Saturday, May 23, 2009

Whimsy, silly whimsy ..

Ok ... so I'll admit I like order in my knitting, in my wardrobe, heck in my life ...Oh yes I can admire a rash streak of spur of the moment crazy, and leaps into the dark unknown of cliff faces of unbelievable height in others, I might even push my design students to consider such leaps early in the design process ... but me? I'm into habit, and comfort, and knowing, and planning, and tidy, and expected ...
probably yes, but I can occasionally be silly ... very silly, just for no reason, or if I'm honest to keep up with those around me, to try and be adventurous in situations where it is expected. So today's post has a not very often occurrence, a silly knitting adventure .. pure whimsy, weird, 'because I could'*, and more twisted ordered madness with Bayerische, and a baby blanket all done and photographed and blocking, and then Peggy - a new project, all soft and merino pink and improvised.

So what is so silly, well its a knitted knitting pin, or needle. completely unusable, the end has a circle of plastic cut from an ice-cream container to hold its shape, but the pin is soft and floppy. I cast on for a center out shawl, increased 4 stitches randomly every round until it seemed enough, knit one round with no shaping .. decreased 4 stitches every round until I had what seemed a good amount for the needle, and knit for a bit. Then I decreased 3 into 1 every 4th round to create a nice pointy tip until I had 6 stitches ... cut the yarn, threaded it through and wove the end in. I stuffed and filled it as I knit it which made for an interesting knit experience .. the stuffed end swung like a pendulum as I knit.

This is it in its entirety .. there is only one, someday there might be a knitted circ .. but I don't have more of the pink to knit another end, and I don't think I have enough of the cream to knit another pin. Think of it like a pair with one lost? Lorna has just signed up for a share in a craft studio .. and she is planning her knit-fiber-themed decorations ... and said it would be ideal there. I did have brief fantasy's of providing two classic straight needles and a knitted ball of yarn (complete with knitted ball band) as toys for a toy box at some time, but it was a brief fantasy.

Next Bayerische, this was on hold for much of the week, as I stressed over having enough yarn. I posted on Ravelry asking for help ... and had mixed responses. Several have knitted Bayerische as knee highs, most using different yarns with smaller skeins and less yardage, but they warned me they had small feet and were shorter than I and warned me more that Bayerische was a hungry sock so I still worried. What if I knit so far and ran out - this is a serous sock to frog, a lot of work, I don't want to think of that. Then I realized while it seemed a 'hungry' sock ... perhaps I have enough, I have more yarn. RobinHill posted her knee high Bayerisches were only 70g each, and PurpleRaven said her Bayerische Knee highs used 693 yards, and I've got 840 yards. I also was gifted the toe up version by TheKnittingSwede ... which I toyed with knitting the 2nd sock as. After all the to-ing and fro-ing, and dithering and wondering and stressing, I'm now back on track, and knitting those teeny tiny little twisted stitches and not caring if I run out ... I can have contrast toes and because I've got a skein for each sock .. the contrast toes (if needed) will still make a perfect pair!

Some where in the last 2 weeks I started a 3rd Baby blanket, and posted about it last post. This is now done and blocked and drying. I had a bit of play with different eyelet laces .. so it is slightly different to the others.

Now yesterday was party at out house day. Poppy turns 7 next weekend, but I'm away (conference - paper to finish - eeeekkk!), so she had her party early. Movie and munchie party, 10 little girls and 3 boys (counting our kids in the mix). All went well, we watched Matilda, and ate junk food, Fairy bread!, and pink lemonade (added a little blackcurrant juice). I knew that Bayerishe wasn't a good knit to knit whilst the party raged .. which it did from 5 to 7:30. All the kids bar ours went home in the dark, which is very scary and exiting when you are 6 and 7. After the party and the clean up (not to bad), I needed a simple knit ... so ... I started Peggy, aka pink leg warmers. I'm using 100% merino fingering, so soft for socks, but perfect for ballet leg warmers. Peggy is a collapsed form of Pink Legs, Pink Leggy's ... Peggy? I'm making it up as I knit. 2.25mm needles, 76 stitches, 2.2 rib, with clapotis style increases and matched dropped stitches randomly. I'm making up some 'rules' for myself here, only create one ladder at a time, and these alternately switch from the one side of the knitting to the other, these must be random lengths - but always an odd number of rows and not stacked upon each other. I've split my yarn into two equal weight balls and plan to knit until I run out ... unless they end up way to long for her legs. If I add secret thumb holes - she can make them leg warmers or arm warmers ... I never did ballet - do little ballet girls wear leg warmers or it is a myth from all those 1980's movies?

so that is me, feels like it was a busy week, and I'm away from next friday to monday at the next conference .. if I don't post before I go, I will still be knitting ... and I'll post on my return.
take care, knit some ... bake or cook something you like, I will

* - which is odd because I often say to students - "just because you can dosn't mean you should"!

Saturday, May 16, 2009


this week its all about play, knitting related play of course but play all the same. Today I can happily report on the 3 knitting workshops I attended this week, and post progress on my two active knitting projects (AKP's) as opposed to the WIP's in the knitting basket beside my chair. Then its that time of the year again - 24hour Regent Theater Book sale - so I went with the cubs and got fiber related books, and Amazon delivered a bundle of books that work let me spend my development money on this year ... so its all good here, well mostly good - cause I've lost some knitting and needle .. and they are not where I thought they would be. You see I had one of those weekends - where one frantically runs from here to there, and almost always running late and rushing ... and when that happens, well, its harder to keep track of things.

So, play, the workshops this week were all about play. I didn't know that when I enrolled in them, I should have suspected ... but I didn't give it much thought. The Lynne Johnson workshops involved playing with various yarns and techniques, pushing us to attempt new combination's of colour, texture, stitch and form. Lynne is a user of fluffy yarns, lurex yarns, textured bobbly and twisty yarns ... and her knitting, well it is perhaps more colourful and textured than mine. So for the first day I was a little lost, as I realized that the other knitters there must have known more about Lynne's work, or perhaps their stash has more in the fluffy, bobbly, boucle, and frilly yarn line than me so they were better prepared to play. Still I played - abandoning all notions that what I knit would be a masterpiece, and finished and useful, and just accepted it would be knitting and learning. By day two I had got more into the swing of it - and truly enjoyed playing with what Lynne called 'super garter', a reversible non-rolling colour work variation on garter stitch. My samples are pale imitations of Lynnes and some of the other knitters work - but this is an amazing stitch, looking almost woven. Worked with a strong contrast of colour, strong compliments across the colour wheel, this stitch produces a fabulously rich fabric with a lot of potential.

I joke I can't follow instructions, seeming unable to leave a pattern as the designer wrote it. I have to re-gauge, lengthen, shorten, and substitute a more polished technique or finish for that given in a pattern. But as a student - to maximize my learning I do try and follow instructions. For this next piece we were told to knit a small tube and then increase dramatically, so I did, increasing into every stitch on the round, and again into every stitch 4 rounds latter. Turns out dramatically was intended to be more like increasing into every 4th or 5th stitch. The idea was to knit a vessel, a tube that flared out and then decreased in again - so we would learn about organically shaping. Still my fluted knit was described as coral like, and sent Lynne off to make a note of what shaping I had used. I spent much more time working my rounds with many many more stitches than the other students - and subsequently didn't have time to decrease back to my original number before the next example was introduced.

The LJ workshops were Wednesday -Thursday, and Saturday was Guild day. J was the speaker and demonstrated her special Air-cell Blanket stitch. Air-cell blankets seem to be a New Zealand thing, I suspect every baby born here is supplied with an air-cell blanket, they seem a national tradition. The original Air-cell blankets are woven, commercially, and designed to trap air, J's crochet stitch looks the same and produces a two layer fabric that is light and thick and warm, and grows fast. This image shows a single thickness of the air-cell stitch, and you can see underneath the second layer that automatically forms as you crochet each row. Saturday morning I learned how to work this stitch and crocheted a wee sample in my hand spun ...and I like it. I suspect there will be a few Air-cell baby blankets made over the next few years. So I left the guild meeting in a rush to make it to the next knitting event (I tell you its all go on the knitting front here in Dunedin this week), I left my show and tell knitting behind .. my Estonian colour work socks. J was kind enough to collect them for me ... remains to be seen if her feet and legs are similar to mine and if I get them back, its growing colder here and she might need them for warmth. I was rushing to a knitting class at the Art Gallery, on designing cute toys .. beautifully run by Jenee, and I was all inspired to knit something cute and weird. I attempted to knit a out of scale knitting needle, long, with a round ball top and a pointy end ... but I left it behind at the gallery. I trust I'll get my knitting back this week ... so I can't show you, yet.

Bayerische grows, steadily, but those 2mm needles are hard on my hands. Well ... either hard on the hands or I've been knitting to much ... which is entirely true with 2 full days knitting during the week, plus night knitting and guild crochet. I love the stitch pattern but have no idea how long I can make the leg before I narrow below the calf. I'd love to work one more repeat, I've worked 5, but I worry that working 6 will leave me short for knitting the foot and the heel. I found a Bayerische KAL on Ravelry, also a hint of a toe up version - and I've posted a question on Ravelry asking if someone has knit Bayerische as a knee-high, and if any one would tell me how much yarn a standard pair of Bayerische took. So many questions little yarn.

My last AKP is a baby blanket, a promise I made to some one having a baby, no the baby isn't here yet, I'm not sure of the timing of this baby ... but with Bayerische lurking, I needed a simple knit. This is the fourth knit of my current baby blanket, a center out square, with occasional eyelet rows, more eyelet rounds as the blanket increases. I knit until I have no more yarn. Simple. Easy. Fast. Its my hand spun, fiber from Do Arnot, silk, merino, alpaca, tencel, soy .. I joke when people ask what fiber it is, 'everything'!

Books, well at the 24 hour book sale I scored a vintage copy of Vogue Knitting, from 1988, with an article by Elizabeth Zimmerman, and another article on Traandsstickening, and one on Bishop Richard Rutt who wrote the classic knitting history book. All that in one magazine for 50c! I also found a spinning book for $1, Spin your own wool by Molly Duncan, 2 weaving books for local weavers, and a few vintage photography books for Bear. The cubs did well as well, with a huge pile of books each. I need to stop knitting and do some reading, because there are even more books, on Friday a large parcel of knitting related books arrived from Amazon, all bought out of my work professional development funds. In that bundle were, Manufractured, KnitKnit, Contemporary Knitting for Textile Artists, Radical lace and subversive knitting, Knitting Art 150 innovative works from 18 contemporary artists, The essential guide to color knitting techniques, and the one that might be the most exiting A Theory of Craft, function and aesthetic expression by Howard Risatti. I've read the forward and it raises some questions and gels some thoughts about the theoretical gulf between art and craft that has developed in the 20th Century.

so thats me, 2 Active Knitting projects, and one lost project ...and lots to read.
take care

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sheer Madness ....

Yes, absolute madness, others have said it and I'm repeating it, knitting a sock with 116 stitches, half of them twisted, four charts, pattern work every round ... on 2mm needles, and then repeat for sock two. Madness ... and its begun, and I love it. Today is a short-post-day, I've spent the day playing with yarn and needles in a knitting workshop, and tomorrow will be the same ...but I can't escape the madness ... its pulling me in, and tonight I want to knit some more on my pickle green sock. Today's workshop was by Lynne Johnson, and was called Two Yarn Tango, tomorrow its Lynne again, with Knitting Choobz ...(no that is Lynnes spelling not mine). I'll round up my samples and show you what I've got in the weekend, but now, its all about Bayerische.

I'm one and a half pattern repeats in, having cast on the pattern number plus the recommended 16 extra for calf shaping if knitting knee highs, so a total of 116 stitches. I took time to rework the increases and surprised myself by successfully having the pattern grow out out of the single twisted rib on my first attempt, just like the calf length original. I've got 200g of VP In a pickle sock yarn. My last pair of knee highs weigh 134g - so I should have plenty even though twisted stitches on teeny tiny little needles eat yarn.
and why am I knitting such madness? Its because they are beautiful, and something EJ wrote on her site about twisted stitches,

"They're so satisfying, you know? So tiny and orderly and lovely. I've found that when my brain is in danger of melting altogether and dribbling out my ears, a couple repeats of Bavarian-style twisted stitch patterns set everything right. All the little lines are so graceful and logical, so tidy, so totally devoid of chaos. What you see is precisely what you get - and it doesn't hurt, I suppose, that what you end up getting is almost always really, really beautiful."
And you know, I'd have to agree, you would think these would be an absolute pain to knit, to twist each and every knit stitch, and to twist most of them around another stitch in a different direction most rounds ... but no, its strangely methodical, calming, with a powerful sense of putting order into something. Now that is something I like to add to my day, a small space where I'm in charge of the neat and orderly execution of something. Any guesses how long my infatuation phase will last?

And a final close up of the colour work on my last socks .... with an image of the stranding inside.

... because I took them to spinning on Monday, and every single spinner in the room flipped the top down and examined the inside. Honest they did, and I don't mind, I would too if they were some one elses socks, it was fun to watch. I'm going to take them to Take Back the Knit Thursday, and Guild show'n'tell on Saturday ... do you think they will do the same? I think most will, if they are knitters. And then I thought if all those knitters flipped the cuff down to inspect the floats ... well I'd let you all do the same ... in the virtual knit-blog world its almost as good as touching the yarn, almost.

take care
na Stella

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Done ... all done,

and washed, and blocking on not quite long enough sock blockers. Last night I was 3 rows away from the end of the corrugated rib, and had only 4 more rounds before and casting off .. but that didn't get to happen until this morning (Mothers day), so the socks were finally cast off after obligatory Mothers day festivities. So today, my first knee high socks done, a fiber swap parcel arrived (and one was sent), ... charts, I share the charts for the sock top, and explain how I make charts. Finally, a neat gift (yes I'm spoilt this week with gifts all round - the cubs gave me blocking pins and chocolate for mothers day - I've got them well trained), and finally the next sock pattern and yarn all lined up ready to knit ...

A few months ago I put my hand up to organize the 2nd New Zealand Ravelry Fiber Swap. Sign ups were thru Ravelry .. and the requirement was to send fiber and goodies to a secret swap partner. The theme for the swop this time was ' A match made in heaven', so I said caramel and cream. Kate (aka Knitapotamus) was my swop partner .. and she sent me wonderful things. Two bumps of Pitt Island fiber, and info to explain Pitt Island sheep. The fiber is dark, and fine and soft and crimpy - I can't wait and this will be the next on the wheel. There was also chocolate and key ring sock + blocker ... and a hand knit wash cloth (NZ with a map even!), and pattern holders and two kinds of chocolate. Its always hard when some one asks my favorite colour -- cause I switch around, usually its blues and greys .. but I love caramel and cream and tan and dark greys just as much. I love my swap stuff (Thanks Heather!).

The swap was a bit of a round-robin (is that the term?), in that Kate sent to me ... but I sent to some one else .. who sent to some one else ... and eventually the circle of swaps closes with all spinners being sent to and sending. So I was lucky enough to draw the name Heather (aka Dianthusgirl), who loved raspberries and boysenberry's .. so I sent these raspberry and boysenberry things ... dyed combed perendale fiber, touch yarns, soap, bag(s), beads .. sheep post it notes, nail file.

And the finished socks, here! Knee high and still damp, still blocking ... I'll post again with a photo of them in use (being worn). I'm reallly happy with these

I tried to chart what I did, I started with the chart from Nancy Bush's Estonian Socks in Folk socks ... so the first 9 rounds are from that chart ... then after that it was borrowed from a section of a chart in Ann Feiltelson's book The Art of Fair Isle Knitting. Borrowed and adapted, with different colours and some elements modified. I knit the chart on 2.5mm needles and the sock on 2.25mm. I finished at the top with a row of K1blue K1brown, then 6 rounds of corrugated ribbing in blue and brown. The last round was purled brown, before casting off in brown. I dyed the colours in these socks way back in August 2008 using dried Lichen from Hands in Chch, each batch is a different colour as the lichen exhausts and different dyes are released. I liked using the Lichen - as you don't need mordants, and the shades are subtle. The blue was from the indigo vat at work. I'm pleasantly surprised at how nicely they all work together ...but perhaps that is the secret of Lichen and natural dyes.

The chart was clearer before I added the brown background. To make the chart I made knitters graph paper here, and set the lines to black. Black seems easier for photoshop to 'see' when I use the magic selection tool. Then I imported the page into Adobe Photoshop Elements and used the magic selection tool and fill command to flood each selected square with colour. Holding down shift lets me select multiple non-adjacent squares. The undo button is useful as well. I guess any photo imaging program that has select and fill commands would work.

So next up is Bayerische, in this beautiful green ... I've got two skeins from Vintage Purls to make knee highs. Notice the glass bottle with the yarn? The one with Stella written on it? I was gifted this during the week from a work friend -- who found it in his basement. Its from Stella Preserves .. as well as having Stella in bold script embossed into the glass, it bears the inscription "This bottle always remains the property of Stella Preserves Ltd, Dunedin". I some times wonder if I should spread my wings a little and try another place ... but Dunedin feels like home ... and perhaps I'm meant to be here.
take care
na Stella

Friday, May 08, 2009


Yes shameless ...
Please excuse a little shameless self promotion, but you know those bags I've been making, the little project bags, pretty cotton fabrics, lined with cotton and finished with ribbon ties? The ones that fit a center pull ball of yarn and a sock on the go, or any little project? The ones hand made by me, in New Zealand? The ones that can hang from your wrist as you knit and that keep your yarn all safe and tangle free when you toss the project in your workbasket or bag?

Well ... Morag has a wee few on sale here ...all limited editions,like this black and white version (one of only 6, 3 left)

ok ... advertorial over, normal knitting content returns on Sunday ...


Tuesday, May 05, 2009


It is going to work .... with enough yarn to work both colour work sock tops and some edge finish!
Yey (Yeay ? Yeah? Yay? ok so spelling isn't a strong point ... but if you were all here for the spelling ... well lets not go there ...).

I worked the chart, a then 6 rounds of garter stitch in the 3 colours as in the original sock .. that is 1 ridge of each colour. But ... yuk, well nice sock not such a sophisticated top finish ... so this morning I frogged the garter cuff edge, took out the cast off and frogged it all back to the colour work and started a corrugated rib band. I also dropped down a needle size - the garter gaped a little to much. The ribbing fits just fine.

So tonight I'll finish this, I think about an inch of ribb and then perhaps a row (ridge) of colour work .. and look!

knee highs - or very nearly ! And yes .. next time I photograph them - I will make sure the cables are on straight - I was in a hurry - I had to go to work, and drop the kids at school, and ... you know morning rush and all.

I'm one happy knitter ...and two more bags sold .. and I got the nicest message via ravelry from one of the buyers so all warm and fuzzy inside, and the next Winter VP sock club sign up date is now announced so I'm ready to pounce ... ready .. ready ... and I sent off my New Zealand Fiber swop parcel .. so feeling sort of under control and happy and relaxed. I like those feelings. And I got a whole lot of marking done today ... life is good :-)
more next week ...
na Stella

Saturday, May 02, 2009

not sure ...if this is going to work

so I can either give up now and frog both socks back to the ankle ... or I can wing it and see, and I'm not sure which is the smarter plan. The Estonian socks are not turning out to be a straight forward knit ... toe up seemed a good idea, it meant I could knit while away and not have to fuss with a chart ... but now I'm up to the color work cuff ... the fussing has returned - perhaps to bite me. When the socks are not bothering me, I've also been polishing the instructions for making a baby bootee of my own design which are a compilation of lots of ideas and techniques from my knitting life. So today .. an update on my Estonian Socks, the baby bootee, and a new video showing Russian grafting, which is a neat alternative to a sewn graft.

I'm liking my Estonian sock, even though I've made a fair few 'errors' in the making of it so far, such as knitting the heel flap to long and so decreasing away at the ankle more than there were gusset stitches. This fact I only discovered when I began to add in my calf increases ... and found after 10 increase rounds I was a few to many stitches short of my estimated total. Opps, but it does explain the snug fit around the ankle and why I need to ease this sock on carefully, the upside is once on - the sock fits beautifully.

My 'other' error, or at least one I know of, is the one I discussed last post, where I didn't take the key for the chart away and invented my own key fo the chart symbols. Back home I knit a few rounds just above the heel of sock two as they should have been knit to see how different my version was. The cables are a little different, the twisted stitch cable of my own making comes to a point, the twisted stitch cable as charted by Nancy Bush is more of a rope than a chain. You can see the cable as Nancy charted four 'loops' up from the heel -- I did decide that these few odd-loops-out could stay, but that I would complete the rest of sock two as I had knit sock one, just to keep them matching.

The calf increases worked well, I probably could have started these lower .. but had blindly knit on without referring to the original pattern ... only to discover I needed 96 stitches for the chart ... not the 64 I had, so had to increase lots quickly. The sock fits, snugly but it fits.
But it does not end there, having increased to the 'correct' number I find that the chart has increases and decreases built in to allow the colour repeats to work out around the sock. Silly me ... I increased to match the cast on number of stitches ... which is not the number of stitches needed at the calf end of the chart. Remember I'm knitting these toe up not top down, and I have to read the chart upside down. End result, at 10:30pm last night, after a nights work, winding up all my little colour work skeins into center pull balls, switching up one needle size for the colour work, and checking my stitch count several times, working in the decreases and frogging first few rounds of the chart several times ... I wasn't up to frogging back many more rounds and adjusting my increases to match the end of the chart I needed ... instead I decided it would be much simpler to find a chart that would fit into 90 easily.

Found one! 29 stitch repeat, a nice symmetrical cross a little like the original .. and I can easily make the 2 stitches between the pattern 3 stitches. Its from Anne Feitelson's book The Art of Fair Isle Knitting, and I've charted it out on graph paper. Now my only worry is will I have enough yarn? I have 2 20 g skeins each of pink and indigo ... and 2 skeins of a pinky brown ... I have no idea if that will be enough to work this chart on both sock cuffs. I guess I will find out. How far does 20g go when you knit colour work on 90 or sock stitches on 2.5mm needles? I'll let you know.

This is a baby bootee that I've been developing for a while now, the first iteration was knit for Toby (now nearly 10), before he was born, and at that stage I converted a pattern I found from one that was knit flat to knit to one that was knit in the round, I also simplified the original styling which from memory involved bunny ears, a pom-pom tail, and an embroidered face (yes it did). I love this style, the inner rib cuff makes putting it on easy, and the fold down cuff keeps the ribbing snug on the baby's leg. So these shoes tend to say on but have no fussy ribbons or ties or buttons. At a latter stage I changed the original sole shape, and the direction the sole was knit in. The original was knit in dk weight for a 6 month old, so at some stage I adjusted the key numbers to make sizing it up or down easier ... and developed it as a preemie or new born size .. and a birth - 3 months size. Most recently I've introduced 'corrugated sides', which are intended to help the bootee stay on. As a baby kicks or rubs its feet together, the sides stretch out and bounce back - rather than the bootee being kicked off.

The bootee is knit top down, and finishes with a 10 or 12 stitch graft at the toe. You can see the finished graft as a little tiny row of plaited stitches between the garter stitch bumps.

My most recent upgrade has been to replace the sewn graft with a Russian graft, which I think works well here. The Russian Graft leaves a hint of a tiny plaited row of stitches ... and other than that is practically undetectable, plus its very easy to do. I first met this graft 2 years ago at one of Lorna's Lace Camps ... and have used it occasionally since - it works for closing the toes of cuff down socks as well. Some instructions work this graft on knitting needles, but I like to work mine with with a crochet hook.
so let me present Russian Grafting ...

na Stella

cross you fingers my sock cuffs work out ... or I will hide them run away and foolishly cast on these(I have the yarn) or these.