Saturday, December 27, 2008

Grandiflora, complete

Grandiflora is complete, and not a moment before time. Joe has just set off for Birmingham with a massive bag containing this, amongst other things, for my mother. My camera broke this morning and the sun refused to shine but despite this I managed to get some quite nice shots using my phone. Here they are.

Happy birthday Mom. I'm sorry I can't be there to give this to you in person. I hope you like it. Lots of love, Beelzy.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mason Dixon ballband cloths: a love song

Look. 20 Mason Dixon cloths. With handmade soap, that co-ordinates perfectly, by some miracle. I am overjoyed.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Why I love Phildar

While Grandiflora languishes in the finishing basket (blocked, but no tassels made yet), there has been a frenzy of Mason-Dixon cloth-making here at Chez Beelzebub. I'm going to make 20 (don't ask me why, it just seemed like a good number - I thought I'd need quite a lot to have a proper play with colour) and I've just finished the fourteenth. I'll take some photos when the 20th one is off the needles - they will look spectacular all together. Let's hope for a spot of winter sun the day I get the camera out. Until then, I'm not showing you anything :p

The MD cloths are made in the prescribed yarn of Elmore Pisgah Peaches'n'Creme 100% cotton. While cotton can be hard on a knitter's hands, the brilliant colours that can be achieved bring me back to cotton and cotton blends time and time again. I can appreciate subtle. I can appreciate a dusty cornflower blue or a soft sage green as much as the next knitter. But the colours that really make me need to knit are the brilliant ones: peacock blue, fuschia, scarlet, fiery orange, zingy lime green, sunshine yellow, royal purple. Oooh yeah. It makes my knitting fingers twitch just thinking about it.

And that is why I love Phildar. They perfectly understand my interest in mouthwatering, nearly painfully brilliant colours expressed in interesting, fresh, fashionable shapes. I am not going to knit a classic Debbie-Bliss-meets-the-Queen cabled pullover in electric blue. You need a more youthful, and probably simpler, design to carry very bold colour. When I saw the Phildar women's catalogue for Summer 2008 I just about died. It could have been written for me. I have six patterns in mind - an extraordinary amount of joy to find within the pages of one pattern catalogue - and I have the yarn stashed away, waiting for me to bring it needles. Well, now the time is coming. If I start making (some of) them when my Xmas knitting and Joe's eternal red sweater are finished, one or two could be ready for me to wear next summer. The only question is what to knit first. Now drool over these gorgeous pictures. First up: a beautiful sleeveless top.

Just Look At That Ribbing. OMG. The detail around the bust is just gorgeous. I hardly ever wear sleeveless but this is making me feel like toning up my arms solely so I can show off this lovely summer top to its best advantage. Oh, and what about that colour. What's more summery than orange? Nothing, that's what. I have to have it.

Next, this stripey sweater:

Those stripes ... the way they fade into each other ... they way they put colours next to each other that really should not work but look fabulous together. Before I saw this photo, I absolutely was not thinking "Oh, what I most want in the world is a sweater that's burgundy and also primrose yellow and also several shades of green". I don't know how on earth the designer came up with it. Look at it, though. That colourway rocks. I am a real jeans-and-sweater person and I'm going to wear this all the time.

Next: Beelzebub is tempted by a pink dress!

Lordy. I really did not know that I was into pink dresses, until I saw this. It's not frilly. You can wear it over jeans. The pink stripes look like a peppermint candy cane, and I want to lick it. Also, will you check out that beautiful neckline. I love it. I want to make it and I can't wait to wear it.
Next: royal purple wrapped around a lot of holes.

Another knitted garment that I want to eat. Yummy. Blackcurranty juicy fruity goodness. The holes in the sleeves are just making my mouth water even more. It really reminds me of the fruit-flavoured Polos I used to eat as a kid. That is one delicious-looking, giant, blackcurrant, shiny, suckable Polo right there.
Next: a great big ray of sunshine.

Yesyesyes that is what you are supposed to do with blocks of bold colour. Make interesting shapes with it. A gloriously sunny day of a sweater, with a neckline that I'm aching to knit - or is that crochet? - and plenty of length for slipping over - you guessed it - jeans.

Finally: the reason why I must now buy an orange t-shirt.

You know, I could have lived without this sweater (probably) if they hadn't photographed it on a model with an orange vest. Man, those yarn pushers at Phildar know what they are doing. A splash of orange around the neckline and suddenly those vibrant blues, purples and pinks are 'popping' like crazy. I have to wear this. So cheering, I feel like summer's here already.
I Heart Phildar and I totally forgive that time their pattern sizing was whack. It's so worth it. I will just be extra careful this time. I'll try not to get too drunk on all the colour.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Grandiflora on pins

OK, so here are some photos.
I warned you it was large. It is too big for me to get the whole thing in shot.

I had to make a temporary, very precarious blocking board out of: some large, flat pieces of hardboard balanced on top of the sofa, also part of an old door. On top of this I unfurled some cardboard boxes, to increase the surface area and provide something to stick the pins in. I am sure Grandiflora would have grown to larger than 10 foot if I'd had the room.

You'll also detect an interesting assortment of pins there. First I used glass-headed dressmakers pins, like you're supposed to. Then I ran out and used safety pins. Then I ran out of those and used drawing pins. After that I used unfolded paperclips. Then I found another box of pins and used all those.

Here's a close up of the lace, which opened out beautifully.

It's drying pretty fast, which is good, cos it means we'll soon have the living room back. I'd better make some tassels to go on the ends.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Grandiflora is blocking

Today I sewed in the ends, soaked it in water and pinned it out. It grew to 118". That's just shy of ten foot. It is taking up the whole living room. Photos tomorrow.,

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I am knitting, look I'm casting off.

Ha ha, I bet you thought I'd stopped knitting. I'll admit, I was distracted by other things for a while. But the knitting has not stopped, oh no. Indeed, I have some finished objects to show you.

First, though, who would like to see a picture of newborn Elsie modelling her Baby Yoda Sweater? Here it is, courtesy of her dad, Stuart. What a little cutie, and the sweater fits perfectly, too. Miracles all round.

Now, here is for the real news, and it has a comedy element. You know the Grandiflora shawl that I entered for the Ravelympics, aaaaages ago, when I was showing off about being an athlete? Here's how it looked when you last saw it.

Well, I gave it my best shot. I knit very industriously on the shawl, and when I thought I'd knit nearly enough repeats (I estimated I'd need about nine), I measured it. It was close to the Ravelympics deadline, but with one big push over the weekend, I thought I'd have it done. Unfortunately, measuring it at that point, when I thought I was nearly finished, was the first time I'd actually thought to look at the finished measurements in the pattern. It is enormous. You are supposed to knit until it is 90" long. Ninety inches. That is seven and a half foot long. I was nowhere near completion, and I was despondent as I realised what a massive project I had taken on. It would need more like 14 pattern repeats, not nine. It would take days and days more work. I gave up and allowed myself to be pleasantly diverted by World of Warcraft for a few weeks.

Upon my return from warcrafting, I realised how near to Xmas it is getting, and I pondered the fact that my mother has been waiting for this shawl since April 2007. So I set to work to finish the bugger. I knit and knit, and yesterday this finally came off the needles. As one should expect with lace, it still looks like a crumpled old rag, except this time a lot larger.

Here's the funny part: because I've been working on this quite enthusiastically of late, and getting near actual completion, I've proudly showed it off to people. I showed it to Mom when she came to visit (just so she keeps the faith and knows it exists). I showed to Ann & Arianne, BF's mom & sister. I showed to BF. All were quietly horrified.

Ha ha ha ha! You guys are so cute, trying not to show how disturbed you are. Yes, I can see it looks like an old crumpled rag. I'm not blind. You're not supposed to wear it looking like that. It is pre-blocking. Sheesh. I will show you. Just as soon as I've sewed in all those ends.

In other late-birthday-present news, I've finally finished Clara's ribbed jacket and matching hat, and I am heartily sorry that I did not finish these in August, when they were due. They also need blocking, to flatten those bulky sleeve seams as much as anything. But they are off the needles and the ends are sewn in; here is the evidence.

As you can imagine, finishing that big shawl took quite an effort of will towards the end, so I needed to tempt myself with a new project. I have felt the urge to make Mason Dixon ballband cloths lately, so I took out a box of lovely Peaches & Creme cotton yarn and admired the delicious colours, but I did not cast on a single stitch.

As soon as the mighty shawl was cast off, I dived into the Peaches & Creme and cast on my very first ballband cloth on 3.5mm needles. I chose a vibrant 1970s orange/brown colourway. In no time (well actually, a good four hours later) I had a super example of the ballband genre and the next morning I couldn't wait to cast on a second cloth in yellow and blue.

Talk about easy and fun, I'm going to make a few of these.

A tip if you want to make some: a useful cloth needs to be sturdy, with less drape than most clothes. The Mason Dixon ballband pattern specifies a tight gauge that I dropped down to 3.5mm needles to achieve, even though that means the thick cotton is a bit tougher to knit. The orange/brown cloth, I knit on straight, steel needles and I'm not going to pretend it was easy on my hands. For the blue/yellow cloth, I've switched to my Harmony interchangeable needles which are very light wood on a light cable, and that is proving both faster and easier.

Watch this space for upcoming news of shawl blocking. I eventually knit to about 87" before I cast off but I wouldn't be surprised if it expands way past the specified dimensions. I don't know by how much. It will be interesting to see.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

In which Beelzebub becomes an athlete


By now, surely all knitters are aware of the wondrousness that is Ravelry, the online knitting community. An amazing feat of organisation on the part of Ravelry's owners and moderators has resulted in the Ravelympics 2008, a knitting event timed to coincide with the Summer Olympics in Beijing, which open on August 8th and last for about a fortnight.

Would you believe, three thousand 'athletes' (read knitting, spinning and crocheting Ravellers) have formed into teams and agreed to knit or craft a project to be completed during those couple of weeks. The last day of the Olympics is the Finishing Line and the idea is to set yourself a challenge and produce a Finished Object on or before the final date.

Athletes enter one or more of their projects into various Ravelympics Events. These include Hat Dash, Synchronised Skirts, Baby Dressage, Cable Steeplechase, Shawl Relay, Glove Decathlon and Free-for-all Freestyle. I think you can tell they are not taking it too seriously.

Now, I am not usually a joiner but over at Rav I have great love for certain groups, particularly Atheist & Agnostic Crafters. So when the A&ACers talked of entering the Ravelympics and wondered about forming a team, the result was ultimately this:

I am officially in the Ravelympics. I'm competing in the WIP Wrestling event, which ought to come as good news to my mum, because the project I have entered into that event is my mother's Grandiflora shawl. She's waited quite long enough.

So wish me luck! I'm determined to cross the finishing line with a completed shawl.

We. Can. Do. It. Go atheists!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Baby Yoda Sweater and Umbilical Cord Hat

Welcome to the world, little Elsie Edwards, daughter of my friend Stuart, born 2008.

She's about 6 weeks old already and I've just finished making her a Baby Yoda Sweater and Umbilical Cord Hat. Check this out for matching cuteness. The yarn is Rowan All Seasons Cotton Printed in a nice summery orange/yellow.

The Umbilical Cord Hat is from the Stitch'n'Bitch Handbook. I reduced the width of the I-cord from four stitches to three. Why? So it would perfectly match the ties on the little wrapover jacket. I think the UC Hat is so sweet in this colourway, it's like a Halloween pumpkin costume.

The sweater, for which I found the pattern on Ravelry, has four pieces of I-cord holding it together. It rather elegantly ties on the inside, then on the outside.

Awww! How sweet is that? Now let's see what we can do to finish the pink number I'm knitting for Clara.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Now with photos

I've been working and travelling a great deal over the last few weeks. This has not been good for either blogging or video gaming. However, the travelling part has provided a fairly friendly climate for actual knitting, for a change, with the result that I've made amazing progress on the Debbie Bliss Ribbed Baby Jacket I'm making for Clara (from the book Special Knits).

As you can see, we're almost done. That's the pink All Seasons Cotton I'm using. The jacket is knit in one piece: you start by knitting the back piece, from the bottom up (at the top of this picture). Then you widen for the sleeves, and cast off some stitches in the middle to divide for the neck. Then you knit the two front pieces, down to the bottom edge. Finally, you go round and pick up about eight million stitches more than you think you need to, to make the ribbed edging. That's the part I'm doing now. A few more rows of ribbing and we'll be ready to cast off and sew it up. I believe and hope that collar is going to look beautiful when the jacket is finally assembled. If you're thinking of making one, the Debbie Bliss pattern is a breeze to knit. A good travelling project, despite being larger than socks.

The Baby Yoda Sweater(see for details) I'm making for Stuart's baby is underway, although there's a lot to do. This is the beginning of the back. It's All Seasons Cotton again, in yellow/orange. Nice and summery, and unisex without being that ubiquitous new-baby pale lemon.

The Grandiflora Shawl is making progress, just so you know. There is a long way to go, but it is moving. I have little experience with lace, but I am now experiencing, at a deeply personal level, the truism that lace looks like crap while it is still on the needles. It requires a near-religious faith in blocking just to persevere with it.

Evidence that the Edan sweater lives on. This is the back. Josef is patiently waiting.

Finally, the latest travelling socks, in very nice Regia Design Line Kaffe Fassett yarn. It's a shame the sun was not shining on my camera today, but still, Yum.

And that's all today's knitting news. Suppose I'd better go and wash up or something.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Yarn, Patterns, but No Match

So, the day I get around to updating my blog is the day I leave my camera at work.

Consequently, I won't give you any news today about Grandiflora, the Edan sweater or even the silk Jaywalkers, which I've finally restarted. We'll save those for next time. Instead, let's discuss baby knitting. Right now I have two babies on my knitting radar. My colleague Stuart is due to become a dad for the first time in June. Then there's my little niece Clara. I'm thinking ahead about her birthday in the autumn, when she'll be two.

Much as I would like to whip up a couple of exotic items in luxury silk and alpaca, we need to consider the mothers. The fibre needs to be soft enough for the baby but machine-washable for mum. Right about now I'm regretting not having kept my yarn card-index up to date. I'll have to dig through the stash. I'm bound to have something but it could entail quite a bit of sorting through bags and boxes. I've a nice selection of baby patterns, the most easily located of which are in book form. I'll have a browse now and see what's nice. It would be very convenient if I could find two suitable patterns in the same book.

If you want to follow me as I browse, I'm going to upload the books to my library on Ravelry as I go along. You'll be able to find more details there.

First up, Rowan Babies: designs by Kim Hargreaves for little ones up to age 5.

This includes some absolutely sweet cardigans for little girls. This is Relish (the pattern recommends Rowan Wool Cotton).

This is Strawberry Bud. I am sure I would quickly regret choosing something so fiddly, but it's very pretty.

Next up, Adorable knits for tots by Zoe Mellor.

The word 'tots' makes my teeth hurt, but this little girl's sweater with the rose motif on the front makes me feel happy inside.

The knitting would have to be perfect. I'm thinking it would look very pretty in a dusty cornflower blue or a soft sage green.

I do love Special Knits by Debbie Bliss. I find her a tiny bit conservative for adult wear, but she produces gorgeous pieces for babies and small kids. There are three or four beautiful kimonos and dresses for little girls that I want to make, but they all require good embroidery skills and I'm not up for that right now. Zoe Mellor's Nursery Knits is good for classy toys.

Fiona McTague's Knits for Babies and Toddlers offers some delightful patterns.

There's a toy dog that's cute without being sickening, and a very traditional Picot-Edged Cardigan and Booties, which might turn out to be my new baby project.

I should mention that I am provably rubbish at picot. The last bit I attempted look like a rat had been eating it. So I might substitute a different edging on this project, for a better chance of success.

A browse through a pile of knitting magazines turned up nothing of interest, which is odd, because I'd previously thought of them as quite baby-centric. Apparently not. The emphasis is on women's sweaters.

OK, decision time. What if we did the rose-motif Lacy Sweater for Clara. The recommended yarn is Rowan Handknit DK Cotton (7 balls for size to fit age 2-3), with a gauge of 20 sts and 28 rows over 10cm on 4mm needles.

And what if we did the Non-Picot-Edged Cardigan for Stuart's baby. Fiona McTague wants us to use Jaeger Cashmere 4-ply (4 balls for age 6 months, the smallest size), with a gauge of 28 sts and 36 rows to 10cm on 3.25mm needles.

Time to go for a dig in the stash.

(some time later ...)

Why oh why do I never learn. If you are going to shop the stash, pick the yarn before the pattern. Despite having a stash the size of a small LYS, I apparently have absolutely nothing at all that fits either of those gauges. Or else I do, but only one ball of it. Botheration.

OK, let's try and approach this from a different angle. The search turned up these possible contenders:

  • Some Rowan Cotton Rope in hot pink.
  • Some Jaeger Siena green 4-ply cotton.
  • Quite a lot of Rowan All Seasons Cotton (can you tell I like discontination sales?) in variegated shades: one batch in hot pinks, the other in a warm peach. I did originally buy this yarn with babies in mind. The yarn gauge is 16-18sts and 23-25 rows over 10cm. The pink I could use for Clara, and the peach for Stuart's baby.

Let's take another look through the baby books and see if anything fits.

OK, apparently I have no patterns for babies to fit that gauge. I'll have to have a search online.

Who said knitting was easy? Harumph. Excuse me while I go back to knitting my sock.