Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Namaste Bag Quickie

This is going to be a quick post, and done a bit on the fly. I'll do another post to catch up on what I forgot to put in this one soon.

The Big news is that I ordered a Namaste Malibu bag in a lovely olive green from American Yarns. They are having a 20% off sale on all in stock merchandise this weekend, and it was just too tempting to resist. (For anyone interested, sale ends at midnight tonight, and you can go to the American Yarns group to get the sale code.) I'd been oggling these things for a month or more, and had it narrowed down to either getting the Malibu or the Hermosa. Both were about the right size for my needs, but I finally decided to get the Malibu as a more practical bag for taking everywhere.

I got a note from Gabrielle, the owner, saying she had sent the bag off from QLD Saturday. I was driving home this morning from work, trying not to get my hopes up. I knew getting it today would be sort of the "best case scenerio". I actually squealed when I heard the postie's knock at the door this morning.

Without further ado, my lovely olive green Nemaste Malibu bag:

The interior is nice and roomy and all sectioned off for all the bits.

Needless to say, it will be very useful for taking with me to Bendigo this year! I'm just thrilled with it. I'm rather sick of taking my knitting around in cloth grocery bags.

Now, on to the quick catch up bits. I finished the Unmentionables from Knitty, or "Blooming Bloomers" as I call them, made with Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece in the Putty colourway. I haven't blocked them yet, which I'm sure will help the lace around the legs, and just put my yellow cord in for taking this photo. But I'm rather happy with them as they are, and they fit perfectly.

Also, I've very nearly finished the "Peace in the Hood" Central Park Hoodie made using Peace Fleece wool. I just like making the crocheted button loops and adding the buttons. It is, as expected, too big, as I started making it before I lost the weight. Hubby says it's okay, but lets face it, it swamps me. No pics of me with it on, but here's a shot of the back.

Also in the "almost finished" pile is the scarf I've been making for a workmate. I made her a hat last year in 2x2 rib, and this year she requested a scarf to match. I made the scarf in 3x3 rib, and it's long enough. I only need to cast off, sew in the ends and block.

The only project I've really got on the needles right now (gasp!! yes, just one...but that's due to change soon) is a pair of socks I'm knitting for a gift. At the recipients request, I'm knitting them with Heirloom Easy-care 5ply. I was knitting them 2 at a time, but had to separate them to finish the gusset increases and turn the heels.

Spinningwise, I have been working on the alpaca I got from Woolywombat. It's lovely and soft, but alpaca spinning is like alpaca knitting...those darn stray fibres get everywhere. I'd never spun alpaca, so it's been a learning curve, but I think I've got the hang of it now.

Also in spinning news, I'd been on the waiting list for Southern Cross Fibre Club for a few months, and finally got my invite to join. My first months fibre arrived last week...115 grams of Shetland wool top in lovely greens (we know I love greens).

I just love the earthy tones of David's fibres. I'm just sort of over all the pastels and bright bold colors that are pretty, but rather impractical for actual knitting when your...well...39 years old for the umpteenth time.

I also stopped by Spotlight yesterday. They were having a 20% off everything sale, and I actually went in looking for towels. I walked out with 14 balls of Cleckheaton Naturals Cotton. I found them in a bargain bin for 2.49 a ball, plus the 20% off, and they were quite a bargain indeed. Since they're "Naturals" they aren't really dyed, but they come in different shades varying from a creamy white to a brown. I bought 10 of the darker shade, and 4 of the lighter shade.

I was thinking the varying shades would work together, but after looking at patterns for "all cotton" garments on Ravelry, I can make something in my "new" size from just the darker shade if I like. Most all the summer cardi or top patterns call for roughly 7 or 8 balls in my size. Lordy, will I ever get used to being this small again?

Well, as stated, I'm rather sure I've forgotten a half a dozen things I intended to put in the post, but lucky me, this is my "slow week" at work, so I'll have lots of free time to do another post soon if need be. Till then..

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Unmentionable Lace

I'm a bit low on time to post this week, so this will be a shorter blog entry, by my standards anyway, than some in the past has been. I mainly just want to keep up on here. When I go awhile without posting, the number of pictures and the things I have to talk about can get a bit overwhelming.

I did finish the Saturday Market Bag for my mother in laws birthday. Sewing it together was somewhat laughable, but it did work, and in the end the bag looked just fine. A couple of errors were in there, but in the general confusion of the stringy lace, I don't think anyone but me would ever notice.

It was fairly quick, but it did feel alot of my "at home" knitting time. As I only stitch projects up at home too, I consequently haven't gotten a thing done towards stitching up the Peace in the Hood hoodie. That's ok with me though, as it's far from urgent. My main reason for wanting to finish it is just to be able to tuck it away and call it "done".

I'd like to tell you that my "Blooming Bloomers" are coming along nicely, and they should be by all accounts. It seems like I've spent most of my time since finishing the market bag, and all of my away knitting time even when I was working on the market bag, lately. Actually, it was moving along like gangbusters until I got to the lace edging on the bottom of the first leg. Then...well...things kinda slowed to a crawl. I think it's 5 days now I've been working on this edging (yes, 5), and I still have about 8 inches to go.

Here's the deal, which might prove valuable to anyone who thinks of doing the "Unmentionables" pattern. You knit right along in stockingnet stitch for what feels like forever, but really takes very little time at all. There's a purl row or two, and a bit of eyelet lace around the top to thread the ribbon into when finishing, but even including that, it's smooth sailing. Then you flip the whole thing over, pull out the other side of your provisional cast on revealing the live stitches, and start knitting the ruffle. I thought at this point that perhaps I should just use leftovers from an earlier ball of yarn, because visually (as in, in the picture) that ruffle and lace trim just doesn't look very big. In the end, I decided to play it safe and start it with a new ball. Good thing I did. Right after you begin the ruffle, you have to increase your stitches. In fact, you have to double them, which causes that nice ruffle effect. After this increase, for the medium size, I have 240 stitches, which means it takes longer to finish the rounds, but hey, it's still good old mindless stockingnet stitch. I increased the length to 3 inches rather than the 2.75 it called for (more about this later), and then got to the lace. That's when things got really nasty. The lace requires you do 8 rows, from 5 stitches on the needle, to 9 stitches in a triangle sort of shape. Each of these 8 row triangles only takes up 4 of your leg stitches. Now, doing the math, that means you have to make (gasp!!) 60 of those little 8 row triangles. As if thats not bad enough, you are working with 2 DPN's to actually do the triangles, plus one of your leg needles, where at the end of every odd row, you are k2tog'ing one of the leg stitches into the triangle.

This makes for very fiddly knitting. It also means it takes a long long time, or at least, it's taking me a long long time, to finish just the one lace edging. There's still another one to do on the end of the next leg.

I suppose the worst thing about all this is that, when you see then end in sight, in reality the end isn't anywhere remotely near, and it's a big let down when you realize that. As for the yarn, well, it's a good thing I started with a new ball, as I'm getting very close to using up that ball now, with about 15 triangles left to go. The jury is still out on whether it will make the distance or not, but certainly, it will be a close call.

The other problem I've found is length. When looking on Ravelry at "real people's" finished projects, I did notice that alot of the finished Unmentionables looked incredibly short, particularly when compared to what you see in the picture on Knitty. This is one of the areas where Ravelry really, really comes in handy. I'm short myself, but seeing this, it raised some red flags for me, and I kept a close eye on how long the bits were, particularly the legs. So I increased about 2 inches on the leg part, and a 1/4 inch on the ruffle, and right now it appears that it will be falling to about where it does in the picture, but I won't know that for sure until I finish them and try them on. If they are too long, I'll have to eat my words, but I'm pretty sure I'll be very grateful for the extra inches.

Another thing I saw mentioned on Ravelry by people who had made the project is that they hadn't used as much yarn as the pattern called for. This is likely going to be the case for me as well. Even with the extra length, I still will likely use only 6 balls, or maybe even 5 and a half, instead of the 7 recommended. I actually considered buying only 6, but then changed my mind when I considered how uncertain it would be if I had to add extra length.

I haven't started the scarf for my workmate Tracy yet, but I did start a pair of socks. I've only just got them cast on and a few rounds of the toe worked, but they are nice to have around for times when I can't concentrate on the lace. I stil haven't decided if I'm going to make them rather plain, or put some kind of pattern in them. I guess I need to make up my mind before I finish the toes.

You might have noticed the pretty bag underneath them. That's my new "sock" bag, although I think it's technically a linen shoe bag. I saw it in a home store just off Rundle Mall last week when I was birthday shopping for my mother in law and just thought it was the prettiest thing, and perfect for socks.

I will likely start that scarf this week, as my order for the yarn for Chris' vest has been delayed another week or so. I also intend to start another cardigan using the same pattern as I used for the Bustaroony to give to my daughter for Christmas, and I will if I finish the Unmentionables before the yarn gets here for the vest. I might anyway, as it's rather more urgent to get finished.

On the spinning front, I've plyed the second roving to match the Navidad, out of the merino I got from Kathy's fibres. Here it is just off the niddy noddy:

I've washed it, and it's now drying. I should have it skeined in a few days, and will provide a finished picture in my next post.

I've also started to attempt to spin the white alpaca that Woolywombat sent to me. It's my first shot at spinning pure alpaca, and it is fiddly. I'm having trouble with it breaking alot. The fibres are quite short, so I have to keep reminding myself to get more spin into them quicker. But what I have finished does look pretty good:

I actually had intended to dye this at first, but on further inspection, I decided to leave it white. I can always dye the yarn when it's finished if I like. I don't know what I'll do with it yet. If it's thin enough, maybe a lacy scarf, but that really depends on whether I need to ply it for strength or not. If so, it will probably be too thick. Still, it will make a nice scarf even then, just not a lacy one.

Mind you, I've spun very little. The short fibres are very messy, and I practically had to vaccum myself off after spinning just that little bit. But now that I'm done plying the merino, I will get back to it very soon. I'd love to learn to spin it well enough to get some thin singles to make a lacy shawl out of.

Well, that's about it for me this week. I did buy some plastic boxes and rearrange all of my spinning fibre, but I forgot to take pictures, so I'll save that whole sordid story for my next entry.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Week in Time

Sometimes I think that I should change my style of writing this blog. Maybe write more about feelings, or do a kitzy essay about knitting, or something along those lines. But then, I thought, really, this is more of a knitting diary, and while deep thoughts have their place, I'd rather keep this as more a journal of what I'm doing at this point in time. So, I think I'll keep it as it is, and if I do decide to do a bit more "creative" writing, I can always make another blog and link it.

Over the past week I've managed to finish the knitting part of Peace in the Hood, which is my version of the Central Park Hoodie. Given that I started it almost a year ago (I was knitting on it during the Bendigo Sheep and Wool show last year!), one might say "About time!" and be perfectly justified. It spent many months in hibernation, and I had it marked on Ravelry as 95% done. HA! Hardly. The hood was a huge square of knitting. Then there was still the button band. Not your average button band, by any means. It went from the bottom front piece up and all the way around the hood and then back down to the bottom of the right side. Three hundred and seventy eight stitches in all, first to pick up, and then to knit the longest 2 1/2 inches in width I have ever knit in my entire life. It took, literally, days. I was so heartily sick of it before I was halfway through. All that is done now, however, and it still needs stitching up. That, however, will have to wait. I have more on my plate right now, and as it's not going to fit me anymore anyway, there's no hurry. It will, however, make a dandy Christmas present when it's finished.

I've been knitting on my Blooming Bloomers as well. I've been doing the legs at work, as they are stockingnet stitch in the round, and you just can't get any easier than that. During these days off, I really wanted to knit a bit on it, so that I could get myself up to the crotch part, where the legs join and you start knitting the body portion, but that was not to be, due to the aforementioned excessively long time it took me to finish the hoodie. So, I will simply take them to work over the next few days, and face that problem when I come to it, which could easily be tonight if things are quiet, tomorrow night at the latest. The join looks slightly complicated, but not terribly so. I'm using my knit picks for the knitting, and my Denise cords to hold it on. I'm taking both sets with me to work, so I should be able to knit them off with no problems.

Just last night, I started another project. It's a market bag for my mother in law, June. I'm calling it "The June Bag". I'm using a pattern I found on Ravelry, called the Saturday Market Bag. I must say I don't like it. I'm sure the pattern is fine, but I'm not terribly fond of trying to do stringy lace with 10mm needles. Nope, it's a labour of love. And the desperate need to make something she might like very quickly. Of course, it's so tedious, I can't do it even while watching TV. Taking it to work is also not an option. But, I have one side almost half completed already, so perhaps my agony will be over quickly. A good thing, since her birthday is next Friday.

I tried to begin with to work it in the round, but that did not work at all. I just couldn't wrap my head around it, so I'm working it now per pattern, which means two sides that are eventually stitched together, although how I'll stitch the stringy mess is beyond me at the moment.

There are a couple of projects in shouting distance of getting started. The first is a scarf for a coworker. I made her a hat last year our of Basics Entwine yarn from Spotlight, a nice bulky yarn, in a creamish colour. This year, she has requested a scarf to match. This shouldn't have been a problem, but it was. Entwine had been discontinued at Spotlight. (It seems few yarns there make it past a years run before they are discontinued). This is where Ravelry comes in, and one of the many things I love it for.

After writing a friend in Whyalla about looking to see if they had any available there, and getting a negative answer, I went to the Australian Knitter's Group on Rav. They have a "in search of" (ISO) thread, so I put the word out that I was in need of some. A lovely Rav member just happened to have some in the colour I needed, we negotiated a price (more than reasonable) and in a few days I had 5 balls in my mailbox.

People on Ravelry are the nicest people in the world. Knitters are always so kind and helpful and willing to help another knitter in distress, and it's this general feeling of goodwill and comraderie that makes knitting not just a hobby, but a way to make, and keep, some really fantastic friends. I've known this for a long time, but just little things like this remind me of what a wonderful community we have in the crafting world, and the knitting world in particular.

The other project waiting in the wings is the Anchor's Aweigh vest, from the book Son of Stitch and Bitch. I found this pattern on Ravelry, showed it to Chris, and he actually said he would wear it. So, as I mentioned in the last post, I ordered the book from Fishpond. It arrived this week, and I set about searching for yarn. I went first to the local LYS, then to a bigger one in town, but 5ply in Australia is quite limited, particularly limited in colour choices, so I wound up going back to Gabrielle at American Yarns and ordering the Brown Sheep Nature Spun 5ply that it called for, in exactly the colours used in the photo below.

The yarn is a preorder, so it will likely take a couple of weeks to get here, but that's fine. The price was reasonable at $5.50Au a ball, but I probably ordered more than I need. Still, I didn't want to get stuck without, and I do need to modify it a bit to make it long enough to suit Chris. Besides, if I have much extra, Brown Sheep can be a hard brand to come by here, so I'm sure I can resell it.

For the past year or so, I've been getting books from Librovox, and listening to them mainly on my rather long commute to work and back, but also while I'm knitting and need to watch my stitches carefully, and sometimes on the treadmill when there's nothing to be watched on TV.

Librovox.org is a free service that provides books in the public domain, read by volunteers and offered to the public as free downloads. Due to copywrite laws, these tend to be the classics, or books written in the early 1900's or earlier. Many of them are British or European, as the US has stricter copywrite laws than the UK or some European countries. I had a great time at first, going thru all the Jane Austen novels. I listened to the ones I hadn't read first, and then listened to the one's I had read. For awhile, I was finding some interesting books, but after 9 or 10 months, this became harder and harder. Not that they don't have many books on there. They have hundreds and hundreds. But of course, like anyone, not all of them fit my taste in reading (or listening, for that matter). But after slogging thru a few questionable titles, and getting a couple that I couldn't even force myself to finish, I started looking elsewhere for something to fill my ipod.

Since Librovox downloads chapters to my itunes in the form of podcasts, I started searching podcasts available. Needless to say, the first thing I decided to search was knitting. I found way more than I expected to find, but the first podcast to catch my eye was "Sticks and String", which came with a little description, something like "An Australian Bloke Who Knits". So I went to the site and eventually downloaded everything he'd ever done, from his first podcast a couple of years ago to the present, put them in order on my ipod and began to listen.

This guys name is David Reidy. You can find his website and podcast HERE. He's got a voice that would melt butter, and his podcasts are very topical on Australian knitting, although he appeals to alot of people overseas as well. He did a tour of ACS (Australian Country Spinners) mills in the Melbourne burbs that I particularly enjoyed, but I do love all his on the road shows.

I'm caught up with his now, but still listen to the latest when they come out. Meanwhile, I've decided to go back and listen to all of Brenda Dane's Cast on podcast, which is also a very professional sounding broadcast, and full of information. It's quite entertaining, although I must say I like David's music better. I'm more into the "mellow" stuff, and even though she plays a decent mix, alot of it is more contemporary than what suits me. When I get caught up with hers, then I'll start hunting up another one.

That pretty much covers the goings on this week, except for buying three knitting magazines this morning. I bought the most recent issues of Yarn (I really need to subscribe to this one), Creative Knitting and Designer Knits. I just went on a magazine buying frenzy, I suppose. I haven't even looked at them yet though. I just tucked them into my knitting bag, and I'm saving them for my breaks at work over the next few days.

I'll be back with more as soon as more happens! Apologies for the terrible pictures, but it's been cloudy or raining here for a week. Not the best picture taking weather.