Friday, March 30, 2007

Carryin' On

The view from my living room window this morning:

My days are starting to develop into a new routine. I get up sometime between 6 and 6:30 am, get tea (always first!), boot up the computer, have a few minutes peacefully reading email, shower & dress and grab some breakfast. Around 8 am the Chinese radio goes on signaling that the banging and sawing will commence next door. That’s my cue to get out the earphones and my Palm and head into my studio to work on The Garb. The racket next door carries on with only occasional respites (for their coffee and lunch breaks) until 5:30 pm. Still they are getting on quite quickly. There’s wall studs on the main floor marking off some suspiciously teensy spaces but nothing above that. It seems weird to me to build walls when you don’t have a ceiling but what do I know? They still have another floor and a half to build above the one they’re working in. Plus it’s supposed to rain later this evening, but I guess that isn’t a concern. Or maybe it is.

It was a gorgeous day yesterday full of the scents and sights of spring. It was lovely to get together with 3 of my friends in K’s sunny kitchen for a felting and beading session. Even though I was having a frustrating time trying to arrange the elements of my necklace that includes felt “beads” as well as glass and metal ones. I finally gave it up and decided instead to make more of the long narrow felt bead-shapes to augment the ones I had. I also discovered that I’m sensitive to the smell of the Ivory dishwashing liquid that we used in the hot water to assist with the felting. I rinsed the beads out but I can still smell that scent. Hope it goes away soon. It reminded me why I have to smell every new soap, detergent, shampoo, hand cream, sunscreen or whatever before I buy it. So many products have added perfumes, even ones that are supposedly “fragrance free”. Yuck. And I hate when they change the formula of something I use regularly to New & Improved! It usually changes it to something I can’t use any more and then I have to go on a hunt for a replacement that works as well and doesn’t give me trouble. My nose is itching as I type.

I brought along my Cherry Leaf Shawl to my friend’s house for Show & Tell. Only 2 of the three others who were there are knitters but they are more basic level and don’t knit fancy lace. It was fun to share something that I’m really proud of with them. I’m going through a pretty intense Lace Phase recently and I feel I’ve learned a lot. Hope I can learn more at the one-day workshop I’ll be taking in June that I mentioned in a previous post. No matter how experienced you are there’s always something new to think about.

Well, the other side of my new daily routine is that it isn’t permanent. The house next door will be finished in a few months. And my daughter’s wedding is at the end of April so all the Wedding Garb has to be done by then. Meanwhile I’m putting stuff off and starting up a list of things to do AW — After the Wedding. The list is starting to get quite long. Back to sewing. I have several garments to cut out today.

News Flash! I need a curtain in my bathroom window! The bottom half of the bathroom window is pebbled glass but the top half is clear. That was fine when there was no opposing window next door. But I stood up from the toilet and looked right into the face of one of the workmen next door who was standing on a ladder. Ahem! Never a dull moment around here.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Yahoo Is Making Me Crazy

For the last couple of days YahooGroups has been sending messages up to 10 times each. I’m on a lot of groups so it’s pretty annoying to fish through the hundreds of copies for the ones I haven’t read yet. Argghhh…Hope they fix it soon! Or I’ll go on No-Mail until they sort it out. There is nothing more disconcerting than finding about 400 emails in your Inbox. Yikes.

And I’m already crazy from all the banging and crashing and hammering next door. I had to ask them to remove some boards from my flower garden where they were flattening my poppies. I was polite and the guy I asked jumped to fix the problem quickly. However, the fence (belonging to their side luckily) is broken in about 4 places now and bricks are lying on our side of the divide between the houses. See the view through my basement window?

Some of this is inevitable but I hope they don’t trample everything in an effort to remove the debris. I’m not encouraged to worry much about the gardens on the west side of our property this summer. I’ll be happy if we get away with minimal damage. Meanwhile it’s encouraging me to either work in my studio on the opposite side of the house with earphones on my head or to go out for several hours during the day. Today I plan to do both.

I’ve finished my granddaughter’s bright blue overtunic for the wedding and I have to say it turned out very cute. I’m almost finished the sunny yellow undertunic and hope to be done that today before I go out this afternoon. Tomorrow I will concentrate on cutting out my DIL’s outfit. She wants a bit of a train on the overtunic so that should be fun to figure out. Good thing these are fairly simple shapes and I have a lot of sewing experience. (Got my first sewing machine when I was 8 but I won’t tell you what goofy things I made on it! I’m sure you can imagine.) It’s a matter of making it up as I go along, drafting the pattern directly on the fabric and sewing without a model to try it on constantly as I go. They’ll be over next week for us to babysit though so I’ll have a chance to get some preliminary fitting.

I’m turning the heels on the T-Man ribby socks. I should learn not to knit while watching a very exciting movie though. I had to fix a fairly large mistake this morning. We watched Children of Men and WOW! is that ever a great movie! Very thought provoking as well as superbly acted and amazingly filmed. It’s like a documentary and the people act very much as anyone would in such a tough situation. Clive Owen’s character is very much a hero but not in the usual kick-ass sense. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend this movie. Just don’t knit while you’re watching it.

I’m heading over to my friend’s house this afternoon to meet with some of the members of our Spectrum Study Group. Several of us missed the last meeting so we’re trying to catch up on our felted jewelry. I used some acrylic medium last night to stiffen my felt leaf-shapes and I realized that there’s a learning curve here and I need to experiment more. I have about 4 different kinds of acrylic medium and the one I used is a matte varnish. It worked fine to stiffen but dulled the colours just a bit (especially the black) and left some little plasticky bits on the back where it pooled while drying. I need to make sure it gets squeezed out more carefully so there isn’t any excess medium. Maybe matte wasn’t a great choice either because it probably contributed to the dulling effect. Next time I’ll try the gloss version. The leaves will definitely hold their shape well for a necklace though.

My smaller Christmas cactus thinks it's an Easter cactus. Don't think I'm going to argue with it — it's so pretty.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I Got 'Em!

You might remember that I asked my Other LYS to save me one of these new Addi Lace circular needles from Skacel. Well I bought it, took it home, tried it out and went right back to the store for 2 more sizes while they still had them available. Pricey, yes! But nice to work with. More slippery than bamboo but not too slick and the join is smoother. The cable is lovely and limp and a very pretty rose colour. See?

Note the old Addi Turbo cable was soaked in hot water to get out the kinks (which obviously didn’t work too well) and the new Addi Lace cable is just as it comes out of the package. Notice a difference? The new needle cable also has the needle size printed on it though it’s a bit teensy for these older eyes. I’ll let you know if it wears off any time soon. The brass points are much pointier and longer than the Addi Turbos and I like them much better. Have a look:

(A weaver's aside: doncha love the close-up texture of the vintage linen tablecloth?)

I’m one of those rebels who prefers a sharper point at the best of times and I didn’t like the old Addis much no matter who touted them as the best thing known to knitters ever. But these lace needles are far superior in my books. The business ends are a nice length and straight too, not bent like some other needle brands which drives me nuts. Not too short or too long. Whether it really was Grumperina and her blog readers who pressured Skacel into perfecting these needles, I thank you, whoever you are. These are, as Goldilocks said, Just Right. I now have 3 mm, 3.25 mm and 3.5 mm which is in the ballpark of sizes that I customarily use for lace. I might get 3.75 and 4 mm eventually but the budget is already stretched bigtime at the moment. I have my good old Denise interchangeables in those larger sizes which makes it harder to justify more Addis. And maybe I’ll eventually get a 2.75 mm too. It’s actually really surprising how one little jump in size bigger or smaller makes a big difference in the lace. Meanwhile I have a good selection to work with for now.

I’ll be taking a one-day workshop on heirloom lace knitting at the ANWG conference in Red Deer, AB in June. The instructor is Coleen Nimetz who is a Master Spinner as well as amazing knitter. I’m looking forward to learning more about lace especially as it pertains to handspun yarn. I’ll be bringing my unblockable llama lace scarf with me for “what not to do” advice! Hopefully someone can help me figure out why it refuses to stay blocked for more than 5 minutes. My bet is on too much twist or maybe the fibre was just not the right choice for lace. I should see if I have any more of it and spin some new samples to test my theories. Later.

Meanwhile I’m still living with noise and dust from next door. It’s amazing to me that the little bit of the shell of the house that they left didn’t collapse like a house of cards after they removed all the interior walls and the ceiling joists. That left only the main floor as an open rectangle and the gutted basement. The diagonal underfloor on the main level is still there. It reminds me of when I play with the Megablocs with my granddaughter. She likes to break up my buildings!

I get to listen to the workmen’s choice of radio station too. Why am I not surprised that it’s a local Chinese-language station? (Cyndi, you’re amazing if you can really identify your stepson from the back in a fuzzy picture taken through the grubby window! Hee-hee! The guy in Monday’s photo with his back to the camera is Chinese and probably in his late 30’s or early 40’s. Ring any bells?) Most of the crew are Chinese I think, but the crew boss (introduced to me as William and also Chinese) gives his orders to them all in English. I love my multicultural city!

Thanks to all those who commented so positively on my finished Cherry Leaf Shawl. I have it draped where I can admire it for awhile! Susan hon', you’ve got to come and hold my hands away from my knitting because I've already been tempted! However, you’ll be happy to know that I’ve started sewing. More on that later.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Over And Over

Do you think of working yarn-overs differently before a knit stitch and a purl stitch? I don’t — I always think of a yarn-over as just one thing: scooping the yarn over my right needle so it lies from front to back. Then whatever I have to do for the next stitch is a separate item: if I need to knit it, the yarn already in the right place and if I need to purl it, I bring the yarn forward into position first before working the purl just as I would before working a purl stitch after a knit. When there’s a yarn-over right at the beginning of a needle, I just scoop under the yarn and carry on normally with the first stitch in the row. Maybe it’s harder if you knit “throwing-style” or English, if you prefer to call it that. It’s a whole separate motion with that method. In “picking-style” or Continental, it’s just a quick movement to bring your yarn to the front or the back making eyelets, ribbing and other similar patterns easy to do. When I switched methods from throwing to picking way back in the ‘70’s, I was actually surprised that I enjoyed ribbing so much more when I didn’t have to do so much maneuvering to accomplish it. It’s the same working yarn-overs. I do still know how to throw my yarn (in the awkward way I figured out when I was 6) but I only use it for colour-stranded knitting. As time goes by I’m getting more out of practice and am trying to learn how to do colour-stranding with both yarns in my left hand. Unfortunately it’ll have to wait until I’m out of my “Lace Phase” for further experimentation on the colour-work side.

Meanwhile I have a wonderful FO for you — the somewhat modified Shoulder Shawl in Cherry Leaf Pattern from Victorian Lace Today:

Cherry Leaf Shawl

Begun: Dyeing – January 15, 2007 Knitting – March 7, 2007
Completed: March 26, 2007

Yarn: Cashmerino (cashmere/merino laceweight yarn) from Birkeland Bros Wool. Perhaps 850-900 yards? I had quite a bit left from a skein that counted to about 984 yards long anyway.
Needles: 3.5 mm Clover Takumi 24” circular. 3.5 mm Crystal Palace dpns.
Pattern: main triangle from “Victorian Lace Today” by Jane Sowerby except that I worked 5 more pattern repeats longer, wide edging is an extension of Aspen Leaf Edging from Barbara Abbey’s “Knitting Lace” (I called it Walnut Leaf Edging), narrow edging is from VLT’s Half Square in Trinity Stitch chart D (mini version of Walnut Leaf Edging).

Comments: I was very happy with the dyeing. The colours were subtle enough that they didn’t detract from the lace, which can sometimes be a problem. The yarn was somewhat thinner and the needle size smaller than that called for by the pattern in the book. I worked 5 more repeats but it still only blocked to 60” wide instead of the 72”. The length is the same 33” though.

The edgings needed very little “fudging” to make them fit. I did have to do the bottom corner twice before it looked quite right though. In the end I worked the last edging repeat before the bottom corner twice into each stitch, the point repeat three times into each stitch and the repeat after the bottom point twice into each stitch. That seemed to make the point hang right. Also the first time I started the min-walnut edging on the hypotenuse, I forgot that it needed to be worked into every other bound-off stitch instead of every stitch so I had to frog and start that part again. I worked a short row triangle (increasing 2 stitches every other row) in the corner before starting the top edging. This worked very well and all the edgings though not symmetrical look very even. I like that they continue the “leaf” theme but are lighter and more lacey than the main body of the shawl in the more dense cherry leaf pattern. A nice contrast in textures. So this shawl ended up being partially of my own design and it makes me happy. I love leafy things.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Built To Last?

What becomes of the things you make? Do they get put away in a drawer or hung out in plain view? Do they get used and abused and eventually used up? Does this bother you? I guess it depends on whether you consider your work High Art or just creative crafting, a happy pastime that leaves you with something to show for your hours of twiddling your fingers. There are articles on textile conservation that would like to scare you into believing that everything must be carefully wrapped in acid free tissue and stored in a museum-quality specially-manufactured box out of the harmful light. However I’m of the Use It school of thought and use my stuff unto death. I like to surround myself with handmade things and if I had the proverbial million dollars I would commission artists and craftspeople to make me a house and virtually everything in it with creative style and obvious marks of the hand. Meanwhile while I’m waiting for the money to materialize I live with a mixture of the old, the Ikea, the junk, and the handmade (mostly by me, T-Man, friends or local craftspeople). It’s not Better Homes & Gardens-worthy, but it’s us.

Speaking of building, the workman have been having big fun next door removing the roof and top floor in preparation for the major renovations planned. I spent a goodly chunk of the day elsewhere because the noise and dust was pretty bad. I did manage to introduce myself to the crew boss who promised that it would all be over with quickly. But then the building will commence and that won’t be any more peaceful, I can guarantee. I surreptitiously photographed them from my study window.

They can see me at my desk so I waved at the boss! Just as I type this the last wall is going downnnnn….

Cynthia asked in my Comments about the yarn for the Cherry Leaf Shawl. Yes, I did dye it myself. The dyes were Lanaset, also called Telana depending on who sells it. These are dyes for protein fibres and have a somewhat muted palette. I especially like them on silk because they’re very luminous when combined with silk’s sheen. They are a little more complex to use than regular acid dyes when you’re trying to get an even colour because they have a couple of extra things (dye assistants) to add. But in this case I used a combination method: first the yarn skein was soaked in my reusable bucket of acetic acid/water, squeezed out and then dipped and squeezed through a strong solution of the chartreuse dye and arranged in a casserole dish (one just for dyeing). I poured dribbles of blue-green and orange-red dye over the skein, turned it over and repeated the dribbles. (There might have been some golden yellow dye as well. I can’t remember now!) Then I covered the casserole dish with its lid and nuked it for three 5-minute intervals in my crafts-only microwave, each time with a 5-10 minute cooling period between. After it cooled, I rinsed the skein, spun it out in the washing machine (spin cycle only) and hung it up to dry. The yarn is a cashmere-merino blend in a 2-ply laceweight. I can’t remember the manufacturer since it didn’t come with a label. I wanted to be very careful with the dye method because it felts quite easily.

And now it’s all done! I marathon-knitted this morning and finished the shawl. It’s washed now and blocked so I’m just waiting for it to dry. More details later but here’s what it looks like in its pins:

I think it’s beeeoooteeeful! But hopefully now that it’s done I can control myself from starting another piece of knitted lace and get my sewing done. We spent some time this weekend looking at fabrics but didn’t really find what is in my mind’s eye. There are more places to look however so I’m not giving up quite yet. It has to be the right weight, the right colour and the right texture. Plus inexpensive. It seems that the textile clearance place is mostly filled with icky synthetics that feel totally plasticky. I did get some chiffon for my veil in slightly off-white. Then we went to my favourite Punjabi-owned sari shop with lots of lovely silks and rayons but they didn’t have anything quite right either. Lots of other yummy fabrics though! I was controlling myself. These are the only places that I can walk to so it’ll have to be car or public transit next.

Friday, March 23, 2007


No, that doesn’t mean what it does on shows like CSI — it’s The Obligatory Disclaimer. You know, when you’re showing someone your latest FO and you say something like “Well, it didn’t turn out quite like I’d hoped.” or “There’s a mistake in the 14th row.” We can’t help ourselves. Nothing is perfect especially something we’ve made ourselves. We aren’t perfect so why should something we’ve been involved with be perfect either. We forget that that’s not the point at all! If it came from our hands and minds, then it’s very special and should be treated with the respect it deserves flaws and all. I mean, we expect our parents, children and spouses to love us anyway flaws and all, don’t we? Then we should love our crafty “children” too, no matter what. So either we have to stop with the TOD altogether or we ought to get it out of the way right away and then allow others to have their own opinions. Instead we should talk about what we loved about the piece, what turned out right and how it makes us feel good to have made it.

On the other hand, if we really aren’t pleased with something we’ve made, we should let others whom we respect see and comment on it. Lots of times they have a different perspective from ours and what we thought were flaws were really invisible to others or made the piece more “human” and hand-made. One person’s trash is very often another person’s treasure. Really! Show them everything even the stuff that didn’t turn out. At the very least, your fellow crafty types can help you figure out how to fix what you didn’t like or give you suggestions to make the next piece come out more in line with your vision. Or someone might just love it despite what you think is a negative. And having positive comments on your work can make you feel better about the direction you’re heading in. Show-and-tell is a great ego-booster.

I’m more than halfway up the second side of the Cherry Leaf Shawl’s edging. I’m really happy with the lighter lacier Walnut Leaf edging contrasting the denser Cherry Leaf centre. The garter stitch-based edging blends into the wide garter stitch edges on the shawl’s main part and contrasts with the mostly stockinette cherry leaf motif. Though the p2tog decreases on either side of the centre stems mimic the garter stitch with their texture, bringing it into the centre of the shawl. Amazing how I can spend time knitting something with no deadline instead of working on all the things I need to do that have definite deadlines, hey? Such is the power of procrastination at work. Maybe it’s the dark and rainy weather. Sure.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Be Careful What You Wish For

I learned a valuable lesson in the last few days. I was concerned about the house next door which has been empty for nearly a year and was gutted last fall for renovations. Then it sat, hollow and forlorn, with its back door refusing to stay shut. I was worried that someone would shelter in its dubious but dry interior or set it on fire or something equally nasty until finally they started working on it again the other day. Now I’m wishing it was abandoned again. The banging and crashing and hammering and sawing are driving me nuts! And they’ve only just begun the rebuilding which, according to rumours, will make it much larger than my house. What will I be looking out my study window into, I wonder? And how much light will I have? Bet I won’t be able to catch the lovely sunsets over the roofs any more.

Well, I spent a good part of the morning working on the Cherry Leaf Shawl edging. I’m now past the bottom corner:

I kind of fudged it twice until it looked more-or-less even around the corner. The pattern repeat on either side was mostly worked twice into every edge stitch while the one right at the corner was worked three times into the bottom stitches. Now I’m back to the normal join of every right-side row to one edge stitch. It should block out nicely. I’m quite pleased with it so far.

We’re back to dumping rain here though we haven’t set any records. It’s getting rather tedious however. Some of the seeds I planted under the grow lights are coming up. I have baby lettuce, arugula, and tah tsai (Chinese greens) and I think I saw a baby tomato or two. These will all go into the greenhouse when they’re big enough and then the salad greens and leeks will go in the main garden. The tomatoes will stay in the house until they are too large to fit under the lights! By then it should be warm enough at night since there’s no heat in the greenhouse. I’m going a little more low-key on the veggie garden this year. There’s no point in trying to grow things that don’t produce well so I’m not going to bother with peppers, eggplants, some squashes (maybe still zucchini). We usually get some peas and lots of beans. I know the peas should be planted already but they would practically be under water at the moment. Trying to dig in the mud is not good for seeds or me. I do have some overwintering leeks and the sprouting broccoli and multiplier onions are getting big enough to pick. There’s parsley and chives and even the asparagus is starting to come up. Next I should plant some flower seeds or we’ll be hitting the nursery for annuals again. I’ve got the seeds so I should use ’em. Meanwhile I’ve relegated the buggy coleus (yes, they’re still alive!) to my desk where they can get natural light. When it promises not to freeze at night then I can trust putting them in the greenhouse. Don’t want to lose them after I worked so hard dragging their roots through the whole winter.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

As If

I’m carrying on today “as if” I felt absolutely healthy. I figure that way my old bod will follow along and BE healthy. The sore throat is somewhat better and I have a bit more energy so maybe it’s working. The fambly came over yesterday and I managed to survive the onslaught. Though my left arm and right lower back are feeling it today from lugging my almost-3-month-old grandson around for a number of hours. He’s a solid little sweetie with a very loud voice!

They came by to bring over the fabric for their medieval wedding garb. I started by measuring everyone up (except the baby) but then realized there was no way I could figure out layouts and dimensions with all the chatting and kafuffle with a baby and a two-year-old so I suggested we go play at the park instead. The sun was out but the wind was pretty cold. It was definitely more fun than sewing however. I’m going to finish washing and drying the rest of the fabrics and measure and cut out the pattern pieces at my leisure. (Heh!) I can get most of the under and over-tunics made up before they will need to be more closely fitted and marked for hemming. My DIL can finish sewing on the trims herself. It sounds like a lot of work but these are really very simple loose garments and shouldn’t take me long once I get going. I’m actually going to start on my own under-tunic first because I want to dye the fabric. And if I screw up (which I shouldn’t) it will be on my own fabric and not theirs. After I finish theirs and ours, I still have to help my mother-in-law with hers too! Whew! And only a month to go before my daughter’s wedding. I’m not panicked — yet.

There’s not much more of the Cherry Leaf Shawl’s edging done yet. With all the distractions I haven’t had much time to concentrate on it. There’s no deadline but of course that just makes me want to work on it even more! I also haven’t touched T-Man’s ribby socks either. They’re almost down to the heel flaps anyway. Not much else to talk about at the moment. T is off work today so we went out walking, bought groceries and had a sushi lunch. Back to what passes for normal around here tomorrow. As if.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Moving Right Along

In a bid to ignore the fact that I’m still not feeling all that well (and I really don’t feel like going back to the doctor again to whine at him), I finished knitting the main triangle on the Cherry Leaf Shawl. It’s 5 repeats longer than the pattern but since I’m working with finer yarn and compatibly smaller needles, it wasn’t much above neckerchief size before I continued on. Now it’s quite a respectable size. I wasn’t that happy with the edging chart in VLT, so I went on a hunt for something else. I was looking for something lacy and pointy with a 12 row repeat that would lighten up the somewhat dense main part of the shawl. In Barbara Abbey’s “Knitting Lace” book I liked #19 Aspen Leaf Edging so I extended it two more rows and two more stitches wide to make a 5-row leaf. I think it looks nothing at all like an aspen leaf so I’m calling it Walnut Leaf Edging after my walnut tree in my backyard. So now I have cherry leaves and walnut leaves in the same shawl! I do love me some leaf shapes. Here’s the chart:

Begin with casting on 10. On row 12 bind off 10. Note that the + is my choice of Knit Visualizer’s symbols for “k tog tbl with next edge stitch on shawl”. I didn’t have the loop symbol that Jane used for that maneuver in VLT. Remember that the chart shows the right side of the knitting so on the even numbered (wrong-side) rows, the dots are worked as a knit stitch, the blank square as a purl and it's a p2tog. The grey areas of course indicate No Stitch. I did find a similar edging to this in the VLT book but with only 3 pairs of leaves. Jane used it on the Half Square in Trinity Stitch pattern. It doesn’t include the “faggotting” at the inner edge as on Barbara’s pattern. This was a common linear lace motif that Barbara abbreviates as “f” in her shorthand way of writing patterns. There seem to be several ways to accomplish it but her version is created by [yo, p2tog] on both sides and looks like a zigzag ridge with an alternating line of yarn-overs on each side of it. I think working a p2tog rather than a k2tog causes the yo to stretch just a little more making a slightly larger line of holes and the centre line is more knotted looking. Jane’s version (in the Stripes and Torchon Lace pattern) is stockinette-based: [yo, k2tog] on the right side and [yo, p2tog] on the wrong side rows. It looks similar but isn’t the same on both front and back. There are other versions of the Faggot (meaning "a bundle of sticks", not any of the other slang meanings of this word!) type of motifs including Herringbone (staggered yarnovers with the decreases on the outsides rather than in the centre) and Beading (yarnovers on top of each other with a plain row between). Because of their linear emphasis, they’re often used to divide more complex motifs or different sections from each other.

Here’s what the bit I’ve done so far looks like loosely pinned out so you can see it:

I was right that even though I didn’t make my selvedge stitches correctly it isn’t hard to knit them up anyhow. I poke my needle through the last stitch on the edging through its back loop, continue poking the needle through the edge of the triangle from the wrong to the right side, and then knit them together by drawing the new stitch through the shawl and the last stitch. This leaves a little row of V’s along the join on the back of the shawl but it looks very neat and stretches as far as it needs to. Then turn the work to the front and slip the first stitch with yarn in front as if to purl. It means a lot of flipping back and forth but I try not to flip the whole shawl, just the corner I’m working on. It’s kind of slow, but I’m enjoying it anyway. The pattern is very easy to memorize and to work. The only tricky bit is the joining stitch. I think it helps that my bamboo dpns have quite sharp points on them.

As you might have noticed, the edging pattern is directional (asymmetrical) so that as I round the bottom point the leaves will be facing in the opposite direction to the first edge and the bound-off edge will not resemble the cast-on one. But I don’t really mind. I’m always trying to fight my tendency to absolute symmetry. This is a good exercise for that! Once I’m done the edges I’m not really sure how I’m going to finish the hypotenuse of the triangle. I’m not sure I want to just crochet a picot edge as Jane recommends in the pattern. Too boring. Maybe I’ll use the mini version of the edging from VLT.

I think it’s pretty amazing how knitted lace is just a bunch of yarnovers and decreases but the way they are composed makes for some breathtaking beauty! Once you understand how the motifs are created, what the different directional decreases look like and how they affect the motifs, and how to put the parts together, you can make up your own designs pretty easily. Really! Cutting and pasting, whether using paper or pixels you can play with reversing, filling in, expanding, extending, diminishing, until you get something you like. You might need to test knit just to make sure something is going to work the way you expect, particularly if you messed with the original a lot. For example I found out that I had made 2 mistakes on my first version of the Walnut Leaf Edging which I didn’t notice until I tried to knit it. Then it was easy to see what I had to do to fix it. Of course my “swatch” was the first repeat on the real thing! I figured if it wasn’t looking right I could frog it or simply carry on if it was looking good. It was and I did. I’ll let you know what happens when I get to the point!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

More Pros Than Cons?

You are totally going to laugh. I found out how I got that headache yesterday — I forgot to put tea in my teapot! The worst part is that I drank several cups of it without noticing. I thought it was a bit weak but really, how could I have gone all the way to mid-afternoon without seeing or at least tasting that there was no tea in my (admittedly tea-coloured) cup? Just shows you how out of it I really am. And how dependant on at least some caffeine. I drink really weak tea (not plain water usually!) and can get several cups from one normal teabag. Not that I often use teabags. Usually I use loose tea so I can adjust the amount and not waste as much and at the same time use yummy and expensive high-quality leaves. But no tea at all is just ridiculous! And no, I have no plans to give up caffeine altogether. It doesn’t keep me awake, make me jittery or otherwise have any negative side effects. The only negative is if I don’t get at least a small dose every day I get a guaranteed migraine. And it took a while for the headache to go away once I figured out the problem. I’m I stupid or what??

On another subject entirely, I was thinking about sewing (even though I should be actually doing the sewing instead of thinking about it) and I’ve realized there are definite pros & cons to sewing your own clothes. The biggest disadvantage is you can’t try the garment on before you buy. You have to have a good imagination to be able to picture the style (including any mods you wish) in your chosen fabric and on your body. If you make it up and it looks awful on you, you can’t just put it back on the rack! And it’s pretty hard to chuck it if you have time and money invested in it. Occasionally it can be salvaged but not always. It’s not necessarily a monetary savings in either. Sometimes sewing your own costs more than ready-to-wear, especially if you use pricier high-quality fabrics. Or buy Vogue patterns at full retail! And that’s not even counting your time and effort. The biggest advantage is that you get something that doesn’t look like anyone else’s. If you are experienced enough at sewing it should fit you better than anything you can buy. You can express your own style and use fabrics and shapes that are unique to you. Even stamp, dye, print and paint your fabrics either before or after sewing. Hey, if you really want to go overboard, weave your own fabrics. Yes, I’ve actually done this. Some of the clothing is actually even still wearable.

Speaking of weaving, I’ve signed up for a workshop for the first time in absolutely ages. I haven’t actually woven much of anything for even longer than ages. However, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to learn more about woven shibori with Catharine Ellis. I love her work! A number of years ago one of my friends took a workshop with her and produced some very interesting samples. I cribbed her notes and did a little sample and then wove and sewed a shirt-jacket using a simple form of the technique. Later I used it again for front flaps on another loose shirt. I think those were the last 2 woven garments I’ve made! I also attended a seminar with Catharine in 2002 when we had Convergence here in Vancouver. But she has experimented more since then and developed some new techniques. I have her book but it’s so much more inspiring to take a workshop. We will be using our own looms (no round-robin, yay!) and working with either a wool, cotton or silk warp, our choice. We have choices in threading as well which will make for some interesting samples as we check out what others are doing in the class.

I’m planning to use wool since I’ve done cotton and silk is just, well, too pricey for experimentation. At least until I get some more experience. Also with wool you can use fulling to add to the effects. And perhaps an overtwisted weft and maybe even try some yarn I have in the stash that’s wool and Elité (stretchy). I have a whole cone and a half of 2/20’s that fulls OK so hopefully that will be acceptable. It’s a bit finer and a bit slower in fulling than the recommended superfine merino but it’s in the stash. I’m not ordering new yarn when I’ve got practically my own yarn shop already! Luckily the workshop isn’t until May so I’ve got time to wind the warp and get it on the loom without clashing with the zillion and one other things I’m supposed to be doing. Did I mention that I have to knit a sock for a moose? For next month? Oy.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Soggy Brains

Thanks for all the advice and get-well wishes in my Comments. You’re all so sweet! You can sure tell that this Damselfly has not been tiptop lately, can’t you? Look how long my posts are! And every single day just about (except yesterday). I need to get a life somewhere away from this computer. At the sewing machine perhaps? As me great uncle used to say “Time’s a-wastin’!” But today I have another headache. Poo. And it’s raining and supposed to be staying that way for the foreseeable future. A second rainy weekend in a row. No wonder I’m feeling out of sorts.

Yesterday I went to my weavers & spinners guild meeting and got suckered into acting as Recording Secretary because Somebody who usually does it is off on a long trip. It was hard to resist the offer of a ride home from the guild president in trade though. Especially since I scored a 27 metre bolt of natural coloured linen/viscose fabric for virtually nothing from a dear friend. It’s heavy! There was no carrying it on the bus anyway. This is destined to become my under-tunic (and probably that of several other people too) for the Wedding Garb. I may overdye it a light colour since right now it’s kind of oatmeal. Depends on what else I get for the overdress. I want the colours to coordinate somewhat, even though Medieval folks didn’t care for matchy-matchy stuff. It’ll probably be perfect just the way it is for T-Man’s under-tunic. I need to get sewing but I can barely focus my eyes today.

I hate to even confess this, but also bought a couple of new books (and some magazines) while I was out yesterday. It’s embarrassing to admit that I’ve spent Way Too Much this month on books. I need to go on a publication diet. OK. I promise to buy only the critical magazines until May or maybe even June. In May I’ll be going to FibreFest in Abbotsford and in June I’ll be heading to Alberta to the ANWG conference so I’ll have major shopping opportunities then. So I guess I’d better be good in the meanwhile or I’ll miss some fabulous must-have item because I can’t afford it! Or the top floor of my house will collapse. Whichever comes first.

Oh look! A short blog post. How unusual! All I feel like doing is knitting so I should go work on the Cherry Leaf Shawl for awhile. I need to refill my SD memory card with more podcasts so I can listen to them on my Palm. It’s better than watching yucky daytime TV or listening to talk radio. Me and my headache want to be alone.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Always More Books

I still haven’t given you a review of the two books I got the other day. Maybe I’m having trouble with the fact that I’m similarly disappointed in them both. Even though I actually browsed through one of them in a store before I ordered it online, it could have benefited from a closer look. This is starting to seem as if I’ve been making some errors in ordering books lately. Or my tastes have changed? Or maybe I’m just saturated? Hope not. I’ve got 1 more to come on this order and one just came this morning. (More on that later.) Yes I need to join Bibliophiles Anonymous but I can’t find a local chapter. Chapter — get it? Har-har! I crack me up.

Where was I? Oh yeah. The two recent books are both about crochet. So if you don’t h**k, you can skip this section. First up we have the one where I like the information better than the patterns: “Couture Crochet Workshop” by Lily Chin. If you know about Lily, you know she’s the Fastest Crocheter on Earth (at least the fastest one that’s actually been officially timed) and she also knits. She’s very NY couture stylin’ but her designs have never screamed out at me to make them for some reason. These patterns are mostly what I call “dense” crochet. Some are more lacey/holey but they are still on the dense side. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but by nature crochet tends to be thicker and less drapey than an equivalent knit. Designers add holes to lighten it up and give it some movement. The drawback is that can reduce it’s real-world wearability, especially taken to an extreme as in Doris Chan’s “Amazing Crochet Lace” book that I think I reviewed awhile back. Too many holes and it doesn’t cover you up (undergarments become a critical choice) or keep you warm and your fingers and things poke through and catch. On the other extreme, too dense and tight and it’s like wearing armour. The edges curl and the fabric doesn’t move with the body. I think Lily got a nice compromise on many of her crocheted fabrics but is it just me or are they kind of boring? The cover jacket looks the nicest with a slightly fuzzy variegated yarn but again, I don’t trust how the model is standing and holding the front edges. What does it really look like? The schematics say it’s a kimono shape, not fitted as it appears in the photo.

The technical information section is quite detailed. I think this is the part that is worth the price of the book. Lily has a great section on flat patterns and even using your own garments that fit to create them. Also she talks about making fitting muslins from fabric that better mimics crochet. All this could be used for knitwear designing as well as crochet. There is also lots of information on shaping to get better fit and style in your garments with great hints on how to work this around fancy pattern stitches. I think a lot of crocheters (knitters too) can benefit from this approach to fitting that takes its cues from the sewing world.

One last niggle — so how come in all the photos featuring Lily (and she appears everywhere in this book unlike your usual shy retiring designer) she’s wearing a pink knitted sweater? Couldn’t she pull out a crocheted one, just for the occasion? At her speed, I’m sure she could have whipped one up in moments just before the shutter clicked! My conclusion is that I’m still waiting for a really good book on crocheted clothing. Meanwhile I’ll peruse my 1987 copy of The Crochet Sweater Book by the late Sylvia Cosh (out of print and a collector’s item) and try to figure out how to update the styles while retaining the same lovely textures and colours. I still have a sweater in handspun yarn I made from this book, though its batwing style makes it the wrong shape for today.

The other book I’ll review is “The New Granny Square” by Susan Cottrell and Cindy Weloth. As usual, the cover features the best piece, in this case a lovely neutral-toned afghan in large and small medallions. This book is mainly little crocheted motifs in fancy yarns using a very loose tension. Some of them look very funky and interesting, which was what caught my eye in the store. However, the way these motifs are used is mostly disappointing to me. Many of them are merely sewn onto a commercial garment as an appliqué. There’s even a few teasers like a sweater (you can’t see the whole garment in the photo so I can't tell how it’s styled) made from crocheted motifs and embellished with a crochet and beaded butterfly and a bit of edging. The pattern instructions only include the embellishments and not the sweater motif or the garment! There’s also a commercial skirt with some intriguing lace embellishment but it turns out to be recycled from an old piece — no crochet pattern included at all! There’s a poncho, a skirt and some top patterns and a few scarves and bags but they don’t really show what one could do with the motifs. A little shawl out of fluffy flowers is kind of cute and a skinny scarf hints at some potential. Maybe. I still like the “200 Crochet Blocks” book better or for more freeform crochet, any of the books by Prudence Mapstone or Jenny Dowde. Though for those who are of the “refashioning” ilk, the embellishment with crocheted motifs may spark some ideas to make over items already in your closet or from the thrift shop. It’s not my style really.

What I was hoping for was information on working with motifs in garment design. Fitting and shaping with modules that are stitched or crocheted together to create wearable shapes would be really helpful. How to create little infill shapes to smooth out necklines or underarms and how to combine different motifs together into a whole. Kinda like the info in Lily’s book but with motifs instead of row by row. Hmmm…I see another book idea coming on. Something more elaborate than this book but less freeform than Prudence or Jenny’s work. Anybody know someone who could create the book I see in my mind’s eye? No, don’t look at me.

I keep feeling there is some great crochet potential that is not being published anywhere. Something to equal the lovely designs that we’re seeing in knitting. Crochet is definitely not knitting’s poor cousin. It’s very versatile! It just suffers from a lack of quality designs and especially from a standardized charting system. It needs an extreme makeover.

Forgot to mention the other day that I compromised on the extra foam padding for Tori’s backpack. I put the new piece so it flaps over the top of the upright and T-Man gave me another piece that he had in his stash so I could cut out a shape for the area where the bottom of the wheel contacts. So now I have two new pieces of foam so everything should be better protected. It still rattles though and I found out what that is — the footman. There’s nothing holding it tightly in place so it clunks back and forth. I’ll have to remember to pack spinning fibre in there if we’re traveling far together. I don’t really want any more foamy bits to deal with. One other small issue is the black peg that adjusts the scotch tension tends to fall out of its hole when moving things around, packing and unpacking. It’s only pressure fit into place so I just need to press it a little harder in future. This reminds me that I haven’t done much spinning lately.

On the shawl saga, I’ve gotten as far as the pattern suggests but it’s only about the same size as my Swallowtail Shawl and I want it to be a bit bigger. I’ll work another couple of repeats but I’m getting a bit concerned that the edging won’t work out properly then. As far as my calculations work, I think I need to do 5 more repeats to get close to it dividing properly into the right number for the edging. I hope I have enough yarn for that since I’m now also planning to change the edging to one with the same number of rows but a bit wider. It looks like I have lots of yarn but it’s hard to tell. I also realized, now that I’ve gotten 90% of the main triangle done, that I did the edge slip stitch incorrectly. I do it all the time but on a stockinette base. This is garter stitch and it threw me. On the wrong-side rows I should have held the yarn in front while slipping purlwise. Instead I just did it with yarn in back on both right and wrong sides. Sigh. Thought it didn’t look right. I can still pick it up ok though. Shouldn’t show in the end. I hope.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Another Reason For Me To Hide Under The Covers

As if yesterday wasn’t bad enough, today I had to go to the doctor because I have a freakin’ UTI! Apparently the flu and a migraine weren’t enough to remind me of my advancing age and impending mortality. If you haven’t ever had a urinary tract infection, consider yourself blessed. It’s not just uncomfortable but the sensations are so peculiar they are indescribable. Neither a thesaurus nor 2 dictionaries could come up with suitable adjectives that even come close. Let’s put it this way — I knew what it was the instant I got it. Again.

I packed up my Cherry Leaf shawl which is currently about the size (unstretched) of a scarf and found this great zipper bag to carry it in my backpack. (The Patch-Paper lunchbox is in use with the current socks and the Mystery Machine lunchbox takes up too much room in the pack.) It was formerly containing pillowcases. I love those bags that hold bed linens. I always find alternative uses for them. ‘Splain to me why they go that extra mile to package these particular items with a heavyweight plastic zippered pouch when everything else in the store is flimsily shrink-wrapped? Never mind. Just know that I never throw them out. See how well the shawl fits:

There was some time to knit while waiting for my doc even though his clinic is pretty efficient. Much more fun than reading dumb magazines anyway. The good side to visiting my doc is that he’s totally cute and very sweet and I love him to pieces. In a platonic sort of way of course. Too bad he always sees me at my worst! The best part of the visit was the nurse checked my urine sample and…I’m not pregnant! Hee-hee! So she had to go check it again (luckily I didn’t have to re-donate) and got the correct results the second time. So now I’m on some antibiotic which means I also need to take acidophilus or I’ll get a yeast infection to add to my woes. Sheesh. I feel like a Middle Eastern war zone. Can we negotiate armistice soon, please?

While my prescription was being made up, I went to the fruit & veggie market to get lots of fresh goodies. I filled up my backpack (now you know why the small bag for the shawl) and my cloth shopping bag for only twenty bucks. Why do people complain that yummy things like vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh spinach, huge globe grapes and red peppers are expensive? They’re cheaper than junk food and a lot better for you. Then I went to the health food store on the way home for my acidophilus (which they should sell in a cooler right next to the pharmacy counter) and organic cream. I splurged on some smoked sockeye salmon cream cheese too, because I need a little spoiling right about now, doncha think? That about filled up my bags and tested my ability to carry them the rest of the way home. That was the farthest I’ve walked since I got the flu 11 days ago. Nearly a mile each way and uphill on the way home.

Now I’m tuckered out and think I’ll spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing and reading. And maybe knitting. Congrats if you got this far. This post is kind of Too Much Information, isn’t it? Heh.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Better Days?

Today I’m feeling somewhat better but I’ve got a migraine instead. Sometimes you just can’t win. And the sun is out after that weekend of monsoon weather. It turned into spring when I wasn’t looking! There are some blossoms on trees and flowers blooming. Time is flying by and I’m just plodding along. Sigh. Wish I felt up to going for a walk before the rains come back.

The guy in the Brown Van showed up today with my replacement bobbins for my Victoria wheel. There was more packing in that box than the whole wheel was shipped with! The bobbins were individually sealed in plastic bags within a box and that was again inside a larger box with lots of crinkled brown paper around it. They included a gift of a towel in white and sunshine yellow borders with Louet’s logo jacquard woven in the fabric. I think it’s linen because it has the weight and sheen but there’s no tag to say so. How nice! I might use it for my lap cloth when spinning.

There was also another of the additional foam padding pieces for the bag though I already got one from Jane. Maybe I’ll add this one as well. Top or bottom? The top of the wheel has already gotten dented and bottom has its own little feet protectors. Though that would make 2 pieces on the top (including the one that goes over the lazy-kate) and none extra on the bottom where it would get more wear. Decisions, decisions. I’ll have to ask T-Man what he thinks.

While I was thinking spinning, I also finished plying some very ancient rust/red/gold singles that were left over from my overshot coverlet about 17 years ago. I plied it on Klaas the S-90, using it for 2 plies with a 3rd ply of bright violet commercial single and it looks really interesting. (The colour in the photo is somewhat washed out.) I started this combination in one of my classes as a plying demonstration and liked it so much I carried on with the two balls I still had. The resulting yarn is a heavy worsted weight and I have no idea what I’ll use it for. But now I have 2 large skeins! Check out how the relaxed twist from the old singles protested being plied and once it was skeined, corkscrewed all over. The other skein is the one I had done previously and it mellowed out into nice yarn once I washed it. No blocking either. Just shows you the twist energy is still there, it’s just hiding. Makes it easier to handle the singles when plying but it’s harder to tell if you have an even amount of twist in the plied yarn. It goes crazy if you let go the tension and sproings all over. As me auld mum used to say “It all comes out in the wash”.

I don’t know about it all coming out in the wash. Sometimes there are inexplicable events that happen in the wash. Today I managed to dye-stain several of my precious handknit socks in a wash load with T-Man’s Forest Socks which were giving me trouble before. I thought I’d gotten out all the excess yellow-green dye. Obviously not. And then I was missing another sock, looked all over for it, and didn’t find it until I removed the last load of laundry from the dryer (which I had double-checked). There it was — about an inch shorter than its fraternal twin. Erp. Now do I have to dry the other one in the dryer to match? And will they still fit me if I do? I can’t bear to look yet. I’ve had better days. Sheesh. Remind me why I handknit socks, please?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Yet Another Pair

Yes, the count is up to Number 51, the Ocean Socks for my teenaged niece. I think these turned out pretty though it does seem as if one is slightly bluer than the other. And it’s not just in the photo — it’s in real life too. Hmmm…though it’s not that obvious really. I’ll have to be a bit more careful when I dye two skeins together to get them both covered in the same amount of the same dye colours.

Ocean Socks

Begun: February 25, 2007
Completed: March 9, 2007

Yarn: 2 balls Sisu, 80% wool/20% nylon, 160 m = 50 g, yellow, dyed with Lanaset in blues/greens
Needles: 2mm Clover Takumi bamboo 5" dpns

Pattern: Damselfly’s Standard Plain Socks in my size on 64 sts.
Comments: Pretty but not flashy. My 16-year-old niece’s feet are currently the same size as mine and she asked very nicely for these when I gifted her mom with a pair. She asks; she gets. Besides, I can do these ones in my sleep!

In other crafty news, the new socks for T-Man lasted about 10 rows before I frogged it. 3/1 rib is not elastic enough and doesn’t really show up well in this yarn. Back to my Adult Ribby Socks pattern (see free pattern link in my sidebar) with a longer leg and foot. This pattern is quite stretchy so should fit him as well as it fits me. I guess that one extra purl stitch in the 3/2 rib makes a big difference in how the knit fabric behaves. It already looks a lot better than the first version. I’m currently halfway down the leg on both socks.

The Cherry Leaf shawl is coming along. Each row gets longer so it goes slower and slower. I guess I’ve knit about 1/3 of the total area, not including the edging. I’m still enjoying it but I need to watch what I’m doing even on the even purl rows. It’s too easy to miss putting the needle in the right place.

Currently the weather has been dumping rain for two days straight. We went out for a short drive yesterday to the magazine shop where I bought 5 new craft magazines. That tuckered me out completely — and to think we usually walk all the way there and back! Although I’m feeling somewhat better, this flu has really knocked me out and I don’t have anywhere near my usual energy level yet. At least now I have something fun to read while lazing around recuperating.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Whatcha Knittin'

People who live in different climates need different knitwear. And perhaps it also depends on what they do for a living or for recreation. I was thinking about this when I was reading about double-thickness hats and thrummed mitts. We don’t need those here in Vancouver. Not to say that it doesn’t get cold, but not bitterly cold. Heck, there are guys who never wear long pants but run around all year in shorts! It’s usually wet instead. So you can use a hat but not a really heavy one and scarves are a big item but mostly on females and for style rather than warmth. Gloves are not that common and mittens are only worn by small children. Sweaters are good though, since you can get away with a thick one instead of a coat. Or wear a thinner one under your Gore-Tex jacket. I love my wrist warmers too unless I’m carrying an umbrella and then I want my gloves on.

We also don’t have a lot of chilly air-conditioning in summer to contend with. Some malls and large stores and high-rise offices have it, but mostly we live without because really it doesn’t get that hot or for that long. Except in cars — lots of people spend time in their cars in a mini-environment of their own comfort level. If you’re just going from house-to-garage-to-car-to-garage-to-office then a light jacket will do even in the dead of winter. However I don’t drive so I need good boots and warm, dry clothes plus a functional umbrella. I rarely go out without wearing at least one or two things that I’ve knitted. I wear my handknit socks most of the year, except for the approximately 3 days when it’s really hot.

Before the recent West Coast cold snap, it didn’t really occur to me that folks in California can feel cold when it’s 20 degrees C. That’s balmy summer to us! Or that in some places it can be as cold as -40 degrees C with a wind-chill factor that can bring it down even further. And those places might be far south-east of us here as well as north. Here it never gets colder than maybe -10 C and even that is rare (luckily for the greenery). The coldest I’ve ever felt is -20 C when we were in the BC Interior skiing and that was darn cold enough that your nose hairs freeze when you open the door. Gotta keep moving at that temperature. Right into somewhere warm that preferably serves hot apple cider or mulled wine.

And then there’s your own personal body temperature to factor in. Some people are naturally warm-blooded and some people are always cold. I prefer my environment to be on the cool side. Then I’ll layer on clothing until I’m just right. I even sleep with my window cracked open in the dead of winter and pile on the blankets (several of them handwoven). I’ve woken up to a room that’s only 9 C. That’s 48 F for the non-metric. But I was still toasty in my warm nest. With T-Man for extra heating. Heh. I tend to not mind whatever temp it is but if I do get too cold or too hot it takes quite awhile to get back to equilibrium. Strangely though, I’ve never suffered from hot flashes unlike most women my age. Don’t hate me.

The point of this lecture is we all have different needs for knitwear. Whether for warmth or for style, a lot depends on where you live and how you live. And I haven’t even mentioned sensitivities to different fibres as a factor. That’s another lecture for another time.

I finished the Ocean Socks for my teenaged niece. They’re currently drying after their inaugural wash so no photos are possible until tomorrow. Of course I’ve cast on for another pair. You had to ask? This time it’s a ribby pair for T-Man in Trekking XXL colour 90 (muted browns/olive). He picked out the yarn himself and I decided on ribs because he doesn’t have a ribby pair and also I’m bored of plain socks. I seem to be able to keep to the k3/p1 rib without too much trouble. When I’m past the top rib I might add a row of plain knit every other round. Getting tricksy again, ain’t I? Yes, I’m still sick and I’m BORED!

Yesterday I forgot to mention that the new Spring issue of Knitty is up. Link is in my sidebar. Lots of socks, some sweaters, kid clothes (love those little redheaded girls!), a handspun scarf etc. Plus I got two more books to review, both on crochet. Details later.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Lace Style

I was really looking forward to this book. I love lace and I was hoping this would be the companion volume to Victorian Lace Today, only with more garments. Or failing that, a more up-to-date version of A Gathering of Lace. Nope. Not really. Perhaps I was expecting too much. (Quiet, those who are thinking “So what else is new, Damselfly?”)

It’s not that it’s bad exactly, just that it could have been so much more. It seems like an issue of Interweave Knits only a lot more expensive — 3 issues worth of more expensive. To be fair the patterns have more detail and there are more photos, but really there’s only about the same number of patterns as the Spring 07 issue of the magazine. The chapter on working lace, reading charts and fixing your mistakes is good but it could have been a much larger section of the book, at least for my money. I suggest you go read Eunny’s tutorials (under Techniques in her sidebar) if you want lots more lacey details. (Can’t hardly wait for her book!) I always want to know how and why. Not to mention when and where. I’ve already figured by myself out how to fix errors pretty much the way they describe. But that 2-page section could save many less-experienced lace knitters a lot of trips to the frog pond.

As far as the garment designs go, they are mostly Youthful. Don’t they know that there are a few knitters out here who are over 30? Alright. Over 50? I’m already thinking that shrugs (and there are two) are rather passé. And legwarmers were out but now they’re in again? Really? Ewww. I can’t keep up. And what’s with the Lingerie Dress? Would anybody ever wear something like that? It’s like a shawl slipped down to her waist! I also think it’s indicative of a big problem with a knitted garment such as the initially rather attractive cardigan on the cover, that the model is holding onto the fronts with a death grip. Does that mean that it doesn’t stay put on its own? Don’t we need to know that before we spend oh, say, several months out of our lives knitting it and then finding out it doesn’t hang right? Don’t we deserve the truth? The Just Right Wrap doesn’t look just right in one of the photos towards the back of the book either. The hem is totally out of whack and there is nothing holding that lovely lace in place on the right side so you can be sure it will not stay flat. For as long as it takes you to walk out the door. Maybe. Then it will fold up and hang funny and it will drive you nuts trying to pat it back into place.

I’ve already found an error or two in the book so you can be sure there are more just waiting to be discovered. There isn’t a corrections file for this book yet on Interweave’s website. I sent them a message about one of the things I found, a problem with the photo of Swatch 4 which matches Swatch 5 instead of being of the correct right-slanting double decrease. Page 137. Right after I did that, I found on page 53 that both charts are labeled Small Lace Petal when the right one is definitely the Large Lace Petal. Can we find more? Particularly something that will wreak serious havoc with your knitting? It would be helpful to know why it’s not turning out correctly before you start tearing out your hair or poking yourself in the eyeballs with your needles in frustration. Tell Interweave so they can get the corrections up where everyone can find them.

Quibbles aside, there are some lovely garments in here. I love the Katherine Hepburn Cardigan by Kathy Zimmerman and Lacey Waves Top by Nora Gaughan. They are lovely, elegant, timeless and worth spending your time knitting because they are eminently wearable. The Ooh La Lace Dress and Stole would make a great project for the bride’s mother to knit for her special day. (Don’t look at me. Mine’s getting married in Byzantine period costume. In purple.) I also like Laura Zukaite’s Essential Tank Top. You could knit it to the perfect length for you with minimal adjustment to the pattern. I think I would tend to make it in the round up to the armholes though. Or maybe leave side slits. It would be lovely in linen. But not doubled like the alpaca. Hmmmm…

…but I digress. I’m not really sure what Annie Modesitt’s knitted wire and beads bracelet is doing in this book. Along with her Garden Hat (which doesn’t fit the model!) it seems kind of out of place. Did they get left out of her specialty books or something? Or maybe that’s just me. Maybe I was expecting more of what I think of as “real lace” garments. Something more ethereal in fine yarns that might take some time to knit. But isn’t so up-to-the-minute trendy that it’ll be out of style before it’s off the needles. This book just doesn’t hit you the way VLT did. (That book actually made knitters run for the yarn and needles en masse.) And I don’t think this is just my opinion. I’ve heard others grumbling as well. It’s not bad exactly. Just not great.

So while we’re on the subject of lace, you can see how far I’ve gotten on the Cherry Leaf Shawl.

Ain’t it purty? Though I’m surprised that the “cherry” colour is really very subtle against the “leaf” colours. It looked more intense in the skein. After a whole lot of brightly contrasting multicoloured yarns, I seem to be on a more muted but still somewhat variegated kick lately. This one is very spring-like in feeling which I think most of us in the Northern Hemisphere are longing for about now. Look, ma — no stitch markers! I haven’t even looked at the chart since the beginning of the 3rd pattern repeat. What a relief after the Socks Whom We Shall Not Name Henceforth, aka #50. I think this shawl will be somewhat warmer than Swallowtail and I think I might make it somewhat bigger as well. I have lots of yarn. Still not up to much else besides knitting and reading but I am feeling a little better today. Off to knit another repeat.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Fiftieth Pair

They are finished! Finally. It took 10 months of mostly ignoring them. I think it’s kind of appropriate that they are my 50th pair of socks. I present another FO:

Pomatomus Socks

Begun: May 19, 2006 (dyeing)
Completed: March 6, 2007

Yarn: 2 balls Sisu, 80% wool/20% nylon, 160 m = 50 g, white hand-dyepainted in greens/browns/oranges/turquoise
Needles: 2.25 mm, begun with a mishmash of wood and bamboo but completed with lovely Clover Takumi bamboo 5" dpns

Pomatomus Socks from Knitty Winter 05, by Cookie A.
Mods: none except that I used different yarn
Comments: Cookie says the Pomatomus species of blue fish are “somewhat vicious, with sharp teeth, powerful jaws and a cannibalistic tendency.” Yep. Vicious. That’s exactly what these socks were. However the results are actually very nice. They look kinda silly without feet in them however:

But much better on:

Though notice the orange and brown pooling on the instep, hey? Even my rather random handpaints can’t avoid some of that effect. I’m thinking that the colours are a bit too contrasty and obscure the scaly pattern that I worked so darned hard to achieve. Sigh. Ya live and learn.

Once I was almost finished the Po-whatzis socks, I could finally “read” the pattern and work it without checking the chart constantly. Hmpf. Took me long enough, didn’t it? But I will take much of the blame in not working on these enough to get it embedded in my brain sooner. In retrospect I should have just stuck with them once I’d started last May. Yeah, that long ago. I’m sure you have crafty items yourself that have wandered off in disgust. I’m not giving these away because they took way too long and with too much struggle. Nobody but me is worth it! Or maybe the socks aren’t worth anybody else? Whatever. I’m keeping them.

Meanwhile (of course) I started the Cherry Leaf Shawl from VKT. I’m having a grand case of “just one more row” with these. The chart is very easy to memorize and the lace is somewhat more dense than the Swallowtail Shawl even though I’m using the same yarn and the same needles. There are larger areas of plain knitting and less yarn-overs in this pattern. I’ll cross the dilemma of the edging when I get to it. I actually like the look of the chart as given with its double yarn-overs so I just may use that. And maybe a little something more at the top edge. I may have to work more pattern repeats to get the size big enough because I’m using finer yarn and smaller needles than the pattern calls for. This is my handpainted cash-merino laceweight yarn and 3.5 mm Clover bamboo 24” circs.

I was going to review the Lace Style book for you but it’ll have to wait. There’s just so much I want to say and I have to figure out the right way to say it without it becoming the Encyclopedia Britannica or something.

The flu is finally getting a bit better, thanks for asking. I just might live. I only spent half the day in bed today. And I actually got the dishes washed this morning. Whoo-hoo. However, I cancelled my weekend plans because I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be up for much. Think good healing thoughts for me, ok? Happily for me, Intermediate Spinning is cancelled this evening. Only one person signed up. I’m still not well enough to venture out anyway so it’s just as well.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Small Advantages

One advantage of being sick is that I get caught up on my blog reading. And a few podcasts, that is until my Palm T/X needed recharging. So that was how I found out that we all have Grumperina to thank for the Addi Lace needles from Skacel. Thanks, Kathy! And all your peeps who inundated the company with your preferences. Knitters have power! Use it wisely. Or (Cynical-Me thinks) it might have had something to do with the new and rather popular KnitPicks needles taking the wind out of the sails…er, sales of Addi Turbos? Does anyone in Canada carry the KnitPicks or do you have to order them directly? Just curious. I’m not a big fan of mail-ordering across the border. I’d rather have somebody else do it for me.

And while I’m at it, I totally forgot to mention that if my Usual-LYS actually did get the said Addi Lace circs, I’d definitely buy them there. But since they don’t normally carry Addis, I’m not expecting this to happen. They are dear folks and I buy from them lots (if you could only see my credit card bill you would know this) but I like to spread my cash (if not my love) around some. I buys ’em where I finds ’em. They did already get my money for the new Clover Takumi 5” dpns! I’ve got two sets each of 2 mm and 2.25 mm. Those are the sizes I use most for socks, wrist warmers and gloves. All of them are in use at the moment. Must have been a good purchase methinks.

I mentioned in a previous post about the problems Louet was having with the Victoria bobbins getting damaged when properly (as instructed) stored in the pack with the wheel. I just got a piece of foam padding in the mail from Jane Stafford (from whom I purchased Tori) with instructions on how to apply it to the hardboard inside the pack with the foam's glue strip. Then when you pack the lazy-kate with the 2 bobbins on it, you wrap the foam over them before inserting the wheel. Hopefully that will also shut up the rattling that occurs when I walk carrying the pack on my back. You’ve gotta know damage is occurring when that happens. (Not to mention how embarassing it is to be making funny noises in public!) I will receive 2 replacement bobbins later when Jane gets them from Louet. There are some pretty deep gouges on the 2 bobbins that were in the kate when I got it. Now I know how they happened. One even needed a bit of sanding to remove a rough edge. Of course now that I’ve dropped poor Tori on her head, she has even more owwies. I think the pack could really have used a smidgen more padding but then they were trying to keep the weight down to a minimum and I’m grateful for that. This old body wouldn’t be able to carry Tori very far if she was much heavier. That was the Whole Point in purchasing this wheel. I still have Klaas the S-90 and he also has his own bag that I made myself out of upholstery fabric with a quilted lining. It needs wheels though because I can’t carry it very far. Hence the reason for adopting his baby sister. Her other advantage is that Tori is flyer-drive/bobbin-brake instead of Klaas’s bobbin-drive/flyer-brake and she doesn’t pull in as hard. That’s a good thing for very fine or soft yarns. They are both nice wheels to spin on however.

Well, I’m almost at the toe on the Po-whatzit socks. Keeping on plugging. I haven’t picked up the Ocean socks at all so I’m being really dedicated to finishing these things. I’m not going to give them away either because they are worth so much stress and aggravation that nobody is deserving enough of that much of me — except me. I’m keeping them to remind me that it’s probably better to design my own socks. Or just knit plain ones.

Breaking News! I just got one of the books I ordered recently: Interweave’s Lace Style. I think it’s funny when I order 5 books and get them one or two at a time. With free shipping, no less! Packaged in hefty corrugated cardboard mailers. They sure must do high volume to make any money this way. But don't tell them I said that. I’ll review this book when I’ve gotten a chance to look at it.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Reading Matter

There’s a new issue of Fiber Femmes up (see my sidebar for link) and it comes at a good time. I’m sitting here at my computer with my hot tea and my box of tissues because I got bored lying around in bed reading fantasy novels. I think I’m feeling slightly better today which is good news. Even though I woke up at 3:30 am to go to the bathroom and never got back to sleep. Poor T-Man wasn’t sleeping well either and I’m sure my sniffling and coughing and noisy breathing didn’t help. I’m betting we’ll both be ready for bed right after supper tonight.

Right. Enough about my health (or lack thereof) and back to Fiber Femmes. Unfortunately the patterns this time are almost all washcloths/dishcloths except for a little drawstring bag. Guess they are on the “yes” side of the ol’ washcloth debate, huh? There’s lots of great articles though and I’m still reading them. I love the one on Michael “Wormspit” Cook. We’ve met online ages ago through our mutual interest in tablet weaving. The man is totally amazing in what he can accomplish with silk. He has incredible patience and the ability to work with very fine threads and complicated techniques. Don’t forget to check out his blog as well as the site. Yes, I think that silkworms are cute. They are! Don’t look at me like that.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to continue with the Po-whatzis socks. I’m happy that half of the foot is plain knitting so I only have to concentrate half the time. That’s about how much brain I’ve got at the moment anyway. There’s about another 2 inches of foot before the toe decreases so I’m getting there. Slowly. I’m trying not to pick up the plain Ocean socks instead. They’re just about at the same point as the Po’s, heading down the foot toward the toe. Whichever pair gets finished first will be Number 50 by my lifetime count. Heck, don't know about you, but I'm impressed with me.

I’m supposed to be teaching Intermediate Spinning beginning on Wednesday, assuming we have enough people signed up. I sure hope I’m feeling at least somewhat better by then because I know they won’t want me sniffling all over them. It’s not like there is a substitute teacher when I’m not well so I have to suck it up and go anyway. It would be nice if I had some brainpower, not to mention energy however. I’m not sure whether Intermediate is easier or harder to teach than Beginner. The latter is certainly more work on the first day just getting everybody started. But Intermediates ask more difficult questions! I'm not a technical spinner really so sometimes it's hard to answer in a way that satisfies them. "Try it and see if it works" doesn't cut it when I'm supposed to be the one who knows something.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Struggling Along

We woke up this morning to crows squawking and complaining a lot louder than usual. T-Man went to check what was up and saw a bald eagle in one of the tall fir trees across the street. It was definitely a murder of crows as at least a dozen of them flew around and mobbed the eagle which was calmly trying to eat its breakfast of… pigeon. We know because as we watched, the poor eagle ended up dropping the corpse in all the to-do and it fell down and landed somewhere in the next tree’s lower branches. Both of us tried to get a photo of the eagle but all it looks like is a bunch of tree branches. You’ll have to take my word for it that it’s really there. Not only is there a bald eagle in this photo but at least seven crows. Can you spot ’em? I love living in the middle of Canada’s 3rd largest city! We have wildlife! And not all of them are people sleeping in doorways and dumpster-diving. Heh.

Well, I am definitely becoming very unhappy with my Po-whatsis socks. (I know. So what else is new. And I did promise not to whine about it anymore, didn't I?) I made a mistake — on both socks, of course — after turning the heel and plodding not-so-merrily onward up the gusset. The chart bends inwards at round 6 and my knitting didn’t. I noticed something was off after doing several more rounds when the right side of the scaly part started to bulge. Erp. A little dip in the frog pond and some tinking later and I’m up and running again. But me and these socks, we are not friends. I’m just not feeling the scaly love. I’m sure it’s not Cookie’s fault but my brain and hers are not simpatico, know what I mean? But I will persist, darn it. I’m a Scorpio. We are nothing if not stubborn.

Meanwhile Cherry Leaf is calling me. She promises to go smoothly. I reminded her that there are Problems with her pattern. The edging chart is not the edging that is in the photo. That one turns out not to be in the Victorian Lace Today book at all. Hmmm… I see a job for Knit Visualizer coming up. And perhaps a little swatching. We will find a solution. We are nothing if not stubborn.

Next some thoughts about knitting needles: If it won’t fit on a dpn, I go straight (heh!) to a circular. Though I own many straight needles: aluminum, plastic, wood, bamboo — I haven’t used any of them in years. They just don’t feel comfortable anymore. My first preference is for bamboo but I do love my Denise needles even though they’re plastic. They only start at 3.75 mm though which means I only use them for heavier yarn. Unfortunately I usually use finer ones because I have this thing for fine yarns. I just found out that one of my LYSs is getting the new Addi lace needles in soon. I’m not telling which store so there will be some left for me! (And no, it’s not my usual one.) I’d love to try them out. I never liked the Addi Turbos like some people. To slippery; too blunty. Didn’t work for me even though I own 4 Turbo circs. I rarely use them. Sounds like the lace circulars are just what everybody asked for: pointy, not too slick, and a nice smooth cable join with a cable that doesn’t kink up. Perfecto. Imagine, a manufacturer who listens to its customers. What will they think of next?

There’s some new patterns up in the March edition of MagKnits (see my sidebar for link). Among them are 3 pairs of socks, a manly scarf and a really nice bracelet that reminds me of the little beaded knitted bags I used to make. Go look.

Meanwhile I’ll just sit here and sniffle. I’ve caught some kind of cold/flu/thing that’s knocking me flatter than a pancake. May it go away soon. I can barely stagger to the kitchen to make tea.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Mindless VS Mindful

As I’ve been whining about for the past week’s worth of posts, I don’t enjoy having to concentrate when knitting socks. For some reason it doesn’t bother me when I’m knitting other things like lace shawls or sweaters. Perhaps I should just suck it up and knit with my mind fully engaged on the process. After all, I profess to be an experienced knitter. I’ve been knitting for over 50 years. I’ve taught knitting workshops. I’ve written magazine articles about my knitting. (Don’t go looking for them. It was a very long time ago and at least one of the magazines is long-ago defunct.) I ought to know what I’m doing with the sticks and string by about now, doncha think? And if I’m not enjoying it, then why the heck am I doing it? OK, I’m sucking it up. No more whining. I’m going to finish the Pomatomus Socks quietly and courteously. And then cast on somethingelsequick.

While I’ve been knitting scaly socks, my mind has been wandering around in interesting places, including thinking about yarn. I have lots of opinions about yarn, both commercial and handspun. Somebody mentioned recently that they couldn’t knit a certain yarn without starting to sniffle and itch, but it was ok after the finished article is washed and blocked. It never occurred to them that they could skein up the yarn and wash it before they knit with it! To me, a long-time spinner, that approach is a no-brainer. Almost all my handspun yarns get washed before I use them. They’re dusty, dirty, greasy and/or have carding oil or anti-static spray on them. Maybe even animal secretions and soil. Why wouldn’t you wash them? Store-bought yarns have much of the same stuff plus the addition of many grubby hands handling them all the way from the manufacturers to the shop you bought them in. Ewww…Doesn’t it make you want to wash every yarn before you use it? I don’t usually bother though unless I’m dyeing it, in which case it gets a wash before and a rinse after dyeing and then yet another bath after it becomes an FO. Or is that “a” FO?

Now if you had a dust allergy, it might make the difference between having to avoid a certain yarn or being able to knit with it. Or perhaps there is a spinning oil or dye chemical that isn’t completely washed out of the yarn and you’re sensitive to it. If you have physical problems with a yarn, it may not necessarily be the fibre itself but something in the processing or handling instead. That’s not to say that you can’t be allergic to wool or other animal fibre. I just don’t believe in jumping to that conclusion before you’ve tried eliminating all the other components that might be in there first.

I also have a few thoughts on the best way to block your socks. There’s a tutorial for making your own sock blockers from plastic coated metal coat hangers here. There are plastic ones, Sintra ones (whatever that is!), fancy wooden ones, and even some fabulous painted ones (I’d mount these on the wall as art because they’re gorgeous). But I don’t really like sock blockers. I think they stretch all the life out of your socks. My sock blocking method, if you could call it that, is to wash the finished socks in hand-hot water with a small spritz of shampoo (you could substitute your favourite wool wash here), rinse, roll them in a towel and stomp on it to get out the excess water, and then pat them out into shape on my ugly but very useful Arborite bathroom counter. (Browns and golds. Guess the era.) Let the socks dry naturally, flipping occasionally to help them dry faster and there you have ’em — nice flat smooth socks suitable for gift giving. Of course if they were for me or T-Man, after that first gentle blocking, I wash them in the washing machine and hang them up on the clothesline with clothespins on their toes so they never again get such special treatment! They seem to survive ok, but remember these are made from superwash wool and nylon sock yarns, not delicate handspun or 100% non-superwash wool or anything. If that were the case I’d continue with a more gentle wash. Not to mention never wear them for fear of them wearing out instantly! Been there; done that; not worth the effort.

And just to clarify for the commenters on my last post, the washcloths/dishcloths can be used for either kitchen or bath. They can be knitted or crocheted. Just try doing a search and you’ll find patterns for a zillion-and-one varieties. And no, Sharon, he doesn’t leave them in sticky balls! He hangs them up on the rail on the back of the bathroom door very neatly. We’ve been married for over 36 years so he’s well “negotiated” by now! (I won’t say “trained”. Heh.) But your place must be less humid than my tiny old bathroom without a fan. Or maybe your washcloths aren’t as thick or the yarn isn’t as absorbent as the one I had? Or maybe you keep it warmer inside. Right about now my house is about 16 C.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Coming Clean

So what’s with the fascination for knitting washcloths, also referred to as dishcloths? I know they’re small and you can play with shapes and yarns and pattern stitches, but come on! People, the darn things are useless! They’re stinky, germ-ridden and they never ever dry. Yuck! I don’t have a dishwasher so I do dishes by hand every day. I use a small plastic scrubbie for dishes and a cellulose sponge for wiping, both of which can go in the microwave often to be sterilized. (I don’t do bleach.) They actually dry out occasionally. And when they get tattered and grubby I throw them out without a qualm because they are cheap and plentiful. I once tried to use a handknitted washcloth for bathroom use, but it actually went mildewy and smelly because it was permanently wet. (Probably started to compost!) Inexpensive cotton terry washcloths dry overnight and can be reused a time or two before becoming laundry. So I repeat — what’s with the knitted dishcloths? I do not understand why anyone bothers with them. If you want to play with patterns in a small space, make afghan squares or something. Oh wait — you want a Quick Gift! Because you don’t use the darn things yourself so you give them to other unsuspecting folks instead maybe? May I suggest wrist warmers? A scarf? A sachet? A beaded knitted bracelet? How about potholders? A tea cosy? I hate knitting in heavy cotton yarn anyway. It hurts my hands.

On the Pomatomus front, I’ve got the legs done on both and am working on the heel flaps. These are in twisted rib as opposed to the usual heel stitch and I’m hating doing the p-tbls that are needed on the wrong side to match the k-tbls on the front. It’s not enjoyable because I have to do a much larger hand manipulation than normal to accomplish that stitch. And then the rest of the instructions for the heel turns, picking up the gussets and continuing are definitely not the way I usually do them. I’m afraid to “adjust” the pattern to my way because I don’t want to get lost and not get the feet right. So I’m slogging along reading directions and doing it Cookie’s way. Sigh. It seems so much harder somehow. Maybe after I do it once I’ll be able to see how I could shift things to my way, but I’m never going to do this sock pattern again! Even though I love the scaly design and the way the ribbing segues into and out of it. Nobody, not even my own self, is worth the time and effort these things cost me! It just isn’t fun and if it isn’t fun, I don’t want to do it. I have to drag myself kicking and screaming. Or bribe myself with promises of knitting on the other DS (aka Damselfly’s Standard) socks while reading blogs for equal time.

I’m sure everyone has their own favourite way to do socks. As you might know if you’ve been reading awhile I like ’em top-down, heel-flap & gusset, standard toe and mostly plain knit on a set of 5 dpns. I can do those ones in my sleep. Which is probably why I go a little nuts doing anybody else’s sock patterns. I’m stuck in a Sock Rut of my own making and it takes brute force (aka a really spectacular pattern that I’ve just gotta have) to heave me out of it. Or I just have to design it myself which keeps me engaged enough to do the knitting. The advantage is if I designed it, I designed it with my way of sock knitting in mind. Then I don’t have to bend my brain around someone else’s sock knitting style which is likely completely different from mine. Cookie A. does tend to create some delicious-looking socks though! Which is why I’m persisting because I also want to do her Monkey socks.

In techie news, after almost 2 years of blogging I have finally added a site meter so I can see how many folks visit at this here damselfly’s pond. I haven’t really been too concerned up to now, but I seem to be getting more comments so I want to know a bit more about what’s going on and where you’re coming from. And why you’re all so darned quiet! Well, maybe it won’t answer that last question.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

There's Frogs In My Pond

Not to worry, I’m not actually frogging any of my current projects (emphasis on the “current”). I was thinking about the act though and I’ve come to a couple of interesting conclusions. Only a few crafts render the results re-doable if you aren’t happy with it for whatever reason. Not only can you easily frog knitting (and crochet) but you can also reuse the yarns again, sometimes more than once. The only time this becomes impossible is if you’ve steeked (stitched and cut) for armholes or cardigan fronts. You would only have short lengths if you frogged after cutting through your knitting. Maybe that’s why I’m not a big fan of steeking? Or if you felted your knitting. But still you could cut and stitch your felt so it might not be a total loss.

In other fibre crafts such as weaving, kumihimo and bobbin lace or in beadwork, you can undo to a certain extent if it’s only a short distance. But undoing farther is too tedious to contemplate. Often you make a bigger mess trying to take out a mistake. In beadwork, you can rescue the beads but usually not the thread and it’s even harder to take square stitch apart because the threads go through the beads many times. In sewing, you can unpick stitches but if you’ve cut something too small or off-kilter or it just looks wrong on you, they call that a “wadder”! I suppose you could cut it up further and use it for piecing or appliqué.

But knitting and crochet are forgiving. If you make a mistake or it’s coming out the wrong size or you just don’t like the results, riiiiipppppp…and out it comes. Wind up the yarn and start again. Currently I’m wearing a hoodie vest that I made out of my handspun mohair and wool yarn that I recycled from an old oversized tunic from the 1980’s. This version isn’t perfect (it could have been a little longer or I could have left off the pockets which hit at the wrong part of my body) but it’s warm and fuzzy and I actually got the zipper sewn in smoothly. I wouldn’t be wearing the old sweater so this one is kind of a gift. Anyhow the yarn was essentially free. Then there was my Not-So-Granny-Square cardigan that I made recently. Apart from the granny square borders, that was also recycled handspun and then overdyed. I have more of these “vintage handspun” sweaters in my stash so I should see what else I can make out of them.

Do you skein and wash your frogged yarns before beginning again? I would definitely do that if it was “vintage” yarn. I prefer to work with unkinked clean yarns. But if I was only frogging a part of a garment before reknitting it up again, I would just rewind into a ball. The kinks do come out when blocked or more precisely, they re-kink in the new shape. But I think it makes my knitting a bit uneven if I knit with crinkled yarn. It’s uneven enough already without helping it along. I haven’t really had to concern myself overmuch about my knitting tension in the past because I knit almost exclusively with my handspun yarns which already are a bit uneven. The texture hides a lot of inconsistencies. Recently in the past couple of years I’ve been knitting with commercial yarns where my sloppy knitting technique shows a lot more. Thick, smooth, even, multi-plied yarns are the worst culprits especially in fibres other than wool. Fine sock yarns aren’t too bad because the stitches are small and fancy yarns hide a multitude of sins. Nope, it’s those plain-jane DK or worsted yarns that show every wobble and join. Either I’d better work on my technique or stick to my handspun! I prefer the latter most of the time anyway. Socks are the exception to my usual rule. Handspun socks are pretty much a waste of my time because they get holes much too quickly to be worth the effort. I have a bag full of holey handspun socks to prove it! And I’m too darn lazy to darn.

In crafty news, I’ve been utilizing my row counter bracelet to work on my Pomatomus socks and it’s working wonderfully. Now that I’m on my 3rd repeat of the pattern on the second sock I can finally knit without looking constantly at the chart. Heh. It makes a good case for actually concentrating on a tricky pattern until you finish it because then you don’t have time to forget how it goes before you pick it up again. Same reason I work on two socks at the same time alternately. Less mistakes and more matching pairs. I’m also getting a chance to listen to more podcasts as I knit, though I swear I’ll never catch up with all my favourites. That’s ok. As long as I still have hard drive space to store them, they’ll wait for me. Although I’ll never be up to date on the topics so there’s no point in leaving comments on their blogs. Sigh. They probably think I don’t care but that’s not true. I talk back to them all the time (especially the hilariously raunchy Lime & Violet) but unfortunately since they aren’t in the same room with me, they can’t hear my pithy commentary.

See T-Man’s sparkling footprints he left as he headed to work just after 5:30 am? Of course it was dark when he left, but when I photographed them the sun was out but it was still snowing a few little flakes. As you might notice there was a bit more snow today than just a skiff. But as usual it’s warming up and melting. This routine is supposed to be repeated tomorrow except that instead of sun it will turn to rain and so warm up more. And of course we’ll be back to dark and dreary. It’s March now people! I want some spring!