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?