Sunday, December 23, 2007

Basil: Live Model

Readers, as promised, some Live Model shots of my newly completed Basil sweater, in Rowan Summer Tweed.. ....

I added some extra length to the body of this sweater, which worked out perfectly. I also added some length to the sleeves, which turned out to be excessive, so I'm just going to roll the cuffs back and call it a design feature.
I'm very pleased with how this turned out, it's a comfortable fit without being too baggy and I still love the colour. You may recall that I sloshed some hair conditioner in the blocking water to soften it up a bit, and that certainly had the desired effect, it's positively silky now.
In other news, I have just barely finished Cal's pink socks. They still need to have their ends weaved in and be blocked, but the actual knitting is done. I'm now half way through a miniature pair for little Clara. I have until the 27th to get them done, so I'm optimistic.
Beelzebub will be knitting as much as possible over the festive period and I look forward to bringing you photos soon. Until next time, bah humbug and go easy on the sherry.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Knitting Resolutions 2008

Readers, I am already thinking about New Year Resolutions, since 2007 is about to expire. Last year I had no Knitting Resolutions because I just hadn’t been a serious Knitter long enough to aspire to anything apart from ‘stash!’ and ‘knit more’. However, this year, after 12 months of near-continous stashing, knitting, planning & project queueing, I am not short of things that need to be Resolved. Here they are.
  • Finish Green Silk Happiness (StitchDiva Simple Knitted Bodice), which has to be started from scratch for the third time because I just can’t get the sizing right. I seem to be permanently under the impression that I am 4 sizes larger than I really am. I am not going to let this garment beat me though, and I have the idea that when I finally get it right I’m going to know all I’ll ever need to know about how to make a top-down, raglan sweater that fits me.
  • Prioritise and think more carefully about what’s in my queue before starting a new project. I have dozens of patterns that I want to knit, and the yarn to knit them with. As we all know, it takes only a minute to impulsively choose and cast on for a new project, and about half a lifetime to finish it. Which means that often I spend ages knitting things which I like but are not actually top of my wish list, while other queued projects, which I really want to knit, get left sitting in the queue for months on end. So, in 2008, before starting something new, I’m going to think harder about what I most want to make next.
  • Cut right back on the yarn stashing, do as many stash-busting projects as possible and only buy new yarn if I really need it for some designated project. Do not buy carrier bags full of yarn just because it is on sale. In fact, do not go to yarn sales. The one exception I will make is the annual Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. That was the one, solitary occasion this year when I felt like I had not bought enough yarn – I will certainly correct that error next year!
  • Actually use some of the new information that has come my way this year. Eg, thanks to and Lucy Neatby’s utterly wonderful series of DVDs, I am now surrounded by visual resources that will teach me to knit Continental style, cast off more efficiently and do three-needle bind-offs – if only I paid attention. So this coming year, I hereby resolve to look up and use the resources around me, rather than just sticking with the familiar old techniques that I already know.
  • Do something about the Beelzebub Knits knitwear collection, which right now has barely progressed past the illustration stage. I have very nice drawings of 9 sweaters and they just need me to dedicate some proper time to them so that I write up functioning patterns and knit a sample garment for each.
  • Find a suitable use for the 2 kilos of pink and orange acrylic that my darling son thoughtfully bought for me last birthday. I don’t want him to get discouraged and stop buying me yarn! Make said project before my next birthday rolls around in August, to encourage him & keep him from wondering if I don’t really like yarn after all. Also, ahead of next birthday, give the poor boy some tips about what knitters like to knit with (as opposed to what LYSs like to sell).
OK, I had better stop there, otherwise I’ll get totally overwhelmed and do none of them. How about you? What do you hope for from your knitting in 2008?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

FO Photoshoot: Perugino II & Basil Portraits

It's time for some knitting p0rn; Perugino II and Basil are all blocked, finished & stitched into place and are ready for their final photo-call.

First, the majestic Perugino II, draped artfully on cushions & such.

Basil is finished - and guess what, readers, so keen was I to do a lovely job on this sweater that I actually took out the iron, got myself a damp tea-towel and pressed those seams, just like they tell you on page 15. It's looking so gorgeous now, there on the hanger, that I am actually scared to try it on in case it doesn't fit.

Now, I must confess that I have started a new pair of socks. Yes, another pair. I've been feeling very virtuous as a result of the discipline of NOvember, which helped me complete the above FOs, but kept me from knitting any new socks. I've therefore rewarded myself with a flirty treat of a sock project that combines three magical elements in one. Here are the three magic ingredients:
  1. Jaywalker sock pattern by Grumperina (is here). This pattern from Sep 2005 is still sweeping the knitting world like wildfire and I can't believe I haven't yet expressed it in yarn. Now is the time.
  2. Short, wooden, 2.5mm DPNs. These little, wooden needles are light, warm and delicate. They're only 5" long instead of the usual 6", so there's no excess needle sticking out all over your knitting. I picked up these Brittany needles at the recent Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace and I've been waiting for a chance to use them ever since.
  3. Regia Silk Color yarn. They've been raving about this on the Angel Yarns forum and I had to try it. Pure silk is not great for socks (no memory, for a start) but Regia Silk is 55% merino, 25% polyamide & 20% silk so it has all the functional properties of sock yarn but feels totally luxurious.

    Yum yum.

And finally, the Pink Lana Grossa Socks are making great progress. The first sock is done already. I knit half while commuting since the start of the month, and the other half in a single evening on Friday. I'm planning to make the second sock as quickly as possible so I can give the pair to Cal, whose birthday it was the other day. I'm going to have yarn left over so I plan to make a miniature pair for little Clara at the same time. Does anyone know how many inches long the feet of a child aged 15 months should be?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Joy! Knitpicks Harmony Needles

I am at work on an average Friday morning (average meaning both busy and somewhat stressful). But this particular Friday morning I am breathless with joy because an exciting and long-awaited parcel has just arrived at my office. I'm now the proud owner of some of these:

Here's a close-up of the tips:

And I have the DPN set too!

They are, of course, the indescribably beautiful Knitpicks Harmony needles, which have just become available in the UK and were ordered from that much-loved British retailer Get Knitted.
I believe this might be the solution to the inertia I've been feeling lately regarding my Green Silk Happiness (StitchDiva Simple Knitted Bodice). I had kind of lost faith in it a bit but I'm hoping these gorgeous new Options needles will give it a kick up the bum. Now I can't wait for home time so I can go play with my new sticks!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Blocking Report

Dudes, I am having a lousy weekend. I am ploughing my way through mountains of work here, while attempting to fight off a headache (not that easy when you are glued to your computer screen). Because I am tied to my desk, I am actually surprised how much blocking I managed to get done yesterday. Here's a progress report.

Perugino II
Is finally blocked. This is the sort of thing you can easily do in between video editing. Capture video, put in a few pins. Save the file for processing, put in a few pins. Render the finished movie, spritz with water. In reality, it took a much longer time than I'm implying, but hey, I managed to fit it in around work so who's complaining?

Basil is blocked too. Having put in something like 14 hours' work yesterday, I did not bother pulling out the ironing board. I just immersed Basil in water and put in a few pins at the same time as editing the video, same as Perugino. I do feel I've wimped out a bit there and will definitely try the pressing method next time. Anyway, it's blocked, and as soon as it's dry I'll sew it up.

The Central Park Hoodie is not behaving itself and is in the naughty corner. To look at the back, you'd think I'd made quite a lot of progress.

Unfortunately, this photo doesn't reveal that fact that when I looked at what I'd accomplished, I discovered no fewer than four mistakes. Mostly pairs of purl stitches put in where knit stitches should have been instead. Initially, I was not daunted. I thought I knew the solution. In each place where I'd made a mistake, I dropped those stitches, let them run back to the mistake, and then picked them up again with a crochet hook. Sounds perfectly sensible, right? Unfortunately, in doing that, I seem to have totally wrecked my gauge and I don't know if any amount of blocking is going to fix it. So it is in the naughty corner until I've worked out what to do about it.
Finally, Green Silk Happiness, aka the Simple Knitted Bodice. This one is in the doldrums too, and I don't know which to rescue first, this or the CPH. Basically, I think I've knitted it too loose. Yes, again. I think it needs to come down one more size, especially with all I've been reading lately about how silk garments 'grow' with wear. I keep looking at the pics of other people's successful SKBs (and some less successful ones too) and I can see that if you get it right it's the sexiest little top ever, but if you get it even a fraction too large, it looks like a sack. So I don't know what to do. I might have to completely restart it in the smallest size. This isn't a very cheering thought, especially as I think silk doesn't really like being frogged, especially the sequinned stuff.
So there you are, that leaves me wondering what to knit next! Perugino II and Basil are all wet and my socks are strictly for travelling, so I have to choose between the pink hoodie and the green silk top, neither of which are behaving themselves. Maybe I'll just do some work for a while and think on it.
PS, in answer to a couple of recent comments:
  • Kay, thanks for your compliments on the rose needles and stitch markers. They are from Knitz & Glitz here in the UK. The yarn is indeed Rowan Soft Lux.
  • I can't remember who was asking me about Summer Tweed (Basil). I'm liking Summer Tweed. It sure is an unusual texture and feels a bit like string when you have it OTN. Which is actually good for knitting without looking, I find, because the stitches are so easy to feel. I was a tad concerned about wearability so I sloshed a good bit of hair conditioner in the blocking water. I'll let you know how it feels when it's dry, but I'm hoping for soft results. It worked on my Noro scarf, after all.
  • Susan, I have no idea what I'm going to do with 8.5 kilos of mostly vintage acrylic. If you have any suggestions ....

Until next time, folks.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Blocking Avoidance

OK, I admit it, I am avoiding blocking. I have not blocked Basil and I have not blocked Perugino II. I've thought deeply about why, and its relationship to my avoidance of the iron, but since Perugino II requires no ironing, I am obliged to put it down to a bad case of Can't Be Arsed. Bending over things with pins, for hours. It's all too much work. I'll do it at the weekend, I promise.

I avoided mentioning it up to now because you guys are giving me helpful support and advice about blocking and I am listening and I am going to use it. I didn't want you to think I was taking no notice. But it's now Tuesday and I can't go on pretending I spent the weekend blocking when I really didn't. So let me tell you what I've been doing instead.

Perugino II

I didn't block, but in my defence I did make all 23 tassels. Here they are, strung to the ever-versatile Knitting Tree.

Next, I set to work on the Central Park Hoodie, in Barbie pink. The campest hoodie ever. I've made both sleeves now, and what you see here is the ribbing at the start of the back.

Pink Lana Grossa Socks

I could exist no longer without a travelling sock. It was killing me. I found myself stalking my sock yarn. NOvember has been wonderful for kick-starting my various WIPs but while working on all those projects I've been without socks for a month now and I NEED some. So I cast on these, which will be plain vanilla socks strictly for knitting when travelling.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

PRESS, as described on p.15.

Beelzebub is scared of irons.

Having successfully shielded myself from housework for most of my life, I have no clue how our iron works (it is joined by quite a long list of appliances that I don't know how to use, including the cooker and the central heating).

Because of this, I normally go for full-on wet blocking when I've finished an item. Get it wet, pin it out, leave to dry. However, this weekend we're going to do things differently. As you know, I've just finished knitting both Perugino II and my Basil sweater. Perugino is going to need traditional wet blocking (OK, maybe damp rather than wet) and it's big. It needs lots of space. If I'm going to block Basil at the same time, we'll have to find a method that doesn't involve it sitting around for hours all wet, taking up space. In other words, for the first time, I'm about to follow that common instruction, "PRESS, as described on p.15".

Let's see what's involved.

Darn in all ends neatly. Yeah, right. We'll leave most of those ends swinging free, thank you. They will come in handy for seam-sewing later.

Block out each piece of knitting using pins. What, on the ironing board? I don't think it's going to be big enough. Perhaps I can improvise an ironing board with something laid out on the floor.

Gently press each piece, using a warm iron over a damp cloth. And that's the scary part. How gentle is 'gently'? How warm is 'warm'? How long to press for? And what are the risks attached if I get the temperature too high? Better have a look at the ball band ... which says 'use a damp pressing cloth'.

All right, let's give it a try. Piccies soon.