Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Vienna

My travels continue: today I'm off to Vienna for a medical conference. I hoped to have completed the second of the blue AY socks by now but stupidly, yesterday, I put the heel in entirely the wrong place. If you are wondering how this is possible, what I mean is that I knitted the cuff to the right length but then moved the stitches around on my circular needles far too soon, so that the 'seams' (the laddery bit where you change needles) were running down the front & back of the sock, instead of down the sides. Duh. I spent last night frogging the gusset, heel and heel flap, right back to the cuff. So, my plans for Vienna are to:
  • finish those blue socks, including sewing in the ends (that way, Josef, the recipient, can have them when I return to London)
  • restart another pair of socks if the blue ones get finished. In a recent post about WIPs, I showed you a picture of some delicious purple sock yarn by Angel Yarns. I planned to do a pattern from Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks - I now can't remember which pattern I had in mind, but I'm bringing the book to Vienna with me as well, so perhaps I'll remember.

When I return from Vienna, I'm then off to the States where it will be warmer than it is here in London. So my next dilemma will be what knitting to take Stateside. Needs to be enough to keep me busy but nothing too woolly, as we all know that hot weather = sweaty hands and that's not good for knitting wool. Maybe a couple of cotton sweaters?

I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Perugino: first sightings

Brighton - was OK. I got a little knitting done, and tons of work. I took the AY sky blue socks with me and now I'm into the cuff of Sock 2. Not quite the complete pair I was hoping for, but not bad progress nonetheless.

I had to wait until yesterday (Saturday) to play with Perugino. Here's the yarn:


Left to right:

  • Tagliatelli (90% merino, 10% nylon0) in Tapis;
  • Mohair (78% mohair, 13% wool, 9% nylon) in Tapis;
  • Giotto (50% cotton, 40%rayon & 10% nylon) in Windfall;
  • Mohair in Earth;
  • Giotto in Fruit Coulis;
  • Mohair in Frangipani.

I unpacked the yarn, wound it into balls and started knitting on Saturday morning - such fun! I've loads to say another time about:

  • my revised feelings about knitting kits
  • working with surprising colours you wouldn't have chosen
  • knitting with mohair for the first time

But all this can wait. For now, let's just say that the Colinette-supplied pattern is easy, the needles large and so the results are quick. Here's a glimpse of the perfectly lovely fabric that's coming off the needles:

Wow, if I say so myself.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Perugino kit arrived

Oh joy! I arrived at work to find my Perugino throw kit has arrived from Colinette! I am thrilled. Very, very tempted to take this with me to Brighton. Will post photos as soon as I'm able.

Travels

Folks, I am going travelling. I'll post as much as possible while I'm away. Fortunately, it's all short bursts of work. A few days at a time here and there (all over W.Europe and the US actually) punctuated by returns to London. The first of my short trips starts this evening: I'm off to a conference in Brighton.

Having finished the Elle socks, I have decided that the Brighton trip will be a good time to complete another pair of socks: the sky-blue Angel Yarns socks.


You might remember that I was complaining of these that I'd done the heel and gusset too loose. I've now fixed that problem so let's see if I can get the pair finished this week in Brighton. I will work hard and maybe I'll have photos of finished socks to show you at the weekend.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

FO: Elle blue lace socks

I am happy because I finished the blue lace socks in Elle Stretch DK. Before you admire the finished product, let's see an honest pic of the work in progress. Lordy lordy, these socks are full of mistakes.

Here's my favourite. I was about two-thirds of the way through the second sock, so nearly done. I had just picked up a bunch of stitches along the side of the heel flap, and then I started to work across the instep, keeping in pattern with those columns of lace. I had to fudge a couple of stiches to get two unbroken columns of lace running down the length of the instep. In other words, I had to fudge the pattern to get Sock 2 to look like Sock 1. I thought this was odd & didn't remember having to fudge it the first time round. I returned to Sock 1 and closely inspected its midsection. Here's what I found:


The yellow circle indicates where those two vertical columns of lace simply break contact. They are out by two whole stitches. I know exactly how this happened. Making these socks on two circular needles, by this stage in the knitting, the sock was arranged on the needles so I was looking at it side on. If you've ever knit a sock on two circs, you'll know that the gusset is the part of the game where you are looking at your sock in profile. And guess what - from that angle, the lace looks fine. It is only when examined front on that it suddenly becomes glaringly obvious.


After I discovered that, I took my foot off the brake. Rather than the careful knitting I do when it's posh yarn or gift knitting, I just ripped through the rest of the pattern at speed. I made mistakes with abandon. I fudged the lace and didn't tink. I still learned a whole lot about lace, and today I became the proud owner of a pair of finished socks. Ends sewn in, and everything. Who cares about the details when you have lurid blue knee-highs?

Indecision over Grandiflora

Here is how Grandiflora is coming along:

I'm sort of in two minds about what to do with this. As you'll recall, it's a shawl, knit in RYC Soft Lux, an aran-weight wool yarn. It's a lace pattern, not fantastically difficult, but then my total experience with lace prior to this was the Elle blue lace socks, finished this very day and described in the next post.

OK, so here's my problem with Grandiflora. Firstly, I think the tension on that bottom band of beige lace is noticeably tighter than it is on the second band of the same colour. It is tighter. Look.

That's bothered me ever since I knit the second beige stripe. I've been telling myself it'll block out, but then what if the difference in tension is still noticeable? It sort of bugs me but I was living with it until yesterday, when I screwed up a row of lace that is going to be a right pain to tink. Either one of these problems on its own I could live with and/or fix, but the combination of the two makes me very tempted to treat this piece as a practice run, frog it and start again.

I am pausing before making a decision because it is possible I am just being a quitter and looking for an excuse to put Grandiflora aside so I can work on something different.

The finished piece is 18 stripes, I think. I've knit four. If I re-knit from scratch then I've added around 20% to the project workload, but the whole item will ultimately be better, because I can make a point of keeping the tension even.

Maybe I'll try blocking this sample while it's still on the needles and see if the lace on the two beige stripes comes out the same size. If it does, we're in business.

Revealed: a rainbow spa sock

Now look at this:

Isn't that lovely. I just *knew* those orphan balls of Noro Kureyon and Silk Garden would come in handy for something. The button is hand-painted glass one by Laughing Hens.

When I saw the spa socks in Vogue Knit 1 magazine (Spring 07 issue), I cast on straight away, with not a thought for my other WIPs languishing in plastic bags. A couple of days later, having fit in some knitting around work, we have this beauty. I am so happy.

I love the button-up, moss-stitch ankle band, that's what really sold this design to me. Because the band and the button I wanted to use are both quite heavy, it seemed as though the sock needed a bit of structure to its bottom part too, to balance it out. I bought a pair of shoe in-soles, in my size. In the picture you see here, the in-sole is just resting inside the sock, rounding it out and giving it a distinct sole and outline. I notice that the in-sole has tiny holes punched all around the edge, so I might actually sew the sole to the sock.

While this seems like a good plan, in turn it makes me wonder what will happen to the outside, undersole of the sock if I stitch an in-sole to the inside. Is the yarn going to break and need darning straight away because of the extra pressure on it from the in-sole? Or will it be OK? After all, it's a sock and designed to be walked on. Maybe I could fix some sort of outer-sole to the outside?

It was while pondering these issues that I begun to grasp the point of felting.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Spa socks: preview

Look at this:

Just how cute are these socks? Discuss.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hooray! I'm going to make a Perugino throw.

Oh, hurrah, I am happy.
I owe my friend Justine a wedding present, and between us we've decided that a Perugino throw would be just the ticket. She chose this colourway, named Charade:

I have been wanting to make one of these for a while, but was resisting my yarn hunger because of trying to be on a yarn diet. Now Justine has provided a great solution: make it as a gift. I have ordered the yarn with a clear conscience, knowing that this is wedding present money I'm spending, not 'ordinary money' that ought be allocated elsewhere, like paying off bills. I'm so excited! Can't wait to start knitting!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

FO: Red cashmere socks

Here's a Finished Object: pair of red Beaded Rib socks for Justine.

You might have noticed a glimpse of these in recent posts: they are one of the three pairs of socks on which I sewed in the ends the other day, after doing the same on the big baby blanket.

Here's the story:

Yarn: This is Lucia by Posh Yarns, in Pillar Box red. Lucia is 70% merino, 30% cashmere, so it's hand wash only. So soft and yummy, and it's a really true red.

Pattern: From the immortal Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch. If you have a copy, it's the Beaded Rib five-stitch pattern on page 39. The pictured socks are all beautifully blocked; I didn't block mine, mainly to preserve the maximum possible elasticity in the ribbing. I'm very pleased with the way they turned out: they're stretchy and very, very soft.

The sock was knitted toe-up: my first try at that particular technique. The toe and the heel are constructed alike, using short rows with a lot of 'wrap and turn' and a lot of stitch markers. I think of myself as a good knitter and I was surprised and frustrated at how easy it is to lose your place - the stitch markers, which I normally regard as helpful little souls, just compounded the problem. I eventually solved it by charting each row. The line-by-line instructions defeated me and I started the first sock about 8 times before eventually charting. I'm only used to charting for colour work, so it seemed odd to go to all that trouble just for the sake of a bit of shaping, but guess what - with the chart at hand, I finally produced a good-looking toe and it was relatively plain sailing from there.

Most of the actual knitting was done ages ago, last summer, and the socks then sat in my finishing basket for months before having the ends sewn in. They were destined for Justine, to commemorate the publication of her short story in a real book: Tales of the Decongested (it's for sale on Amazon). It's a delightful story about her grandfather who was a travelling sock salesman. As an avid sock knitter, I could imagine the lustrous yarny treasure in his salesman's suitcase. I wanted to make Justine some socks of the type he might have sold, and I knew she'd ask for a bright, clear cherry red. I don't see Justine very often so I knew I had lots of time to sew in the ends.

I finally saw Justine the other night, and gave her a finished, gift-wrapped pair of hand-knit red socks. She padded around in them in her kitchen, looking adorable. Sorry it took so long, Justine!

Work: that thing you have to do to pay for yarn

Well, Miles had his baby blanket and was pleased (as pleased as any non-knitting man is going to be with a baby blanket). He said his wife liked it too, so that's good.

Currently: I've made a tiny amount of progress on Grandiflora. I've also made a bit more progress on Sock 2 of the Elle blue lace socks.

The last few days, including this weekend, have not been good for knitting. Work is intense right now, and is going to stay that way for the next 14 weeks, according to my diary. I'm having to work at the weekends. When I'm home in the evenings, I'm so exhausted I can't even do the simple lace on the socks, never mind the shawl. Counting to 10 defeats me.

Being a bit starved of actual knitting, and feeling a bit sorry for myself about my workload, I find myself craving new yarn, by way of compensation. Must resist! New yarn is a joy, but there is no point accumulating yarn if there's no time to knit it. So for now, I'm still on the yarn diet.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

FO: Vogue stripy baby blanket

The blanket is blocked, dry and gift-wrapped. Here are the last couple of photos.




Monday, March 05, 2007

Yarn hunger

I am on a yarn diet until I've paid off some of the balance on my poor, over-tired credit cards. I really can't feel sorry for myself as I've a ton of stash to knit with *and* some beautiful yarn and pattern books on order that I'm waiting to be delivered.

Nevertheless, the insatiable yarn demon makes me hungry for more. So, instead of impulsively shopping for yarn, I'm going to compile myself a wish list of desiderata. I'm in the Stash & UFO Bustalong over at http://bustalong.blogspot.com/ and members there have pledged not to buy more yarn until April 15th, so I'm going to try very hard to stay on the wagon until then. I hope that the wish list will help to stave off my yarn hunger in the meantime.

THE WISH LIST

Item no 1: Colinette Giotto. This is a sexy, luscious, ribbon yarn. I am lucky enough to have quite a bit of this in my stash, in crimson. It's intended to make a dressy jacket from the Colinette Femme Fatale pattern book. You would think this would be enough to satisfy me, but now there is a gorgeous child's cardigan in this month's Knit Today magazine, made in pink and vanilla ice-creamy shades of Giotto:

I really want to make it, and I'm coveting the yarn so much my mouth waters. My yarn diet is not helped by the fact that there's an offer in Knit Today: if you buy 4 hanks of Giotto, you get the children's Jelly All Stars pattern book. This is going to be hard to resist. I wonder if I could get Josef to stump up some of the cost of the yarn for Mother's Day?

Item no 2: Hip Knits Pure Silk, aran weight.


I don't know why I'm craving this so badly when I have a treasure chest of silk by Tilli Tomas in the stash. I just know I want it. There is not even a special offer attached or anything. This can definitely wait unti I'm off the yarn diet.

Item no 3: More Colinette. I want one of their kits to make a Perugino throw.

My colleague has shown an interest in me knitting her a shawl, so perhaps I can split the cost with her. If I do that, there's no need for me to order anything before April 15th, as it will take me until then to finish my Grandiflora shawl, which needs to be finished before I start another.

Item no 4: RYC Soft Lux. I have this in three shades already. I'm knitting the Grandiflora shawl in creamy beige and a light grey-blue. I also have stash in a slightly truer blue that I'm going to use for a cable hoodie. It's just that I am craving the pink shade as well.

I've a pink cardigan that I love but which is old and tatty after years of wear. I keep thinking: if I had some Soft Lux in pink I could make a new one, maybe even nicer than the original. The yarn demon in my head keeps reminding me that Soft Lux is discontinued now, so when it's gone, it's gone. Lord help me, this reasoning was what led to my accumulating the world's largest collection of Rowan Cotton Tape last year!
xxxxxx
I will add more items as I think of them. It will be interesting to see which ones I'm still hungry for in 5 or 6 weeks time!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Strings!

Remember the baby blanket that wouldn't lie flat?

I knew it would have to be reblocked, and that it would be a long job, so I left it for Saturday in the end. On Friday I was querying about what to do on the super-helpful knitting forum over at Angel Yarns and my friends there gave me an excellent tip about drying blankets. The tip went: thread a long string through the edges of the blanket, pull taut and leave to dry, giving a nice, crisp edge.

Now, the thought of a nice, crisp edge appealed to me. Looking at the blanket with its many stripes and cubes, with not one crisp edge amongst them, I made a slightly crazy decision: I would run strings through the entire blanket, vertically and horizontally. Wherever a stripe appeared, or the edge of a cube, a string would run through to neaten it up. I also hoped that creating a kind of grid of strings for the wet blanket to sit on would help me flatten down all the excess fabric that seemed to have appeared in the middle.

So - yesterday (Sat.), I ran strings through the blanket. It took a VERY long tme and there wasn't much of Saturday left by the time I'd finished stringing. I laid it out nice and tight on a piece of board with lines to show where the strings needed to hang. Then I used my fingers to press down all the bumpy bits and went to bed. Came back to look at it this morning to find it worked!

It is still not the flattest piece of knitting I've ever produced, but it's a miraculous improvement. Here are the pics.



Would I use this method again? I would have to think twice before doing a whole blanket. It was a laborious process putting all the threads through. But it did do the job I wanted this time, and I will definitely use it again in future for achieving sharp outside edges on things.
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Me, I'm just glad it's finally a Finished Object. It looks good enough to make me happy and now I can go back to my Grandiflora shawl (*don't* want to think about what fun that will be to block!). We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
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Today's motto: the larger the surface area of a knitted object, the longer it will take to pin or string out and block. This is true even if the design of the fabric is deceptively simple.