Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fling One and Fling Two

Acknowledgment: Title inspired by Dr Seuss's and Thing One and Thing Two - characters from the Cat in the Hat, 1957.

When I started working the double-knit mittens and discovered that my gauge was 'improving' I decided that I would forsake other knitting projects. It was a considered decision, I worried that working other kinds of colourwork in tandem with Double-Knitting would have all sorts of unforeseen gauge issues. As it turns out ... I kept fairly project monogamous for the past few weeks .. until this week. But this week I had a party to go to, J turned *0, or as the Germans would say had a 'round-birthday'. I'm told that birthdays ending in 5 and 0 count as 'round-ones'. There was a party, a knitters party instead of meeting for knit night as usual in the Link - we met at M's house and ordered food in .. and celebrated. We chatted, there was knitting and giving, and lots of fun. It was not the place to knit from a chart ... so I needed a simple project - enter knitting fling 1. The same group of knitters have a mid-winter gift exchange every year ... where we draw the name of one of the group members from a hat (knitted of course!), and stalk and plan and secretly knit something for them. Enter knitting fling 2.

So instead of my planned knitting project monogamy - this week I have indulged in two knitting flings.

Fling One
Finally a sock on the needles, yes it has been a while, lets see .... at least April the 16th, so at least 13 days without a sock on the needles. This is Heart of Glass by Vintage Purls, part of the Summer Sock Club 2010. I am knitting mine in Pastel Mist, having used the kit sock yarn as the contrast in my Nightingale. I like this yarn .. is it a little unusual as VP colours seem to be more vibrant and this is very subtle.

Fling Two
This is my super secret project for my Thursday night knit swapee. I have tried to disguise the project so it looks like knitting... but not any specific knitting project, and no it is not really pale concrete coloured grey. I'm looking forward to finishing the **** section so I can ****** along the **** and then work the rest .... and that is as much detail I can provide right now.

With all this flinging there has been no noticeable progress on the Double-knit mittens .. but tonight there should be some, I'm so near the top that I'm keen to see it done and compare it to the first one for size.

I have to return to work this week .... after a week and a half off .... I like work, really I do but I enjoy having my days to myself even more. Is that wrong, or right? I'm not sure.

take care
na Stella

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

It has been a looonngg week,

or so it seems, and yet nothing really has happened - it was the second week of the school holidays, and last weekend was Easter .. so there was heading off to catch up with my Dad. We stayed for a few nights before heading home sans-cubs, yes we left the cubs with him and had a few days at home to ourselves. Bliss ... and yet I love them dearly.
Then there was the trip up and back to collect the cubs .. both had asked if they could have a few days at home just doing nothing ... and yet both had also asked to go to the movies, and shopping and play with friends. Oh this doing nothing is busy stuff indeed.

Me .. .I've been knitting, at Dads there isn't all the distractions of my own house, like a good guest I help out with hanging out washing, and dishes and meals .. but then its just being there, and conversations. And of course the knitting, lots of time for knitting, at the park watching the kids, at his house outside in the last of the autumn sun, inside watching tv and chatting ... lots of knitting time.
Which means that I'm near the end of the second mitten that will become the first of a pair, because gauge was not my friend the first time through. And this time I was a little bored with the polar bears .. so now I'm knitting owls, this pattern comes with four options, so I have plenty to play with if the owls become boring. Right now the owls look rather stern, don't they?

And since I was knitting this one as the first of a pair ... I didn't feel bound to my previous methods. This time I used a tubular cast on ... after a wee bit of fluffing around I finally decided to cast on the stitches using Judy's magic cast on, and work two rows in brown on one side of the cast on, and two rows in pink on the other side ... then fold it in half and transfer the stitches to one circular needle ready to be double knit. When I cast on I used one strand of pink and one of brown, all the pink stitches ended up on the lower needle, and all the brown on the top needle (just like the two colours in the photo tutorial on Knitty). I guess the original german twisted cast on privides a knotted edge that would wear better, but since I have never ever worn out a pair of mittens to a frayed edge around the wrist, I'm prepared to risk the tubular edge just to make it 'pretty'.

And as for the first mitten, the one that is to large .. I've been wondering if it could have a life as a fancy oven mitt?
What do you think?

Take care
na Stella

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Oh... ... .. .. . .

I see, gauge ... one of those 'important' things. Really really important if you want to knit things that fit, or if you want to knit pairs that are the same size. That is what I want to do, knit matched pairs.
Lots of things can throw off a knitters gauge.
  1. Yarn, some yarns slide easily into place, others catch and snag and drag and make uneven stitches more likely.
  2. Needles, likewise some needles catch and snag and drag and make knitting evenly difficult
  3. Distractions, being stressed, or relaxed (or other in other states of being, hurt, angry, tired ....) can alter the tightness of your knitting, enough said.
  4. Experience
    The longer one has been knitting, the more chance one has of achieving consistent tension or gauge (the British call it tension, the Americans gauge - I'm an international knitter so swing between the two).
    Conversely the less experience one has the more the risk of changes to the tension
Number 4, that is my problem right now. I would consider myself an 'experienced knitter', but I freely admit I am not an experience double knitter. I should have seen this coming, that as I knit my way through the pair of mittens using a new-to-me technique my knitting would settle into regularity.

Bother, nothing for it now but to continue on the second mitten, finish it, compare the two and start a third if I have enough yarn left over, then frog the first if I need more yarn. My only wish is that my gauge has settled down and will not change more, or there could be a fourth and possibly even a fifth mitten required to solve this problem. I like the firmer feel and look of the second mitten - otherwise I would just go up a needle size and start the second mitten again.

I wonder if the gloss will have gone off this technique before I reach the end of the third mitten?

The good news is that with every mitten my skill level increases. The result is always better when you have to work something again because you are able to use what you learned the first time around to make it better. The even better news is this does not upset me - once it would have, but for some reason I'd rather these were a matched finished pair than just finished. Truly it is about the knitting .....

Happy Easter ... if that is something you celebrate,
Relaxing weekend to all irregardless of what you do with the days.

na Stella

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Another pair of socks ... arives in my house.

Yes, another pair of socks in circulation, which means that I should be thinking of the next pair to cast on for, and the double knitting still has me intrigued enough to want to continue working on it. Sadly that is at the neglect of my other colour work project. I think (rightly or wrongly) that if I switch from knitting double knit mittens to a colour work tam then my gauge might just vary more than I want it to ... so to keep things consistent, I'm keeping my techniques consistent.

A few moments ago I negotiated with eldest cub to put on his new socks so I could make a photo. My cubs are used to requests like that .. even when they interrupt important activities like ...

...playing marbles. This is a hand made rug, that his Grandmother made, probably some time in the 1980's (or earlier). I'd love to say it was for him .. but no she made one for each of her two sons, and some how we have inherited both. One is in elder-cubs room and the other in younger-cubs room. This one I'm told is perfect for playing marbles on, just the right amount of drag, and the circles can be incorporated into the scoring system. If only she knew how much her hand work was appreciated. And yes his bed is unmade (I'm told not worry about that as airing beds prevents dust mite growth so I try not to care) and yes - that is a a teddy at the foot of his bed - Four Square Bear (long story).

So with the socks done, and in wear, I have been making progress on the mitten. Once the thumb stitches were set aside the mitten grew rapidly, and then once the mitten tip started to narrow - the mitten seemed to grow even faster.

I was really pleased with the way the decreases work at the finger tips. The pattern has very clear instructions on how to knit and shape the 'inside' and 'outside' layers, and they decreases really do give a neat result.

Today the rain has finally slowed, although the ground shows the result of several days of heavy rain - every thing is squelchy. Another indoor day, or as I found out a day to sing quietly
‘Rain, rain, here to stay, it must be a knitting day.’
Not a song of my own making, I loved reading that on Ingrid Murnanes blog, and felt like it was appropriate for my current weather.

take care
na Stella

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Low tech

Sometimes technology is amazing, like this, a blog that connects me to the blogger-sphere, the large and vibrant world of online knitting. Then there is the internet connection, the computer, the digital camera, the wireless network, and the huge online knitting community evident in virtual spaces like Ravelry, You-tube, and Knitters Review Forum.

And with all of that sometimes the low tech processes are just better. Better because they are just less trouble to set up and unlike computers and ipod-touches with knitting apps don't go to sleep and power down when I take too long. The past few days I have found myself decidedly low tech in my knitting -

I am working the slip stitched heel of Toby's sock, in eye of partridge stitch. In that stitch pattern on row one the first stitch is knit the second slipped and those two repeated until the end. The second and fourth rows are purled back, and the third row is K2, *s1, k1 [repeat from * to the end of the row]. Problem is I'm easily distracted so often I can't remember if I am starting a first or third row.

My very low tech solution was to grab piece of note paper from the memo cube, write K1 on one side and K2 S1 on the other.

As long as I turn it over after each purl row I am having no problems keeping track of where I am in the eye-of-partridge pattern. It is even easier than tracking the rows in my knitting journal, I don't have to pick up a pencil and tick them off. I'm making sure I always pause after row 4 if I have to leave my knitting, and so far so good!

This is the last week of teaching for me, and the last week of school for the cubs before this school term breaks. I'm working next week .. but no classes :D, so I should have lots of time to get things done.

Hope the next week or two hold as much promise for you where ever you are!

take care, na Stella

Saturday, April 09, 2011

And now I really need to say Thank-you

because I have many things to thank people for, many, many things. And this is where it gets tricky as I really can't put my thank you's in order, each is as significant as any other, and so I'm just going to introduce things in the order of their arrival. And then after I have a little bit of progress on my knitting to report and the final installment in the Vintage Purls sock-yarn club joined my stash, and lastly a pencil joke - one that has Bear and I giggling but one that the cubs puzzeled by the things that amuse adults. But first thank yous ...

A little over a week ago this wonderful book arrived at my doorstep, Fashioning Fashion - European dress in detail 1700 to 1915. This book goes-with an exhibition that was on at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, finishing only a few weeks ago. A friend had alerted me to the exhibition .. but of course LA is just a tad far to travel at short notice, so I suggested I treat both of us the book if there was one. Turns out there was .. but instead I was the one who was treated the book. I am really lucky .. this is an amazing book, and is a heavy hardback book so it was quite a gift. Sitting on the title page is a wee tiny 90mm long mechanical pencil that Bear found this week and gifted to me. It was amongst his family things, and so could have been his mothers or her mothers. The pencil takes a 1.1mm lead, which is still available, and has the most gorgeous tassel. I have no idea what this was for, I suspected it was a Bridge pencil but it seems they came in sets of four (clubs, hearts, diamonds, and spades), and it seems unlikely to be a golf pencil with a tassel like that although some sources say that small mechanical pencils were for golf. I wonder if it was a dance card pencil? Does any one have any clues? It is beautiful and will probably become my knit kit pencil.

Then my prize from Dave's Mechanical Pencils and Cult pens arrived, or rather I had to collect it from the local Post shop. This is nearly all of it, as my darling youngest cub has adopted her gift as her preferred pen and it now resides at school so was unavailable for the photo. In the spirit of the giver, I really tried to focus on pencils, so this is what I ordered :
  1. Worther Slight Mechanical Pencil in Black with spare leads.
  2. Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil Gift Set with a box of 12 replacement pencils.
  3. Two Caran d-Arche Fixpencils, a 22 and a 77, leads, and a spare button, these are gifts one for Bear and one for S who gifted me the above book. gifts because I already have one and love it so much I want to share.
  4. Tombo Mono 100 in B pencil x 3, these are rumored to be one of the best Japanese pencils on the market and I have not found any stocked locally so took the opportunity to try some, Bear gets one, I get one and we will see which of us gets the 3rd one.
  5. Staedtler Mars Lumograph Pencil in B, x 2. Again not stocked locally but one Bear asked for one as he remembered Advts from his junior drafting days for these and always considered them the best but had never seen them for sale so had lusted after one as only a pencil trained draftsman can. He does have Mars Lumograph leads for his two vintage 2mm clutch pencils, and so has some expectation of the quality of the lead..
  6. Schneider Base Fountain Pen in Boysenberry (as explained missing from photo) for the youngest cub, plus a converter so she can explore bottled ink, and a box of Diamine assorted ink cartridges colour way 'floral'.
  7. Lamy Z25 converter so the other cub can take advantage of bottled ink in his Bright Yellow Lamy Safari fountain pen, and not be limited to the ink colours of Lamy cartridges.
  8. One bottle of Edelstein Fountain pen ink, in Sapphire Blue, and two Parker Delux converters so I could upgrade the filling unit in one of my and one of Bears Parker fountain pens and play with a colour that is not readily available in New Zealand.
So... I'm happy, ecstatic really to be able to order without worrying about the cost and the shipping, such a lovely assortment of writing things. I treated myself to the Worther Slight, as I love my vintage mechanical pencils and they all take a 1.1mm lead, this seemed the perfect opportunity to invest in a modern production pencil in the same category of lead size. I won't go into to much detail here as I thought Dave might like a full review. Ditto the Faber-Castell Perfect pencil, I have used a junior version of this for ages now, the pencils are amazing, providing a very sharp black line but keeping a good point for ages. The extender doubles as a point protector and houses one of the most efficient pencil sharpeners I have ever used - one or two turns is all it takes to shave a pencil to a fine point. I took this opportunity to buy the 'gift-box' version for myself. I have given away so many of the junior perfect pencils at work to those who borrow and admire mine that I thought it might be prudent to have the grown up one to differentiate mine from theirs. Then the other items were all pretty much pure indulgences, gifts for people, family and friends, and things that I had heard good things about but not found locally, and things that made what we already had more useful.

Now having thanked S, Bear, Dave and Cult Pens .. I can move onto the knitting. The double knit mittens grow, honestly I love this technique but find the chart a learning curve of some steepness. I have frogged at least half a row once or twice. The above book has seriously distracted me most nights, and this week there was the additional iD fashion events that overtook my knitting time. Oh and on that side of things, the shows were amazing, I got to supervise students help Liz Mitchell fit her models and so saw her designs up close and in detail (just like the book!). The iD show was amazing, as always, but I'll leave it to you to browse and decide what ones inspire you, let me know what you think.

When I have not been able to manage the double knitting chart, and have not been distracted by the FF book ... I have managed to start the elder cubs second sock. Progress as shown, I am up to the gusset increases and onto the second colour of contrast yarn, soon the heel with start and then it will really look like a sock.

Then just to make my week even more exciting - the last installment in the Vintage Purls Sock yarn club arrived. The feature of this club is that it includes sock yarn but not necessarily sock patterns, as always this is is a colour and pattern I love. There is a yarn that has depth and warmth, and a pattern for gloves with a clever and decorative and interesting cuff with a real vintage feel, and then there is more. Tucked inside is a chocolate fish (a very New Zealand treat - most often used as small prizes in schools and learning situations), and more, a little pack of the most adorable vintage knitwear themed post cards I have ever seen. I know I have enough yarn .. but when her kits provide surprises like this ... it just have to have one.

Then lastly there is a pencil that youngest cub gave Bear. In truth it was a gift to her from a student teacher who was finishing her post with the class, a shiny new pencil for each student. Youngest Cub knowing how geeky her parents are about pencils and knowing it was Bears Birthday (56!) thoughtfully passed the pencil on to him. But what Bear noticed and what I love it that it is a fake pencil, oh it is a pencil all right, it sharpens and writes just fine so it is not really a fake pencil but a fake version of a famous high quality pencil, the Staedtler Norris Club HB Pencil, Made in Germany. What really makes Bear and I giggle is the name - Stapler, and the cubs just shake their heads sadly at what their parents find funny.

Thank you, for putting up with me and my non-knitting content, again.
Take care, knit some, perhaps even use an old fashioned wooden pencil, real or fake .. and enjoy the week.
na Stella

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

This week ...

is one of the most exciting weeks of the year work-wise. It is the week of all the iD fashion events in Dunedin .. and work is very much involved, both at a providing people and things level, and with students and former students being selected and showing their designs. Like most places ... when there is a significant event, a lot of peripheral events get scheduled around the same time ... to make the most of visiting specialists. Last night there was an opening for a colleagues masters show .. and the work was beautiful. Today there was the first two of the visiting speakers, tomorrow there is the iD show, and organizational things to do with that, so much fun it hardly seems like work except for the fact it disrupts my usual life and that of the family. Friday and Saturday is the Railway show ... proper.

And with all that going on there is still the excitement of finishing projects and having them appreciated, and of mail in the letter box .. and invites to do things knitterly around New Zealand ..... I feel like I'm in the middle of all the fun!

And so on to the knitting, the finished object this week is the Cat-Sat-on-the-Mat, all done. I finished this a few days ago, and steam blocked. The rain here has been constant and heavy so I really didn't like my chances of this drying overnight if I wet-blocked it. Since then I have been tempting Yo-yo onto it every chance I get. I have even enlisted the cubs, if I spot her Fluffery (Yo-yo) sitting somewhere I call a cub, they fetch the mat, and I lift her gently, the mat is smoothed under her and she is lowered with great style onto it. So far she has coped with this invasion of her personal space with the grace and patience of a wonderful house-moggy, that is to say she looks at us, shakes her head sadly and settles down.

I do apologize for the darkness and colour of these images, daylight saving means that the mornings are darker and there is little light for photos in the evenings ... and coordinating the daylight hours with a sleeping cat ... well sometimes this as good as it is going to get. Today we came home and found her sleeping on the mat, on the sofa where we had left it ... Awwwww .....

The double knitting still has me enthralled, but the rest of my local knit group seems to have decided double knitting is in the same category as intarsia. By that I mean they have decided there are many more fun ways to knit and they won't be doing much more of it. I suspect that my method of knitting with both yarns in the left hand lends itself much more easily to swinging the yarn into place. This is so much like colour work in that I just want to knit another round to see the pattern emerge, even more so as the stitches are so crowded on the needle it is hard to tell if I've followed the chart correctly. I'm nearly ready to transition from chocolate on pink to pink on chocolate .. and to split off the thumb stitches. Oh I tell you the excitement here is at all scales, from the detail of working a mitten to the visiting international fashion stars!

Then there is even more excitement .... in my letter box today was a card, a courier came to call but I was not home. There is a box waiting for me at the local post shop ...... filled with my prize from Daves Mechanical Pencils and Cult Pens .......

I think I should cut back on the coffee .. really I don't need any more excitement in my week at all, which is just as well as this all cuts into my knit-night time.

take care - hope your week has all that you need in it to keep it interesting
na Stella

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Not one but two new projects

There I was, with the shawl - blanket off the needles, and really only a sock and a hat on the go ..., which seemed to few a number to keep busy with, so I did what any responsible knitter would do. I dug through my project queue on Ravelry, I cross referenced what I liked with my stash - because the project needs the right yarn to pattern match before it is ready for any serious casting on. And I checked my Diary, yup - it was KSG (Knitters Study Group weekend), which meant that there would be a group session, this time on Double knitting. Now Double knitting has several meanings, here in New Zealand it is the common term for a yarn that Americans would consider between Sport and Aran, we call it Dk for short and it is usually knit on 4mm to 5.5mm needles (Ymmv). But to those more worldly about knitting, double knitting also refers to a method of knitting that knits up a fabric that is essentially two layers of knitting sandwiched together. That kind of double knitting was the focus of Saturdays class. Now double knitting has a reputation for being fiddly, and with any thing fiddly there is always the risk that the technique may just prove to be to awkward to make the effort worthwhile. With that in mind I decided that I needed a 'go-to' mindless stash busting project on the go as well, just in case. Result was last Thursday I started two new projects, you know - just to be safe, just in case I was left with nothing to knit on (as well as the two projects already on the needles).

Some time ago I participated in a Scrappy swap. I'm a little fuzzy on the reasons for such a thing other than fun and meeting people and sharing, but the process seems to be sign up, send away a set amount of fibre, and in return get the same weight of fibre back made up from small portion of what each person sent in. End result is that one has 100g plus of spin-able fibre made up from small amounts of lots of different fibers. I guess the more coordinated scrappy swaps have themes, but the sheer randomness of the colours and fibres in a the swap I was part of were challenging - in a good way. Once the yarn was spun I set it aside wondering what sort of project it would become. Whenever I visited my yarn stash that yarn reminded me it was there - waiting to become something. Then a passing comment from one of the cubs sparked an idea, as they watched Yo-yo sleep on Bears jersey they wondered out loud if I had ever knit anything for Yo-yo. Bingo! The scrappy swap yarn was destined to become a cat-nap-mat for her. I even had the perfect pattern queued, Ten stitch twist by Frankie Brown.
The reverse side looks like this, I'm slipping the first stitch on the return row so there is a neat chain spiral on the reverse of mine. When I pick up the edge stitches I knit through both of the loops, which makes the chain even more noticeable. So far Yo-yo has sat under this as I knit it, watched me pull the yarn past her ears and into stitches, and perched beside it as a I photographed it, but seems not to know it is for her.

My double knitting project was selected before Saturdays session, as double knitting is a technique I have played with before. In my queue I found Yuma Double Knitting mittens by Alexandra Miedmayer. I didn't queue them because they were double knit, but for another reason. The feature I loved the most about these mittens was the way the colour faded from one to another as the mitten was knit, I also loved the idea of customizing it with Owls, Flowers, Bears or the standard running sled dogs. I didn't have high hopes for this project, honestly I thought it would be a starter and then set aside for more achievable and interesting projects, after all there are only 16 projects listed on Ravelry and only three are tagged as finished! I went with the Bears, but no as of yet the mittens are not for Bear.

I love this, I find it fairly easy to knit once I am in the rhythm of slipping both yarns so they ride between the layers. I had worried about the chart .. but I'm developing the skills to relate what I see as alternating pink and chocolate stitches on my needles to the single layer chart with half that number of stitches in front of me. The best bit is when I turn them inside out ... I get a negative image of the pattern ... in this case a coconut ice polar bear on a chocolate background. I just noticed that one of the dots is missing in the decorative round under the Bear! - odd what shows up in photos sometimes.

The yarn is VP Vintage sock, a limited run non superwash yarn from 2010, perfect for stranded colour work. What I think of as Chocolate is in reality 'Top Soil', and what has become to me 'Coconut ice' is in fact 'Now we are Two'. The original names of the yarn were fine until I started to knit the two together and all I could think of was sugary pinky white coconut ice with one side dipped in chocolate. The pattern is very well written, with lovely clear photos, and instructions on the fiddlier aspects of double knitting ... and following those instructions results in lovely increases shaping the thumb gusset.

There I am then, with four projects on the needles, a Tam, socks, mittens and a cat-nap-mat, plus the neverending fish blanket. That feels about the right number, plenty of choice and I should be good for a bit more knitting before I have to stop and select a new project to settle in with. And I'll leave with a photo showing the blocked edge of the shawl/blanket. The lace opened up nicely and held its structure well ..... I'm pleased with it, and perhaps something lacy might be amongst the next few projects?

Take care, it is daylight savings here, autumn so we 'gained' an extra hour sleep last night, making today feel all relaxed, a nice place to be on a Sunday.

na Stella