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Monday, May 28, 2007

Spin Sunday

After seeing the exhibition at Stanton St. John I was moaning a bit about how I wouldn't be able to start spinning up my lovely new fibre stash until at least Wednesday as Abby still has my drop spindle. I'm afraid I didn't react very positively to suggestions that I make a spindle out of various household objects and my final objection - that I didn't have a hot glue gun - led Felix to ask if I was a crafter or not.

Obviously I couldn't take that lying down so when I got home I summoned up the spirit of Blue Peter, grabbed a creme fraiche tup lid and was looking around for a pencil when it struck me. Why do so many so many instructions for making your own drop spindle tell you to use a pencil when at least the knitters amongst us have so many more suitable implements? I'm talking needles. It turns out that a 35cm 7mm bamboo needle pushed through the lid of a plastic tub (mine contained creme fraiche but I'm sure houmous or guacamole would work too!) is just the thing for a drop spindle. The head of the needle even prevents your half hitch (or whatever it is) from slipping off the top of the spindle.

Improvised drop spindle

It's obviously not the most attractive of spinning implements but it's nice and light (which means less yarn breakage) and there's tons of room on the spindle for yarn so i think I'll be able to spin half the fibre in one go. The plan is to spin two singles and then ply them together to make something like a sock/sport weight yarn which I can use for socks. I've got a hundred gms of fibre so I think there should be enough but I'll try to get a rough idea of the yardage when I skein it up.

Here's a pic of the yarn on the spindle.

cose up of yarn on the spindle

The colours are much more muted than in the top but there are some lovely clear deep pinks as well as some more mixed shades. I split the top lengthways into 11 sections to start with and then I'm spinning each section in turn so I should get some sort of repeat.

A Grand Day Out

On Saturday I met up with Ellen, Felix and Katie (plus husband and sister) for the Oxfordshire Craft Fair at Blenheim Palace. The day got off to a great start as the first thing that they had spotted on leaving the car park was someone with a spinning wheel. Katie had managed to restrain herself and the others enough to wait until I had arrived before rushing off to investigate. More restraint was shown by most people (Felix is not included in this category I'm afraid) as we restricted ourselves to one or two purchases rather than spend all our cash at the first stall. I had to grab this goregous hand-dyed wool top (just in case it had gone by the time I got back) though I was sorely tempted by the 0.8 to 1.2mm range of sock needles too.

Hand-dyed by MoBair

We also checked out the Isis Lacemakers who were very friendly and had some amazing work on display. They meet up twice a month on Tuesdays (which unfortunately clashes with my running club night) but I might try and go along at some point. Lacemaking is definitely something I'm interested in trying out.

The other highpoint of the craft fair was the falconry display as Ellen and I both were picked as volunteers to have a Harris hawk fly up to our hand. The handler had told us before starting that we shouldn't try to stroke the bird (hawks attack with their feet) but that it would be OK to give it a kiss. I'd thought I might have to steel myself to do this but it was so calm and quiet on my arm that I had no problems getting up close. Felix got these pics.

Me with Harris hawk

Hello birdy!

After a final visit to the MoBair stall where I picked up some hand-dyed mohair tops and Katie got some gorgeous alpaca silk we headed off to Stanton St. John to visit the Oxford Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers who were exhibiting their work for Artweeks. We saw some more beautiful hand-spun and natural dyed fibre (I resisted the hand-spun alpaca with great difficulty) and we had a lovely visit which was topped off by my spotting the Red Arrows on their way to or from the Abingdon air show.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sock issues

I've got two pairs of socks on the go at the moment. I've just started work on the second Elfine's sock in the Schaefer Anne sock yarn despite not having finished the first. I thought that since I'm not sure how much yarn is in the ball (and since I'm knitting toe-up) it would be a good idea to knit to the heel (or slightly past the heel) of the first sock then pop the stitches onto another needle and work up to the same point in the second sock. Good plan, eh? Turns out that knitting one sock from the outside of the ball whilst there is knitting attached to the yarn coming from the inside of the ball creates all kinds of pain and twistiness in the yarn. I was thinking about ripping back the second sock and guessing where to finish the first, or cutting the yarn attaching the first sock to the ball when I had an idea.

Ziplock bag preventing further entanglement

Is there anything that ziplock bags can't do?

The second pair is the Vinnland socks in the Fleece Artist sherbert dip yarn (that's not the name of the colourway, we just thought it looked like that at the knitting group). I'm really liking the pattern and I love the yarn (in places). There are some really great colours in it - lovely soft pinks and golden yellow and really soft green/blue - it's just when you put them altogether it's a bit much. Hopefully I won't be too bored with the pattern by the time I finish as I'd like to do another pair in a plain yarn.

Vinnland socks

In the meantime I've still not made much progress with Sockpalooza. Having said that I wanted to design something I don't actually seem to have any ideas (or at least not any good ones) and I'd feel a bit lame if I made a U-turn and knit Baudelaire or Pomatomus at this stage. Back to the drawing board then.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Artweeks 2007

First off another finished object and a work in progress:

PBP:FO-02 V-neck baby cardigan

Yarn: Debbie Bliss cotton dk
Needles: 3.5mm and 3.75mm
Pattern source: Baby Knits for Beginners by Debbie Bliss

aww - so cute!

This was another super quick knit. I had it knit up and blocked by last weekend and found some great mother of pearl style buttons in Whittaker's in Bolton. They had loads of really cute baby buttons but the colours didn't quite match up. Also in Whittaker's there was a Rowan 30% off sale. I was reasonably restrained (under the circs) and snaffled just four balls of cashsoft dk (2 cream, 2 v pale green) for another baby cardigan (this one to be designed by me) and a ball each of pale blue and cream Kidsilk Haze destined to become a couple of lace shrugs. I have a little extra incentive to actually get around to writing up some of the ideas I've had for designs as our knitting group is making vague plans to apply tp exhibit in next year's Artweeks art festival. We've been inspired by visiting some of the exhibitions which are on this year. This evening Katie, Felix and myself checked out some of the shows in the Jericho area. First we saw some slightly freaky wire sculptures then we went to see some glass at a house just around the corner from our knitting hangout. Next we visited the house/workshop of Tony Thomson who makes the most amazing jewellery just a couple of doors down the street. He explained that a lot of his work had been sold at the private viewing right at the start of Artweeks but he gave us a tour of his fabulous workshop and showed us drawer after drawer of the most beautiful stones. it was really fascinating. Then we wandered further north and looked at paintings by Claire Basset. I love the concept of Artweeks wherein artists exhibit in their own homes. Not only does it allow those artists who can't afford (or just don't want) a gallery space to make their work accessible to anyone who wants to view it but it means that you get to have a nosy around people's homes! It was a tiny bit awkward for the first one or two houses - especially at Rachel Ducker's where the door was open and we had to wander in and call out "hello, we've come to look at your art". Still, all good fun, eh.

Currently on the needles are the Vinnland socks from the current issue of the AntiCraft. I'd only wandered by there to try and help Abby locate a pattern for a petticoat and i found this pattern, just this the thing for my Fleece Artist sock yarn. I think that they'll be a present for my sister, depending on how happy I am with the finished product (I'm worried that the aqua stripes - which aren't showing up in this photo - are a little too garish).

too shiny?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Sockapalooza update

Well, not really an update since I haven't actually done any proper knitting yet. I've swatched a bit and charted out lace patterns and come to the conclusion that the lovely Fleece Artist seacell yarn is not going to work with lace. I've got one more idea to try and then I'm hauling off and buying a solid yarn.

On the Project Baby Porter front, meantime, I'm up to the shaping on the left front of the V neck cardigan. I might be able to get that finished this weekend if I put the blocked pieces on the radiator part way through (they seem to take about twelve hours otherwise). And if I can get the button band done on the train up north I can pick out buttons in Bolton.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Design feature

The back of the V-neck cardi (BPB:WIP-02) is knit up and blocking away as I type (it's taking longer to dry than it did to knit!).

V neck cardigan - left front

I finished swatching (or I knit about half of the second swatch and measured over 5cm) last night at the pub and cast-on after a slight quandary. You see I had previously noticed that the instructions told you to cast on 54 sts in C with 4mm needles for the back, 25 sts in C with 4mm needles for the left front and 25sts in C with 3.75mm needles for the right front. However, I had omitted to check for errata (or pattern revisions as Debbie calls them) online before leaving for the knitting group. Now I've been knitting for long enough to be quite happy to second guess the pattern and so I cast on my 54 sts for the back in C with 3.5mm needles (I had gone down a needle size after swatching). Ribbing at the bottom edge of sweaters is usually done with a smaller size of needle so I figured this was what had been meant. Still I had a nagging feeling so I checked for pattern revisions this morning. Turns, out it was the other way around. All pieces should have been cast on with the larger size of needle. Still, it looks fine and besides, if you do a thing once it's a mistake, if you do it wrong consistently it's a design feature.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Very good news - Project Baby Porter

A month or so back I learnt that I'm going to be an aunt for the first time in October/November as my sister is having a baby.

I have (with great difficulty) been sitting on that news (and on my needles - ouch!) until I learnt on Friday that she had been for her 3 month scan and had got the all clear. I wouldn't quite say that I rushed home that minute and started swatching but it was close to that. The next day I popped into the library and picked up Baby Knits for Beginners by Debbie Bliss and And So to Bed by Lucinda Guy. I really want to make the Otto Owl Toy since seeing it on Alison's blog and I love Rowan cashsoft.

Speaking of which: PBP:FO-01* Boatneck sweater from Baby Knits

Boat neck sweater

Obviously the specified yarn for this was Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran but I just so happened to have two and a half balls of Rowan Cashsoft Aran** in a really great soft brown***. It's a very straightforward pattern (see the title of the book), basically a couple of rectangles with sleeves but I'm pleased that I made a really nice job of the blocking and finishing. I think that this is the first time that I've really blocked carefully before sewing up and with this kind of yarn it makes a big difference.


V neck sweater - back

Also from the Baby Knits book a v-neck cardi with contrast rib at the edges knit in Debbie Bliss cotton dk in light blue and (erm) a slightly darker blue. For some reason (possibly because I don't want to impose crappy knitting on my sister or her unborn child) I have turned into a much more meticulous knitter. I swatched with the specified yarn and needles and was one stitch out over 10cm. If this was for me I'd have just said "oh sod it" and carried on. But for BP I'm swatching on smaller needles and liking it. I've even done 4x4 garter stitch borders. Sadly I will probably have to rip my two swatches when I start knitting the project per se as DB (unlike Rowan) doesn't seem to allow for swatching in her yarn allowances. That's not a criticism though as it is a bit galling when you get to the end of a Rowan pattern only to find that at least one of the £6 balls of yarn seems to have been there just in case.

* Project Baby Porter: Finished Object - 01

** Bought for the boyfriend when he said he'd like a hat and then it turned out he was being flippant. No I haven't forgotten about that one yet.

*** I guess we're on gender neutral knitting for a few months yet - I can always add pink/blue trimmings later if required. Personally I don't see why boy babies can't wear pink and girls blue, but it must get tiring for the parents always to be saying "No, she's a girl actually" so I suppose it the colour-coding serves some purpose.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


I spent a fair portion of last night's Bluestockings gathering* thumbing through the two volumes of the Harmony Guide to Knitting Stitches (Hilary had brought hers along) trying to pick stitch patterns for my sock pal's socks. I'd really like to design something and this would be a good opportunity. Plus, if I just buy a pattern or pick a free one off of the net then the whole thing will be over too quickly and I'll have to sit on them (metaphorically speaking) until August.

My brief is pretty non-specific—I just have to avoid purple—so there's lots of "scope for imagination"* but I'd like to include some cabling (though not too much as I'm mailing to a warm climate) and some lace and I want it to be assymetric so I can knit a left sock and a right sock (thus avoiding second sock syndrome). Too ambitious? We'll have to see.

* I don't like calling it a meeting, it's too reminiscent of minutes and agendas and I get emough of that at work!

** I'm still having a bit of an L.M. Montgomery fest via Librivox