Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I blame Shakespeare

I've just returned from the tour of South Warwickshire. It's all to do with Shakespeare, birthdays, country dancing and #1 daughter - you really don't want to know any more. I shall be doing a similar tour later in the day, with the addition of a flute rehearsal and concert. The upshot was that I wasn't at home when the postman called. It didn't stop him forcing a small packet through the letter box. I knew what it was.

It's the Garden Shawl, knitted by my friend in America. This is our "I'll knit yours and you knit mine" project. Same shawl, same yarn, we both knit, then we swap.

When I unwrapped the packet, this was revealed:

and when I opened that my Garden Shawl was revealed in all her glory:

Isn't she just beautiful?

The colour is even nicer in real life than as seen in this picture. I am almost speechless with awe at the delicacy, the beauty, the evenness of the stitches. Most of all, I'm blown away by the fact that it's done and it's here in my hands. Maryann, I can't thank you enough.

That's not quite true. I could thank you quite well enough by finishing your Garden Shawl and sending it off to you. I can't see that happening in the next day or two. This is the state of play at the moment:

There is quite a way to go. I'd better get on with it.

Trouble is - I'm deeply addicted to my Kimono Jacket. The effect is starting to become more apparent:

You can sort of see the chevron effect here: the "point" of the chevrons is the centre of the sleeve. Here's a "full frontal" shot:

Sorry about the shadows in this shot - the sun was shining, for once.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Hold the Front Page

Yes, alert the media - Kate has done a swatch!

Remember the Christmas Present? Remember the tangle I got into when I tried to have a little practice? The Black Dog was obviously making a huge contribution - I have had another try and it really is plain sailing.

The technique of Shadow Knitting is not a complicated one to get your head around. There is only ever one colour per row. Two rows are worked with one colour, then the colour is changed. All stitches on public side rows are knit. On private side rows some stitches are knit, some purl. There is usually a chart to show you when to knit/purl. The use of knit/purl stitches in combination causes a pattern or picture to appear when viewed from certain angles.

. The gauge called for is 24sts and 46rows to 10cm using 3mm needles. I started the swatch with 30 sts on 3mm Addis, the yarn is Rowan Yorkshire Tweed 4-ply.

There's not very much of it at the moment but I am liking the feel of the fabric. In fact, I am going to use the 3mm needles regardless of gauge - I cannot bear the thought of knitting a garment as huge as this on sock needles. If the gauge doesn't come out the same as Vivian's I shall just have to modify the pattern. (She said, waving a hand airily.)

I tried to get a picture of the "effect":

Yes, well. See my comments yesterday about how difficult it is to take decent photographs.

It seems that the stitch gauge is, surprisingly for the loose woman over here, almost bang on. The jury is still out on the row gauge because I haven't done anywhere near 46 rows yet. Time will tell.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Without the aid of a safety net

Henry's Shawl (aka The Spanish Christening Shawl) is done. Correction: the knitting is done. The grafting (agghh!), the washing, the blocking and the delivery to recipient are still in front of me.

Here's the last corner ready for grafting:

I've unzipped the provisional cast-on that I had so thoughtfully used at the beginning of the border; I've snatched up the stitches on a dpn of a slightly smaller diameter than the needle used to knit the border; I've cobbled together the extra stitch that is always missing - no matter what I do, no matter how much I read, no matter how long I think about it, there is always a stitch missing; I've transferred the live stitches from the end of the border from the circular needle I was using to a dpn, again, slightly smaller in diameter. I am ready to go.

Without the aid of a safety net (or wine, beer or chocolate, since it's 8.30am) I have grafted (in garter stitch, no less) the beginning of the border to the end of the border. I don't care if you can see the join, I can't:

It's still unwashed, it's still unblocked but here it is hanging on the fence:

I tell you, the more I try to take photographs of knitting, the more admiration I have for those poor souls who do this sort of thing for a living. I know I have been at the front of the queue when it comes to complaining about photographs of knitted items in magazines and so on. That still stands - I do want to see the knitting. I do not want to see an artistic blur. I do not want to read "Hand-knitted socks (£275, stockists as before) not seen." (What do you mean, "not seen"? What is the point? Words fail me.) I do not want the garment to be pinned at the back because it doesn't fit the stick-thin model, or at the wrist because it's baggy, or on the shoulder because it's mis-shapen.

However, I can appreciate the difficulties of photographing knitted items: the light is never coming from the right direction. By the time you have waited for the sun to move round, it is raining. There is never enough light. By the time you have waited for the sun to come out, it is a week next Wednesday. The wind is usually blowing. By the time you have waited for the wind to drop, it is the middle of the night. The garden is full of weeds, nettles, a compost heap (this also serves as a rabbit metropolis - it is much, much more than a simple "warren") - things which detract from the knitted item in question.

Think I should move indoors? Hah! Living in a nineteenth century agricultural workers' cottage with tiny diamond pane windows? Pass the oil lamp.

Tomorrow: Kate does a swatch. (That's made you sit up, I bet.)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Home again

I returned from a delightful few days in Spain to find this in my inbox:

This is MY Garden Shawl - it's the one my American friend and I are knitting for each other. I'm doing hers in a shade of dusky pink, mine, as you can see, is a pale sage green. It looks wonderful - it certainly looks a heck of a lot better than this crumpled rag:

This is the progress on her shawl - doesn't look much, does it? I feel I could perhaps apply myself a little bit more. Part of the lack of progress can be put down to the darkness - I really need to work on this in natural light. Thankfully, the days are getting brighter, so we should be speeding along soon.

I can't tell you how much good being in the sun did for me. I didn't miss the knitting - I was too busy lounging on the terrace of the house you see in the middle of the picture here:

and watching the sunsets, which were spectacular:

All good things come to an end and here I am back in grey, cold Blighty, but at least there's the knitting.

I promise to apply myself.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Off, Off, Off

I didn't quite make the deadline for the Spanish Christening Shawl - Henry was born at 9.14am on Tuesday morning. He has red hair and weighed 7lb some. I don't think he'll feel the miss of the shawl for a day or two, which is just as well because I am off, off, off. Tomorrow morning, far too early to comtemplate, I will be whisked off to this delightful spot. Friends of ours bought this place when it was a wreck and did it up and it looks lovely. Full report later.

I shan't be taking any knitting because the airline thinks that anyone with a knitting needle is almost certain to be a terrorist. I have no words left for the stupidity of all this. Don't get me started.

I'll be back on Wednesday. How will you live without me? Somehow, I think you'll manage.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Round the Bend

Positively whizzing round the edge of this shawl - attaching the border as I go. I've gone round the bend.

I need to get a move on - due to various complications the baby will be born on Tuesday. That's right, this next Tuesday coming. Bit of a change from the end of March, which was my original deadline.

Anyway, the border is not difficult. There is a ten row pattern repeat, garter stitch based, varying in stitch count between 20 and 24 stitches. The border is attached to the live stitches of the shawl, every second (private side) row with K2tog (or in my case SSK - I think it gives a neater join). Coming up to the corner, I realised that I had too few stitches to make the pattern fit neatly and so I had to do knitter's fudge. I was only two stitches adrift, anyway, so it was pretty easy to attach two border stitches to the one live edge stitch a couple of times.

This meant that I was at the beginning of a 10 row pattern repeat when I hit the corner stitch (which I had thoughtfully marked with a length of the famous red crochet cotton). Pattern tells us to work the next pattern repeat but attach only rows 2 and 10 to the same corner stitch, slipping the last stitch on the private side rows between.

I did that and it looked dreadful. I'm sorry to say I didn't take a picture - it was dead of night and the lights in here just aren't up to it. Suffice to say that there was a gaping hole at the corner and I was not satisfied with it.

I ripped it back. (I didn't rip it - I tinked, stitch by painful stitch). I knitted the same pattern repeat again, but this time I attached the last stitch of each private side row to that same corner stitch. It looks a lot better:

It's not perfect, but it is not yet blocked and, as any self-respecting lace knitter knows, the blocking covers a multitude of sins. I am keeping my fingers crossed on that one.

Moral of the story is - don't just follow the pattern blindly, think!

One corner down, three to go. Am I up to the challenge?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Frost & Ice

No, not the shawl. Real life frost and ice. I woke up this morning (reputed to be the second day of spring) to a winter wonderland. Here's just a little taste:

There's plenty more out there. That's why it's out there and I'm in here, Spanish Christening Shawl draped on my knee, adding the border.

I've picked up the 784 stitches around the outside. I've worked the yo, K2tog round. I've worked the plain knit round. I've started to attach the edging. I've realised I'm going the "wrong" way round the shawl, so the public side of the edging is attached to the private side of the shawl. I've ripped out a few handfuls of hair and shrieked a little bit. I've ripped back the provisional cast on and the first five rows. I think I am now safely on the way. (Although I should have learned by now to "never say never".)

Here's a close-up of the public side:

and here's the private side:

Each point consists of 10 rows. Each 10 row repeat eats up 5 stitches of the border. That's 100 rows you see in the picture. That's 50 stitches of the 784 eaten up. There's a lot of eating still to go.

I'd better get on with it.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Back up again.

When I said there was a man down, I really didn't think the man was going to be down for all this length of time. I have been struggling with what Winston Churchill called his "black dog". This is my very own black dog, who appears every year with monotonous regularity at the beginning of the winter and stays, sniffing round, occasionally biting me, until he is finally seen off at the onset of brighter weather.

I can't say that he has slunk off with his tail between his legs but I think he's on the way out. Every year I promise myself I'll get one of those light boxes that are reputed to solve much of the problem and according to one blurb I read "While using the light box, you can continue to perform normal actions such as eating, reading or knitting" (my emphasis). That's alright, then. As it is 'im indoors is taking me to Spain next week to catch a few UVs. I suppose I should send a note to the "Knitlost" asking for any yarn shops thereabouts but I think I might let my fingers do the walking and use Google like any normal person.

I watched loads of the Olympics and I did some knitting. I finished the Pink Tam Baby Jacket (apart from the buttons):

and yes, I do think I have got the hang of the grafting. I joined the shoulders seams and grafted the two halves together down the centre back without the aid of either chocolate or wine. Good, eh?

Can't see the join.

I've finished the centre square of the Spanish Christening Shawl and am picking up stitches for the border. It's long, it's boring and you really don't want to see it.

I started (correction - I tried to start) a swatch (what??) for the Kimono Jacket from Shadow Knitting (the Christmas Present I wrote about previously) but the complexity defeated me. It's not, in fact, all that complex. It's three colours, granted but there is only one colour per row; all the public side rows are knit; there is an occasionaly purl on the private side. It proved too much for me and the black dog, so I've given it up for a while.

The new MagKnits is up by the way - link in the sidebar - love those hats!

Some day my "Prince" will come and he'll probably turn out to be a big black Alsatian - I think he's already here.