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.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

No More Colour

See the lovely sweater, photographed against a difficult background, knitted for the umpteenth time (yet further along than ever before)?

Notice the sleeve on the left, sleeve cap beautifully shaped, sewn in just so?

And how about the partial sleeve on the right?

There you have it.

I have a little more purple (that's what the main colour is, a more or less smoky purple), but that's slated for body-lengthening, which promises to be an odious but necessary task. Actually, I wish I had even more purple (I probably have enough for another inch) as the wide band really ought to sit rather lower on my hips than a mere few inches below my waist, but I have little choice due to yarn quantities. I'll have to undo the picked-up stitches (not cutting, as I NEED THAT YARN), and then knit downwards, doing something clever with the diagonal eyelets that currently start just above the bottom band.

But I have no more colours for the sleeve, except for the squiggle of mustard still attached to the partial. Sure, I could undo the finished sleeve, stop the shaping increases a couple of inches earlier, narrow the sleeve cap and re-insert it into the armhole, but that's likely to buy me at most a couple more inches on the partial.

I need more yarn.

I think the handspun stash might be deficient, though I'm pretty sure the unspun stash will yield something moderately useful, even if overdyeing is necessary. Even so, at best that will force a large partial undo of the finished sleeve so as to fool viewers into thinking that I'd planned on that funny-coloured yarn: "See? It's in both sleeves!"

Fortunately sleeves don't take all that terribly long, but I really was hoping to finish the damn thing yesterday or sooner.

On the plus side, the neckline is very flattering.

Small graces, eh?

[Edited to show you that yes, indeed, the stash comes through yet again, though I might break this up and spin only the pinky-purple sections, since for all its rainbow of colour, my incomplete sweater does not contain any teal.

But still, there is a real possibility that this can be completed].

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Shiny Things

I started this before SOAR, and it's languished this past week as I attempted to catch up on sleep (unsuccessfully) while making more forward progress on The Knitting Project Which Will Not End (but might soon, as yarn is becoming scarce).
Since most of the rest of the weekend will remove me from my beading table, and since I'm itching badly to work on new and different beading projects (as always, but the force is strong in me) I mustered up all the self-discipline available and got it done.

I so enjoyed the faux right angle weave that I used for the green necklace for the SOAR auction (wear it well, Rachel H, and thanks for your generosity!) that ideas have been buzzing. What I really wanted to do was make a shiny rope using 3mm metallic faceted beads, but I couldn't find what I wanted in The Stash (oh the horror: the stash is insufficient. There is a remedy) so I used larger faceted beads and pearls to make first a pendant:
And then a pair of earrings:

This size beads alone made a too-chunky rope, especially with the little gold seeds in the corners which were needed to hide thread, but added more stiffness than I was happy with.

I do hope to have enough time to make a gold-tone rope, accented with the lilac pearls and faceted beads, upon which to hang the pendant - the twisted rope, apart from being hopelessly the wrong colour, is kind of a cheap cop-out in my opinion.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Die to Dye

I love ending SOAR with a burst of colour, so if there are any dye or colour Retreat sessions, I save them for Saturday afternoon.

This is the first time I've used fiber-reactive dyes in public - I've dyed cellulose at home often enough that I've had empty dye bottles, but this was the first time in a class. 

On the one hand, there's none of the frenetic "Gotta paint this roving so it can get in the batch that's being steamed NOW" but on the other hand, there's bringing waaaay too much extra stuff to dye, and desperately trying, in the interest of not wasting dye, though of course that's moot since Kim was going to be driving the left-overs home, to get as much dye into as many rovings as possible and eventually dyeing three of four exactly the same in desperation to be done, but still, overall, I think I did a fine job.
And it's shiny!

The slightly matte, smooth roving at bottom left is cotton-silk, and I have to say that I'm very surprised at how well it turned out. The colours are not quite as vibrant as I'd hoped, but the roving, well top actually, is fabulously uncompacted with almost no snapping, unlike either of those fibers prepared alone. I've thrown away nastily compacted cotton roving that I foolishly tried to dye, and have sworn at silk, but this is really lovely. Too bad it was just a sample.

The pinkish and golden ball at the top is silk with rayon from bamboo, and it's also pretty nice, though not as fluffy as the cotton-silk (of which, by the way, I'm pretty sure I have in quantity, undyed, somewhere in the stash).

The rest, the shiny stuff, is partly tencel and partly rayon, but I couldn't tell you which is which, since I didn't tag it. 

In case you were worried, let me allay your fears: I have plenty of fiber to spin now. In fact, I had plenty even before I left for SOAR, but that's not the issue, is it?

And in a case of Too Weird to be True, exactly a week after my daughter was traumatized by gun violence, an "incendiary device" (that's what the local cops called it) went off across the street from her job at a gelato shop - though fortunately this time she was absent for the experience, though the aftermath (closing the shop since the area was evacuated so she didn't go to work) did affect her.

Truth often is, at it turns out, stranger than fiction.

And Laurie, while the popular cold remedies may well be so much snake oil, the gel-up-the-nose stuff seems to have resulted in simply a mild case of the sniffles. Not that it proves anything, but I'm just saying.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I think I'm coming down with The SOAR Cold. Not loving the prospect. Using Zicam. Somewhat sceptical, as there's been no improvement since this morning, quite the contrary in fact.

I also have No Pictures Of Anything, which feels like a cop-out, since I use them to lure the Unsuspecting. No, I won't explain what I mean; I don't know, I just said it because it sounded good and dammit, I'm SICK.

SOAR was rather good for knitting. I have a body and most of a sleeve and I think I'll keep them. I may not have enough yarn though. It's always Something, isn't it?

The main thing that marred SOAR was the phonecall I received on Friday morning from my eighteen-year-old daughter telling me that she and four friends had been held up by a guy with a FREAKIN' GUN in the parking lot of her friend's apartment building in an area of town which I'd have thought perfectly safe. No one was hurt, but they lost everything. My daughter, the future world-famous photographer, had her first and only good camera stolen, as well as other incidentals like money, iPod, make-up, debit card and so on. Worth about as much as the deductible on the home insurance, naturally.

Not physically hurt, not dead, but understandably freaked out.

When I'm not at Death's Door, I'll take pictures of the fibre I dyed in Sara's class. She provided a skein of raw silk, which I think is the same weight as the skeins of raw silk I've previously dyed in her retreat sessions, usually on the last Saturday of SOAR like this time. Am I predictable or what? What, I think.

I also brought along rayon and rayon from bamboo and bamboo-silk and cotton-silk and this Cibacron dye indeed appears to bleed less than Procion MX, though I suspect that my bleed was due more to over-saturation than anything else. The rovings looked very shiny underwater, but less lovely once they were squoze. I'll report back with pictures once they are dry.

I think I need my dad's cold remedy: hot tea, lots of honey and lemon with a good glug of scotch or brandy. At the very least, it's bad for insomnia, and by that I mean that it's insomnia's enemy, in that it's sleep-inducing, which is sorely needed right here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

SOAR: What You Don't Share

... can't come back to haunt you, right?

So this year, the badges are ever so slightly different: there's a little square on the upper left in which you're supposed to write which number SOAR this is for you, and in which by far the most popular number this year is one. The number one. The n00bs are playing it straight: no cherries, nothing like that, just "1st" inked in.
This is [the view from my room and] my fourteenth SOAR. I'm clearly not a SOAR virgin, so I guess I must be a SOAR slut or a SOAR whore, though I am not by a long shot the most, um, experienced: there are two twenty-threes and one other fourteen that I've seen, and I haven't seen everyone yet - it's only barely Tuesday, after all.

The following is most definitely not something I have done while here in the Poconos, but was in my camera when I downloaded the above picture.

More earrings for the Amy Sale.

You'll also no doubt have been nervously perched on the edge of your seat, waiting to find out about The Knitting Project That Wouldn't.

Plan XXXVIII (or thereabouts) involves knitting a moderately substantial strip on the diagonal, grafting it closed, and then picking up stitches for the body of the sweater using the main purple yarn. Plan XXXVIII (subject to modification depending on the state of my memory and ability to stick with Plan XXXVIII) originally also included a spiralling row of eyelets starting at the bottom and ending when there's nowhere to go, but I forgot, and I'm about fourteen rounds into the body, and I spent the time this morning between when my neighbours thought it expedient to shower and talk and generally make noise, and when my alarm should have gone off, debating the merits of dropping stitches all the way down so as to insert my spiralling eyelets in the event that no one is able to lend me a crochet hook of suitable size, being that it's a rather tedious business with only knitting needles.

The jury is still out.

I haven't had coffee yet. It's only Tuesday and already I'm sleep-deprived.

Yes, it's SOAR.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Not Quite Ready

Well, I'm not packed for SOAR yet, and my flight leaves in a little over twelve hours, so I'd better get cracking!

On the plus side, I have managed to complete two items for the scholarship auction (just minutes ago, I might add), so it's not as though ALL my time has been spent worthlessly (see below. No, below the beading stuff. Yes, it's the part about knitting with no pictures.)
Remember the gorgeous bead, the sight of which has led many into temptation, that broke? Turns out cheap aquamarine is the perfect colour to go with my necklace, and even though I can no longer be self-satisfied at the way the beadwork cleverly echoes the patterning and shape of the bead, at least I now have a necklace whose focal will not draw blood if I fiddle, uh, fondle it.


I'm a bit despondent. Fortunately I have a barely-started sock which of course will do for travel knitting in a pinch, but there's no way in hell I'll have a third sweater for the gallery this year.

I hate my merino-tencel sweater. It deserves to die.

Here's the problem. I did that lovely circular yoke (about twenty-nine times. Well, two or three at least) which fits perfectly and lies on my body just that way I would want it to. That part isn't a problem, exactly.

I then very boastfully raised the back of the body of the sweater via short-rows, which works well in that the front neck is indeed lower than the back neck; however it has the unfortunate side-effect of being better suited to a body shaped somewhat differently than mine, and in fact than most humans. 

It would appear that I am missing a large bosom just below the shoulder-blades, if my sweater is to be believed. When I say "bosom", I am of course referring to that large, unjiggly mono-boob favoured by stern corseted matrons from previous centuries. My sweater has a large pooch in the area between my back waist and shoulder-blades, which may well block out (but I hate that; it's a cop-out in my opinion), or be mitigated by the addition of actual sleeves, into which I have been loathe to put any effort, since what's the point.

The thing is, it's wildly unflattering on this body. I tend to be on the short-waisted side anyway, and the multi-colour rounded yoke in contrast with the largely-solid lower body so effectively divides my torso as to make me look positively deformed that I'm surprised it hasn't been ripped out yet. I might take it to SOAR for general entertainment and amusement first. After all, someone should get some pleasure from my misery, right?

Now that I have multiple lengths of yarn (the yoke is striped; I cut the yarn from stripe to stripe) any future sweater is somewhat constrained, unless I want many same-colour joins within a section, so I might as well just cut my losses and make stripes. 

Or cut my losses, grab some different yarn, and start something completely and utterly new.