Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sometimes it works ... And sometimes not

Today's post has a potential frog, I've not fully decied to frog ... but I'm almost certainly leaning that way. Maybe I have decided and I just don't realize it yet?. To provide balance there is a project that will not be frogged, and in fact may lead to a second pair of socks from the left overs. And there is bread, because I'm making bread every few days and learning lots, and loving that my bread looks like the kind that is photographed as an example of what bread should be. And being as it is December, work draws to and end, marked as always our graduate student show (spot the knitting, and the beading ....). Another link here to the finale images, but sorry to highly commercial site that wants to sell you images, we subsidize the show by selling rights - the downside is that it becomes commercial). Plus I'm spinning, adding to my lifetime heard of wheels (just a little), and enjoying spring.
So is is the potential frog, a circular washcloth, pattern by Sara Lamb, published in November/December 2013 Piecework. I love the pattern, and the construction, I even love the yarn, a linen I was gifted some years ago. What I don't like is the way it is knitting up on 2.25 mm needles, I want a firmer gauge and I don't want to go down a needle size ... So that means frogging and finding a slightly thicker cotton yarn. Best to do that now ... With only a littl section worked.
It is an entirely different story with these socks, I love these. The local knitter who I copied the idea from asked if I was going to work the Dutch Heel. That sounded like a challenge, a knitting challenge, but I was working toe up not top down and unfamiliar with the finer construction and maths of the dutch heel. Enter the amazing hive mind of ravelry and I had enough help to complete the heel. Not only that but I love the fact that this heel has a rather long heel flap, and that the lower edge of the flap curves under the ball of the foot providing the double stitch layer for where sock wear happens most.
Getting past th heel means that the leg was quickly knit and now I'm working the contrasting cuff. Bear chose the yarn and I think had a more textured sock in mind, but I'm knitting the sock and I love the drama of the colour block toe and cuff. He seems to accept that and has admired the sock several times.

In th background there is some spinning, blue toned spinning, my favorite kind. The little wheel is a Phillip Poore Wendy, designed to be portable. The urban legend goes that this is a wheel one can spin on whilst a passenger in the front of a vintage VW bug. I dont have the opportunity to test that., so I can't possibly comment. I can't read while a passenger so I doubt spinning would work with me and my chemistry anyhow. The wheel is on a two year loan from a local spinner/knitter/raveler who is headed stateside for two years. I love it, it's a sweet wee wheel, I've already done some minor maintenance, changed the drive band to something finer, adjusted the angle of the conrod relative to the wheel weights, and played with the tension. This weel has a rather unique (different, odd, weird, wonderful?) tension system, it is a double drive but the bands are tightened by turning a wooden globe that in turn raises or lowers a copper hoop that both supports and encircles the flier and whorls. The threads that the wooden globe turns on are fine, allowing minute adjustment, but I'm forgetful so never remember if I'm turning clockwise or anti ... I'm still firmly in the learning loop here. I have to confess that two weeks ago I bid on one for myself on TradeMe, and after some frantic last minute bidding and the auction auto extending won a fine example for myself. It's in Wellington, so Bear and eldest cub are heading out to collect it on the 13th. My Christmas present.
The bread is improving every session, I'm getting better at shaping the loaves, and realize that despite the book saying it will only need a final rise of an hour or so ... I get a better crumb if I leave it for longer. I'm still playing with the technique from artisan bread in five minutes a day ....
And finally it spring, or has been so for a wee while, but now it's properly spring and things are blooming. I couldn't resist these at the market this weekend ...,pink peony's which have opened up amazingly since we plopped them in a vase in the living room.
Take care, more next week, na Stella

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Copy cat

I'm just a copycat, a week or so ago I was at spin night when N was knitting a sock, a good looking sock a strikingly good looking sock. Then this last week I was at spin night again, and there was N knitting that sock again, or so I thought. I asked about the sock, but turns out that it was a second pair of the same design. This sock that N was knitting had been so admired she had cast on a second pair to share the love. The sock in question is Welsh County Sock by B. Walker.
Fast forward a few days, and Bear has chosen a sock yarn in Vintage Purls latest sock update, Tumeric, an orange that was slightly, ever so slightly dulled by brown. A quick fossik through sock yarn stash and the perfect complement was found, Lang Jawoll in brown grey. So inspired by N, I am being a total copy cat in that I've cast on for a new project, following the pattern, except for working it toe up. This sock is a little more fun this way, toe up means the colour work and the colour change happen quite soon after starting. And as if this was all planned, the ink in my pen just happens to be orange ...karma.
Being me, and being unable to follow instructions without overthinking the options and making changes ... I have also added a small panel of 2x2 rib to each side. I have a slight fear that a plain stocking stitch sock will have less elasticity and so require a more exact fit. By adding to small panels of rib I hope to provide a little bit of built in adjustment.

Here is the next installment in the artisan bread in 5 minutes a day. This dough was wetter, and as predicted harder to handle and shape. This mean that I didn't knock the air bubbles out, which is nice. I'm beginning to see that all those years of reading that I needed to be kneading bread for ten minutes is ok but results in a even, and finely textured bread, this method is the trick to producing this kind of open arty bread. Oh and the crust, the fridge storage, keeping the dough on hold for days in the fridge results in a thick, crispy chewy crust, and heaps of oven spring, nice round loves, not flat mean ones. I'm learning that just like knitting, with bread there are a whole host of options that all have distinct advantages.
So now I just have to knit the gusset increases, and think about if I want a contrast heel a shoe row heel, an afterthought heel, or a flap heel. Oh and I'm teaching zippy knit things next year at Unwind, along with a group of amazing crafters teaching other things, so if you are likely to be around and keen to be part of Unwind 2014 ... head on over and sign up.
Na Stella,

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Something new, something borrowed, something old and something blue (kind of)

There is a wedding coming up around here, well not around here, but for some one who has been part of around here. The wedding comes alongside moving to another country for two years ...and has involved significant destashing. Right now there are mixed feelings, happiness for A who is heading off into a new life, new opportunity and new knitting groups alongside some sadness that A will not be here as part of our group, alongside a kind of secret excitement at having been gifted and loaned some of her stash. With all that going on the whole wedding vibe of something new, something old, and something borrowed just seems right, I also have the blue ... in what I am spinning,
First up, the new, my Piecework arrived this week along with ideas about new things to knit. Usually I just admire the contents and wait until I feel the need to knit them, this time the wash cloth called my name. Recreated by Sarah Lamb after she found one her Great Aunt Gladys had made. This cloth is intended to be knit in a finer thread, the pattern calls for cotton, in size 10 crotchet cotton but I'm using linen thread of a simillar size. I like that this is knit with short rows, in garter stitch with a lace edge, and that it is finer, so will not sit wet in our non-tropical climate.

Technically this is the borrowed, or it could be the blue. A de-stashed two of her loved cookbooks, Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day, and Local Breads by Daniel Leader. I've not. Yet delved into Mr Leaders book, but am loving the Artisan one, which is blue, this bread is from bake number 6, from batch two - but I am following their suggestion to reuse the fridge container without washing so the bread developes a sourdough flavor. I think this batch was too dry, as evidenced by the smallish holes, so the next one is already mixed, and wetter. A also loaned me her Wendy wheel ... which is an adorable wheel that deserves a post all of its own.
Here is the something old, and the something blue, my mended felted slippers with innersole. As mentioned In the last post, the inspiration came from Icelandic Knitting using Rose Patterns by Hélène Magnússon. In that book the patterns found in a traditional knitted garment, the shoe rag, or innersole are used to inspire other garments. The idea of garter stitch innersoles appealed, so I knit some, based on photos in the book, as there is no pattern. The pattern is a generic one, brief and open to development and interpretation, and at this stage fairly basic, unlike the originals which are intarsia and full of geometric pattern wizardry.[Note: I've since found a pattern that Hélène Magnússon has published on knitted shoe inserts, in Piecework (I subscribe and should have known, duh! ) - here.
Needles, I used the size I usually use for socks, 2.25mm, and suggest you do the same - choose the size you like to use for socks.
Yarn, I used scraps of my favorite sock yarn, Vintage Purls, because I liked the idea of sock yarn with its durable nylon component adding durability, but any yarn you have at hand would work as long as it workd with the needles you choose.
Pattern notes :
  • I always slip the first stitch purlwise with the yarn in front, so the selvedge edge forms a neat chain, not essential - but does make for a nice edge finish.
  • I used an increase that takes one stitch and makes it two, a variation of the knit front and back increase, for simplicity I am calling it kf&b.
  • Cast on, I like to use the crochet cast on, shown here or blogged there, but any cast on will do.
  • Cast off, I used a simple chain cast off, knit two stitches, pass first knit stitch over second knit stich, *knit 1, pass earliest knit stitch over latest knit stitch*, repeat between * until only one stitch remains! break thread and pull through last loop to secure.
  • Yarn ends, I didn't bother weaving these in, you can tuck them under the innersole or use them to stitch the sole in place.
  • I tried just putting the innersoles in my slippers, but they moved and wrinkled, and that annoyed me, YMMV, if the yarn was sticky or the garter thicker maybe they wouldn't need stitching in place.
Pattern, cast on 6 stitches ( or a number simillar to half what you usually cast on for a sock toe) knit one row
  1. Slip 1 stitch purlwise, knit f&b, knit to last 3 stitches, kf&b, knit 2
  2. Slip 1 stitch purlwise, knit to last stitch,
Repeat these two rows until you have 30 stitches, measure how long this increase section is, measure how long your foot (or slipper is) and subtract the length of the increase section from the foot length, the 30 stitches worked for me, being able to stretch to fit the ball of my foot. Find the number that suits your project.
Continue knitting row two until the shoe-rag or innersole measures the 'length of the foot minus the length of the increase section', then start to decrease.
Decrease section
  1. Slip 1 stitch purlwise, k1, ssk, knit to last four stitches, k2tog, knit two.
  2. Slip 1 stitch purlwise, knit to last stitch.

Repeat these two rows until you have 6 stitches, or the number you cast on, cast off, knit a second if needed. Slip stitch in place inside slipper, I flipped the slipper inside out and pinned and stretched the shoe-rag then I stitched, knowing that once the slipper was right side out and worn the innersole would stretch and flatten.
Enjoy - and note this pattern is free, share it, gift it, and use it, feel free to improve it, the pattern is untested by anyone other than I and I'm happy to improve it or fix erata if any one has corrections.
Many thanks - Hope your week runs well, na Stella

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Repair ...

So over the last few years I have become more and more interested in repair as a practice, and I have to say I am becoming more comfortable about repairing and been seen to repair. I grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s in New Zealand, where for political and economical reasons there was a pretty much a closed economy. You could buy anything, as long as it was made in New Zealand, or that possibly could be made in New Zealand. That meant that when the rest of the developed world had tv, we were waiting for someone to make the components and then make the tv ...cause technically tv's could be made here ( even if they weren't). The same kind of logic applied to all sorts of other things, electronics, cars, toys, shoes, carpets ... pretty much everything one wanted and saw in the media that those overseas had. I know now the media painted a rosey and unrealistic image of a world of plenty - but then I didn't know that. And this was post World War Two, and economically and culturally New Zealand aligned with England, who had a rather slow economic recovery from the war. My parents were children of the war, so their experience was pretty much the stuff you had was the stuff you could afford, and the stuff you could make. My dad was a mechanic, so fixing things was what he did at work, and at home, our house was a fixer-upper, our car old and repaired, and then repaired again, both the motor and the body. My mum sewed, and when we grew the clothes were altered and let out, always in such a way the adjustment was concealed. When the electric kettle died a new element was bought, when a heater, lamp, or radio stopped working a repair was made, either by dad or he took it to a repair shop. My childhood radio was 1960’s white plastic, with valves, two white knobs and one unmatched 1970’s black knob as that as what the repairer had to hand.

None of that bothered me, that was how we lived. Fixing stuff was just what was done. What did bother me as when china broke, plates or cups, and they were glued together, and continued to be used. I have to admit that was my grandmother not my parents. There was something uncomfortable about a visable repair, a patch, a line of yellow glue oozing out of a mend, a criss-cross of sticky tape across a rip or torn cover or page. What bothered me more was when the repair decayed, the glue yellowed, the sticky tape came unstuck, and the item was worse than before. So recently my hand felted slippers started to wear, and life was busy, too busy to make another pair, but the more I wore them the larger the holes got. I still live in New Zealand but the economic and political climate is very different, I could have stopped and bought any number of replacement slippers ... cheap, mass produced and on the whole ugly. I could have searched out more expensive slippers ... Lambskin lined with soles, but it loved the idea and the feel of my hand felted ones. Then a few days ago I gave in, and darned an hole closed,

It looked good, I used sock yarn and liked the effect, so I added a darn to the instep, where another hole was forming.

And the. I decided that I would try chain stitch over the darn, and I liked the effect, the darn looked like knitting. I added a band of chain stitch around the top edge and another around the edge of the sole. I began to see that this kind of repair could be ok, not ugly and very much not making do.


Ther was just one problem, the inside was as worn as the outside, maybe more so. The only thing that stopped the holes in the felt was a layer of leather, the sole. I knew that stitching over those holes wouldn't be as easy, they were inside and I'd feel any lumps and bumps.

Enter my knitting library, and a book I've had for ages. Icelandic knitting using rose patterns by Hélène Magnùsson. This book explores the garter stitch colour work found in shoe-rags or inner soles and applies the designs to outerwear. I was a little surprised not to find a shoe-rag pattern in the book, but there were heaps and heaps of clear photos of historical examples. After a few false starts where I overthought the process and tried to make anatomically correct innersoles with left and right toe shaping and a narrower heel than the ball of the foot I gave in and knit some as pictured. And these work, surprisingly fantastically so.

Somehow the pointy garter oblong fits into a slipper and moulds itself to fit, garter stitch is magic - beginner knitters don't appreciate how forgiving it is. The innersole adjusts to the shape of the slipper with no wrinkles or bumps. I'm already halfway through the second one ...

Pattern to follow, if there is interest, for those who like warm feet, have worn out slippers and like me are coming to terms with repairing things that take so long and so much knowledge and effort that replacing them isn't an easy option.

Na Stella


Sunday, November 03, 2013

Knitting and stashing (of a sort)

One of the universal truths of many hobbies is that one needs special stuff, oh I know in theory one can knit with any pair of pointy sticks and any yarn like material .... But the process is so much more enjoyable, the outcome more predictable and the result usually more satisfying if one has choice in tools and materials. My bookbinding is very much kitchen table stuff, oh I have a nipping press, and have made a wee clamping press - but the bulk of my tools and materials are those found around the house. Tambour bead embroidery is at the other end of the tool spectrum, starting with a special hooked needle in a special holder - and extending into frames that are able to tension larger pieces of fabric than your average embroidery hoop - not to mention the stands so one can work with both hands free. So far I have invested in several needles and holders, several frames, one set of supports, and a few different fabrics and threads. Those seemed the essentials, the things I needed to be able to tambour. Until now ... I worked with materials from my stash, like many I had a selection or is that accumulation of threads and other things that I had acquired over my life as I stitched and sewed, I also had a small selection of beads ... acquired when became interested in beads and knitting together.

Until now that is, recently I decided that while working with my existing stash was fine for developing skills in tambour beading it was rather limiting. Limiting in terms of the range I was learning to work with, limiting in terms of the colours I had on hand and what I could do with them. In short I realized that my yarn stash provided a resource on which to draw for inspiration and ingrediants and the beginnings of a project and I wanted a bead stash. There I've said it, I wanted another stash.
Enter a trip to Enterprise Beads to enhance my stash, who are based in Oamaru - an hour and a half drive north. Where they sell beads on strings. Strung beads, that is important for tambour work. Bear and I made a day of it, with little cub, elder cub had a D&D game to attend so escaped. Littlest cub scored a solid spruce top traveling uke - it was so cute, and sounded surpringly good for its thinness and size. Many of the beads in this box were not part of my stash before Saturday, and they are now. Beads that come in strings are often sold in hanks, and a hank can have around 4000 beads in it for the size bought. I bought several hanks ... more than I have fingers and thumbs. That means that I have over 40,000 beads at hand. That is a lot of beadwork practice. The only difficulty was coming to terms with the limiting factor of my purchasing dollar compared to the wide range of offerings in store. As a starting point I decided to get a few if my favorite grey/blue shades, some froggy greens, olives, golds and browns, and a few sparkly highlights, silver-white, orange, and dull gold. The hanks all fit into a remarkably small paper bag when bought - like a precious little secret, taking hardly any room in my handbag. I suspect I will go back. I may have also added some strung sequins, which come strung in worms each with 1000 sequins, I added 8 worms, so now have 8000 sequins to practice with .....some in gold, some in bronze, and and some silvery clear.
Surprisingly I have not broken into any of the hanks yet, just spent some time ordering my smallish stash and sorting the odds and ends (every stash has those) into a secondary storage box. Serendipitously my local Tambour guru gifted me a storage box of just the perfect size and function, so now I have two boxes filled with beads, or near filled ... There is room for moe. I have been working away on the pink lace edged cardigan - to the point where a sleeve begins.
And I have one more immediate project in mind, it involves converting these turned feet into embroidery frame supports.

These have been around for yonks, and every time we tidied up the shed, or the carport, or the replacement garage both Bear and I thought they were too good to throw away. Something twigged in Bears mind as I embroidered a few weeks ago and he asked why I didn't I use these to make an elegant frame support that would sit on the table. All I need now is some time in the garage with some steel pins, the grinder and the drill press ....
Spring has sprung, so the garden fills with weeds, there are outdoor chores to do ... And so I have no idea when I will get that time, but that is ok, I have a plan and one day there will be the opportunity.
Take care
Na Stella