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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

All done

It was a close thing at the end but it's done! I had to miss out the final purl back row of the edging but I had just enough to cast off. It's not blocked yet but I did pin it out to get an idea of the final size and shape.

I don't think the edging suffers too much from being a row short. The cast off edge could have been a little looser but I didn't want to risk using the bigger needles and running out of yarn. I think that the points will come out OK when it's blocked though.

Of course the only thing about finishing so early is that I feel a bit left out now that everyone else is casting on their shawls - maybe I could knit another?

When I've felt like I needed a break from the uber-fluffiness of the angora I've been making crocheted earrings. I saw some of these online a week or so back and had an urge to try them. I really like the gold ones, although I still need to find some jump rings to get the right dangle factor.

Can you also guess what book I just bought? Knitting Rules and so does the Harlot.

I also made this cake.

It's a whole orange chocolate cake from the January 2007 issue of Good Food magazine. The instructions start off by telling you to simmer a whole orange for an hour - from that point I was hooked. There's also ground cinnamon and coriander in there so it's a spicy cake. It's a pudding cake so it's best served hot with custard or ice-cream or something but it's pretty good cold too!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Kiri on knitting!

Only six and a half rows to go! After surmounting various crises* in the middle of last week I am onto the edging and into my last ball of yarn. I think there's enough to make it to the end - it just adds an extra bit of excitement. I can't wait to cast off and block it. At the moment the shawl is bunched onto two bamboo straight needles (I couldn't find bamboo circulars in the correct size and metal circulars are just way too heavy for angora, they slip right out if you let go for a moment). I'm so looking forward to seeing its true size and shape. I'm also looking forward to the next project. I finally have the needles for the Anya sweater. I went into Port Meadow Design last Wednesday before knitting group (I'm much happier with the shop now so I'm giving them a namecheck) and picked up a pair of 3.75mm 35cm bamboo straights and a set of 3.5mm 80cm circulars. I was so happy to find the 3.5s. The pattern calls for 3.75mm needles for the cuffs etc. and 4mm for the body of the sweater. Gauging showed that I needed 3.75mm needles for the body and I was worried that neither of 3.25mm or 3.75mm needles (which are much more common needle sizes in the UK) would be right for the various edgings. Anyway, in addition to the needles, the yarn selection in the shop just keeps on growing. They have Debbie Bliss Cashmerino super chunky and Merino DK in colours other than black and navy blue. On a later visit I bought 2 balls of red and one of yellow for some football related socks which hopefully won't take too long to polish off. I worked out a chart for the intarsia pattern but can't think of any way to knit this in the round. Unless inspiration strikes I think I'll knit them flat, back and forth (at least the instep where the pattern will be), as the most straightforward option.

* Notably first dropping a ketchup laden chip on my cream angora shawl and then going K2tog, yo, k, yo, K2tog instead of k, yo, k, yo, k on the last pattern row of one of my repeats and not being able to work out what had gone wrong until I had tinked back three rows. Both a more or less direct result of knitting whilst drinking I might add. Don't do it kids, it's wrong!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Kiri KAL

The project using the Aarlan angora from the Knitting and Stitching show has moved out of the "To be knit" list and onto my needles. I had just about given up on finding a mini sweater or cardigan pattern which would only take five balls of dk weight yarn and when Lara emailed to say that she, Katie and Abby were thinking of starting a Kiri KAL at our knitting group I decided that this was just this thing for me and my angora. Progress has been pretty speedy. There are only five lines of chart to memorize for the bulk of the shawl and it's a very easy lace pattern to "read"--by which I mean that you can easily see what the pattern is doing in the yarn so you are able to know what you should be knitting without referring to the chart. Eunny Jang talks about this somewhere but I can't find the precise link. Anyway, it speeds things up immeasurably unless you go horribly wrong. So far all errors have been spotted either on the same row or on the next pattern row and have been fixable (touch wood).

Shawl after first ball of yarn had been finished

At this point the shawl was measuring 26 inches across the neck edge so I think it will end up as 52 inches across when finished (maybe a little more after blocking). I worked this out by imagining that I could knit a similar sized triangle with each of the other three balls which are earmarked for the body of the shawl (the fifth is reserved for the edging). These four triangles when fitted together would create a larger isosceles triangle with a base edge double the length of that of each of the three smaller triangle. See geometry is useul after all. Anyhow this should make a shawl which is almost the length of my arm span and which should drape down to the waist when on my shoulders.

Leaf detail from the Kiri shawl

Shawl after one and a half balls (neck edge now 34 inches)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Well that went as well as could be expected...

Annoyed by my recent inability to find old posts in the archive when I wanted to link back to them I decided to upgrade to the new Layouts feature on Blogger (hence the shiny new archive). There were a few sticky moments along the way, e.g. when I lost my lovely header and couldn't find my "classic template" in order to put it back. I've also (temporarily I hope) mislaid the Sock Wars and Cast-On buttons. I also had to recreate the new list that I'd just posted about which took longer than expected due to Layouts preferring i rather than em tags for italics (nice of them to mention that). Still, hopefully it will all be worth it and there will be exciting things (such as labels and different colours) to come.
I decided that I needed a new category in the right-hand column for projects which are not yet "On my needles" but are more tangible than "ooh, I'd like to knit that", i.e. I already have the yarn and should start doing something with it (though only after I've cleared out the "On my needles" stuff a bit more). In this category at the moment are the Rowan Anya sweater for which I have knit two fabulously ornate gauge swatches (2nd swatch on 3.75mm needles below). OK, gauging the colourwork is fair enough, but beading? I may have gone a bit OTT. However, it turned out to be useful practice given that I've never beaded anything in anger to date and it revealed that I didn't want to use the method of beading as stated in the pattern.

The second item in the "To be knit" section is the cream angora mini-sweater. I bought the yarn at the Knitting and Stitching show back in October and I'm horribly conscious that unless I get a move on and we have a cold snap, by the time it's done there's no way that it's going to be cold enough to actually wear the thing. I'm still looking for the right pattern though. All the ones I've checked out so far look like they'll take a bit too much yarn or I'd have to significantly alter the gauge (which is far too much like hard work).

I have been busy though. On Thursday I finished my last piece of Christmas knitting the post factum named Very Berry Jaywalkers. They were finished only a day late and they were the only gift I had to give with the needles still in place. My boyfriend's comment on opening it: "You didn't need to leave the needles stuck in..oh no wait, you did." They are however a nice fit and a lovely (though manly) colour.

Over the weekend I finished the first of a new pair of Fetchings in Tapestry. Aliki's comment was "aren't you sick of that pattern yet?". It's amazing what a difference getting to keep the FO makes though. I gave the last five pairs away and I really want a pair for myself, either for typing or reading in bed (the hand holding the book tends to get very cold after the heating goes off).

My new toy!

I had to go out and buy a few extra supplies (thermometer, saucepan etc.) before getting started which prompted some guilt from the boyfriend (who had thought that this would be an inexpensive way to see if I liked candle-making).

Melting the wax and dye

Candles in progress

Melting the wax again

It turns out, I do like candle-making! I have lots of plans for candles with pressed flowers and other bits in them and scented and dipped candles. I just need to lay in a few more supplies--more wax and stearin (which makes the wax shiny and also makes it shrink away from the mould).

I also (it being Epiphany and all) packed away the Christmas decorations until next year. Secret Santa looked a bit non-plussed at being taken out of the bottle and wrapped in tissue.

I took down all the Christmas cards and made gift tags for next year out of the fronts.

I did lots of washing-up with my shiny new knitted dishcloth.

Katie gave me this as a thankyou for her Christmas Fetchings. At first I thought "It's too pretty to wash dishes with" but I knew that attitude would only get me into trouble with Katie ("It's a dishcloth, it's what it's for, etc.") Anyway, it's so much nicer than using a grubby sponge, I even started using the dishcloth I knitted myself from Debbie Bliss cotton ages ago (which has since been hanging decoratively from the back of the kitchen door). As soon as I manage to educate the boyfriend about rinsing and squeezing the dishcloths after use and putting them on the radiator I'll be all set.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Refinished object - Candy sweater

A couple of episodes ago Brenda Dayne of Cast-On asked what she should do with sweaters which were too good to throw out or rip back but not quite right to wear. This is my solution.

The first proper sweater which I ever knit (back in the days when Oxford still had a Rowan shop) was the Candy sweater from Rowan 32. I picked out yarn (Kid Classic--the recommended yarn--in two shades of pink, one light, one deep and bright) and needles. I knit a gauge swatch, I was even on gauge (or thereabouts), and I started knitting. And it went pretty well. Even though I didn't really know the best way to cast-on, or increase stitches, or hold my yarn. My stitches were pretty even and I managed to follow the pattern pretty well (i.e. I usually remembered to do the shaping within one or two rows of where I should have). At last I got to the bit where I had to sew up the left shoulder seam before picking up stitches for the collar. This too went pretty well. Finally there was lots of sewing up (a bit wonky in places due to the dodgy increases), and darning in of ends and snipping off of yarn and it was done. And I was very pleased with it and I wore it.

Of course there were a couple of things I wasn't thrilled with. The sleeves could have been longer, and the waist. I hate sweaters that I'm forever tugging down. And the huge collar did need a lot of rearranging and usually got tangled up with my earrings when I tried to take the sweater off. Still, the yarn was lovely and soft, and the colours were great and the stripes were a great size and I still wore it (just with high-waisted skirts).

Until, one Wednesday night about three or four months back I wore it to the Bluestockings meeting after work (there's something about meeting up with lots of other knitters that inspires grandiose plans - of course I can knit a Shetland shawl! etc.). I had been toying with the idea of lengthening the sleeves for a while and in a post-knitting buzz I felt inspired (one or two glasses of white wine may have also helped). When I got home I went at the sweater with a pair of scissors. Actually I first started unpicking with a darning needle but that didn't go very fast. Kid classic is an absolute pain to rip back (at least it is after two years of wash and wear), especially upwards. My plan was to rip out the huge collar, the cuff and bottom ribbing and then knit down an extra stripe or so from the plain stocking stitch then knit some replacement ribbing to finish off. I would have plenty of yarn from the collar and the leftovers from the original project (maybe this is why Rowan are so generous in their yarn estimates). I won't go into details on the ripping back. Suffice to say it was pretty nasty and left me with a bad case of knitter's lung (all those fibres) for a few hours after each session.

Once I had ripped out the original ribbing and got the resulting live stitches on the needles I knit down the two sleeves to the place where my hands actually started. Then I tried it on. It looked OK from a distance but close up the stitches seemed baggy and uneven - could it be the ripped-back yarn, or the difficulty of knitting back and forth over something which started off in the round? It was a while before I realised the obvious answer, my gauge had changed (no really?). At the same time (luckily as it avoided two lots of ripping back) I realised I didn't want ribbing on the cuffs. Instead I knit (on a size smaller needles to match my 2 year old gauge) plain stocking stitch in stripes down to the correct length for the sleeves and body and cast-off. I left the neck hole as it was, it was actually a very nice shape once I had taken out the huge collar, and finally trimmed all the edges with crocheted shell stitch. The result is a sweater I now wear a whole lot more.* I still wish that the sewing up was a little neater but there's no way I'm opening up that can of worms.

* I actually finished this sometime before Christmas, but then Christmas knitting happened.