

What I did was to work around in stocking stitch, making the first casing by knitting a round together with the round about six below by working the stitch together with the purl loops on the wrong side. For the second casing, I worked a couple more rounds and then joined in the same way to a couple more rounds below the last joining round, casting off at the same time. A three-needle bind-off.

Great idea, but too bulky and not quite stable enough, as it wants to roll to the right side, though a smidge of elastic (planned for anyway) may alleviate some badness. I hate to think that the HOURS (yes, hours) I spent picking up the loops and casting them off together could be undone (in a matter of minutes) and then joined by sewing - what a concept! (in a matter of some more minutes) - yielding a better finish. 

There's something plain wrong with that.

I also have the beginnings of the bottom edging in place (stitches picked up and one garter ridge), so I guess I won't have to break my promise to the Wednesday knitters: I will wear the skirt next Wednesday (no, not the day after tomorrow, the following week). It had better fit properly this time, and no, I haven't tried it on. It has to fit, otherwise my daughter gets it, and she'll probably toss it in the machine and full it and then I'll have to make it into a laptop sleeve, one of which I've been meaning to make anyway, but I hate the thought of all that energy going into a skirt which turns out not to be one, since I'm sure I already have some old failed knitting which would do quite well.

So it had better fit.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Wouldn't You Know It

The hem hexagons, a full four stitches extra per side, which gives them 6 x 4 = 24 more stitches in their starting round than the waistband hexagons, and which take about as long as an inch of stalagmite to complete, are overkill when it comes to the length of the skirt.
Those three pink and orange hexagons, bravely hanging off the round of seventeen-per hexagons, are superfluous. Unnecessary. Redundant.

They must go.
There's really not a lot to be done with the last of the hexagons in the pink-and-purple round though, as I completely ran out of purple. This was how I chose to improvise, as I was too lazy ^H^H^H^H eager to be done to take the time to attempt to dye some of the cream or pink yarn a vaguely matching shade of purple. 

I'll call it an Area Of Interest. My Unique Touch.


The waistband is not quite done, and the bottom of the skirt (apart from the excision of those three hexagons) still requires a border, so I'd better get cracking on the design (which will be planned before I start, considerably more so than this skirt was) for the next project. There are cables to be chosen and charted, stitch counts, decrease rates and buttonhole bands to be decided upon.

Instead, I used my free time to see how well my new favourite stitch works in seed beads to bezel a cabochon.

Not bad, actually. Tiger iron is marvellous stuff, such a wealth of colour.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Moving Right Along

I have completely used the yarn from a round of waistband hexagons (fourteen stitches per side) and have knitted eight one-round-above-hemline hexagons (seventeen stitches per side) and naturally I believe I will run out of purple yarn. Naturally it is the nicest colour in the mix, and naturally I had only two balls of purple, where I had three (and sometimes four) of the colours I like less well.

I think there's a law about this stuff.

And I was all ready to start the next project - see, I even swatched!
Actually, I'm not entirely ready, since I haven't decided whether I'll do it top-down or bottom-up (probably bottom-up) or picked out the cables I'll use (I need to find some cool Viking or Celtic cables, as well as my favourite hartshorn), or the bottom edging or the buttonhole band (it has to be some sort of cable thingie where the buttonholes are part of the cables) - in reality, I'm ill-prepared to start knitting right-away on the next project, but emotionally I'm there.

It's always something, and the current something is class proposals and samples for the next go-round of classes at the local bead store (for February through May, due the beginning of next year).

There's a bangle which is sturdy and works up faster than you'd expect.

And the beginnings of a necklace which will take forever to complete, but will be pretty, and that's what counts, right? 

(No, I didn't turn the colour off. These really are both shades of grey. I like grey).

To tell the truth, the beading projects I most enjoy are complex and take ages to do, but there's only so much you can teach in a shortish class, and it's not as though I'm a Big Name in beading, and can offer three-day classes for a single project that will fill within hours of opening. 

I wonder what that's like?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Oh The Horror

Even though I measured and calculated, it turns out that the narrow end of my skirt isn't quite the right size to be flattering to my wide end (which after the food orgy that is Thanksgiving is probably even wider). Couple that with the fact that this skirt, while following the proportions of other knitted skirt patterns, is not ideal for my proportions, resulting in robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Alternately: I have to remove hexagons from the small end of the skirt to make bigger and better hexagons on the big end of the skirt so that the small end better approximates a suitable size and the big end does not become the way too short end (my knees are not my best feature, so I prefer not to wear skirts that highlight them).

My life is still hexed, as it turns out.

Apart from the fact that I was so very ready to start on the next project (I have even swatched), and that the disappointment of delayed startitis approaches crushingly sad, this is actually not a bad thing, as Skirt 2.0 will be better.

My original shaping plan for seven rounds of hexagons was two rounds at sixteen stitches per side, two with fifteen, and three with fourteen. As I laid it out on the sofa to admire it, that this size progression didn't allow for quite enough flare over the hips-thighs-lower-belly area to be attractive, so my new and improved shaping, with only a single round of fourteen-per-side hexagons allows more ease where I need it, and a flippy bottom edge: my inverse Robin Hood rounds (I'm stealing from the stitch-poor hexagons to make stitch-rich hexagons) will not both contain hexagons with seventeen stitches per side - the second round will have eighteen stitches per side.

I know it'll make a prettier skirt, but I really wanted to wear it sooner than in a couple of weeks.

The added bummer is that these larger hexagons take considerably longer to complete than the small ones. Obvious, yes of course, but the actuality of it is less than ideal, emotionally. I'll try to be grown-up about it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

And Then There Was More

Food, that is. Isn't that what Thanksgiving is for? Excess? As practise for the so-called "Holiday Season" which really means Christmas, but don't get me started on that rant just yet. Let me work up to it.

So first there was food, and it was good, and then there were left-overs, which were also good, and then another day passed and there were wishes for something else, anything else, like Indian food or a good stir-fry, and then we knew that it was over.

Luckily Julia came to visit a couple of days, and we knitted to the conversation. She finished a baby sweater and wove in the ends of her fair isle hat while I made hexagons until I was replete with hexagons.

This was good news, because it meant that I could start filling in the spaces between the hexagons so as to form a waistband.

This process is mercifully quicker than hexagons; I did two while thinking about getting up to work out, it was that quick.

My plan is to use double-knitting with a sewn bind-off to form a pair of casings for elastic which will ensure that my skirt does not fall down, which would be inconvenient, and possibly (probably) embarrassing. I don't think it needs a whole lot of taking-in at the waist (well, below the waist actually) so there will be none of that ghastly extra bulk born of gathering. With a bit of luck.

Then while I knit the other eight hemi-hexes which are more like hemi-demi-hexes since they're smaller than a whole half of a hexagon, I can plan my next project, an a-lined jacket/coat/cardigan in panels with cables loosely based on one Luisa Harding and about three Jean Moss patterns, but ultimately not all that much like any of them, except in their a-line-ness.

At least, that's the plan.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Well Well Well

Your result for What Planet are You From? Test...

You are from Uranus!

40% Uranus

Well, how about that? You are from Uranus!

Uranus is a bit unusual in that it kind of tilts to its side. They think that might be because it was involved in some kind of collision with another planet or huge asteroid at some time. Uranus also has nine rings. It was discovered in 1871 and is the third largest planet in our solar system.

Uranus was named after the Greek father of the sky. It is said that he come to the planet to mate with Gaia, but he hated the children that she bore. Hmmm. Does that mean that you don’t like very many humans?

What does this say about you?

Well, it means that you have a very strong personality. You like being different. You are just one of those people that are hard to describe. You like to make people think because you realize that life is always changing.

You have lots of ideas and could possibly be an inventor. You enjoy learning about new things and trying things out. You are definitely a doer and a creator. Give you a rubber band, a paper clip, and a ball point pin and I’m sure you could manage to do something very interesting and unusual with it.

Intelligence becomes you!

Take What Planet are You From? Test
at HelloQuizzy

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Typhoid Mary

Some years ago I worked as a contractor for a company that did telecommunications software. Every year they'd ask me to convert to full-time employee, and every year I'd decline. After four years I decided that I liked the place, that the work was interesting and varied enough that I wouldn't die of boredom.

I converted to full-time.

A year later I was laid off.

As it turns out, this was not a bad thing since (a) the job I then got was way more interesting, and I worked with far brighter and more like-minded people, and (b) some time later my beau from the telecommunications place and I broke up, which would have been awkward had I still been there, to say the least, since our dissolution was not without bitterness.

The Way More Interesting Job was not without its downside. I watched endless rounds of what seemed like ill-considered layoffs, while I remained immune. 

It was disconcerting. 

Then TWMIJ got interesting in a Chinese curse kinda way ("May you live in interesting times") as business picked up its downhill rate of spiral and we were regularly frightened at impromptu company meetings where they warned us of doom and gloom. 

Layoffs became more random and frequent.

I watched and freaked out.

After a while I stopped freaking out, since it was clearly not personal, and there was nothing to do which would either forestall or hasten one's own layoff.

Mine was in January this year, and as you may recall, met with some amount of glee, sloth and indolence being much underrated.

Foolish I am not, since I took the new job when it was offered back in April.

On Friday I watched as twenty percent of the workforce was laid off, people with more history at the company, more and higher (in the hierarchy) personal connections, and probably more work experience.

And I know, assurances to the contrary, that this won't be the last. 

Immune, I'll watch more fall like flies until I too am overcome.

I hope not though.

I beaded another sample for a class proposal which I don't actually know was accepted, only that they wanted to see a bigger picture in a lighter colour.

I had given them black/hematite.

I hope this fits their criteria (yes, I sent them a humungous picture).

I'm still knitting hexagons, and I guess my taste in knitted skirts was vindicated when my daughter said "I can't wait for you to be finished with that so I can borrow it". Her version of borrowing involves a longer absence than I like, and sometimes necessitates my retrieval of borrowed item, so I'm not altogether delighted with her interest in my skirt.

All the same (no picture, but trust me) I'm one round and three hexagons away from The End Of All Hexagons (and on to edging and finishing, which have their own charm).

Probably not in time for Thanksgiving dinner though.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


So I have four completed rounds of hexagons on the skirt, a few hexagons on the fifth round, and one on the sixth.
Moving along with the clown skirt quite well, I think.

I spun the SOAR Blend from Cottage Creations.

John thinks it's scary (too many colours). I'm not easily frightened.

Now I need to decide whether to ply it on itself, or spin something else (well, two something elses) to ply with it.

My brother gets swag through his company, so when I was in Australia he tossed something my way.
Gotta love new toys!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dye Some More

Turns out it's really hard to get good dye penetration on a full pound of soy silk roving in a crock-pot. It just sucked up whatever I poured on - and poured on and poured on. Still, if it's completely horrible spun up, I know I can always overdye some more...
This is a skein of my sort-of kettle-dyed yarn, which I think is the artistic way of saying I didn't stir it. I couldn't quite photograph the colour accurately: it's really more intense than the picture shows.
I hadn't washed the skeins, as I knew I'd be dyeing them, and I'm delighted with the way they've bloomed. I think the fleece was a border leicester crossed with merino, blended with a bit of silk and some grey kid mohair that my brother picked up for me on his travels somewhere or another. New Zealand possibly, though more likely Australia (since he does live there, after all).

Like most of my yarns, it's a three-ply, but the long and only moderately crimpy staple of the wool, combined with the silk and kid resulted in a fairly dense yarn, almost scratchy even. Not over-twisted, but not a lofty yarn. Good for outerwear.

With the simmering in the dye-pot however, it has bloomed marvellously. The coloured silk and kid lend the yarn a slightly rustic tweediness (even apart from the happily uneven dye-job), but more importantly, the yarn glows. It has fabulous lustre. It's not merino-soft or cashmere-soft, but it does have a luxurious silkiness and drape and even though it doesn't seem much fatter than before dyeing, it seems less dense. 

I don't understand, but I don't care either, as I like it very much.

Below is some merino-bamboo-alpaca (with a hint of glitz) that also spent some time in the dye-pot.

And another yummy blend, no extruded fibre this time.
Oh wait. I think there's a touch of glitz.

Notice a theme, colour-wise? Except for the soy silk, everything I dyed this weekend seems to fall in a narrow slice of the colour wheel. Wonder what it says about my state of mind?

I did quite a bit of knitting too, but it's just More Hexagons which need to be steamed before being made available for public viewing. I've completed three rounds plus three; three rounds plus seven to go, and then of course the edging and finishing and whatnot.

Also did a bit of beading.

The famous white Russian beading book (if you've never heard of it you may not be  beader) has a stitch which leaves the beads in a configuration much like four-sided tubular right angle weave, but with fewer thread passes, and it's way faster. Makes a very slinky rope.

It doesn't look that great with seed beads, but perhaps I haven't happened on the right seed beads. There's something about the proportion of hole size to overall bead size, as well as the height to diameter ratio that affects how well a particular bead will do in this stitch.

Fire-polished beads and rice pearls work verra nicely!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Dye Some

I started this set before I left for Australia, intending to have it available at Amy's sale. That didn't exactly work out.
I didn't get it done until today - I hadn't done any beading since the day my father died. It has no significance; just the way things have turned out, as I've been a bit consumed with knitting hexagons.

At SOAR, Toni sold out of the Blue Moon merino-bamboo before I could make up my mind/persuade myself I needed some, so I bought some au naturel and dyed it myself.

OK, I realise that's it not exactly competitive in the hand-painted fiber world, but I like it and I think it'll make pretty yarn. I'm curious to see if merino-bamboo makes as luscious a yarn as merino-tencel, which I think might be my current favourite.

It spins like buttah baby, makes a delightful yarn with body, drape and shine, and is gorgeous knitted up. Repeatedly. From the same skein. Without washing or steaming or ironing or in any way trying to get the kinks out. Actually, I suspect it's the tencel which allows it to be so fickle and forget the stitches it previously loved, loving only the stitches it's in and forgetting about the old ones. Shades of CSNY.

I have a couple of Lambspun blends (merino-bamboo-something and merino-silk-alpaca-something) in the dye-pot, and some yarn soaking even as I type. When I start to dye, I just want to do more. 

Hmmm, in the stash I spy a whole pound of soy silk, which takes dye beautifully, and might fit into the crock-pot, which the soaking wool-silk-kid will not. I'm wondering if it'll even fit into the dye-pot - it's over 1400g, about three pounds and my big dye-pot is not huge. Guess it'll be kettle-dyed a la Manos.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

And Back Again

My dad was a cardigan kinda guy, and for him, Perfection in Cardigans meant a shawl collar and pockets, so as a pretty new hand-spinner and long-time knitter, I of course made him one. I've only once made a handspun sweater for someone else besides him, which turns out to have ultimately been a mistake, but that's another story too boring to recount.
I used natural brown wool for the body of the sweater, and accented it with a stranded border pattern using all yarn from dog fur, various shepherding dogs' fur actually: sheltie, great pyrenees, German shepherd, and more which I can no longer recall.

I made the buttons too, using polyclay.

Unfortunately, one of the gifts my father's dementia gave him was the utterly irresistible urge to chew things. His shirts are all chewed through (my mom and I went through his clothes while I was there), as were the duvet covers and anything else he could get into his mouth.

The buttons on this cardigan, particularly the second bottom button, did not escape.
Fortunately, in my zeal, I had included an extra button, sewn into the side seam.

Now don't laugh.

There is the possibility that this could become a skirt that is retro/unique/cool/pick your adjective, rather than foolishly clown-like. I know I'm not Kathryn Alexander (I wish!) but surely, in some alternate universe, I could get away with a skirt composed of op-art hexagons?

If not, there are options: (1) overdyeing, or (2) fulling to make a bag or cushion cover or something.

I live in eternal optimism.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Lane Cove, NSW

My mother has always, since I was a child, had a Sweet Cupboard (that'd be Candy Pantry, in North America, I suppose). No one could go there without permission, but we knew, we knew it was there, and we yearned.

Ruby and Charlie, on the other hand, have no inhibitions, and in fact seem pretty pleased with themselves.

We found bits of half-chewed sugary mysteries (I'm guessing those that didn't quite make the cut) around and about, as well as scraps of foil wrappers. 

There's been plenty of sitting-around-looking-glum time, which is pretty good for knitting.

I finished That Sweater, and it might even be wearable, though I wish I had more of the main yarn, as the body would do well to be about an inch or two longer. I have a couple of yards left, that's all.

Amazingly, this yarn endured multiple cycles of knitting, ripping, reknitting, rinse, lather, repeat pretty well. It didn't fuzz or pill or get nasty in any way, though due to my ball-winding and unwinding and the fact that sometimes I was knitting from both ends of the same ball, there was a bit of unplying, though nothing dire and nothing that I couldn't remedy as I reknitted.

Turns out They were right: you do in fact get pretty good results photographing outside when it's overcast - this has to be the most accurate picture, colour-wise, of this sweater (or its yarns) to date.

Although I have never lived in Australia, it has familiar vegetation. After all, back in the days of Gondwanaland, southern Africa and Australia were connected, so I see trees and flowers here that make me feel at home (even though home has not been in Africa for more than twenty years).

Then again, it's totally alien in every way; witness this guy at the side of the driveway:
He's about two inches fat (greatest diameter) and about fifteen inches long, but that's only because his tail appears to have been, um, curtailed.

Since The Sweater is finished, and since I did bring More Yarn, there's a project in the wings, but unfortunately I've had a hard time getting started.

My plan was to knit four strips, probably striped, and then to join them with sideways short-row triangles to make an A-line, four-panel skirt. Unfortunately, as I dozed on the flight here, visualizing it, I realized that my idea, while practical and even attractive in a relatively solid colour (and I'd lump kettle-dyed in this bin too), would be hideous in seven colours. Clown-like even.

I've been going round in circles, as I must be constrained by Australia's air travel laws which specifically forbid knitting needles, even though (a) this is the only country in the world that thinks knitters might be dangerous and (b) in truth it's possible to slide in wooden or plastic needles. Circulars may well be problematic, but double-points are doable, if not exactly permitted.

Given short needles, I can't make the kind of skirt whose instructions begin "Cast on one hundred million stitches, join to work in the round, being very careful that the stitches are not twisted, and continue knitting in the round, decreasing occasionally, until you give up all hope that you will ever finish" because I don't have a large circular needle. In part because of this, but also because I don't want to swatch.

So my key phrase has been "modular knitting" which in its most common form of mitred squares is generally best executed in garter stitch. The yarn I have, approximately double-knitting weight, is too heavy for this to be attractive in a skirt.

I spent many fruitless hours on my mother's very slow albeit supposedly broadband connection (I can pick up a fluctuating wireless signal on my laptop so I use her computer for signal-heavy activities) looking for the pattern for Horst Schulz's shell-shaped modular piece to no avail, though I suspect I could probably fake it. This after many hours of Googling "modular knitting patterns" and rejecting endless mitred squares, which I can do (and probably have done) in my sleep.

I kind of wanted to do the skirt on the Artyarns website, but again, I'd rather have a lighter weight yarn for this design, not to mention better colours - less contrasty, I think, and more in the same family with perhaps only one or two unrelated. Mine are all over the colour wheel. I also rejected a Kathryn Alexander-style skirt, since oddly, I don't have enough colours to do it justice.

I think I've settled on hexagons. They work well on four needles (three plus one, not four plus one), can be done entirely in stocking stitch, can accommodate some striping to achieve minimal colour-blending, can be adjusted to achieve as much tapering as needed, and best of all, I don't need to swatch.

I cast on some stitches (a number divisible by six) that makes a decent-sized hexagon (and by that I mean one big enough to not be irksomely small, but small enough so as not to look like clunky patchwork) and make enough of them for a decent skirt hem circumference (somewhere between 60" and 65" I think).

And then carry on.

We'll see.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bowral, NSW

My brother's back garden at his house in Bowral. We had lunch at this table yesterday.
Not very well spun, but I do have a couple of new ounces of merino-tencel for travel knitting on The Sweater That Will Not Get Done (but which is bending to my will, pictures later).
And for afterwards, a bagful of colours.
Funny thing, I bought this yarn in Australia last time I was here, a year ago.

Call me foolish, but I'm dead keen to knit a skirt, but now that I'm here, and have had a chance to think about it, a mix of colours might not be ideal for a skirt - how can it be anything but much too busy? - but I'm committed to this yarn because it's all I have.

The other constraint? It needs to be knittable on short double-pointed needles, as that's what I brought. I was thinking "modular", and now I'm wondering how to avoid "Way Too Much". Multiple colours would be easier in a jacket, but I'm certain that if I try really really REALLY hard, I could come up with a skirt that doesn't screech "Hideous Clown". Well, I think I can.

It's lovely being here with my brothers, my mother, my nieces and nephews. The mood is pretty good, all things considered. The phone rings constantly, calls originating in South Africa, Israel, and here in Australia.

One thing that's interesting: the calls and emails from my generation talk about the man my father was, and how the facets of his essential self affected their lives, while those from my parents' generation reflect on the good times they've had. Dementia is a ghastly way to go; its danger being that the more recent memories could override and overshadow what was.

Here's self-styled The Printheth of Beauty (She's not the queen, she's not the Printheth of Flowers, thank you very much). 
My nephew likes Wii.