Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sewing up Blues

I know I've mentioned before that I despise sewing up knitted garments. For the record, I still despise it. I'm quite excited and impatient to finish (and wear) the Bustaroony cardi. None-the-less, I'm still not motivated to sew my fingers to the bone to see it done. It's been sitting on my couch for about a week now, and I sit and stitch up bits at a time. I haven't been allowing myself to knit at home, because if I did, I would never get it done. So it's heaped up on my couch, and whenever I sit there, I sew.

I've sewn in all the ends, which took literally hours, but wasn't particularly hard. I've sewn the shoulder seams. Piece of cake. But now, I'm attaching the sleeves to the body of the garment. This is where things are getting a bit tricky. When attaching sleeves, of course, you are attaching the top cast off edge (assuming you knit the sleeves from the cuff up) to the side edge of the garment. Normally, I do this using an amalgamation of mattress stitch (on the body) and fake grafting (on the sleeve), which makes a nice smooth seam. However, the textured patterning in this garment, when working on it from this angle, seems to go every which way, and there are few nice neat easy bits to stitch.

Terrible picture, but here is the sleeve lined up to the body for stitching. Maybe you will see what I mean.

As you stitch along, because of the patterning, particularly in the tree patterned bits, stitches are heading in diagnal directions right up to the edge of the fabric. I'm doing ok, a bit of wobbling around but nothing I can't live with. It's just a bit slow and tedious. The first sleeve is attached, and the seam looks fairly good. I just passed the halfway point on the second sleeve so I'm getting there. Just very slowly. Then come the long side seams, which will at least be fairly uniform for mattress stitch. I will finish this thing someday, I promise.

Im making another one of these as a gift, and when I do, I'm leaving a couple of stiches for seam allowance, no matter what the pattern says, or doesn't say.

Moving on, I've gotten a bit of knitterly things lately. I added a bit to my knitting library, getting the book "Knit Fix: Problem Solving for Knitters" by Lisa Kartus. To be perfectly honest, it hasn't told me much that I didn't already know, but does have a section on altering finished knitting which I might find helpful down the track. It would be a great book for a reasonably new knitter, and as problems arise, even as a more experienced knitter, I might find it more helpful than I did on the general read through. It's written with humour and, for a technical type book, is actually fairly entertaining.

I also bought the April09 issue of "Knit and Style" magazine, purely because I hadn't bought it before and liked some of the patterns at a glace through. It IS a very nice magazine, with very wearable patterns. You know, things normal people would wear. I think what I liked best was the photos of the finished items. They were great photos, and allowed you to see detail well. Which lead me to my favorite thing about the magazine. The modeled garments look like real knitters knitted them. I found the ever so slight imperfections very refreshing.

I dropped by Needlenook a while back to get some more of the plastic yarn sewing needles I like using (and breaking) and they happened to have their 5ply Heirloom easycare wool on sale, so I bought a couple of 50g skeins. The color is sort of a goldeny brown, and the final intention is to make some thick socks with them, probably for a gift. Hence the "Easy Care", as I've found many gift recipients don't appreciate the special washing handling regular wool often needs.

As mentioned earlier, I haven't allowed myself to knit at home in a few days so I could concentrate on the seaming. But I have gotten quite a bit finished on the Saloongirl stockings at work, and only like a half a dozen or so pattern repeats finishing the second sock. I have cast on the second glove, but have gotten no further than that. As soon as I finish the stocking, I'll dedicate my time to the glove. It will knit up fairly quickly at any rate.

I've been meaning to mention what I've been listening to lately. After running thru most of the books on Librovox that I was interested in, I decided for a change to check out some knitting podcasts. Of course, I'd done this before, but I must have picked the wrong two to try out. The sound quality was miserable, scratchy and rather more irritating than entertaining, so I hadn't really bothered with them in awhile, but not having anything interesting to listen to on my Ipod was getting a bit old. My trip to and from work seemed to be getting longer and longer every day. So I went on a search, looking specifically for Australian knitting podcasts this time, and ran across Sticks and Strings. It's done by a fellow named David Reidy who lives in the mountains outside of Sydney. The sound quality is great, his voice is perfect for "radio" and his topics, on the whole, are very interesting. Even better, he talks at least some of the time about Australian yarns and Australian events. I went back to show number 1, and I'm now at show number 63, which was recorded sometime last year. I'm really getting a kick out of listening, and would recommend the podcast highly.

I finished spinning up the merino I've been working on:

and finally got around to plying it:

I'm very happy with the result. I named it "Navidad" because it has a definate Christmassy look to it.

Sorry, the closeup is a bit blurry...

No plans for it yet. I'm just enjoying admiring it right now. It came out quite thin, and would be thin enough for some thickish socks I reckon, which was my original intention. One can never have to many socks.

That's it for today. Until next time when, hopefully, the Bustaroony cardi will be ready for display!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Away and back again

Once again, it's far too long since my last blog post, but I have resolved now to do much better in the future. Resolved I tell you! The posts might get shorter, but they also just might get more interesting. As it is, I let things go for so long, and there is so much to write about and show photos of that I tend to rush thru without saying the things I want to say.

Things are moving right along with the knitting, although the spinning has been going along much more slowly, and the fibre preparation, despite the new drum carder, have almost ground to a halt. Not enough has been done to warrent photos. I've produced another few batts of the undyed grey corridale. Just more of the same, so it barely warrents a mention. I still haven't figured out what colour I'm going to go with. I'm actually considering leaving the majority of it grey, which would be a nice manly colour for Chris a vest or some such project, but then, given the interesting colours the grey wool produces, that just seems such a waste. I'm still deliberating.

I have managed to finish spinning up the fibre I got from "Kathy's Creations", which was a gorgeous colourway. I still need to ply it, and finish it of course, but the hard part is done. I spun it rather thin, but that doesn't really explain the time it took. I only worked on it a bit at a time, when my fingers were itching to spin, but just in short bursts and sometimes days apart. The knitting I've been doing has been the most time consuming thing going on. I could have had it finished much sooner had I not been in such a knitting frenzy lately.

Still, it's looking good so far. I plan to ply it up over the next few days, so it should be finished for the next blog post (the one I'm going to do SOON, remember?).

I finished the knitting part of the Bustaroony Cardi! Now for the dreaded stitching up. I haven't even started on that yet, even though I finished the final sleeve almost a week ago. With the weather getting cooler, it will provide some welcome warmth when I get it done. Added incentive...but man, I hate stitching up.

Having finished the Bustaroony, I had only the Salloon girl stockings left on the needles. With a bit of a holiday coming up, I had to get some other WIP's going. The first thing I did was drag the "Peace in the Hood" jacket out of hibernation. It had been in hibernation so long, I'd forgotten why I put it there. I think maybe because I needed to concentrate on my Christmas knitting, but I don't remember for sure. Unfortunately, I didn't write myself a note on Rav or even a date of when I put it in hibernation, so I'm only guessing here.

Anyway, I had made alot of progress on it. I had done the back, both fronts and both sleeves. I was at the point where I needed to start picking up stitches for the hoodie when we left for our short holiday over to Point Turton on the Yorke Peninsula here in South Australia. I got some knitting done on the hoodie there, and it looked like this on the day we left to come home:

After all the lace I've been doing lately (the shawl and the socks) and the intricate and constant textured/cabled work on the Bustaroony cardi, I found the knitting on the hoodie to be extremely dull, but it did make for excellent TV knitting, when I wanted to pay more attention to the show than to the knitting, so I mainly worked on it in the evenings when we were in the cabin watching the tele.

The Saloongirl stockings have probably gotten the bulk of my attention. I finished sock one, which is looking just great, and have moved right along on sock 2. I actually started sock two before finishing sock one, so that I wouldn't have to be starting it while on the road, and because sock one, when nearing completion, required me to transfer it off of the DPN's every few repeats to try them on, which was time consuming but necessary. However, it's not so convenient to be transferring needles and trying on socks on a road trip,so I wanted the second sock for times when I couldn't be doing the fiddly stuff.

But I did manage to get the first sock done except for the casting off part at the cabin, and was happy to have the second sock at the stage where I could take off and just start knitting. Here's another picture of the progress on the stockings right before we left for our trip home.

After getting home, I managed to get the casting off done on the first stocking:

(Please pardon the bad photos, but we haven't had much sun lately, requiring more indoor shots that just don't seem to have good lighting. Damn "save the planet" light bulbs don't help much with that.)

Which brings us to the "cigar" gloves, which I started right before the trip, and did manage to get quite a bit of work done on them. They are pretty easy, really, but require alot of 'waste yarn' to hold the stitches to be use later.

Here's the progress I made on the first glove during the trip:

Notice that I had put the pinky and thumb on waste yarn. But after I go home, I got the bright idea of using my Harmony needle cords to use as waste yarn instead, which worked out much better on the three middle fingers, and certainly sped up the process.

That first night after arriving home, I managed to finish the first glove, except for weaving in ends, but I haven't gotten a picture, and wil show that to you in the next post.

And of course, no post would be complete without a few holiday piccies.

Here's the lovely lighthouse at Corney Point, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia:

And a neat bit of rocky coast down the coastline south of Corney Point. The waves crash up onto the rocks, and a miniature waterfall is created when the tide is going out off of one of the rock shelves:

A picture of me standing over a beach near the cabin we stayed in in Point Turton:

And me standing near the rocky outcrop where the mini-waterfall is created (mentioned above). It's a beautiful and very secluded area.

A hazy sunrise from the varanda of the cabin we stayed in:

The rocks seen from the veranda of the cabin where we stayed. (Just sitting on the veranda and knitting was so enjoyable!!)

And of course, me knitting at a parking spot overlooking the beautiful western coastline of the boot at the foot of the Yorke Peninsula:

Hopefully, in the next blog entry, I will be able to at least show some progress made on finishing the Bustaroony, even if it is a bit optomistic to think I might actually have it done (remember, I'm dedicated to getting another post out SOON), more pictures of me using the new drum carder, and even some of the fibre I card in it actually spun up. I'd also love to have the spun merino from Kathy's Creations plyed. And I have tons of sewing to do for winter roundup, and would love to have the second "Saloongirl stocking" finished and ready to go, and in a perfect world, the "cigar" gloves as well.

Till next time :)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cardi, Carder, Combs and Clutter

I just looked back at the date of my last post. Almost a month has passed, and really, I'm almost ashamed I haven't gotten more accomplished in the past month. I has been busy, but there's been nothing "completed" to speak of. Just a whole lot of random "this and that", which I suppose pretty much sums up my existence.

I will start with the knitting, since that will be the easiest subject to cover. I have almost completed the first sleeve of the Bustaroony cardi. Now I started this project in early January. Shameful really. Even though I knew it would take me a long time to complete it, given it's a rather intricate and even a bit difficult pattern, I really didn't count on it taking this long. At times, it was the only project I was working on, and aside from a couple of times, I really haven't "put it aside" all that much (compared, of course, to how long I've put some aside). Add to that, I really really enjoy knitting on it. My only excuse is that I have been quite busy with "other things" besides knitting, and haven't had time off work, a vacation, or other really superb knitting conditions. Anyway, I really wanted to finish the sleeve before making this blog entry, but time is running out, so you will get it as it is right now. However, I only like about 10 decrease rows and about 4 rows of shaping finishing this sleeve. I plan on having that out of the way tonight, and sleeve number two on the needles before I go to work tonight. So here's the sleeve:

And the back and both front pieces lying in "position", to give some idea of the finished look of the cardi:

I mentioned in the last post I was trying to decide what socks to start. Well, I decided on "Betties Lace Stockings" from the Spring09 issue of Interweave knits. They are perfect for western action. I had some Patonyle already in my stash, 3 balls of black, 3 of white. Now from pervious experience, those of you who remember know how I detest knitting black socks. Still, black would be sexy, and match just about anything. But my spinning/knitting friend offered another suggestions. Just knit them in white and then soak them in tea to "dye" them to an "old paper" sort of tannish colour. I loved the idea, off I went knitting them up in white. I started them on March 24th, and even though I only am about halfway through one sock now, they are a quick knit. It's just that I've been working so hard on the cardi I've neglected them. But they have a deadline, and need to be done by the Winter roundup in mid-May, so sooner or later, I'm going to have to dedicate some quality time to them.

Now, to purchases this past month. I really haven't bought much in the fibre department, but I did get lucky and show up on Ravelry in Ixchelbunny's group right as she was doing an update! All her nicer stuff seems to sell out almost the moment it is posted on her blog, so I never seem to get her goods as I'm always a day late and I'm lucky to find anything left, much less something I like. This time was different though, and I'm now the proud owner of this lovely package of goodies. The black and white is the Jacob Humbug, and the green/gold medley is from her Masham sheep, and is called "Tawny Frogmouth". (Who can resist something called "tawny frogmouth"???)

If you've never checked out Ixchel's yarns and rovings, I would highly suggest visiting her blog regularly and buying a sample. If you don't see something you like there, or it's all sold out, email her and tell her what interests you. Not only is it beautiful, but her "bunny" fibre is so soft it will make you cry (for joy, of course). I first experienced her products in Bendigo at the Sheep and wool show last year, where I bought two skeins of cashmere/angora mix yarn that was so exquisite. It's still in my "most prized" stash, but one day I'll find a pattern (or a recipient) to do it justice. If I can bear to part with it that is.

The hugely major purchase this month was my brand new drum carder. Now, for those of you who spin and, more to the point, prepare fibre for spinning, well, you know about how much these things cost. They are by no means a small purchase, but I won't go into details of the price here for fear of shocking my mom, and making her adore my hubby more than she already does for "putting up with me". But, I swear the thing could pay for itself. I'm not saying it WILL pay for itself, because that would require me to quit buying other people's prepared fibre, and that's not something I'm prepared to do right now. I'm only saying that it COULD, if times got tough and I really really needed it to. Besides, anyone who shops on ebay for such things also knows that it's resell value is fantastic. So, I always figured if I don't like it, or don't use it enough, reselling it will be a breeze. So far though, no danger of that.

I bought an Inwood Smith drum carder from Bella's shop in Adelaide (The Walking Wheel Studios). She didn't have one in stock, so she had to order it, and it took some time to get there, but it finally arrived and I went to take possession of my new toy. Now, not having much experience with carders, I didn't really have a huge brand preference, so I decided to buy Australian, as the money is coming out of the economic stimulus check (once I get it, that is), so buying local seemed the patriotic thing to do. So I bought an Australian product from a South Australian shop.

Isn't she lovely:

I had to try it out right away, so I used some of the brown fleece that I've had for ages. It actually came in a basket with the spinning wheel when I bought it, and gave it a go. Here's a picture with the fibre on the drum:

And a picture of the fibre coming off the drum, all lined up and spinnable:

Now those photos shorten the process quite a bit. What you actually do is take your raw fleece, stick it in one end, turn the crank until it picks it up with the small drum and deposits it on the bigger drum. You add fleece, trying to space it more or less evenly around the drum, until the drum is full, then you pull it off. You come up with a pretty nice looking bit of carded fibre after the first run. You tear that into strips and feed it through again. Than, for good measure, it goes thru a third time. Generally three runs is enough, depending on the type of fleece and what you want. It's also fantastic for blending colours too, although I haven't quite got that far yet. But that's in the cards (pun intended) for the next week or so.

The thing about carders is they demand to be fed, so one must keep clean fleece on stock. I had a "nearly" clean Corridale fleece, which I had washed twice already but still needed an extra go as it was still pretty sticky with lanolin. So I washed it one more time, and it came out of this bath more or less perfect. (Although I did run us completely out of hot water and had to take a cold shower before work that night). It seems I've been washing fleece forever.

Recently, on a trip to the Salvo's here in town, I saw this neat sweater drying rack for 50 cents, so I picked it up on a whim. It has became very useful over the past couple of weeks for drying my fleece.

How handy is that?? Particularly with the cooler weather we've been having the past couple of weeks. Not exactly the greatest weather for drying fleece outside, although if it is nice enough, the little screen also fits just perfectly on the top of my clothes rack that I can take outside.

I also took some tips from Bella and others and made myself a homemade rack to wash and dry "locks" for combing. I bought some "Gutter guard" and some clips, and made this contraption, which fits into the bathtub and allows the locks to go through the whole process without getting them out of shape or messy.

I think, for next time though, I'm going to cut it down into small squares, so I can use the utility room sink, and also because the long contraption is a bit hard to handle.

That brings me to my combs. After washing my fleece using the "Gutter Guard", I then set about really giving combing a go. Combs are finicky instruments, and take a bit of practice, but I reckon I did okay for a beginner.

First I took my nice clean locks from the "gutter guard":

Then I loaded a comb:

Then I swiped gently at the bottom of the fibres with the other comb, transferring the fleece over:

(BTW...there's the clutter mentioned in the title)

This process loads the comb, giving it a nice beard:

After repeating this process a few times, switching the fleece back and forth on the combs a few times, you pull the fleece thru a "diz". (My diz is of the homemade persuasion):

And this is my finished roving:

You make the rovings into little "birdsnest" and your all ready to spin:

I have also managed to card up a bunch of this fleece, and have several batts now ready to be dyed. I'd like to make on "biggish" project out of these rovings, but I haven't decided what yet. I was thinking of a vest for Chris (who has been patient with me and my hobbies, after all), and I was hoping to get a good manly colour for him.

So I had to do a bit of test dyeing, using mostly just the basic colours and some 50/50 mixes of them. Since the wool is grey, the colours you get are interesting. They are more forceful than the pastels I tend to get on white roving, but because the grey does change the colour, I wasn't sure of what I would get. So, an experiment was necessary to give me some idea.

Here are my samples straight after dyeing:

And hanging to dry:

The finished products were interesting, and the colours certainly were brighter and less pastelly, but I'm not sure if any of them qualify as "manly".

The first batch is blue, blue/green in the middle, and green on the other side.

The second batch look better in person than in the picture, but still, the dye didn't seem to mix as well. One is orange/green, the other orange/blue (I was trying for a brownish):

The last set has red at the top, orange in the center, and orange/red at the bottom. I really like all of these:

Now all that's left is to make a decision, or do more experiments. Not sure which yet.

As some of you know, I've been losing quite a bit of weight lately. I don't mention it much here, as weight loss isn't really what this blog is about. But for those of you wondering (you know who you are), I will post some "before and after" photos when I get the cardigan done. I began making the Bustaroony cardigan as sort of an incentive. At the time I began it, it would have been about 4 sizes too small, but now, depending of course on the finished product, I should fit into it. When I get to that point, I will "unviel" the weightloss on the blog. But, I will say that I've cracked into the 60's this week, which was a big goal for me. Now onwards to the elusive 55K.

Well, that's enough for this post. Heaven knows, I do need to do entries more often, and save myself from these long long posts. Well, maybe next time. Or not :)