Monday, September 28, 2009

Loose Ends

I wanted to get one post in before we go away and take a short holiday to Point Turton next week, because I know how long and picture heavy my "after holiday" posts can be, and this next one may be particularly long given I plan to do not much of anything but knit. Chris is on school holidays (yes, AGAIN) and wanted to go away somewhere, as he usually does. I wanted to go out on the Fancy Free, our Murray River cruiser, for a couple of days, but it was having some mechanical problems at the time, and we weren't sure if it would be fixed in time for school holidays. It since has been repaired and is now running fine, but it was too late. We had already reserved our cabin at the Point Turton Caravan Park on the beautiful Yorke Peninsula here in South Australia.

Now don't get me wrong, I love going to the Yorke Peninsula. My idea of going out on the boat at the time was to save money, as I'm diligently trying to save now for a big holiday to visit my family in the states. I also favored the boat trip because we are essentially trapped on the boat. Chris and I have very different ideas about what is relaxing. I like going to "the place", staying at "the place", knitting at "the place" until we leave "the place". Chris likes to go to "the place", unload our gear at "the place" and then drive around for hours to see (briefly) every other place in the nearby surrounding area, returning to "the place" to sleep. On the boat, he is able to sit still, but I've never found anywhere else where he can do that. I've made it clear to him this time, however, that I'm going to "the place" and staying at "the place". He can go exploring if he wishes, with my heartfelt blessing. I'm staying put.

We are leaving out next Wednesday, and will be spending 3 nights there in a cabin overlooking the Southern Ocean. We'll be returning home on Saturday. Because of how my regular days off fall, I managed to get a week off work by only using 3 annual leave days. So I'll be coming home Tuesday morning from my Monday night shift, and not returning to work until the following Tuesday night. That leaves me many many possibilities for knitting and even a bit of spinning, and I'll be disappointed with myself if I'm not very productive that week.

I'm still working away, churning out Christmas knitting, but I have managed to squeeze a bit of spinning in here and there. First on my list of "to do" spinning, was to finish the long anticipated (by me anyway) 3 ply of wool and tussah silk done in the Timber colourway by dyer extraoridinaire Kathy of Kathy's Fibres. It turned out beautifully, if I do say so myself.

This is it right after it came off of the niddy-noddy:

It made 3 skeins, sort of. The final skein is rather small, but I just couldn't quite fit it all on two bobbins, so I got a yarn family: two adults and a baby skein.

Here is a close up, or at least, the closest close up I could get with my camera without blurring the photo:

Shortly after I finished plying, I decided that the very best thing I could do is to quickly start up another spinning project on each wheel, as I'm far more likely to actually work on something if it's already started.

So on the Ashford, I put another of Kathy's Fibres colourways, the Red Flowering Gum which I have done before. After finishing this one, that will give me roughly 300 grams of the stuff, enough to make a shawl or a childs jumper:

On the Majacraft, I put on the lastest installment from David at the Southern Cross Fibre Club. He calls it "Sprout". It's 80% Polworth and 20% tussah silk, and it's so soft it can make you cry tears of joy. I showed the fibre in the last post I think, but here's the very beginning of a bobbin:

Moving on to knitting, I will quickly mention that I have one project going that I'm not going to put on here, as it's a gift for my mom, and she reads this blog. So, I've been knitting on a "mystery project", and it's a big one, so if it starts looking like I'm being less than productive, please remember that I have a project running quietly in the background.

I'm currently (as in most of this morning) stitching away on the seams of Ayla's cardigan, which is looking fantastic and I have no doubts now that it will turn out well.

I'm also working on version 3 or the horse socks, and have just today started with the first couple of rows of the colour pattern. In version 1, I finished a whole sock, and while it fits, it JUST fits, and I just don't like giving socks that tight as a gift, since it's such a struggle to actually put them on your feet. Version 2 I tried using fatter yarn, an 8 ply, mentioned in the last post. I finished the heel on it, tried it on, and while it will make a nice houseshoe, it's far too loose and thick to function as a sock.

So now, on to version 3, where I used the same yarn as I used in version 1, Bendigo Woolen Mills 5ply Classic, a superwash wool so the poor recipient doesn't have to handwash. I've managed to get the cuff done in this shot:

but since taking the photo, I have knit about halfway thru Chart A.

I also cast on a lace project, a "Scalloped" table runner for my neice. The pattern is a free download on Ravelry. It's coming along rather nicely, and is easy enough and small enough to do at work. The 20 row pattern repeats daunted me at first, but there's a pattern within the pattern that makes sense, and it only took me a couple of pattern repeats to be able to read the knitting rather than have to follow the pattern line by line.

I'm using the Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece I had left over from my Blooming Bloomers (aka's Unmentionables) project, and it seems perfect for the pattern. Heavy enough to serve the purpose to which the project is intended, but not stiff at all. I'm well pleased with it so far.

The only project I've managed to finish in the past few days is the "Keeper Scarf". This is the scarf I mentioned in the last post that I'm making for my son's girlfriend. I used the free Leisel pattern I found on Ravelry and Naturally Sensations Merino and Angora wool.

At present, I have several finished Christmas presents waiting to be blocked, but I've decided to just have one big blocking day, wash it all together and then block it all at once, at least all the little things. The cardigan, once I get it sewn up, will probably need to be done separately just due to the size. I only have a limited amount of space to lay things out, at any rate.

So at present, I'm just going to keep working on those projects I've already started. I'm hoping to have Ayla's Cardigan stitched up, and the Scalloped Table runner finished before our holiday. If the cardigan isn't finished, it will have to wait until we get back, as it's just too big to carry along just for stitching. The table runner can go along though if need be. So far, my planned holiday knitting is the "mystery project", the Horse socks, and the soon to be cast on Skull Isle Hat from the Son of Stitch n Bitch book, which I'm making for my youngest son Finis. That will give me two fair isle projects, and one mystery (but not fair isle, I'll give away that much) project to knit on. But the mystery project is pretty big, so I might just search out another smaller but easy pattern for those moments on the road when big or complicated just won't do. I just have no idea what.

This will also be Matilda's first real vacation,(Matilda being my Majacraft Little Gem, for those who don't remember)so I will be able to sit on the veranda, look out over the ocean, and spin to my hearts content. Sounds devine, doesn't it?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Spring Things

Spring is finally in the air in South Australia. It's still, technically speaking, winter here, but the weather is starting to be fairly fine on at least half the days, which is so nice. Winters down here seem to last forever. My houseplant in the living room has bloomed for the first time in 3 years this year.

And the pretty bell shaped flowers have bloomed on the hanging plant out back:

Please don't ask me what either of these are called, because I wouldn't know. I did know at one time, in both cases, but I have this theory about plants. I'm only required to keep them alive (if I can) and not become intimately aquainted. Actually, Id do remember the first one has "angel" in it's common name, but that is about it.

This months club selection for the Southern Cross Fibre Club has arrived, and it's a gorgeous one. David went with a spring theme, and came up with this lovely "Sprout" colour scheme, 80% Polworth and 20% tussah silk:

You know, I seem to be on this sort of green thing lately. Most of the fibres I've been buying to spin have green as a dominant colour, or at the very least, as one of the main colours. Most of them are at or around 100 grams, so I've thought that I might spin a dozen or so up, and then make up a sweater similar to the "Rose to Blue V-necked Pullover" in The Twisted Sisters Knit Sweaters by Lynne Vogel. For those not familiar with it, the designer spun various rovings with a common colour scheme ranging from deep roses to a more rosish-bluish colours, then knit them in a striped pattern into a jumper knit from side to side (ie. starting at one sleeve cuff and ending at the other). The great verticle stripes would be slimming too. The only trouble is, I've been using different fibres. I'm not sure how well it would go with all the fibres, so I might have to concentrate on, say, merino, which is more widely available, and I dare say I already have more of that anyway. I could ask around too, I suppose, and see if anyone else has mixed fibres like that. Anyway, there's a project lurking in the back of my head that I'm going to start randomly putting together.

I have bought a few things lately, although in truth, not much. It still seems so soon after Bendigo, and really, I could knit for years with the yarn I have. But sometimes you need a specific colour and gauge of yarn, and in every case but one, this was the case with my purchases. But in the case of this lovely organic lace weight non-mulesed merino, it was just a matter of wanting a smooshy yarny purchase that I would, eventually, I hope, use.

A large lacy scarf, or small shawl I'm thinking would be lovely in that colour. Something out of the Victorian Lace Today book definately. I can't wait to get my Christmas knitting done and be able to indulge in a few lace patterns from that book. Anyway, I bought this when Chris and I went out to the Port Adelaide market last Sunday. It's from Stranded in Oz's booth there, and is luscious, as is most of her things. She was still on her yarn tour of the US (the Sock Summit and some other shows there), lucky girl, but she had a very nice friend manning the booth.

Yes, I said "non-mulesed" wool, but I want to clarify that I have nothing personally against mulsing. To me, it makes much more sense than allowing the sheep to get eat up by flies. Flies in Australia make the flies in the US look like wimps. They are vicious, focused and dedicated to destruction, and sheep here face a much greater nemesis than people in the US can understand (unless they've been here). And frankly, I see the circumcision of little human baby boys as far more cruel, and certainly not nearly as necessary. Not everyone will agree with me, but to each his own. So the "non-mulesed" quality of this wool did not effect me a bit. I just liked the yarn.

I also bought some red Patonyle from a LYS in Adelaide. I already had some black, but needed the red to make the skull isle hat from the book Son of Stitch n Bitch by Debbie Stoller, pattern by Chelsea Fowler-Biondolillo. As usual, I really liked the colours used in the original picture in the book best (how very unadventurous I am with colours sometimes). I already had some black Patonyle in my stash, but I didn't have any red, so I stayed late one day after work to buy some.

A couple of years ago, there was talk of discontinuing Patons Patonyle sock yarn, which caused a bit of a panic in sock knitters all over Australia, and a run on LYS's to stock up. I participated in this mad rush, of course, which is how I got my small stash of Patonyle, but some of it has been used up since then, and I never had red in the first place. It IS a great sock yarn. In my opinion, the very best domestically produced, commonly available sock yarn on the market. There were many complaints to Patons, and a lot of conjoling from what I hear, and Patons, in the end, did decide to continue to produce it. But instead of the lovely 50g balls they used to sell, they now only sell 100g balls, which is, admittedly, the most common way to buy sock yarn. Ah, but I did love the 50g balls. Because I generally knit socks 2 at a time, it's quite nice to have a ball for each sock without having to go to my ball winder and make 2 50g (or close to that) balls out of one 100g ball. For this particular hat, the red is the contrast colour, and I really don't need 100grams, but if I wanted Patonyle, I didn't have any choice in the matter. Ok, now I'm being picky. It's not as though I won't use all of it eventually, and I'm just so happy they didn't discontinue Patonyle completely, that I'll shut up now.

My final purchase was at the very local yarn shop here in Murray Bridge. The "horse socks" I mentioned in the last post, are a bit on the tight side. Not bad, but when put on, the fabric stretches and you can clearly see the contrast colours coming thru. I finished the first sock, and will make a second eventually, even if I don't gift them, and just keep them for myself, flaws and all.

Anyway, I bought this Paton's Merino Deluxe 8ply, to try and make a bit thicker version, to add to the size, and help with the see through factor.

I also decided to attempt this version from the toe up, as I just really don't like knitting cuff down socks. I'm actually a bit further along now than this picture shows. I'm at the point of starting the gusset leading to the heel now:

Which, of course, brings me to my knitting itself. I finished the knitting on Ayla's cardigan, and have all the ends sewn in on 3 out of 5 pieces. I'm sure I'll finish up the rest of them tonight, as it's good to do during TV time, and I really don't have any good "TV" knitting on the needles right now.

So, after finishing the knitting part of that, I started a new project. My son's girlfriend has really stuck by him through some hard times lately, so I reckoned she's earned a hand knit Christmas gift. I don't knit for just anyone, you know. I went on Ravelry searching for a nice scarf pattern, and found Leisel, a free pattern designed by Mary Joy Gumayagay. It called for a 10ply yarn, and my stash is pretty poor when it comes to 10ply. I first thought of the Peace Fleece, but that yarn is just better suited for outer garments, as it can be stiff and course to the touch. Not something you'd really want wrapped around your neck. Then I remembered this luscious Naturally Sensation yarn. Two skeins of a 10ply from Naturally of New Zealand. It's a merino/angora blend, and is sensationally soft. I got it in a RAOK package from a fellow Ravelry member, and I'm stoked with it. It's the perfect yarn for this scarf, and a pleasure to knit with. It's a yarn you have to be gentle with, prone to breaking, but's decadant to touch.

I know we keep stashes for just this purpose, but really, how often is it that you find just the perfect yarn, in the perfect amount and for the perfect pattern in your stash? Well, for me it's not that often, so I was thrilled.

I gleefully began knitting the pattern, which is a series of 10 row repeats of a lace pattern. It doesn't have the predictability of some lace patterns (repeating rows or obvious patterns within the pattern), and I haven't come close to memorizing the pattern yet, so I have to keep a close eye on it. I can knit on it and watch TV, but it goes pretty slow when I do that. It's perfect audiobook knitting though. And it's going to make a lovely scarf.

The patterns author says it's a good "1 day project". HAH! Maybe if you knit all day on it and did nothing else. Or at least, at the speed in which I knit lace that's the case. It is a beautiful pattern though.

I really need to stick another project on the needles, but at present, I'm not sure exactly what. I don't want to start the hats, as that's more Fair Isle, and since I need certain knitting conditions to successfull do it, I think I'll stick to one Fair Isle project at a time. I need something simple, perhaps another type of hat, or a jumper for Kaitlyn. I really want to start knitting on me a tiny slinky summer top, but that will have to wait until I get the Christmas knitting under wraps, dang it. Well, whatever I decide, I'm sure to write about it in the next post.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Glad tidings

Well, the Christmas knitting has taken off in a flurry of activitiy that I somehow doubt I can maintain over the long haul. In any event, I'm pretty sure the things I'd like to get done far outweight the knitting time I have to finish them. Things might look merrier after I finish Ayla's Cardi, but I'm only a bit less than halfway up the first sleeve, so that could be quite some time yet.

Thank goodness I'm done with the honeycomb pattern parts. The sleeves are done all the way up in the tree pattern, which is at least a bit more interesting to knit. It's going quite well, but like the Bustaroony, it's going slowly. If I had worked on it and it alone till finished, I would certainly be done by now, but it's a hard project to work on it's own. The pattern is drilled in my head now, but the repetition can drive you mad at times.

I've been knitting some hats, working on hat number 2 now. The first one is actually not Christmas knitting. It's intended for my FIL for his birthday/Father's day (Father's Day being in September in Australia). It's Jared Floods "Turn a Square Hat", and it's quite popular on Ravelry.

It's not a difficult knit, but I do have problems with jogless stripes. I'm not sure why, but I really think it's more my tension at the "jogs" and not anything to do with doing the actual procedure wrong. Or that's my excuse anyway. I've done them before, but I 'relooked up' the directions, and I am technically doing them correctly, but they still don't always look great. The second one is, overall, turning out better than the first one, so maybe there's something to that "practice makes perfect" saying after all.

I finished my Kaliedascope socks I was making with EGMTK fibre that I spun myself on the new Majacraft Little Gem. They have turned out beautifully, if I do say so myself.

I'm still working on the first sock of the Horse sock pair, another Christmas gift. It is lovely, but time consuming.

My fair isle is getting much better though. I'm using the technique of knitting the main colour yarn in English style and holding it in my right hand, while using the left hand to hold the contrasting colour and knitting continental style. The trouble is, my left hand doesn't like to knit very well, but again, it's getting much better with practice. I thought of giving up this method, but frankly, I find it too hard to carry the yarn along the back of the work any other way, so I'm sticking to it. I'm getting faster and faster at the actual knitting part, but often lose my place on the colour charts and that slows me down alot. I still can't do it well at all if I'm doing anything else, aside from listen to background music. So I flip on Radio Margaritaville and work a few rows at a time. Last week though, I was ill for a few days, and simply couldn't work on it at all. The concentration when I felt so badly was beyond me.

A friend at works daughter has been working on a school project. The idea is, she will spin some yarn and then knit a scarf out of it. My friend and her husband have a small herd of alpaca (are alpacas in a group even called "herds"?) and she wanted to use some of their alpaca fleece to spin. I had given her some books with simple scarf patterns in it, but a couple of weeks ago her mother told me that she was having lots of trouble spinning it.

It occured to me that the poor girl, a very beginning spinner, was trying to spin Alpaca locks on an old Ashford traditional. Hardly a job suitable for a beginner.So I offered to run enough of it through my drum carder for her to make the scarf out of. Now my carder isn't exactly suitable for alpaca, but it was certainly better than trying to spin locks.

I stopped by her house last Saturday, helped her adjust her wheel, and before I left, she was spinning the alpaca quite comfortably.

My spinning has almost ground to a halt. Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but after my flurry of spinning activity after Bendigo, it seems that way. I've spun up about 300 grams of the wool from Kathy's Fibres in the Timber colourway:

and now I'm spinning up some silk, also from Kathy, and also in the Timber colourway.

The plan is to make a 3 ply using two of the wool singles, and one silk single. It's a rather big project, but I'm only working on it slowly.

I don't have anything started on the Ashford. At first, I'd thought to try my hand at some cotton on there, as I'm still better at handling pernacious fibres on the Ashford, but so far, I haven't started. I've also bought another Red Flowering Gum roving from Kathy, and have thought to go ahead and spin it up. That would give me enough yarn in that colourway to create a decent sized project from it, but so far, I've been so focused on my Christmas knitting that I haven't gotten anything started yet.

Well, that's pretty much it for the past couple of weeks or more. I can't even remember when I put my last post on here, and that's a shame. I keep promising myself I will get better at posting more regularly, but life, work and actually doing the craftwork gets in my way.