Damselfly’s Delights

Being the continuing story of my creations and curiosities.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Warm & Woolly

Yes, I know it’s pretty much spring here already. (Don’t hate!) But woolly sweaters are still welcome. Case in point: he’s barely taken this thing off since I finished it. It wasn’t even quite dry from its blocking session yet!


I think it’s a success! Despite the mistakes and the frogging and the fact that the gauge wasn’t quite right. Doesn’t Thom look handsome in his new pullover sweater? He insisted on wearing his leather Aussie Barmah hat with it even though the photo session was indoors because I wasn’t dressed yet. Heh.

Here’s a close-up of the thick wooden buttons that I dug out of the stash and the seed stitch button placket:


I had to wait until he was in his jammies to snatch the sweater long enough for another photo off his back! You can still see the shine of the NZ RomneyX wool through the surface fuzz, can’t you? It’s an interesting fabric, both crisp and drapey at the same time. The fuzz of the woollen-spun yarn traps a lot of heat yet it also wicks moisture away from the body. We’ll have to see how badly it might pill.

I think my neckline worked out well and fits him the way he wanted. Happily I also learned how to do a really great one-row buttonhole from Knitting On The Net, Barbara Breiter’s instructions here. It was a bit fiddly to learn but after I pulled out the row several times, it got neater and easier to do even without looking at the instructions. This buttonhole looks great on both sides and is nicely reinforced. It’s similar to others I’ve seen but not quite the same. The twisted purl cast-on is unique to Barbara’s version and makes a firm upper edge to the buttonhole. Those thick wooden buttons went through a 3-stitch buttonhole perfectly.

Sending some love out for Jared Flood’s Brownstone pattern (even though I changed the neckline and collar on this one). It’s so clearly written and easy to follow, even if you’re a beginner at sweater knitting. If you take a look at the finished versions on Ravelry, it looks great on every man – and a few women too. The two sections of short-row shaping in the back really help fine-tune the fit.

Another view:


Successful project. Yay!

Now to the not-so-successful. Yes, I’m still avoiding dealing with the Little Black Cardi, though not for long. Instead I dug out this sweater from 2012:

OakmealCardi original

I haven’t worn it very much because something is just off about the proportions on me. I’ve frogged a couple of inches off the collar, which I felt was overwhelming my small face and bound off again. And then I took out the cuffs and am currently knitting them longer. There wasn’t much of this wool left but hopefully I’ll have enough yarn to make them long sleeved with a long turn-back cuff. I did like the original version, Quercus by Julie Turjoman, but mine just seems like too warm and bulky of a sweater for short sleeves. As you can see in the photo I already had folded them down. Wearing long sleeves underneath helps but not enough for my taste. Or warmth.

There will be photos when I’m done messing with this poor sweater. I hope the changes will make me like it better or it’s going to go for a full dip in the frog pond! That would be very sad so I’ll do my best to refashion it instead.

So since it’s sunny and relatively dry, I’m planning to go out in the garden this afternoon and start the cleanup that I didn’t get to last fall thanks to the Hand Incident. The season is about 3 weeks ahead of schedule here so I should be getting some seedlings planted asap. However, I’ll forego the blissful spring photos in deference to those who are still in the icy grip of Old Man Winter. Sending clear skies and warm wishes to you all. Don’t give up hope! You’ll be complaining about the heat and humidity very soon, I’m sure.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Process & Progress

Lately I’ve been knitting like crazy with a side-order of frogging. Unfortunately that’s what I get for knitting during the Oscars – mistakes. However, the nice thing about my handspun RomneyX wool yarn is that it stays put and doesn’t ravel farther than I planned. It just patiently waits for the needle to pick each stitch back up again:

MusketSweater fix

How nice. I’ve taken advantage of that an awful lot lately As I’ve mentioned I’m using Jared Flood’s Brownstone pattern but changing the neckline. That necessitated some knit-math and I’m not sure I did it quite right but the results look promising anyway:


Note that a lot of that unevenness will smooth out in the blocking. But it will still retain some funkiness because it is handspun after all. And pretty darned uneven handspun too! Now I have to bind off the rest of the neck and pick up the stitches for the short collar. The front placket pieces will go last so they can be picked up along the edges of the collar. I want to knit these in seed stitch to give them a little thickness and stability. Oh and I need to find some buttons so I know how many buttonholes to make. Stash dive coming up!

Now that I’ve nearly done this project I will have to go back and fix my Little Black Cardi. Sigh. Not yet sure what I’m going to do about it but it likely means frogging at least the right front and trying again. Oh well. At least I like the process of knitting as much as the results.

Nothing else exciting to report. So in spite of all the warnings that weather bragging is just annoying for those locked in Perpetual Winter Wonderland, I’ll leave you you with some more photos from our recent beach holiday:


This is Nehalem Bay, Oregon, on the river side of the sandbar you see at the top of the photo. (The other side is the wide Pacific.) The 2-mile paved bicycle trail goes right by this spot between the tiny airport landing strip and the bay. Yes, it was about 21C (70F) and gloriously sunny that day. It wasn’t quite as hot or sunny the next day at Cape Disappointment:

BensonBeach northend

It was still rather pleasant though! This is the far northern end of Benson Beach looking south. I’ve never seen such incredibly black and sparkly beach sand before. It’s really very pretty. This holiday was our first visit to Washington State’s Cape Disappointment State Park but we definitely need to come back and explore some more.

Oh alright. I’ll leave off and go finish the Musket Sweater. Stay warm! Hint: wear wool.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Southern Sojourn

I apologise for having been AWOL for quite awhile now. My excuse is we ran away from home for a week! The forecast was for very mild and sunny weather and we had nothing important on the calendar so we dropped everything and hightailed it south in our little old VW Westie. Thom & I both had beaches on our mind and what’s better than having one’s wish fulfilled?

After suddenly deciding to go we packed up really quickly and made it down to Birch Bay in Washington State just below the Canada/US border for the evening of Day 1. Our first beach walk was along the slippery cobblestones of the bay that botanist Archibald Menzies named after the black birches when his ship, captained by good old George Vancouver, stopped there in 1792. We were happy to get an electric site as there was still a chilly bite in the wind.

Day 2 began in the fog as we travelled south to Olympia and then southwest to the very farthest tip of Washington at Cape Disappointment. Luckily it was a little warmer since for this one night we couldn’t get a power site because of the Presidents Day holiday. This day’s beach was Waikiki:

WaikikiBeach CapeDis

(Obviously not the one in Hawaii!) That’s the North Jetty on the right and we’re looking out the mouth of the Columbia River with a hint of Fort Stevens on the other side. From the beach we also saw a majestic pair of bald eagles near the Cape Disappointment lighthouse. Later we hiked up McKenzie Head and checked out the WWII bunker at the top. It had some interestingly rusty doors:

BunkerDoor McKenzieHead

On Day 3 we crossed the Astoria Bridge and headed south to one of my favourite Oregon parks at Nehalem. The tide was way out revealing these salty channels between wee islets of sand:


The weather was perfectly lovely and we were wandering the sands in our shirtsleeves. We even spied a “naturist” in the altogether taking circumspect advantage of the quiet beach! On Day 4 we walked around the paved bicycle trail on the Nehalem River side and later went to the beach again but north instead of south this time. I liked the pattern the crow’s feet made in the fine sand:

CrowPrints Nehalem

I especially liked hearing the waves at night lulling me to sleep. The weather was darker and a bit drizzly on Day 5 so we decided to head back north. But first we stopped at Oswald West for a walk. The park was named after a very wise early Oregon governor who decided to set aside the Oregon shore for recreation before the business interests bought it all up. (Thanks, Governor West!) We followed the Short Sand Creek down to the beach:

ShortSand OswaldWest

You can just see the waves at the end! They make Short Sands the most popular surfing beach in Oregon but we didn’t see any except one dude coming down the trail with his boogie board. Then we carried on over the bridge and back to Cape Disappointment where we got an electric site in the campground near Benson Beach on the ocean side of the park this time. The weather was still a bit iffy but cleared up enough for us to walk along the black sparkly sand:

BensonBeach CapeDis

BTW, Cape Disappointment was named in 1788 by Captain John Meares who managed to miss the river entirely because he didn’t go quite far enough. There’s a lesson there, I think! LOL!! We still haven’t seen everything in this state park so I’m sure we’ll be back again.

Day 6 had us heading back up and across Washington, this time along our usual Hood Canal route to Dosewallips. The weather wasn’t cold but it rained on and off. We did manage the muddy trail out to the mouth of the river but not without umbrellas. Not much of a beach especially with the tide coming in but it counts, right? We didn’t see our feral goose of last September who thinks it’s one of the Canada geese but we did see a flock of the smaller black brants:

BlackBrant HoodCanal

Well, on Day 7 we were going to go straight home but the weather was nice enough that we changed our minds. Instead we took the ferry over from Port Townsend to Whidbey Island and got an electric site at Fort Casey, in sight of the ferry slip:

Kennewick lv Keystone

That’s the Kennewick heading out after bringing us over. Our beach walk was over those colourful glacier-rounded stones that I love so much. This time I was very good and left them all there. OK, I already have lots at home! Other people might want to enjoy them too, right?

Day 8 we finally decided to come home though again it was a near thing because the weather had gotten sunny again. However, we had run out of food and clean clothes and figured we would be pushing our luck to stay away any longer. It is February, after all! Though the alders and other deciduous shrubs were still pretty bare, it was amazing how far along all the plants are for mid-February. We saw cherries, camellias, flowering quince, daffodils and even a rhododendron or two in full bloom. We could also see views that are usually obscured by leaves which was interesting too. There still could be some cold weather coming yet but spring is very early this year.

Now that we’re back I’m starting to think about the garden and planting my usual seedlings under the basement lights. Thom has already started with the pruning and turning under the winter cover crop in the veggie garden. I’m somewhat behind with my clearing out there thanks to the Hand Incident but there’s lots of time to get caught up still. Meanwhile I’m still doing laundry! I have knitting to talk about too but that will wait until next post. At least now you know where I’ve been!

Saturday, February 07, 2015

A Visit To The Frog Pond

Well, I was going to show you my Little Black Cardi which was up to the armpits:


However, I discovered a serious mistake! While I was trying to divide the body for the fronts and back I realised that I hadn’t done the decreases for the waist correctly which left me with too many stitches. Of course, Murphy’s Law being what it is, the error was 2/3s of the way back down the body. Boo. And not quickly fixable in any satisfactory way. So, to the frog pond ball-winder with it. Sniff! I zipped it back to the place where it went wrong, picked up the stitches and am merrily knitting away again. It’s all about the process, right? And I’m now pretty sure I’m going to have to dye at least 2 more skeins to finish it since I used half of what I have getting just to the underarms. Luckily I’m in no hurry for this lighter-weight cardi. But that’ll teach me to knit a black yarn in the dark of winter! Maybe…

I also started on the Musket Pullover sweater for Thom. After winding all 7 skeins into cakes, I began on one sleeve. Partly this is just following the directions for the Brownstone by Jared Flood but also it gives me a chance to double-check my gauge in the round without having to knit another boring swatch. I’m going to use this pattern for most of the sweater except I’ll modify the front neckline to accommodate a button placket and also knit a short stand-up or fold-over collar, possibly in moss stitch but I haven’t finalised that last idea yet. I’ll wait until I get there! It’ll be awhile. It’s bottom-up and I have to knit both sleeves plus most of the body first. Though it goes pretty fast at this gauge.

In other knitting news, it took me since November but I finally finished Thom’s Emerald Socks:


They’re a lot more green in real life. Chalk the colour shift up to the dark grey rainy skies we’ve had recently – yet another Pineapple Express. The pattern is just my usual plain socks and the yarn is Lana Grossa Meilenweit 100 Stile colour 8015. There was a lot of turquoise dye that came out in the water when I wet-blocked these! It took 4 rinses to come clear which is unusual. The socks are quite colourful but Thom loves having fun hand-knit socks on every day. Yes, he’s spoiled and he knows it!

So nothing else is new here. The Hand is continuing to improve but slowly, though there’s still quite a lumpy scar remaining. At least it’s finally nearly normal functioning with just a little bit of remaining extra-sensitivity. I’m very thankful. I still haven’t done any weaving or sewing yet. Mostly because I’ve been too busy with preparing and spinning over 700g of yarn! Can’t do everything. At least not all at once.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Loading Up The Musket

OK, not what you might be thinking! The RomneyX fleece I’ve been working with has the colour that in Shetland sheep would be called “musket”. It’s described as a very light brown with light grey fibres underneath, fading to beige or oatmeal with the animal’s age. Exactly. The Shetlanders have such delightful words to describe the colours and patterns of their sheep! I’m extrapolating it to a different sheep breed which I hope is not completely incorrect.

I also rather belatedly discovered a shortcut to removing the brittle tips while teasing the locks. I used one of my little 2-row Forsyth mini-combs to flick the tips:


This worked a treat though it created slightly more waste than pulling off the tips by hand:


However when I finished flicking each lock it didn’t need very much more teasing to get it ready for carding. Note that you can actually see the grey fibres in this lock though they barely show up in the spun yarn.

Spinning long-draw for me means letting go of micromanaging every inch of the yarn. It’s hard! The results are quite a lot more variable than my usual inchworm drafting style. To try and keep some consistency in my singles I’m using a sample card attached to my wheel:


I tied it on with a length of plied wool too so I can check both as I spin. Here’s a bobbin full of singles:


You can see how fuzzy it is! The spinning wheel is Klaas, my Louet S90 that I’ve owned since 1992. They are now out of production on this model. It’s a bobbin-lead wheel which has quite a strong draw-in and in this case that actually works in my favour. I can’t hang onto the yarn very long before letting it pull into the orifice which helps to keep the twist light and airy. I only need to use the leather brake when plying this yarn because I don’t want to over-ply it either.

Here’s the four skeins I’ve spun already:


These haven’t been “finished” yet. I still need to wash them and full the yarn a little by rinsing in cold water and slapping the skeins on a hard counter. They will be a lot more durable then and hold up better in a man’s sweater. This is just over half of the total that I think I’ll need.

So I’ve been kind of neglecting the blog lately, haven’t I? Bad damselfly. Nothing exciting going on around here really. It’s beginning to look like spring though:

Snowdrops Crocuses

Photos were taken by Thom on his iPhone while we were out for one of our long walks. We didn’t have a very cold winter this year at all. Even some nice sunny days though they were mixed with a few visits from the Pineapple Express – warm and very wet. Sorry to anyone reading this who lives in a colder climate! If it makes you feel any better, we pay dearly for our moderate Pacific Maritime climate with outrageous property values and very high taxes. Today though it’s raining and dreary so we’re staying in and doing some housework instead.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Where’s Noah When You Need Him?

We need to build an ark. It’s been raining hard for several days and although our city sewer system is built to take a lot of water, there are some quite amazing puddles out there. Big enough for ducks! Good weather to stay inside methinks.

So what have I been up to? Not a lot actually. The usual walking, knitting, a wee bit of spinning and a whole lot of reading. I’m making some headway on my Little Black Cardi and the Emerald Socks for Thom are cruising down the feet. I only have 2 bobbins spun for the Sweater Project so far though and only enough fleece for maybe 2 or 3 more bobbins-worth. I see more teasing and carding in my future. I’m going to need maybe 7 skeins though it depends on the yardage I’m getting. I haven’t calculated that yet.

I haven’t done any sewing or weaving yet. However The Hand is finally starting to improve. It still looks somewhat lumpy and scarred but the extra-sensitivity is reduced quite a lot. I actually ironed a shirt and some table linens! Whoot! It’s been nearly 3 months since The Incident With The Bed Frame. Man, it feels like forever.

I know this is a short post but really there isn’t much exciting to discuss! I’ll leave you with an action photo of the Littlest Grandbeastie, age 4, who decided that granny’s rocks (the ones I use for pattern weights) were too plain and needed some decoration:


I think the electric tea lights are for creating an artistic ambiance? Anyway, I wasn’t sure I wanted my rocks coloured at first but they’re growing on me. Hopefully the pencil crayon doesn’t come off on anything! At least she hasn’t done the whole basket full. Yet. Obviously, encouraging creativity is an important priority.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Finally Finished

We’re in the middle of January and I don’t have much to show for it, except this:

Silken Haruni

Pardon the “mood lighting”! As I said, it’s January. Anyhow, this is my Silken Haruni Shawlette. Haruni (“grandmother” in Elvish) is a free pattern by Emily Ross and Ravelry’s knitters have recorded nearly 9,500 of them! As always, I’m a day late and a dollar short but I finally got this one off the needles. I started it lo, those many months ago in September while we were away on our desert holiday. The yarn is silk (yes, I did a burn test to prove it!) from my deep weaving stash and the muted colours totally remind me of the Southwest rocks, sand and sage. The only mods I made were to go down to a 2.75mm needle for the very fine silk and knit the first chart to 14 leaf stems instead of the recommended 12. I also used a crochet hook and doubled yarn for the bind-off which took me about 2 hours to accomplish. The shawlette blocked out nicely (I mostly used pins and only used wires on part of the top edge) and is quite a reasonable size to wear as a spring or cool little summer shawlette or scarf, which is the way I usually wear these things. Check out the pretty 4-leaf tip:

Silken Haruni det

I’m particularly fond of leaf patterns! One thing I have to say about the pattern is that it is much too detailed, at least for a knitter of my experience. It even includes written instructions for those who are chart-impaired which is unusual – though I can’t imagine preferring many pages of line-by-line instructions to a few symbols. (I’ve been known to chart a pattern myself if a chart doesn’t already exist!) I personally would prefer to have more detailed charts instead since I had to refer too often to the wordy bits to find out how to interpret these ones. YMMV as they say. Obviously enough knitters have managed to follow the 14 pages of instructions successfully!

I have 2 versions of this pattern and there are actually 6 revisions in total. The final one has you bind-off using knitting needles which I attempted at first but found really awkward and confusing. So I went back to version 1 and followed its advice to use a crochet hook. So much easier! The technique I used is more common for lace doilies and uses the hook to “knit” a group of stitches together and then to chain off a loop before the next group. Doubling the yarn makes these loops a little more substantial. You can see how nice this looks in the detail photo above. I wonder why the designer chose to eliminate the crochet hook version in her last revision? Are knitters somehow afraid of The Hook? It’s only another yarn tool. Gee.

So now that I have an FO, of course I get to start a new project. Yay! Last night I just began a Little Black Cardi using the Trellis pattern from Lili Comme Tout (aka Julie Partie). The yarn is those infamous 6 puff-balls of Elann F05 sock yarn that I dyed semi-solid black. So far it’s going well after casting on 283 stitches, which I did right first try! Whoot! I’m going with a straight size L since that fits my measurements except that I’ve refigured the sleeves which are 3” too long for me. Hopefully the shoulders won’t be too wide. There are quite a few nice fitting instructions in this pattern including at bit of waist shaping, a wider front at the bust area and short-rows at the back neck. Also it’s all one piece from bottom up and then the inset sleeves are picked up and knitted down. Very nice.

I’m beginning to avoid pieced instructions when I choose my patterns. Not that I don’t like seaming but why bother when I have had good experiences with one-piece construction? I haven’t been convinced by any of the arguments for knitting a sweater in pieces. I’ve done them every which way over the years so I think I’ve given each method fair due. The only reasons I would knit a completely pieced garment is if it was very large and I couldn’t manage the weight of the whole thing at once or if it had unusual construction such as pieces knit at different angles. Otherwise, either top-down or bottom-up works for me.

Interestingly, pieced construction harks back to garment sewing where you have a flat length of fabric off a loom and need to shape it to a decidedly not-flat body. (Ignore the fact of machine-knitted yardage for the moment. I’m trying to just focus on hand-knitting.) Unlike woven fabric a knitted sweater or other garment can be fitted to the body as you knit. Of course you can’t cut knitting without securing the edges or it will unravel hence the reason for knitting each piece to a specific shape. But furthermore, yarn can be manipulated in many different ways on the needles to conform it to tubes, curves and extremities. That’s such a big advantage over cutting and sewing that it seems silly to ignore the possibilities.

In my opinion, knitting in pieces was encouraged by pattern publications in the past because the editors didn’t understand what knitting could actually do differently than sewing. People pretty much followed instructions slavishly without really understanding it either. Elizabeth Zimmermann reported that her circular patterns got rewritten to flat in spite of her protestations. Her books were the first I ever read that showed me that there even was another way to knit a sweater! Another big thing was the invention of good functional circular needles. The ones I bought when I was young (and still have in my collection but never use!) sport stiff plastic wires that never lose their coil no matter what you do. Today you have any number of choices in wood, bamboo, brass, chrome, carbon fibre and even Lexan – all with flexible cords and smooth connections. No wonder one-piece knitting is becoming commonplace! Really, who uses those long straight needles anymore for any type of knitting anyway? Mine are all languishing in a box, the poor neglected creatures.

OK, off in a different direction. No new news about The Hand. I think I’ve hit a plateau in the healing process which is a little lot frustrating. Still too tender to hold a weaving shuttle or do much ironing (which kind of stymies sewing for now) or basically any time I have to grip something with my palm. (Who knew grinding pepper was difficult?) However, otherwise it’s mostly functional and I can knit and spin. With Thom’s help I’ve got quite a lot of the RomneyX wool carded and ready to spin up. Maybe not a whole man-sweater’s worth yet but a good start. We’ve also been getting out for walks as much as possible when the weather permits which doesn’t leave as much time for moaning. Yeah, life’s tough, eh? At least I’m not bored.