Monthly Archives: September 2007

Portrait of a Happy Knitter

…Sitting alone in a new staff orientation, mediocre tea and mini-pastries on the table beside a folder of handouts. Unexpectedly from behind, my name is spoken, warm and friendly. “I hoped I’d find you here! Can I sit beside you?” A woman — a new friend? — joins me at the table. We are now among the few people in the room who know someone else there…

… Sitting in a crowded yarn store, everyone drawn into the cozy warmth by an unexpected rainfall. The air is full of the friendly conversation, the subtle clicking of many needles knitting counterpoint to the dwindling rain. Famous knitters sit to either side of me, chatting, knitting, drinking beer. I am still feeling slightly awkward, but no longer “the new one”: included, a part of this, one of them

…Sitting on my couch at home, opening a box on yarn ordered online. The cats investigating the box, sniffing and purring, plotting to steal a ball or nibble the protective plastic bags. Did I order the right thing? I wonder, but am secretly thrilled with the unexpected beauty of the yarn in front of me. “I love that colour! That’s going to make a great sweater, thank you,” says an appreciative husband when presented with a swatch. Though I think I might need different needles to get gauge, I agree, this will be a great sweater…

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Meme and Grumbles

Goshdarnit! How come I sit, spinning-wheel-less, when there are things like this collection here languishing without a spinner to spin them (and most likely destined to live out their lives as “conversation pieces”. *mumble grumble* Anyway, check out that ebay listing, there are some truly stunning spinning wheels all lumped together.

And, since I haven’t gotten around to uploading any decent photos of the things I’ve been working on lately, I’ll leave you with a meme about colour decisions, began by the FiberFool.

1. What is your current favorite color?
I think currently there’s a big tie between burgundy and a really rusty orange-red.

2. Had your favorite color changed over the years?
Yes. When I was a little girl I morphed through a pink phase (like most girls) to a purple/lavender love that lasted many years. In my early 20s I had a definite red thing going on, which has changed more recently to the more red-purples or red-oranges.

3. Is your current favorite color one that is currently trendy? (Do you see it in the fashion rags or on the clothes rack or in the linen aisle right now? How about 5 years ago?)
Burgundies usually enjoy a brief time on the racks for autumn/winter lineups, but I don’t think it’s particularly fashionable.

4. What is your favorite color combination?
To wear — I’m not sure. My usual tactic is to pair a strong colour with a dark neutral (like a burgundy with black, or say a green with brown). For other things surrounding me, I love a rich red/dark green/goled yellow combination, like in this fox painting by Franz Marc.

5. Is that combination a popular one? (Is it use in prints you see in the stores and catalogs and magazines now? How about 5 years ago?)
Again, the colour combination I like really is found in a fair but of art and textiles, but not in the fashion world very much. (I’m sure it would make some great Fair Isle, though!)

6. What is your favorite way of using color in your knitting? (Are you a stranded knitter? Do you prefer simple stripes? Do you prefer just accents at the hems/collars?)
I really haven’t done very much colourwork knitting (stranded or intarsia), so most of the colour in my knitting comes from variegated/hand-painted yarns. Even for a single-colour piece (say a hat), I prefer yarns with a bit of colour interest, like heathering, tweed, or a semi-solid.

7. What colors look good on you?
Most jewel-tones or ‘saturated’ colours look good on me, as well as earth-tones (a warm brown especially), which I like very much. I also look very good in rose-pinks and bright turquoise/teals, which are colours I don’t automatically go for, but occasionally buy since they do work very well for me.

8. What colors look bad on you?
Yellows and bright greens, eww. Also I don’t do well in bright white, or black.

9. Do you wear colors that don’t look good on you just because you like them?
Black — I can’t get over how much of a mix-and-match staple it is, so even if I don’t look great in black shirts, I have many. I am similarly guilty for red, though many of my red pieces have been retired now.

10. What is your favorite neutral color? black/white/ivory/tan/brown/gray – if brown or gray do you prefer cool or warm versions of those or does it matter? And, how dark?
I look very good in darker browns, and I prefer the warmer tones. I am also fond of black and medium greys, but not fond of tans and ivories.

11. Is there a sweater pattern that uses more than one color that you’d like to make, but you wish to change the colors from what is published? If yes, which one? What do you not like about the published colors?
The Mirpoix Bodice from the latest IK is the kind of sweater I’d like to make, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t knit it up in the green shown, because I’m not sure I’d look very good in it.

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Filed under memes, spinning

DIY Drop-Spindle: fun with beads

A few days back I finally got around to making up some more drop-spindles. For all that I’m still in mourning for having no wheel, I am trying to move on! I really do enjoy spinning with spindle, as well as wheel (although there is a rhythm that one can fall into more serenely with a wheel, I believe), and no matter what I need to have something to spin on! And since I seem to keep giving away my spindles, it’s high time I made some more!

First off there’s this lightweight spindle, which I’ve come to think on affectionately as “Chinoiserie“. The jade ornament was found in a little shop in Chinatown, the bamboo/lacquer chopsticks likewise (in a 10-pack!). I think the grand total for materials cost was about $3.25.

red jade spindle

red jade close-up

There’s a bit of trickiness involved in making the two stay together: I used an x-acto knife to carve down the tip of the chopstick so that it would fit into the central hole in the jade, and then crazy-glued them for safe measures (I am contemplating getting better adhesive — epoxy? — for this sort of thing). The hook is an opened-up eye screw, carefully screwed into the bit of the spindle shaft that was whittled (so both end up going through the ornament’s central hole).

In actuality, this is Chinoiserie “mark 2”, the first having been given to Jodi (I think it might be blurrily featured in this photo) who, sometime known for wearing her hair up with chopsticks, was fairly pleased with this spindle’s construction. Stephanie was also fairly intrigued by my first Chinoiserie, mostly that I had gotten the two parts together; she even made me show it to (a very indulgent) Joe! On the first one, the jade had a design that, to me, looks like little sheep faces :)

Next up are two glass bead spindles:

2 glass bead spindles

I found the glass beads at Arton Beads, for about $2 each. While they are pretty, sparkley, and have a good whorl shape (round and disk-like), their central holes are rather large. My 1/4″ dowelling was too narrow, so I had to find something else for the spindle shaft.

The solution? Cheap paintbrush handles! With some applied force (aided by pliers) I was able to pull the brush-part off of otherwise nice, pre-varnished, tapered and turned wooden handles, just right for spindle shafts! You just need to sand down the part where the brush had been (in exactly the way I did not for the green spindle because I was too lazy), or make-pointy with a pencil-sharpener (as I actually did for the blue spindle). I am very pleased with these as spindle-shafts, and at about $1.25 per paintbrush I think they’re a great deal. Their slight bulge gives enough diameter that the glass whorl-beads don’t slip off; for each of these I’ve just jammed the bead on tightly from ‘above’, no adhesive. Which way is ‘above’ depends on if you’re wanting a high-whorl or low-whorl spindle!

blue low-whorl spindle
Low-whorl spindle; I chose to not add any hooks or notches.

green high-whorl spindle
High-whorl spindle; again, I used a simple eye-screw for the hook.

I don’t have an electric scale yet, so I can’t give accurate weights for any of these spindles, but I’d guess around 1-1.5oz each with Chinoiserie being lighter than the other two. Of the three, I am surprisingly fond of the blue low-whorl one, which spins fast and true. I am most definitely going to be scouring bead stores for future spindle-whorls!

As ever, if you make any spindles or whatnots inspired by my DIY efforts, drop me a line or link — I’d love to see what you’re making!

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Filed under crafting, DIY, drop-spindle, spinning

Knitty, just in time for fall

The new Autumn issue of Knitty is here!

Knitspot Anne’s beautiful Totally Autumn throw has me already thinking of yarns and slight mods (what would it look like as a wrap?), and Q is a very intriguing sock (at the very least I’ll be trying that heel elsewhere!).

For the spinners, there’s a good visual article on plying.

Go explore for yourself!

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Mad Colour Weave: Heel Maddness

So I broke down, and did in fact rip back the Black Purl sock back to the toe. Then I re-knit it with the proper zig-zagging twists — and I re-knit the heel — and I re-knit the eye-of-partridge heel flap — and then I ripped that out, having forgotten, once again, that stupid zig-zagging twist on the heel-flap! Once ripped, the heel was all knit again… only the twists didn’t quite line up the way they should. There was a period of most unladylike language and some cruel wielding of a crochet hook and eventually things were done properly.

Here is where it’s at now:
MCW sock, reknit
Apologies for the craptastic night-time photo.

It really just looks like it did in the last photo I posted of the sock, only, y’know, proper.

A close-up of what all the fuss has been about: a toe-up, gusseted, slipped-stich (eye-of-partridge) heel-flap, with the addition of the continuous zig-zag twist:
MCW heel close-up

In fact, this heel fits really well. I’m still not sure if that makes up for how many times I’ve knit the thing, but it does fit really well.

If I ever think that I can improve upon a beautiful-looking pattern again, or am trying to be stingy with my yarn, I’d like to think that I will remember the troubles I’ve been through with this sock. But I know I won’t — one skein of autumnal STR, to toes knit, the rest in a bag, awaiting the ‘perfect pattern’, says otherwise…

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Good Mail from my new Secret Pal

What did I find on my doorstep today, but a package from my SP11 pal!

sp11 envelope
I love getting Good Mail, and I always have fun opening these packages. Wouldn’t you?


sp11 package

Look what I was lucky to receive tonight! Craft Magazine, a ‘zine that looks right up my alley with it’s jack-of-all-trades melange of arts, crafts, and cobbling; some chocolate (always appreciated! I think that the frequent inclusion of chocolate treats helps Dru stay cool with my blog-swap addiction!); a Numi tea sample pack in a pretty bamboo box; and a skein of lovely Misti Alpaca worsted-weight in a beautiful autumnal hand-dye!
THANK YOU SECRET PAL!

misti alpaca worsted

Now, whatever shall I make from this? A new scarf for fall? Some fingerless mitts? What would you knit?

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Curse of the Black Purl

I love (lovelovelove) the Lorna’s Laces yarn I received from my Secret Pal (SP10). It is in the very colourway I had drooled over in Lettuce Knit, “Black Purl”, a delightful mix of charcoal, grey, lavender and amethyst, with a tiny hint of a greeny-grey.

I was so delighted to get it, I spend many an hour browsing around Ravelry, looking at sock patterns and seeing just what the yarn might “want to be”. I saw it had a tendency to pool in strange ways, but it could also just stripe or blend — something I prefer, and therefore would like to encourage in my own knitting. Eventually I hit upon the Mad Color Weave socks from Woolgathering, and thought that the cabled/slipped stitches would be perfect for breaking up the variegation in the yarn and highlighting the wonderful colours.

Of course, never one to take the easy route, I had to change things up a bit more. I prefer tall socks, and want to get every last inch out of this yarn, so I thought I’d knit these socks toe-up. I tried out Judy’s Magic Cast-On for the first time, and let me tell you, once you catch the trick of it, it really is a sweet cast-on!

MCW socks - toe

Well, since I’m doing these toe-up, and the new cast-on went so well, why not try a ‘proper’ heel, I thought to myself. Wendy has great instructions for various toe-up socks, including a gusseted-with-heel-flap version, and fortunately for me her numbers plug in near-perfectly with MCW. Problem is, with a top-down sock, you always know where to begin the heel, and then the gusset just flows along until it’s finished — you never really have to pay attention to it. With toe-ups, you really have to get the gusset started in the right place, or else you end up with a sock for someone with far longer feel than yourself….

MCW - gusset #1
One dpn indicates where the gusset was started, the other where the gusset *should* have started!

So, I ripped it back, having learned my lesson (or so I thought). I’m a process knitter, right? It’s not about having a finished product rightnow, and besides, if I was all about the product I’d want to have it perfect. Frogging completed, the gusset was begun much sooner on the sock than I initially thought was right (but it is), the sock was re-knit from that point on (again), and I even made good progress into heel-attempt-#2 at knitnight. Heck, I was even a bit of a show-off with my clever eye-of-partridge heel-flap (from the toe up!).

MCW - gusset #2
Looks good, right? But where is that twisted cable on the heel?…

Apparently I am labouring under the Curse of the Black Purl — two full rounds into the leg, I refer back to the pattern, and notice the lovely, clear, giant photo of this sock, complete with it’s clever cabled/slipped stitches and it’s elegant heel progression… which I have completely failed to knit.

Frogging will commence this evening as we drive to a friend’s farm for camping over the weekend. I expect to get a lot of knitting in, but who knows how many times I’ll knit this heel before I finish a sock!

ED:Oh hell –I just noticed that the twisted -stitch cable isn’t even a cabled rope like I thought, but a 2-stitch zig-zag! I’ll let you know after the weekend just how far I decide to rip back… I don’t think I can face it right now!

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