Sunday, January 29, 2006

Olympian Effort

I've no doubt that many, if not all of you, will have heard of Stephanie's Knitting Olympics. Perhaps not so many of you will have come across Margene's Eddie the Eagle Olympic Challenge. If you have been reading my blog for any length of time at all, you will know that I am a process knitter and not a product knitter. I really like the knitting. I'm not all that bothered about having the thing at the end of it. I have happily sold newly-finished items right off my back, not exactly in the street but certainly to people who I have only just met.

If I were to be stranded on that desert island, with only one set of needles and enough yarn to complete one item (and lets hope it would be a shawl - lots of yardage; skinny (technical term) needles; plenty of bang for the buck), if I were to be stranded and if I finished the item, would I wrap myself in it? No, of course I wouldn't. I'd rip it right back and make it into something else. Probably another shawl, maybe a hammock, almost certainly not an item of swimwear (I cannot bring myself to think of a knitted bikini, particularly not on this particular body). You get the picture - it's the process, not the product.

In the spirit of being a process, not a product, knitter, I urge you all to knit something during the Winter Olympics and to love each and every stitch; to strive for perfection - whether it's in the cast-on (maybe you could learn a new one, perfectly adapted to the job); in the formation of stitches (maybe you could learn to knit holding the yarn in your other hand, or knit backwards, or learn the Norwegian purl); whether it's in the finishing or the blocking. Just do it and do it as well as you can. (As my mother always said, "You can only do your best.") Do your best and if you do learn something new along the way, let me know about it - leave a comment. Everyone's a winner, here.

I'm still amazed at the fact that, though I am now working only half the hours I was before the great regime change, I still don't seem to have those oodles of hours, stretching out into the distance, that I thought I might have had. Of course I'm knitting (just like always); and I'm still working on the other, finished object, blog; I'm doing lots of cooking (which I love); and plenty of cleaning (which I know will be a real pain when the novelty wears off). I've also been venturing out a little more - to eat Thai food with Chef Clare the other day and out again tomorrow, to eat who knows what with the girls.

The knitting. I was lying in bed the other morning and my eye fell on a cardigan/jacket thing that I made out of Colinette "Giotto". I never really liked it and I never really wore it. I decided it was time to reclaim the yarn. #1 son (at home because not well) and I had a good time unravelling the whole lot:

It was christened the "broth jacket" by a previous chef at work. I think you can see why. I don't know what it's going to be in its new incarnation. Time will tell. Maybe a shrug thing. Any ideas, anyone?

I have completed half the pink baby tam jacket:

So, the stitches of the first section become the cuff. I did it in the round - less sewing the better. The bit at the top needs to be grafted (pass the wine, pass the chocolate), leaving a gap for the head. Then I need to knit another one and pick up the stitches all round the rest of it and do a bit of ribbing. Job done.

Hope it can be done quickly - I can't wait to cast on for the Kimono.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Christmas Present

Ann-at-work and Mr. Briggs very kindly supplied me with a gift voucher for my LYS and, as I always like to have a "Christmas Project", and as my LYS has a sale in January, I decided to blow the whole lot on the one thing. This thing:

This is what I have calculated is plenty of yarn (Rowan Yorkshire Tweed 4-ply, since you ask) to make this:

"This" is the Kimono Jacket from Vivian Hoxbro's Shadow Knitting, a book I've had for quite a while.

The yarn used is Harrisville Designs New England Shetland, 198m/50g. I had hoped to use Jamieson & Smith's 2-ply jumper weight yarn. However, that yarn is 230m/50g, which I'm sure would work but I hoped for something a bit closer (both in length and in physical proximity to the rural backwater.) I've ordered from J&S many times before. I love the fact that you have to phone and you get a Scottish lady with a beautiful, soft Shetland accent, who calls you "dearie". The ladies are very patient and they are swift and efficient. The yarn has been known to arrive in two days (which isn't bad from one rural backwater, on an island, no less, to another) but I need instant gratification.

Off to the LYS, to discover Rowan Yorkshire Tweed 4-ply has 110m/25g, so slightly nearer in length and about 500 miles nearer in physical proximity. Of course, I now want to cast on immediately, if not sooner. Needles? 3mm recommended (could be smaller for this loose woman!). Both 2.5mm and 3mm Addis are in WIPS, so it's a case of whip them out (thereby running the risk of a WIP turning into a UFO - I think that's the turning point, when you take the needles out); or I suppose I could finish one or other of the projects.

One of those projects, which is, in fact, taking up not one, but two 3mm Addis is the Tam Jacket:

Seen here looking a bit of a tangle. The two safety pins? They are to mark the two (out of only six) sections where I inexplicably have one too few stitches. Am I going to rip it back and put it right? I am not. I am going to increase an extra stitch in each of the offending sections on the "plain" (ie non-increase) round and trust that both the Knitting Police and the baby-in-the-jacket will remain blissfully unaware of the fudge.

Here's the jacket folded into more of a jacket shape:

In fact, you don't actually fold it like this to make the jacket up. Here you can see three of the six sections with the work folded along the "spoke" stitch between sections. When you come to make up the jacket (by grafting down the back - don't think about it, Kate, we will cross that bridge, with wine and chocolate, when we get there); when you come to make up the jacket there will still be three sections in each half, it's just that there will be half a section, a full section, another full section and half a section. Clear as mud? It was the first time I tried to do it, too, but when it's done it will make sense.

I think I'd better finish this before I start the Kimono, otherwise the baby will need the Kimono, being too large to wear a baby pink Tam Jacket.

From the comments: Angel asked if the Clapotis really was that boring to knit. Well, yes, I think it is. It depends how you look at it: it was certainly the perfect project for watching the snooker on TV. That was so exciting I couldn't take my eyes off it, so it was quite lucky that I didn't need to be looking at the Clapotis. It is certainly no more boring than knitting a plain stocking stitch jumper - it always strikes terror into my heart when I read: "continue in stocking stitch, without shaping, until piece measures 60cm from cast on edge"

And an anonymous commenter took exception to my reference to "real" knitting. Two points: firstly, you obviously missed the lesson on punctuation, not having got the hang of either the use of quotation marks nor the use of the apostrophe. Secondly, it's my blog and I was under the impression I was at liberty to express my own opinions, or did I miss something?

If you think I'm opinionated, you want to try Marilyn's blog. She it was who, I believe, coined the term "knit dweebs" for those members of the Knitlost (sorry, that should be "Knitlist") who post perpetual requests for help with things that have been covered umpteen times before, or come up top of the list on Google; or "me too" posts; or "I finished it" posts - (I for one am not interested in the fact that you finished Chuck's sock). And if that's not enough to offend your PC sensibilities even more than this blog, try Knit Flame. They don't suffer fools gladly, either.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Calm Down

After the debacle of the Garden Shawl's runaway stitches, I decided it was about time I had some "TV knitting" - something I could work on while watching TV, in the evening, with the electric light and maybe even after a glass of wine (or two). I couldn't really justify buying anymore yarn, even though there is a sale at my LYS and even though I will be buying some yarn there before the end of the month. It's just that there is so much yarn in the house I am running the risk of losing all the other members of my family, when they are inadvertently sucked into the bales of yarn that are lying round the house, some of them in the most unexpected places.

I started a Clapotis:

I am using some stray yarn on a cone (as you see), unknown material, unknown origin. Bought it in the Charity Shop (aka "The Boutique") for a few shillings ages ago. It's got a sort of silky, slubby look to it. At least there's plenty of it - this pattern absolutely eats yarn. I'm very, very glad I'm not using any expensive stuff.

Here's a close-up of the ladders:

I know I said I wanted some TV knitting but this is so mind-numbingly boring that I cannot imagine getting to the end of it. I read of people who have made more than one. God Forbid! If I don't throw it across the room, pick it up and make a noose out of it, I deserve a medal. I will keep you posted. I am not, in any way, denigrating the designer - it looks great when it's done (if it's not fashioned into a noose), and I'm sure it's a good pattern for those making the move from garter stitch scarves on tree trunks to "real" knitting but it's not the pattern for me. Serves me right for jumping on the bandwagon (which was disappearing rapidly anyway).

The Clapotis is obviously for knitting in my sleep. I therefore need something else, easy but not so easy as to put me into a catatonic state. And the winner is:

What the heck is that?

It's the start of a "Tam Jacket" from Debbie New's excellent "Unexpected Knitting". I'm using pink variegated Jaeger Baby Merino, together with an odd round of plain pink Baby Merino (to show up the ingenious construction). It's knitted in the round starting with 6 stitches. The thought of starting that on dpns was far too daunting. I'm using the two circular method - much easier, no fighting with that porcupine. It's going well, so far. Here's a close-up of the start (Emily Ocker's method again):

This is my sort of pattern: choose the yarn, choose suitable needles, cast on a few, increase at various points until it's big enough, make another, join them together. Result: a baby jacket (or one for you if you make it big enough).

All for now, off to work. I really don't know how I had time to fit work in, now I'm working less, the other stuff has expanded to fill the gap. There's probably a name for it - Some Smarty Pants' Law.

Friday, January 13, 2006


"So, Kate, you are something of a lace knitter?"

"Yes, that's right. I love to knit lace. I think I've learned quite a bit and I suppose some people would call me an "advanced" knitter."

"So what are your top tips for successful lace knitting?"

"I would say use plenty of stitch markers; always knit in a good light, preferably daylight; don't knit when you are tired; always concentrate fully on your lace knitting and count, count, count."

So how is it that I came home from work last evening, had a glass of wine (can you see where this is going?), sat down to watch a bit of telly and picked up my knitting? What was I thinking? Senseless.

It was only a matter of time before I made a mistake. It was a simple mistake in the counting and I picked it up straightaway. I needed to tink 3 or 4 stitches only. Unfortunately, one of these stitches was a centred double decrease and they are a right PITA. It was inevitable, given the lateness of the hour, the glass of wine, the fearful electric light, the TV on, that I would make a pig's ear of it. I thought I had all the stitches, but I didn't, and before I knew where I was, two of the stitches had run away with themselves.

Right. Breathe! Calm down. First step? Get hold of the stitches so they can't go any further:

Sorry about the slightly wobbly picture. Though I do think it conveys a sense of the panic I was feeling.

Next? Breathe some more. Put the knitting carefully on the table. Finish the glass of wine. Go and lie down in a darkened room.

Done, done, all done.

This morning I was feeling a little more calm and a little more capable.

This is not beyond my abilities. (Positive Mental Attitude is vital.)

First to isolate the area needing repair. The two rogue stitches were part of a seven stitch sequence, patterned on every row. I took the plunge. I dropped the other five stitches off the needle and carefully unravelled them so they were on a level with the two rogues. I put a small elastic band on each end of the Addi. (We do not want the other stitches sliding off the needle while we are dealing with the problem area. Ask me how I know to do this.) I put the seven stitches on a skinny (technical term) dpn, and carefully straightened the strands of yarn to be used in the re-knitting:

You can see there are seven strands, which means there are seven rows to be re-knitted. With the chart at hand, another skinny dpn and a small crochet hook, I started to recreate the knitting:

The tension is slightly awry, but I am confident that this will be evened out during the magic of blocking.

Here we are all done:

That chap on the running horse had better beware - I've got sharp pointy sticks.

Many thanks to all who commented with suggestions about the gallery, I have taken it all on board. At the moment, I feel as if I'll never have another FO anyway, so it's purely academic.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Still alive

Yes, I'm still alive. Yes, I did get through the madness of Christmas and the New Year in the restaurant and now I have semi-retired, working only three days a week, so should have more time for everything I want to do but never seem to get round to.

That, at least, is the theory. Up to now I have felt as if I am on holiday, so there has been lots of lounging round the house, reading novels and eating chocolate, and very little of anything else. Shortly, the new regime really will begin and who knows what will happen then.

Part of the reason I haven't blogged for a while (the other part being "that holiday feeling", see above) is that I've been fighting with the computer. I want to have a gallery of my finished knitting, with the vital statistics of each project attached. Something along the lines of Wendy's gallery. (Not that mine would have nearly as much stuff as Wendy the Uberknitter's has.)

Not having the faintest idea how to go about any of this, I set about a little research. (You know me, I'd rather read about it than actually do it.) It appears you can do something called "multiblogging", which seems to be where you insert one blog seamlessly into another. I don't know if it's like putting your foot into a sock or like putting a sleeve into a jumper, but whatever it is, it sounds just the ticket. However, I cannot for the life of me understand how to do it. Further research needed.

I downloaded some software for making a photo album, thinking that if I could add a text bit to each picture that might do the trick. The software (JAlbum, if you are interested) is excellent. It appears you can add text files to the jpeg files displayed in the albums and it sounds just perfect. However, I cannot for the life of me understand how to do it. (Where have you heard that before?) There are tutorials and forums and help pages and something called "skins". I still can't work it out, and quite frankly, I'd rather be knitting.

So, the gallery will have to wait. Rest assured, it will arrive at some stage but not until it is exactly as I want it.

I have managed to do a little knitting on the Garden Shawl. Here we see illustrated, once again, the drawback of knitting lace (at least for blogging purposes):

There she is in all her glory. All scrunched up (technical term) on the needles, looking most unphotogenic. I know that she will be transformed in the blocking, rather in the manner of a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, or a cygnet changing into a swan. I know it will happen but it's not a lot to show you, is it?

There is a sale at my LYS (Shipston Needlecraft) during the month of January. I managed to pop in there today but "'im indoors" was waiting for me (out-of-doors, as it happens) and while he didn't have his nose pressed against the window to see what I was up to, he might as well have done, for all the discomfort I felt in the shop. I shall have to make another excursion, during the week, on my own, in some of my now copious "free" time.

I have plans to make Charlotte from Rowan 38, but don't fancy Ribbon Twist or Big Wool and thought Colinette Shimmer might do instead. I just need to decide on the colour. I also want to make those Nutcracker Slippers from Handknit Holidays but I tried them with the Rowan Yorkshire Tweed 4ply recommended and it just wasn't working. I think Louisa Harding Fauve would be a much better bet, if I can get the gauge to come out right. (Actually, the pattern is not that hard, I think I could probably adjust it for a different gauge if I had to.)

My knit bud sent me this link to a pattern for a shawl from Elann and I must say I like the look of it very much. It would certainly make a change from the 2.5mm needles the Garden Shawl is currently occupying.

I thought about signing up for Secret Pal 7 because I like the idea of it and now I have more time I might actually be able to get to the Post Office once in a while. Of course, the anonymous e-mail business stymied me (how have I managed to even start a blog when I can't work out how to get an anonymous email account?) and now it's too late. Would anyone like to adopt me?