Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Llama and Lace

So, here it is, time to catch up again. Today is going to be a busy day, and I'm rushed, but I will take my usual computer breaks, so I'll simply work on this post in fits and starts.

It's been hectic getting all the non-knitted Christmas presents bought, organized and wrapped to send to the US, but I'm almost...alllllmmmmoooosst there, knock wood and all that good stuff. Three little pressies left to buy for the package, then I plan on doing the rest of my shopping on Amazon, what with the brilliant exchange rate right now and the savings on shipping.

Speaking of shipping, I shudder to think what my shipping costs for all these packages is going to be. The three large knitwear items are going to be both bulky and heavy, and add that to a couple dozen smaller gifts, both knitwear and non-knitwear, and I have a feeling it's going to be a doozy of a shipping bill. I have three separate packages to go off as well, at least. There's a possibility that I will have to break the biggest package into two packages. We shall see.

First I'll talk about spinning, because there's really nothing much to tell. I did finish spinning the llama singles a few days ago, but have yet to even start plying them.

I spun the llama on Matilda, my Magacraft Little Gem, but I intend to ply it on the Ashley. I have a jumbo bobbin on the Ashley, and I think I'm going to need it. Actually, I know I'm going to need it. While the Magacraft bobbins are big, they are not big enough for 150g of this stuff plyed. Besides, it frees Matilda up for yet another project.

Before I could ply on Matilda, I decided to go ahead and finish the bobbin of the Red Flowing Gum colourway from Kathy's Fibres that I already had on the Ashford. I didn't like much, and finished that bobbin yesterday.

I still have another bobbin to spin, and then plying of course. I already have 3 finished skeins of this colourway, so I'm getting close to having enough to make a biggish sort of project with it. Nice.

I got my monthly shipment last week from David at Southern Cross Fibres. This month I'm in love with the colourway. It's an BFL top called "Deep Thought" and it's a very dark and intense array of browns and purples.

I'll probably start that one on Matilda at work Wednesday night. I have so many other rovings that I want to start, but David keeps sending me these gorgeous colourways, so I can hardly resist.

In knitting news, I did exercise self control and finished the plain stockingnet socks I had on the needles. I was planning on keeping them, but decided instead to swap them out with the present for Aunt Pat. They turned out just fine, and are more her style than the pair I had put aside for her, which were a bit on the wild side colourway wise. I tried them on just to check the fit and to take this photo:

It only took me a couple of days to finish them, and then I was casting on for the Honey Bee Socks from Austrlain Knitting magazine, Spring 09, using that gorgous blue Lorna's Laces sock yarn I bought. For the record, it is dear in price, but it is also quality yarn, and that is obvious from the first stitch.

Progress is slow but steady. The pattern isn't really difficult, but like any lace, it requires a bit of concentration and counting, so I'm limited as to when I can work on them. Still, I've made it past the heel turn on sock one and I'm almost finished with the gusset decreases.

The lacy camisole is moving right along. Just last night, I finished the back section. As with any lace, it desperately shouts for blocking, but here's a picture anyway:

The fitted waist shaping can be a chore to keep in pattern, but the charts are clear once you figure out how to read them. I got thru the whole back section with only one small error, but as noone I've shown can find it, I'm letting it ride. I hope to cast on for the front piece sometime this afternoon.

Having two lace patterns was turning into quite a chore, and made it really hard on me to try and knit at work or while watching TV. Consequently, I decided (surprise surprise) to cast on another project. Unfortunately, most of the stuff in my queue that I was planning to do soon was either lacy or in some other way complicated, so it wasn't easy picking out a pattern.

I essentially let the girl at my LYS decide. That is, I went down there in search of yarn. I wanted either some tape style nylon yarn similar to Berrocco Suede to do the Coachella pattern from Knitty.com with, or I wanted a silk and wool (preferably merino) blend to do the Welt and Rib Raglan from Interweave magazine, Winter 08. No tape yarn of any discription was in stock, but there was a sqeezably soft and lovely selection of Sublime Cashmere Merino Silk DK. In all honesty, she didn't have a very large colour collection. I immediately ruled out the hot pink and royal purple. There was a brown colour I liked, but she didn't quite have enough. In retrospect, now I'm glad I didn't get it. What I did wind up with was a hard to describe beige to bronzy sort of hue. Best just show you the picture, but even it doesn't do the almost metallic shade justice:

The Sublime wasn't cheap. The price was so dear in fact that I almost decided against it and considered going with the Cleckheaton Country Silk, which was half the price. It was also, however, only half as pretty, only half as soft, and not even half so shiny. So the Sublime won me over, and that's the end of that story. When you are going to spend countless hours knitting a lovely garment, then the "best yarn" rule must be applied: Buy the best yarn for the project that you can afford.

Right away, the "easy" pattern I had picked out decided to be difficult. It starts in the middle, essentially at the bustline, with a provisional crochet cast on, and you work your way down from there. If there is one thing I despise, it's the crochet cast on. I did, however, find an easier way to do it here, and that saved me tons of time. I was doing it by making the crochet change, and then picking up stitches thru the back loop, trying to keep it all straight. Ok if it's a pair of socks, but when you have 200ish stitches to cast on, it can drive you mad just trying to keep the chain from twisting. The "new" way at the link above is much easier, where you make your chain as you are drawing the stitches thru. If you do this cast on often, you should definately check it out.

So, I've gotten a bit of a start on it. The orangish coloured yarn you see is simply the waste yarn from the crochet cast on and will be unraveled and pulled out later, revealing live stitches so I can then put them on the needles and knit the top part of the bodice. (This process is a bit hard to explain to non-knitters, so I'm not going to try, but it's essentially a way to cast on in the middle, and knit the garment without any seams, and therefore, no stitching up at the end. Yay!)

I'm making the smallest size to give me some negative ease, as the second smallest size is exactly my measurements, and not the way it should be worn. It's knit in the round, starting out with 198 stitches in k2p1 rib, and while it's easy knitting, it doesn't exactly "build" quickly. Besides, I've been concentrating more on the lace lately, only knitting on this when I need some mindless knitting. I won't be able to wear it until fall or winter in any case, so there's no hurry at all. I am in love with the yarn though, and feeling that lovely fibre running thru my fingers is tempting to say the least.

I started this project, at least in part, because we had the Christmas shoot last weekend at the gun club, and I knew that I had absolutely nothing I could knit on there while I socialized. I took a very few pictures, but here's one of Chris leading the "balloon" shoot, where they blow up a bunch of balloons and the shooters burst them all.

I'm so early into these projects, and yet I already have my next projects in mind. I'm still on the lookout for yarn for the Coachella pattern mentioned earlier, and I'm also dead set on starting a major lace project. I'm thinking of doing the Alpine Lace Shawl from Victorian Lace Today. I have yet to knit a single thing out of that book, and yet hardly a day passes that I don't thumb through it and dream. I'm not precisely sure that's the pattern I will start with, but for sure, I'm knitting something from that book, and doing it soon. Next in the sock world will be a plain stockingnet pair knit with some of the self patterning sock yarn I bought from Spotlight last year. I need an easy servicable pair of socks, and that seems the perfect choice for work knitting.

Well folks, that's all I have for today. In all likelihood, I'll still be knitting on what I'm knitting on now when it's time to post again, but I'll post anyway with what progress I've made. Till then...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Update and a Fleece

The week has just flown by. Where has the time gone? I suppose it's seemed to disappear so quickly because it's my "short week", the week where I'm off more days than I work. Starting tonight is my "long week", where I work 6 nights out of 7. Such is my schedule, but I don't want to change a thing. It works fine for me.

In the end, I have not cast on any more socks. I dug out a pair I originally started knitting for my aunt for Christmas, but they weren't turning out so well. Certainly wearable, but with too much sloppy stitches and noticable mistakes to be given as a gift. They are toe up socks made with 5 ply Heirloom Easy Care, knit 2 at a time. I'd already done the toe, foot and turned the heel, so it will only be a matter of finishing the leg part. They are in plain stockingnet, so that should be easy enough. So I pulled them out of hibernation and have knit a bit on them.

I also changed my mind about the Lorna's Laces. I was going to stash dive for yarn for my Honeybee Socks, and had the perfect SWTC yarn for the job...except...it was only a 50g skein and I need 100g for these socks. I do have some red Patonyle left over from Finis' hat that I could have used, but I decided not to do that either, as there is less than 100g and I'm not sure I'd have enough. I have enough black Patonyle, but I'm NOT fond of knitting black socks. So, I broke down and bought the Lorna's Laces from Yay for Yarn. The colour I chose was Island Blue from the Shephard Sock solids and it is beeeee-uuu-teee-ful.

It just arrived in today's post, so I haven't cast on yet, but I plan on doing so soon. Right now, I'm deciding if I use self control and finish off the plain stockingnet socks first or just dive right in. Truly, it is always handy to have a plain stockingnet project around for those times when I want to knit but don't want to concentrate. You will simply have to wait until the next post to see what I've decided.

What I have cast on is the Lacy Corset Cami (by Wendy Knight) from the Issue 8 of Yarn Magazine. I used the 4ply Cleckheaton Natural Cotton yarn in the tan colour that I already had, and as of right now, I'm about halfway up the back. The shaping it a bit tricky, but overall, it's not a bad knit. The lace pattern is simple to learn, but the purl rows can be tricky to actually execute. The pattern for the purl rows is a combination of purls, yo's and p2togs. You p2tog into the proceeding rows yo and the next stitch, and that second stitch can be a doozy to try to get your needle through. It's very tight and sometimes I wind up fighting the needle to get it through. Otherwise, it's all going along smoothly.

This picture was taken a couple of days ago, but the progress I've made is essentially more of the same pattern, just longer and with more shaping:

Sunday morning after I got home from work, Chris wanted to take a run in the boat. I agreed to go along to help him untie and tie it back up, on the condition that I didn't have to do much more than that. I was pretty tired from a rough night at work, and really ready to do nothing more than sit around the house and knit. I grabbed up my knitting, and in the end quite enjoyed our little outing, although you can see how I spent the vast majority of my time on the river:

In other news, I finally washed the Polworth Fleece that I bought from Eagleveiw Coloured Sheep Farm. They don't have a website that I can find, but they are in Ashboune S.A., so you can look them up there. I actually bought the fleece at a Littlehampton guild show back in May and had been waiting this long for some decent drying weather.

Even before washing, the fleece looked fairly good. Not alot of vege matter or matting. But of course, as Polworth tends to do, it had quite a coating of Lanolin:

But with coloured wool, looks can be decieving. Aside from the lanolin, it wasn't quite as clean as it looked:

I used the wool scour that I bought at the Sheep and Wool show in Bendigo, and it worked a treat. I only had to run it through the wash once, rinsed twiced and layed it out to dry:

Here's a nice pretty clean lock, to give you an idea of the colour and staple length:

So that about wraps up what I've been up to this week. I did get the rest of the Christmas presents I knit blocked out. I'm waiting for them to dry now. I also finished all the knitting on Mom's project, but I still have to do the finishing work. That will, I'm afraid, have to wait a few days.

Until next time...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Train coming...or The light at the end of the tunnel

So here I sit, typing away for my blog when I really should be knitting. I've been knitting like the proverbial demon for the past week..maybe two...trying to put the wraps on the Christmas knitting. Internet adventures have been curtailed in an effort to get to the bottom of the Christmas knitting pile, and I'm scraping the bottom even as we speak. The only "official" project I have on the needles right now is mom's "mystery" project, which is rather close to completion, or at least, rather close to completing the actual knitting part.

I finished the last hat today. It's a hat for mom's defacto. He owns a racecar, and I was going for something racey with the colours of his car in it. Why I took the photo on the side with the jog in the stripes I'll never know, but here it is none the less:

I used some stash yarn, about 1 and a half balls of Shepherd's Colour 4 me yarn for the main colour, and some scrap wool of undetermined genre for the stripes. The pattern is a pretty standard hat pattern, with a k4,p2,k2,p2 rib stitch pattern.

Non-officially, I'm also knitting a 7in by 7in square in a bright cheerful yellow shade of the Heirloom Easy Care 8ply range. Lots of us are making squares, and then we send them to a Ravelry friend who is going to sew them all up (lucky her, lol) and produce a blanket for another Ravelry friend who hasn't been feeling well lately. As I'm not sure if a square can technically be classified as a project, I haven't added it to my project list. I will finish it tonight or tomorrow morning at the latest anyway, so it's of no real concern. I'm further along on it now, but this is what it looked like this morning:

There's a project in my Sculptured Knits book called the Vasarely Vest, which is more a halter top than a vest. While it's not dynamic where style is concerned, I just loved the stitch pattern in it. It's called the Gordes stitch, and is rather simply: Row 1 *yo, k2, pass yo over 2 knit stitches*, Row 2 purl, and of course, repeat for pattern. For the square, I'm making it in a bigger gauge than in the Vaserely pattern uses, but I just wanted to get a feel for the stitch, to help me make up my mind if I wanted to make the top or not. Or perhaps use it for a design of my own. I do like it. I think I'll try it again in a smaller gauge, maybe make a dishcloth out of it, and see how that flies. At any rate, I got more bang for my buck out of the square, and killed two birds with one stone.

So in real terms, I only have 1 (as in ONE) project on the needles right now, Mom's Christmas present. This 1 WIP phenomenon doesn't happen to me that often. My average is three. Three is a good number. Usually, that's one "big" project, one smaller but complicated project, and one simple dimple small project.

So, by tomorrow at the latest, the time will have come. Yes, that glorious time when you choose a project, find your needles and yarn, and cast on those first stitches. Most knitters agree: Starting a project is more satisfying even than finishing one. When you start a project, the possibilities are endless, the anticipation devine.

These projects will have a special significance. They will be the first knitting I've done for myself in months. I've already decided on knitting the top I mentioned in the last post, using the beige Cleckheaton 4 ply cotton from my stash. I'm also going to cast on a sock, probably the Honey Bee Socks by Kiri Fitzgerald-Hillier from the Spring 09 issue of Australian Knitting magazine. Australian knitters might recognize the designer's name, she's the owner of Yay for Yarn, an Australian online knitting store that I have shopped at and would certainly recommend. The pattern calls for Lorna's Laces Sock yarn, but I have sooo much sock yarn around here right now, I can't see buying more, so I will stash dive for this project.

I'm positive I'm going to knit these socks eventually, but I did mention my desperate need for plain wearable knit socks in my last post. So option two is to cast on some simple stockingnet stitch toe up socks first, and do these later. Option 3 is that I could cast them both on, work on the easier socks at work or whenever mindless knitting is handy, and the more difficult Honey Bee socks at home when I have some concentration time.

That sounds like the perfect solution, and would be, if I didn't also with a passion want to cast on a lace shawl from my Victorian Lace Today book. Which shawl I'm not sure yet, I like them all. This was my dream at Bendigo S&W show(when I was buying all that laceweight yarn), to go lace shawl knitting nuts after the Christmas knitting was done. It's still an appealing dream. The trouble is, aside from wearing to fancy dress balls at Western Action events, I don't need a lace shawl. The next fancy dress event of that nature is in May, so there's plenty of time. Meanwhile, I desperately need the socks, and I would really love to get a summer top knit and on my back before it's too late and it's winter all over again. So necessarily, they must take priority right now. If I don't start a shawl project this week, I will definately start one as soon as I finish one of the projects mentioned above.

Well, enough of the future talk. I'm just so wound up and excited about getting started on some selfish ME knitting that I could ramble on and on about it for decades. Lets move on, though, to what else I've done this week.

The double knitted Celtic Beanie project went very well and very quickly. I'm happy now that I was "brave" because double knitting was neither hard to learn, nor was it particularly slow. Sure, it was a bit slower than regular knitting, but not by much. I think it took me 5 days to finish the hat, four of which I had to work, so that's not too shabby at all. The reversability of it is just fantastic, and I got lots of ohhh's and ahhhh's from my coworkers who knit, or at least, know how to knit. They were impressed, and curious as to how it was done, and none had ever seen the technique before, so it was definately a novelty item there for awhile.

Without further ado, the "right" side, or the "dark side" as I like to call it:

and the "wrong" side, or the "light side":

I'm very proud of this project, and had about as much fun making it as I've had in ages. It's great to learn a new knitting skill, and double knitting is incredibly cool. You feel awesome when you've mastered it!

Yesterday, I decided to get started on my blocking, so I put the first load into the utility room sink and gave it a wash. Here it is, all layed out on the dining room table to block:

I still have a couple more loads to do, but at least I've gotten started with it.

While I am nearly done with my Christmas knitting, I do still have little finishing details to do here and there, such as sewing a button on Ayla's cardi. I'll take care of those details here and there when I have days off and such.

So there is a light at the end of the tunnel after all.

I have another couple of days off coming up in less than a week. I'll try to do a small update post during that time about what I have decided to cast on. Until then...