Monday, January 21, 2008

Sudden Gifts


How did this happen?

I was all set for a well-organised New Year and then my knitting went completely off the rails. I started three unplanned, needless & illegitimate pairs of socks. Then I got going on Joe's red Edan jumper, of which I've still only completed one-and-a-half sleeves. This is despite not having finished either Green Silk Happiness or my Central Park Hoodie. Then I took on some gift knitting, post-Christmas. This would be due to not having bought any gifts, cards or indeed anything at all that was Xmas-related during the season itself. So now I have some catching up to do. I'm about 35% through making an Irish Hiking Scarf for Ed, using Rowan Cocoon (80% merino, 20% kid mohair). Here's the yarn:

and here's how the IHS is supposed to look when it's finished:

It's a lot of fun to knit, very simple. You don't need to count the rows, just put in a cable twist on every fourth knit row, which you can do by sight. The yarn is luxurious, I've never seen such lustre on natural fibre. It positively glistens. I owe Ed a particularly nice scarf due to having made him a slightly tasteless hat last year. This was not on purpose, although I am capable of doing such things.

I also need to make a hat for Liz. She knows exactly what she wants and I have a pattern that I think will do the trick. The yarn is going to be Rowan Big Wool, in pink.

I haven't started it yet but I need to, before spring comes.
As if that were not enough I've realised that it's now only about 8 weeks until my mother celebrates a major birthday and she's going to expect something special made out of wool. I wasn't lying when I said to her on the phone the other day that I have projects right here in my yarn room with her name on. It is just that they currently exist as balls of yarn rather than actual knitted objects, and they are all large and difficult. Eight weeks of work, easily, even if I didn't knit anything else.

Oh, and did I mention that my dad is inconsiderately having a Major Birthday in the same week as mum?

Curses, curses.

I don't know where to start. Someone come over and help me.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Needles we do & don't like

Good afternoon knitters. Today I am going to review the various new needles that have found their way into my knitting lately.

Let's begin straight away with the latest must-haves, the Knitpicks Harmony Options interchangeable needles. Here's a reminder of what they look like:

I am using them to knit Joe's red Edan sweater, of which I've completed a sleeve and a bit. Want to see how it's coming along?

So, a few facts and opinions about these needles:
  • They are wood.

  • They are pretty as a picture. When they first came out, people wondered if variegated, coloured needles would be confusing to work with. They're not. At least for the plain red yarn I'm using to make Edan. I think it helps that the colours used in the needles are actually quite subtle IRL. It's not like they are neon rainbow stripes. So, no problems there.

  • The needle heads screw on to the cables using a nickel screw fixture. Other knitters have complained that the needle heads come loose, or don't fit properly. Well, I have found these to fit fine. No problems screwing the heads on. They do tend to work a bit loose as you knit, so I've got into the habit of giving the head of the empty end of the needle a little twist to tighten it up at the beginning of each row. Incidentally, just the other day the Yarn Harlot made a casual reference to using pliers to firmly fix the heads on interchangeable circs. If she thinks that's a normal thing to do, then my guess is that screw fittings are kind of inevitably going to come loose. In which case, I'm not going to take that as a basis for criticising the Harmony Options.

  • They are pointy. Pointy as a very, very pointy thing. And that makes them a dream to knit with. I never knew what a difference really pointy needles could make. For me, the main benefit is that I can suddenly knit without looking, and without dropping stitches. The super pointy ends on those needles are like stitch-seeking missiles. They nose their way through each stitch almost before I can catch them at it. Oh yes, I am a newly-converted Pointy Needle fan.

In sum, I'm giving these Knitpicks Harmony Options 8 out of 10 because they are both beautiful and functional, and I bet that score would go up if I borrowed Stephanie's pliers.

Next, let's consider the Susan Bates metallic dpns I was on about the other day. I've been trying out the smallest size, which is 1.5mm (it turns out, not 1.75 as I previously thought).

I've been using them for my Seeded Fair Isle socks. Which are not going that well due to my being unable to count to 16. Here's the cuff. It may hit the frog pond soon.

About these needles:

  • This is the Susan Bates Sock Set of dpns. It's a multipack of four sizes, from 1.5mm to 2.25mm. You get five needles in each size.

  • They are very pretty colours. The ones I'm using are metallic blue; other colours in the set include red and gold.

  • They are light, and flexible. The material is some branded stuff called Silvalume, which is basically aluminium. Some knitters find them too bendy, and I can see why. It's a good job I'm a naturally loose knitter. I wouldn't recommend them if you knit tightly, otherwise your yarn will be more rigid than the pins.

  • They are 7" long, and that's the biggest downside. It's excessively long for socks, although these might be good for lace (not something I know a lot about yet). The upshot for me is that I've got miles of long, sharp, thin, bendy needle sticking out all over the place when I'm only trying to knit a relatively small bit of fabruc. It's unnecessary and it's a pain in the ass. In my experience, dpns are standardly 6", and even that can sometimes be too much.
Marks out of 10: I'm giving these 4 because the excessive length makes them a pain to work with. And I am only awarding 4 marks because I am giving them the benefit of the doubt: maybe they are perfect for lace doilies or something. For socks, I wouldn't bother.

Finally, let's say a few words about the Brittany dpns that I'm using to make my silk Jaywalkers. They are the ones on the left in this picture (I haven't tried the Sox Stix yet).

And here is the sock:

What you need to know about these dpns:

  • They are birch. Light and warm in the hand, more yielding than steel but not bendy.

  • This particular set is 2.5mm

  • They are dinky, only 5" long. Susan Bates take note. This is the perfect length for socks. On my Jaywalkers, most of the space on each needle is used up by actual knitting, with just enough room left at each end so the stitches don't fall off. You can concentrate on your knitting without spending the whole time manipulating and managing a bunch of porcupine quills. The sole complaint I have about these tiny needles is that I'm afraid I'll lose one.

Marks out of 10: I'm giving these 9 because when you are using them, you hardly notice they are there, and that is a wonderful quality in a needle. It means I can give all my attention and love to the yarn. Highly recommended.

Until next time, happy knitting.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Seeded Fair Isle Socks

Friends, I wish I had significant progress on any one of my designated projects to share with you. Sadly, and despite all my Resolutions, I have been knitting quite chaotically - a bit here, a bit there, none of it planned or documented. Shocking.

Seeded Fair Isle Socks
OK, so here's an illustrative story of un-planning. There I was, happily knitting away on Joe's red Edan jumper. On that project, I'm using my brand new Harmony circular needles. As I knit, I contemplated the review of the needles that I'd eventually write for this blog. Then I remembered that I have some new Susan Bates metallic dpns in the stash, and I thought 'why not use them, and review them at the same time - compare and contrast'. So, off I went to the stash, with no thought for what I was doing, found the needles, selected the smallest size (1.75mm), grabbed a ball of Opal Uni sock yarn in a dusty mauve, and cast on 64 sts to make up for the needles being so fine. Did you see what happened there? One minute I'm knitting a jumper, the next, I have a new pair of socks on my hands.

I knit a 1x1 rib cuff with absolutely no idea what kind of socks I was making. 64sts seemed like the right number (I usually have 60sts on 2.75 or 2.5mm needles). Other than that I had no constraints, and no plans. I knit the cuff and for a while I thought they'd have a boxy, stretchy, openwork pattern that's halfway between rib and lace. I saw it in Charlene Schurch's More Sensational Knitted Socks and it had my attention for a while. Then I looked at some more Schurch and decided that in fact the socks would have an eight-stitch Falling Leaves pattern. Yes, that would be much nicer than the boxy openwork. Falling Leaves it would be. I knit a few more rounds of rib. I started to wonder if mauve is really the ideal colour for leaves. I thought about what colours go with pale, dusty mauve and contemplated dark brown. Then I hit on it: these socks would be Fair Isle. I have wanted to make Fair Isle socks for ages. I dug out yet another book, an old paperback called The Complete Book of Traditional Fair Isle Knitting, by Sheila McGregor. I soon found myself a beautiful, eight-stitch, seeded pattern that makes big diamonds with dots in them. So that is the new thing now, Seeded Fair Isle socks. Dammit, this is where I keep going wrong.

In other news, I've done one sleeve of the Edan sweater and we shall not speak of the other WIPs until next time.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Completed in 2007

A round up of all 2007's FOs:

  • Vogue baby blanket in DB Cashmerino Aran for Miles
  • Purple Colinette Perugino Throw for Justine
  • Perugino throw II for Brafia
  • Phildar Nautical Button Sweater in Phil Thalassia & Phil Falaise
  • Basil sweater
  • Clara's Baby Surprise Jacket
  • Diana bag for Liz in Rowan Glimmer Print

  • Rainbow spa slippers in Noro Kureyon & Silk Garden
  • Blue knee-high socks in Elle Stretch DK
  • Justine's red cashmere socks in Posh Yarn
  • Purple/orange Opal Hundertwasser socks for Mom
  • Sky-blue AY socks for Joe
  • Purple basketweave socks for Dad in Angel Yarns sock yarn
  • Blue-green Fortissima cotton socks
  • Imken's socks in AY angora
  • Regia Nation red/white stripy Arsenal socks for Sven
  • Regia rainbow socks for Ian
  • Matching pink socks for Cal & Clara.

Hmm, I think the learning from that might be 'fewer socks equals more sweaters'. I hereby pledge a less socky, more sweatery year in 2008.

Xmas, New Year & Warcraft

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had an enjoyable festive break. I am back to work tomorrow and I can't quite believe it - it's amazing how fast one gets used to not having to show up at the office all the time.

At Xmas I went to visit my family of origin and there I did quite a lot of knitting. I finished Cal's and Clara's matching pink socks and left them with Ian to deliver for me. Next, I got a new project up and running: the Edan sweater for Joe. I've nearly finished the first sleeve and there will be photos soon (too dark for photography right now).

Also, I took a couple of gift orders. Not having done any gift knitting prior to Xmas, I let my brother and sister choose what they want. Sis wants a pink hat which shouldn't take too long once I find the right pattern and yarn. Brother wants a dark coloured scarf, I'm thinking maybe an Irish Hiking Scarf in charcoal grey will substitute nicely for a travelling sock while I'm working on it.

Eventually, after Xmas, I returned to my lair in London and that is where I disappeared through my computer screen into a different world altogether, one from which I have only just returned to write this post. The world of which I speak is the mighty World of Warcraft. If you have played WoW, you will know exactly what I've been dealing with over the last few days. It is like crack. One more puff, one more, even though your heart is pounding already and you're so tired you can hardly see. If you have never played WoW, you must. I am not kidding. I used to be sniffy about games that involved a lot of 'running around killing things' but this is so much more sophisticated and complex than that, even though there's a lot of both running and killing. This is mainly because of the interactivity. WoW is a real place, populated by something like 9 million real, live, human players. You can talk to them, form relationships, and team up together to complete difficult quests. And that is what I have been doing. I can't say any more, otherwise I'll never stop. This game stands head, shoulders and half a chest above any other game I've ever played. It rules. If only I could knit there, I'd move in. If you play, I'm on the Steamwheedle Cartel European server. Give me a shout and I'll meet you at the inn.