Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Bag of Bags

Surely everyone, the world over, has "the Bag of Bags". It's that plastic carrier bag that contains all the other carrier bags that seem to breed as soon as two of them are left alone together. We decided we were going to do something about this and my mother-in-law set about knitting a bag from strips of plastic:

She put the handles all the way around the bag to give it more strength:

It's been test driven by my sister-in-law and pronounced a success. It doesn't cut the circulation off in your fingers, either. (Always a bonus.)

I'm slightly concerned that the whole thing will disintegrated in a couple of years but then I suppose we'll just knit another one. In fact, MIL has already almost completed her second one - she modified the pattern because the addition of the gussets was "fiddly" (her technical term) and unnecessary.

I have finally reached the right height on the Kauni jumper to start the front neck shaping. I am loosely basing the shaping on a sweatshirt belonging to 'im indoors, which he claims is very comfortable and of a suitable shape and size. I measured the width of the neck on the sweatshirt and discovered the shoulders were eight inches and the neck opening was also eight inches. My gauge is eight stitches per inch, so I'm going to have the shoulders be 64 stitches wide and the neck opening 65 stitches wide (which adds up to 193, which is how many stitches I have on the front.) I left the centre 45 stitches on a piece of thread and cast on ten steek stitches over this area.

I'm going to decrease one stitch at both the front neck edges on every round five times and then decrease one stitch each side on every other round another five times. This should take me fifteen rounds. Then I'm going to do a little bit of back neck shaping (but I haven't done the sums for that yet), knit a few rounds straight and graft the shoulders together (or possibly do a three needle bind off, depending on how I'm feeling). It is my aim that the shoulders should fall just at the end of the pattern repeat. I'm hoping that all my sums will come together.

The Mermaid is only very slightly bigger. I'm hoping to get some pictures to show how I'm fixing the beads on. At first I threaded all the beads onto the yarn but got myself into a fearful tangle and, though I know silk is strong, I was a bit concerned about the beads wearing the yarn because of the constant pushing up and down. Another method needed to be found in order to preserve what little sanity I still retain. This involves a beading needle, a length of sewing cotton and a steady hand - pictures later (when I've had time to grow a third hand to hold the camera.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Avast, me 'arties

Ahoy, ye many landlubbers! It be international Talk Like a Pirate Day an' I be spendin' the second dog watch, lazin' in me bunk an' knittin' on Mermaid, as only befits the day. There be a few pictures:

She be a beauty, an' no mistake - 'er's no buxom wench, 'er's skinny 'an saucy.

I be off fer a touch 'o grub an' grog.

May yer decks be swabbed, may yer booty be bountiful!

Fair winds, me hearties.

Eight bells an' all's well - be sure an' not to turn yer eye from knit like a pirate - it be a fair marvel.

It be about time to heave to, put down the killick, strike the red ensign and retire to me bunk.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Knitting and Stitching Show

should really be called "The Stitching and Knitting Show" because there was much more stitching than there was knitting. Nevertheless, that didn't stop me (and Ann-at-work, who was acting as my chauffeuse) from having a most enjoyable day.

I promised myself that I wouldn't go mad because, as you know, I have enough yarn to start my own yarn shop as it is. I saw this safety pin with the loops under it and thought it would be ideal for fastening the Kimono Jacket (to replace that hat pin that was forever piercing my attributes). There were hundreds of little charms to choose from but these three express my feelings perfectly.

I had a vague feeling that I might find some lace-weight yarn to make into something or other - I've joined both the Secret of the Stole KAL and the Secret of Chrysopolis. I told Ann-at-work to keep me well away from sock yarn and variegated yarn. Sock yarn is to be avoided because although I like the idea of knitting socks and I like wearing hand knitted socks, I don't actually enjoy the fact of knitting them. Variegated yarn is more or less the same story - it looks lovely in the ball/skein but you really need to choose the project with care - something simple and classic that will showcase the yarn. I mostly knit lace and I have yet to see a lace item in variegated yarn that makes me swoon with delight. If you know of any, send me a link, I'd really like to use variegated yarn for some lace.

Nothing was really striking me. There really was hardly any skinny (technical term) yarn to be had - plenty of frou-frou stuff; plenty of "ecological" cotton (you know my views on cotton - the devil's work); lots of alpaca - not skinny enough for my purposes; plenty of mohair ("What sort of an animal is a Mo?") - again, not really suitable for lace. I was starting to think that the cash would just have to burn a hole right through my pocket when I saw these beads:

which put me in mind of a mermaid.

Now, I'm not a great fan of beads on knitting - I have used them occasionally but I haven't really been bitten by the beading bug. A stole floated into my mind. Some sort of skinny, blue-ish, green-ish, shiny stuff (all technical terms) with a pattern like fish scales and with some beads to add a bit of shimmer.

I bought the beads and then I recalled the Uppingham Yarns stand, where I had seen cones of skinny (tt) silk:

I bought a blue and a green with a view to using the yarn double to make my mermaid dream come true. More of that in the coming days.

When I say skinny (tt) I mean skinny. Here are the two strands of yarn with a strand of sock yarn for scale.

Hope I haven't bitten off more than I can chew.

Skinny yarn calls for skinny needles. I was more than pleased to come across the KnitnCaboodle stand and discover they had HiyaHiya needles.

I think this is the only UK source for these needles, which we have heard all about from our American friends. Everything they say is true - very light, very pointy (tt), uncoated (so no chance of the coating wearing off), very flexible cable, great joins. Best of all? Much cheaper than Addis! Soon to be available in ebony, rosewood and bamboo (but bamboo is nails down a blackboard for me). I'm already test driving these 2mm circs on a swatch (yes, you read right - a SWATCH) for my mermaid dream and there will be pictures of that later.

Just as we sank exhausted in the bar, we were approached by a fellow knitter, who asked "Are you Kate?". She turned out to be Annie of "Up Knit Creek" (still the best name for a knitting blog, ever). I showed off the Kauni to Annie and her mum:

and Annie showed me her purchases (and I'm sure you'll get to read all about it on her blog).

She also made Ann-at-work's day. When I introduced them ("Anne this is Ann. Ann, Anne") she said, "Oh, you're Ann-at-work!" I have not heard the end of it ("I'm famous. Am I as famous as you, do you think? I'm Ann-at-work. I'm famous.")

Speaking of the famous "Ann-at-work", we have finally managed to get the secret item cast-on:

Bet she'll be even more famous now.

Off to dream of mermaids.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I just can't help myself

That Ravelry has got a lot to answer for. The trouble is that temptation is all around - just skimming through there the other day, I came across this delightful shawl from Knitpicks and so I had to have it.

Don't get me started on Knitpicks. I believe I had a rant about them previously. They won't ship outside the US or Canada ("because we can't give our international customers the service our US customers have come to expect"). I don't know how they can expect to have international customers. In order to purchase this downloadable pattern (for a measly $1.29) I had to register and give them what, in my opinion, amounted to a great deal of personal information AND I had to give them an address in the US.

Hello!! It's a download. It really doesn't matter if I'm in Ulan Bator or Timbuktu. I was very miffed and sent them a stiff email demanding that they remove all my personal information from their records. They say they've done it.

The pattern is very lovely, though. However, it is all words, no charts at all. I never thought I'd here myself saying this but I really, really prefer charts. It's so much easier to see how the pattern should be lining up and if there is a mistake in the pattern, it's usually much easier to spot on a chart.

In fact, I did find a mistake on round 50 - nothing major, just the inclusion of two YOs that weren't needed. Easy to spot though - every other round is plain (though there is a little bit of purling from time to time), so when YOs appeared on two consecutive rounds, I knew there was something up.

The yarn is some unknown acrylic stuff on a cone, bought in the "boutique" for a few pence ages ago. I don't have much information about it - the label inside says, "Atkinson yarn. Illusion. Jacinthe 4746. 500g" The word "Burnley" also appears. Considering Burnley is two miles away from where I was born, I thought this was my yarn. It's a two ply - some sort of blue fuzzy stuff (technical term) wrapped with a pink shiny strand. It actually gives a very nice, understated effect. I have previously used this yarn to make a shawl, which I wore to a drinks party last December. One of the guests fell in love with the shawl and her boyfriend took me on one side and begged me to sell him the shawl as a gift for her. So I did. She sent me the most lovely thank you card. I'm hoping to keep this one for myself.

I suppose you want pictures?

Here's the start. I always use Emily Ocker's circular start for pieces like this. It works every time.

Here's one a bit bigger:

Those big holes are caused by working a YO five times on the one round and then working K/P/K/P/K into the YOs on the next round. In retrospect, I think I would do YO four times but still work five stitches into that space on the next round. It would probably neaten the edges of the holes (but then, it's not blocked yet, and that usually covers a multitude of sins.)

Here we are with the centre section completed:

That's probably the best picture you're going to get of this until it's off the needles (unless I thread a string through all the stitches and I just don't see that happening anytime soon.)

Close-up of a lacy bit (technical term):

I'm going to the Knitting and Stitching show at the NEC in Birmingham on Sunday with Ann-at-work, so if anyone is there give me a shout. I'll be the one wearing a hat, a shawl and bright pink crocs (amongst other things).

The back field is still the back field:

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A bag, a flower and more Kauni

Remember the performance I had trying to find suitable yarn for the bag I promised to make? It was just as much of a performance to find the ribbon. That's the trouble with Rowan books - always asking for yarn that's been discontinued, always requiring bag handles, or buttons or beads or, in this case, "taffeta ribbon, 13cm wide". Hello!! I live in the rural backwater, finding any ribbon is a bit of a lottery, finding 13cm wide taffeta ribbon would be somewhat of a miracle.

Time was short. In the end I got some black, shiny, slinky stuff (all technical terms) and, dragging out the ancient Singer (that's not Pavarotti, either RIP), I made a ribbon thing myself. There were supposed to be "embellishments" but none of the ones I made looked any good. I thought about beads but my Not-a Barbie sister-in-law is not very "bling", so in the end I decided I liked the calm, understated simplicity of the brown bag and the black ribbon. I don't think it looks too shabby:

I've been taunting you with promises of pictures of the steeks in the Kauni jumper for far too long. Here you go:

You can see the one stitch left on the safety pin at the bottom of the picture; you can see the ten stitches cast on for cutting purposes later; you can see the chequerboard pattern in the steek. If you are Lixie you can also see the stitch marker you sent me at the top of the picture.

Here's the progress so far:

I'm so in love with this that I want one for myself. I cannot bear the thought of knitting the self-same jumper again. Apart from the boredom factor I wouldn't want to run the risk of looking like Tweedledum and Tweedledumber, so I'm considering using the sideways scroll motif from the Ukrainian socks in Nancy Bush's "Folk Socks", to make a Kauni of my very own.

When I ordered the yarn for the brown bag, I felt obliged to order other stuff too (free shipping over £20 - I was actually saving money). The pattern for the "9 to 9" Noni bag and the yarn to make it. I haven't started the bag yet but I've had a go at the flowers. You saw the "holes" that were never going to close up on felting? Here's the finished felted flower (no holes, but that's because I took steps to avoid forming holes in the first place):

Only another eight to go. Oh, and the bag, of course.

Monday, September 03, 2007


Treacle seems to be the general state of my computer at the moment. Never exactly a greyhound in the speed stakes, it seems to be getting slower and slower as if gummed up with treacle. For this reason, there may or may not be pictures before a week next Wednesday.

Work on the Kauni jumper is moving forward, although I still haven't taken any pictures of the steek stitches. It's good TV knitting because, for all it requires a yarn in each hand, the actual pattern is very simple.

I've had to lay that aside for the moment, though, because the brown bag needs to be finished before Friday.
The knitting has progressed well. I've made the back and front of the bag and also three rectangles which could be uses as embellishments. I couldn't decide which yarn would look best so have done all three. The pieces are felted before making up (because the handle is a taffeta ribbon, which I'm sure wouldn't stand up to a high temperature).

These are the pieces, pre-felting:

I think the darker swatch on the bottom is probably the best one for embellishment purposes but I'll wait and see what it looks like after it's been felted.

Since I had the Cascade yarn on the needles, I thought I'd just have a little go at the flowers to go on the Noni bag. They are made using short-rows, which causes the petals to be concave - a very nice touch. My first attempt wasn't great:

The pattern does say "As you proceed you will notice "holes" in the middle of the petals. This is normal and the holes will close during felting." Well, that's as may be. I think those "holes" are too big to close during felting. So I decided to take steps to close the gap. There are various methods for doing this. Excellent explanation by Nona of the wrapped stitch technique, the yarn over way of going on, and, best of all in my opinion, the Japanese approach. She credits Lucy Neatby with the pin trick. A jolly good trick it is, too, otherwise I don't know how you'd manage to identify which loop to pick up.

This is the second petal:

I think you'll all agree that's much better.

And that's not all. I belong to the Charting Lace group on Yahoo (I joined to try and get my head round all this stuff when I was charting the She Sells Sea Shells pattern) and someone has started a very interesting topic. We are presented with an antique lace pattern in words and are to attempt to chart it. First up was the "Persian Lace Edging".

I've made a chart but trying to work out how to show it here has almost caused my head to explode. Before I throw a brick through the monitor I'm going to admit defeat. I've done a swatch though (stand back in amazement!)

This is the first one:

where I used paired decreases and a centred double decrease.

This is the second one:

where I just used K2tog throughout and K3tog for the double decrease. This is the one I prefer and the one that most closely resembles the original. I really don't think that the direction of the slant of the increases makes all that much difference in garter-based lace, which is what this is, in the main, although there is a very small stocking stitch section.

I might try this again as on a stocking stitch ground - where I'm sure the direction of the decreases would make a difference.

One more thing - I was/am knitting the Galveston Shawl as a KAL and was a member of the GalKal Yahoo group. Some horrible bungle with Ya-hell (not for the first time) has meant that I no longer have access to the files of that group. I've got all the charts downloaded apart from the edging, so if anyone has those charts, I'd be eternally grateful. Email me privately if you want - the address is in the side bar.