Sunday, 30 September 2007

Did you eat my knitting?

This portly cone has a confession to make. The Danish Nattrojer is now no more than a spare tyre around the midriff from whence it came. When I posted the project as a stuck work in progress the option to unravel was not in my thoughts. However, I have several good friends who are prepared to plant the unthinkable in a girl's mind. At first I felt quite crushed, but then it seemed the obvious thing to do. The pattern was frustrating me and whilst the fabric is lovely and wholesome it's not really meant for wearing against the skin. I'm sure the Interweave model was thrilled to take the thing off so that she could have a jolly good scratch...
I haven't abandoned the idea of this pattern altogether. I have some Knitpicks Gloss in a lovely chocolate brown that I bought to make another Thermal from Knitty but this might be a better use for it and the yarn is certainly next to the skin soft.
For now, this gansey wool will go back into the stash to return in a project that appreciates its virtues.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

This, that and a big thank you!

First of all, a big thank you to everyone for their kind words about the Bracket Fungus sock pattern and a special thank you to Natalie for telling so many people about it and to Lixie for giving it a mention in her podcast! There is a link to the podcast in my sidebar. Do go and have a listen, she has lots of interesting knitting news and some intro music that particularly speaks to my love of cheesy 70s funk.

So far, an incredible 119 downloads have been made. N and I had a small bet on how many downloads there would be before the end of September. Suffice to say I have already been well and truly spanked (or gubbed as she would say!) Lots of people have put the pattern in their queue on Ravelry. It will be lovely to see if any different interpretations get posted over the next few weeks. But enough of Fungal matters...

I have spun my first bobbin of the merino silk and am really loving the way that it is coming out. I have ordered another 200g of the roving as I have decided that I would like to try a version of the Lady Eleanor entrelac wrap from Scarf Style. I have started and abandoned several versions of this beautiful project as I just haven't been able to find the right yarn for it. Many people have used Noro silk garden but I just found the colour repeats too long to give a nice distribution of colour across the piece. Having really got to grips with entrelac by making the Eunny Jang socks I have decided to give it another go. It will be good to have a slightly more substantial spinning project to get my teeth into.

Sock knitting has also continued unabated. The first Queens of the Night sock is finished. If I decide to write this pattern up I will have to make some changes to the 'flower rows' as the offsetting of every other row doesn't work without a certain amount of fudging when I get into working it in the round for the cuff. It looks fine but I would have a dreadful job trying to describe what I had done on paper!

Finally, I have been trying really hard to control my yarn buying habits but I fell off the wagon momentarily here.. This is a skein of Fiesta Boomerang in the Misty Morning colourway which is so boingy and soft that it may have to be mitts instead of socks and some merino from The Knittery in an absolutely beautiful colour called Wild Orchid. Who could fail to look forward to autumn when surrounded by colours like this?

Stay tuned for shock news about a certain unfinished project...

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Fungal growth

The Bracket Fungus sock pattern has now been tested and amended and can be downloaded free of charge by following the link in my sidebar. If anyone has any questions or queries please let me know and I will be happy to help. I'd also be really pleased to see your own versions, should you decide to have a go. Here is a link to the pair made by Purlpirate. Aren't they pretty? I'm really grateful for the test knitting and all the helpful suggestions for making the pattern clearer.

That's it. Enjoy!

Monday, 24 September 2007

Coming clean

A friend commented the other day that I had a laudably brief list of work in progress in my side bar. Today I had a bit of a rummage in my knitting basket and came up with a couple of buried treasures....

Exhibit A: Austrian Knee Socks from Sock, Socks, Socks. I started these as a challenge to myself as they involve about 7 different twisted stitch patterns all repeating over a different number of rows on 2mm needles. Never mind a challenge - I must have wanted my head examined! I think I have stalled on them for a couple of reasons; firstly, I discovered that I had reversed one of the patterns right at the beginning of the sock - far too far back to consider ripping them back. I didn't think imperfections bothered me but the wind went right out of my sails. Secondly, I have realised that I am as much of a product knitter as a process knitter as I can't seem to fix in my head a vision of them finished which is also somehow preventing me from returning to the needles.

Exhibit B: Alongside my languishing socks I found this, a jumper based on a Danish ladies' undershirt knit on 2.5mm needles in gansey wool with an all over pattern of Scandinavian stars in reverse stocking stitch. Now I am not necessarily daunted by large projects on small needles but all was going marvellously until I found that I had lost my way in the pattern. Not something to do on 350 stitches in the round. I know that I just need to take back a couple of rows until the pattern is straight again but once again,I have lost my momentum and put it to one side.

I have now posted these two projects here and on my Ravelry space as a way of character building. It's not enough to set out on terribly complicated projects only to give up at a point where it would be a real shame to tear out some pretty good knitting. I can't promise that they will be finished in the foreseeable future but I am going to press on with them. Do me a favour - ask me how they are going now and then please!

Finally, just to prove that I am capable of finishing something - here are the Meida's socks, all done!

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Strutting her stuff

You have to admit.... this is one blousy trollop of a sock.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Queens of the Night

When I was exploring the lanes and passages of Medieval hill towns in Italy I noticed how people would brighten their balconies and doorways with vibrant, flowering plants. One in particular stayed in my mind as I was entranced by the way that from the same plant were growing pink flowers, yellow flowers and many which were both pink and yellow in harlequin style. I was told that they were known as Queens of the Night.

Imagine my surprise and delight to come home and discover the colours of this month's Yarn Yard club yarn. There was nothing else for it but to try and concoct a sock which reminded me of these brazen blooms.

I can promise that these socks will be no shrinking violets, they are out, loud and proud. Just right with your perspex pole dancing shoes.... anyone?

Moving swiftly on...

I realised with some alarm that I had nothing on my bobbins and my wheel was looking abandoned so I consulted the fibre stash (yes, I have amassed a respectable one already) and decided on this Lisa Souza merino silk 50/50 blend which had a wonderful sheen. This time it has been blended before dying so I am splitting it into finger sized strips and spinning them end to end to get short colour repeats as I am planning a shawl or scarf which doesn't really need to stripe - so far it feels gorgeous.

And finally, as promised, my one knitting related holiday purchase - two genuine Italian darning needles!

Friday, 14 September 2007

Back from La Bella Italia

Well, here I am, back from Italy, replete with beautiful images and warm sunshine. Thanks to my generous and knowledgeable host, Juergen and his inexhaustible and utterly lovable border collie, Effi, I will be spending many happy hours reliving the beautiful things I have seen whether they be in the hectic splendour of Rome or the fertile solitude of an Umbrian olive grove.

I was, of course, wildy ambitious concerning the amount of knitting that I would accomplish but there was opportunity enough to make some reasonable progress. Here are Meida's socks, a whisker or two from completion and a joy to knit from start to nearly finished.

However, this project is the one that I am most proud of - one completed St Kilda Gelato Mitt in my own hand spun from the Yarn Yard blue faced Leicester roving. I can definitely see more mitts such as this in my life as autumn draws nearer. Not only are they rather pretty and lacy but I also find that they are perfect for a fidget like me to keep her hands warm as they don't have to be pulled on and off to hunt for my bus ticket, purse or phone. They are also wonderful for that skein of sock yarn that is just too beautiful to hide inside shoes.

I like to make them good and long to cut out any icy blasts running up the sleeve and to give them a proper thumb to ensure a good fit. Close observers may notice that I have used the same stitch pattern as for my Cornish scallop socks as I wanted to give some movement to the colour changes and was just too impatient to see if the idea worked to memorise another stitch pattern!

The BFL yarn has knitted up beautifully and whilst there is room for improvement in my spinning technique the yarn is a very even gauge and has even fallen into some discernible stripes. I have noticed, however that there is a slight tendency for the fabric to bias which I am assuming means that the yarn isn't quite balanced. If any experienced spinners out there have any advice on avoiding this I would be very grateful.

Finally, my fibre obsession is such that even when it comes to holiday photos I am thinking about what might inspire my winter knitting when all about is a bit drab and grim. Here are a couple of photos from my Italian home for the week. I will be on the look out for sock yarn which reminds me of these.

A selection of what can be gleaned from an Italian orchard in late summer.

Fresh figs straight from the tree.

Next time I will reveal my only knitting related purchase from the trip...

Friday, 7 September 2007

Handspun Gelato

In the St Kilda suburb of Melbourne is a shop that sells some of the best gelati I have ever tasted. One of my favourite flavours is black cherry with its deep fruity punch swirled into the refreshing milky ice. Here is the Yarn Yard Blue Faced Leicester Roving plied and ready for setting. The way the dark and light pinks and shots of deep brown swirl together remind me of evenings strolling along the seafront, past Luna Park to the gelateria for sugary cones piled high with this glorious confection.

Tomorrow morning I fly to Italy for a week of exploring atmospheric ancient cities and relaxing in my friend's olive grove. My yarn will be coming with me - who knows what it will become but whatever that is will have a double dose of Italian sunshine knitted into it to bring home with me and take me through the turn of the year.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

A wander round my knitting bag

Here is the merino silk that I have now plied and set. Spinning this was a completely different experience to natural and hand painted rovings that I have used so far as the colours and fibres were combed together. I think I was concentrating so hard on getting the fibres blended that I didn't think so much about the colours so I was worried that it would come out a bit sludgy and over blended but in the end I am pleased with the result, the original colours still shine through but it has a good unity. I am also pleased that I seem to have stopped over spinning and over plying as when I removed the skein from the niddy noddy it didn't curl round on itself as my previous skeins have done. I believe that this is the reason for the best thing about this yarn, it is wonderfully, unbelievably soft which must have something to do with the fact that I haven't twisted the life out of it.

This gratuitous detail shot shows how the colours have blended but haven't been completely lost. Thanks to a strike on the London Underground I spent a lot of time on the bus today. I like to look on the positive side of things and am delighted to say that I made loads of progress on Meida's socks. They really are a fabulous pattern.I have learnt loads of little tips and tricks from the pretty chequerboard heel that works so well with a hand paint I will be recycling the idea in future socks I am sure to the way that the number of leg stitches is larger than the foot to ensure there is balance between the heavily patterned leg and the plainer foot - it's a real pleasure to work on. These are likely to turn into house socks as they are very thick. I could have probably got away with a finer yarn. Although the pattern calls for a heavier weight, it is in cotton which is denser and less springy than the merino that I am using which makes it feel a more filled out fabric.

Finally, I have been reviewing the WIPs in my sidebar and wanted to reassure myself that they are still all active. Here is a picture of progress to date on Thermal. Believe it or not, since the last photo I have knitted loads onto it but it is a long term project. I look at the finished versions on Ravelry and marvel at the commitment and speed that produced them. One stitch at a time...

Monday, 3 September 2007

A perfect Saturday

This Saturday I had one of those rare and precious times. A whole day when I could potter around the house and garden quite undisturbed, tackling a few tasks which needed doing but mostly spending time with my knitting and spinning.

I have been concentrating on my embryonic designing recently but having finished a couple of projects it was time to step back and learn from the experts. I have had the new Interweave Favourite Socks book for some time and have often leafed through it, marking out my favourites for tackling one of these days. This time, however, I knew I wanted to use one of the yarns I had just bought from Posh Yarns - Helena, a lovely organic merino which is heavier than the usual sock yarn. Whilst it is a hand paint the variation isn't too strong so I thought it would carry a pattern reasonably well. Going through the book with this in mind, my choice was more limited but Meida's Socks by Nancy Bush used a yarn of similar weight. I have overlooked these socks almost every time I have looked at the book as white cotton lacy ankle socks do not appeal to me. However, on closer inspection the stitch pattern is really interesting.

One of the other joys of knitting socks designed by an expert is that there is always something new to learn, maybe a different cast on or shaping technique. This sock promises a new heel flap pattern and the chance to learn Estonian cables without the cable needle! Only dedicated sock knitters will find this exciting...

I took this photo after the first pattern repeat just because I liked the shape that the undulating edge made inside the framework of the needles as well as the way the colours work with each other. There is a particular shade of dense, velvety red that really stands out and gives me a tiny jolt of pleasure every time it falls under the needle - I fear I really am becoming a little odd...

I also managed to finish plying the merino silk that was on my bobbin and am preparing to spin this beautiful inaugural roving from the Yarn Yard Fibre Club. There are two 100g plus plaits here. I am planning to split the rovings in one plait down to give me short colour repeats and to spin the other with long repeats just to see how different they look. I started off thinking that the short repeating yarn was going to be socks but now I think it may be mitts or wrist warmers - any excuse for some fun with the stitch dictionaries.