Knit and Chat

Last night I visited an old friend Peeve to knit and chat. (Old as in how long ago we became friend, certainly not old as in age!) She awarded me the prize for her image captioning comp – some luscious thick purple yarn and some gorgeous rich burgundy sock yarn. Yum!

Thankyou Peeve!

I’m afraid a lot more chatting, book accessment and cat-kneading of sock yarn happened than actual knitting. I did knit three stitches of the Liquorish Allsorts jumper, just so I could say some knitting was done. Peeve’s sock yarn stash puts mine to shame. Lynne of Yarnivorous popped in and I found a home for some yarn I’d brought to give away and swap. She showed us some fleece pre-washed and after washing, and boy does it fluff up when washed! And we discovered a mutual desire to buy lots of sock yarn and dye it ourselves.

Much fun was had. I forgot to take my camera – very non-bloggery of me.

This morning I noticed that the date on my last blog entry was wrong. Eventually I worked out that I needed to reset the time zone. Duh!

Well that answered that question…

Last night I knitted more of the Liquorish Allsorts jumper. It was the first time I’d worked on it in a week. I reached the big white stripe and felt virtuous. It’s been too hot to work with wool this warm, and those socks kept distracting me. And the knitters loom.

This afternoon I finished for the day early, so I wound up the blue thick yarn into balls, then carefully unwound it as I set the loom up. It went through the reed okay. There was just enough of it to make a piece of fabric the size of a mat, or perhaps a bag. Then I tried to weave.

No go. The thick yarn wouldn’t slide past itself and just stayed stuck together, so I couldn’t pass the shuttle through it. Lesson learned, I cut it off the loom and threw it away. (It was only leftovers from a batch I got an an op shop, so no great sacrifice. I wasn’t going to do this experiment with expensive wool!)

Now I’m considering the other project I mentioned two posts ago. A while back I knitted this:

It’s a self-fringing shawl. (Actually, it’s a shawl, blanket and poncho all in one. There’s a section in the middle that can be unbuttoned so it can be worn as a poncho.) You cast on lots of stitches, then knit two rows of each yarn, cutting the yarn at the end of each row and knotting the ends together to make a fringe. A great stashbuster project… and like a lot of stashbusting projects, one I ended up buying yarn for.

(My cat really likes this shawl, even though a lot of the yarns in it are acrylic. He’s no yarn snob, I’m afraid.)

Since knitting the shawl I’ve been collecting up red yarns (and a bit of green, as a bit of complimentary colour always livens things up) to do something similar with.

Trouble is, I’ve done the self-fringing shawl. I’ve done magic ball knitting. I’ve tried freeform (when I proudly displayed my efforts, my man said it looked like a splash of vomit… and though I protested I found myself eyeing the piece and silently agreeing). I was considering knitting a 40 cm wide length of garter stitch, with varying stripes of the different yarns. I would cut it into pieces when I had knit all of the yarn and knew the length, and sew the strips into a blanket.

Why knit, when I can weave?!

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t be asking that in a knitting blog. But endless garter stitch doesn’t get me excited, and I have other, more interesting knitting projects to do. Like Dad’s jumper. And the pair of the lace anklet sock. And Tubey is waiting in the wings. Tuuuuubeeeeey.

Playtime

Last night I finished these:

The first of the feather and fan cotton ankle socks. I had to increase at the ankle by four stitches in order to continue the lace pattern right around the sock. Unfortunately, this made them a bit too loose around the ankle. I can’t frog and redo them, as they only just fit over my heel as it is (I have high arches). I could sew in some sock elastic, but if I do I’ll have to be careful to keep it on the outside as I’m allergic to elastic.

Since finishing my first scarf on the loom, I’ve been looking through the leftovers and oddments in my stash with weaving in mind. I found some wool I’d tried out space dyeing on. It was cheap wool, and I used food colouring, but I like the colours.

If it were knitted up as socks it would form stripes of green and purple, with a little blue here and there. Unfortunately it went from the thickness of 4ply down to laceweight when I dyed it, and it was never machine washable in the first place. There was also some thick single ply wool leftovers from a white chunky scarf and I started wondering if I could reverse what I’d done with the red scarf – use a thick warp and a thin weft. So yesterday afternoon I dyed the thick single ply with food colouring to match the blue in the laceweight:

While I was dyeing, I began to suspect the thick wool wouldn’t take the dye. I threw in more of the laceweight so the dye wouldn’t be wasted. Turns out two skeins of the thick wool took the dye well – in fact, they’re a bit luminous! They’re on the bottom rung, while the laceweight is on the top right. The yarn on the top left is my other space dyeing experiment. It had been an uninspiring combination of red, white, blue and purple stripes. I took the opportunity to overdye it with yellow. Now it’s more exciting… but not really the sorts of colours I like. Oh well.

What am I going to make? I’m not sure, to tell the truth. I’m just experimenting for now.

More weaving!

Yesterday I set up the loom again and wove this:

Using the same slubby weft, but a with black 4ply warp instead of red. I made the scarf a little wider, too. I like the combination of two different colours better than the same colours.

I still have a ball and a half left of the slubby. It’s going in with some red yarn I’ve been collecting for a big knitting project that I think is going to turn into a big weaving project… but that’ll have to wait for another post.

This morning I took my old 8ply sock pattern, did the math, got it wrong, frogged, tried again and got it right. I now have a pattern for 4ply toe-up socks that have the more complicated instep gusset and heel done in two sections (the flat bit and the turn) rather than a short row heel.

The recent sock talk on Wendy Knits!spurred me into converting my pattern to 4ply (and fixing up the shonky short row heel turn I wrote before I really understood how short rows are supposed to work, with wraps and stuff). From the comments Wendy copied into her posts, it seemed visitors believed there were only two options: top down with the complicated heel or toe-up with a short row heel.

Well, obviously you can easily do a top-down sock with a short row heel, but why would you? There are so many advantages to knitting toe-up, the best being that you can make the socks as long as you want, or the yarn lasts. But has anyone else written a pattern for a toe-up sock with the three step complicated heel?

As soon as I’ve finished this sock, I’ll write out the pattern and post it.

The Ashford Knitters Loom

Look what arrived on my doorstep today:

Only took a couple of days to arrive. When I opened the box, this was inside:

It’s green!

It’s a cardboard carry box. Nifty. Pretty soon I had the contents arranged on the floor:

There’s a little bit of assembly required. More challenging for this novice weaver was setting up the warp. I was taught to weave at primary school but the process was very basic, where you had to ‘sew’ the weft thread through a warp that was static.

Most amusing was the bit in the instructions telling me to get a friend to hold the free end of the warp while I wound the other onto the loom. No way was I waiting around for the beau to come home. So to keep the tension on the warp, I tied it to a free weight.

Once the warp was ready, the really fun part started:

Here I encountered something about the loom that initially seemed like a fault. The reed support block has two positions on the top: up and rest. There are two ones on the bottom as well: down and travel. When the instructions told me to put the reed into the ‘down’ position, it promptly fell out. The slot is upside down, and quite loose. Maybe it’s supposed to hang on the warp, and mine wasn’t tight enough.

But pretty soon I had settled into just holding the reed in both ‘up’ and ‘down’ positions, swapping it and the shuttle between my hands as I worked back and forth. In about two hours – what the advertising predicted – I had a scarf finished:

Which is about the same time it would have taken me had I knitted the bulky wool with big needles. Still, I think weaving suited the yarn better.

I’m sure this is the simplest kind of weaving I could tackle, equal to knitting a chunky scarf in garter stitch perhaps. I think I still prefer to knit garments. For one thing, I hate sewing. I have several other weaving projects lined up: pillows, blankets, table runners and placemats. (Nothing that requires sewing.) But I have to admit I found myself thinking the fabric I was making would make a wonderful long jacket…

I used only one and a quarter balls of the chunky yarn. There’s plenty left over for another scarf. Only this time, maybe I’ll use a different colour warp thread instead. Hmm, I’m going to be looking at my stash in a whole new light now.

Verdict so far: 4.5 out of 5

Beta tester

I decided to take a gamble and order the Ashford Knitting Loom.

This is not normal behaviour for me. I’m a cautious buyer. I like to see my purchase before I buy it. I prefer to buy from a shop than mail order, even if it costs a little more. All my efforts to see the loom have failed, however.

Ashford’s website is great. It looks professional, which is something you want to see if you’re going to trust your visa card number to anyone. In fact, the loom is featured on the home page and there’s lots of juicy info and pictures that would get a knitter-interested-in-weaving’s tastebuds going. You think “where can I get one!” and go to the ordering information page and click on ‘Australia’.

And you end up at a site with broken images and lurid colours that can’t seem to make up it’s mind whether it’s a tourist site or shop. It hardly inspires confidence.

But that’s silly, isn’t it? I’m judging a book by it’s cover. I used to work as a graphic designer, and have a qualification in promotion that covered all sorts of advertising methods. I know a shabby image can be a clue to a business’s general attitude. Mind you, slick advertising can also be a cover-up for shonky service… but I’ve digressed.

I emailed Ashford (who have been wonderfully helpful) to ask if I could see the loom anywhere in Melbourne). They gave me the name of a shop, but it turned out the shop doesn’t keep them in stock. They’ll order one in, but made it clear they won’t just so I could have a look at it.

I emailed Ashford again, and they helpfully posted me a really interesting magazine and this sexy little brochure (that made my designer heart sing):

And there was a catalogue and order form for the shop with the appalling website.

A little internal battle ensued, in which I decided that the catalogue wasn’t off-putting, which proved the shop was no bigger risk than any other, and that if I didn’t like the loom I could always sell it on E-bay.

At this point I’d put in far more effort in than any spontaneous buyer would. The graphic designer in me has been alternately appalled and delighted by what I’ve encountered trying to buy this loom. I can’t help wondering how Ashford expect to sell them. Surely they can afford to send one sample loom to one knitting store in Melbourne. I’d be prepared to travel to see it.

Anyway. Rant over. I’ve ordered one. When it arrives I’ll blog my accessment and post photos.

Finished socks!

I knuckled down over the weekend and finished these:


I ball of Regia sock yarn, I ball of black sock yarn (can’t find label). I couldn’t help stopping to admire these socks as I knit them. I like the effect the alternate stripes makes.

I also reached the first big stripe of the Liquorish Allsorts jumper:

The wool is from the Nundle Woollen Mills . It’s thicker and fluffier than Bendigo 8ply. It feels, well, less processed. Does that make sense? I feel no fear that my loose ends will ever come out – this wool seems to stick to itself like velcro. The fabric it knits up to is thick and firm, and the stitches almost appear to blend together. The wool is a little bit hard on the hands, too, but not so much that I dislike it. I think Dad’s jumper is going to be heavy and very, very warm.

I started this last night:

I wanted to make the feather and fan lace socks from Socks! Socks! Socks! and to try knitting socks with 2 circs. Well, even though I have more than enough cotton for a pair of socks I couldn’t help myself – I had to knit them toe-up. First I tried Wendy’s short row toe method, but I realised after half an hour that the sock was going to be too big. So when I restarted, I used the figure 8 cast on, as I could just increase from there until the sock was the right size.

Once the toe was done, I started the lace pattern. I wasn’t much liking the 2 circs method because by the time I’d slid the stitches across, fought to get them over the join, disentangled the circs from each other, disentangled the yarn from the circs, I could have knit another round on dpns. When it came to concentrating on lace, I decided to dump the circs and go back to my trusty dpns.

I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll do a short row heel or convert the pattern for an upside down gusset-style heel I worked out yonks ago for 8ply socks (blissfully ignorant that this might be at all unusual) to 4ply yarn.

I’ve got plenty of time to decide.

Knitting history

Today I’ve been listening to podcasts over at Knitcast. My excuse is that I’m researching podcasts for work, getting a feel (or is that an ‘ear’?) for them and considering whether I’ll have a go at making some myself. So far it’s been very enjoyable research. Hehe.

Most of the knitcasts have been interviews, and nearly all begin with the question “when and how did you learn to knit?”. The answers are all similiar. Like most of the interviewees, I learned to knit as a child. I don’t remember what age I was, however. I learned to knit and crochet at about the same time. I know I was taught one of the two at school, because I can remember my nana being disappointed that she didn’t teach me first!

All the women in my family, on both sides and in all generations, were enthusiastic crafters. I’ve often said that between my mother, myself and my aunt we’ve got just about every craft covered.

At secondary school, I used to knit fingerless gloves and sell them to my fellow students. I took months to slowly knit myself a ribbed piano keys scarf – which I still have. Then I took even longer to knit a pastel aqua bat-winged fuzzy fake mohair jumper with buttons down the shoulders and arms – which I eventually gave to an op shop in utter embarrassment at my terrible 80s taste.

I wasn’t a particularly fast knitter, and that jumper seemed to dry up the last of my enthusiasm for knitting. Then three to four years back I noticed that beanies were back in. I bought a tan coloured cabled one from a market stall run by little old ladies. It matched my fake sheepskin coat. I loved that beanie, and was devastated when realised I’d I left it behind in a local cinema and it was never found by the staff (or so they claimed).

So I decided I’d knit one myself and dug up my old books and needles. In the search for similar yarn, I went to Spotlight. I noticed that all the staff were wearing fluffy, feathery knitted scarves in lovely colours. Then I noticed the customers were all wearing fluffy, feathery knitted scarves. Then I noticed the scary crowd of panting women elbowing each other around shelf of the fluffy, feathery yarn. And I decided right then that this had obviously gone beyond fashion into fad, and I wouldn’t be seen dead in one of these fluffy, feathery scarves. I headed straight for the ‘normal’ yarn.

After knitting my replacement beanie, well, I needed a scarf to wear with it. And then a black beanie and matching scarf to wear on more formal occasions. Then a friend loaned me a Kaffe Fasset book and I raided every op shop in a 10 km radius so I could afford to make one of his triangular shawl patterns. Then came the fateful day when I typed “knitting” into google and discovered blogs. And E-bay. And s’n'b.

At that point there was no looking back.

Recent FOs

I’m determinedly knitting away at my current pair of socks…

I have to confess here that I don’t like fake fair isle sock yarn. Oh, I love self-patterning stripey yarn. In fact, I have discovered through knitting that I really love stripes. But I like the look of real fair isle and self-patterning fair isle sock yarn just doesn’t cut it. These socks are a compromise. The patterned sock yarn was a bargain, and I’m a sucker for a bargain. I decided to add stripey goodness to counteract the fake fair isley badness by doing alternating rows of it and black. So far I’ve knit a sock and a bit, and I’m liking the effect.

But that is all I have to report, WIP-wise. The Liquoish Allsorts jumper has gained a few cm of black, which really isn’t exciting enough for a photo. I’m not a fast knitter. So in the meantime I shall entertain you with pics of my recent FOs:

The Summer Stripes top, in the classic headless supermodel shot:

Front

Back.

And a project I worked on before that, the Thneed:

Which is basically a ruanna with an extra rectangle added as a collar. This took me, um, about three months to knit. Lots of mindless stocking stitch. And then there was the lace edging, which was a revelation. Every time I’d tried lace knitting in the past I’d been siezed by the notion that it didn’t look right and I’d rip it and give up. This time I trusted the pattern and kept at it, and discovered lace knitting wasn’t as hard as I thought it was.

Still, you won’t find me knitting one of those big lace shawls any time soon. I just don’t have the patience. And they’re just a bit too, er, girly/granny for me.

Yarn diet nuked into oblivion

Today the beau and I headed to Bendigo. We headed there for two reasons: it was hot and since the aircon at home died the only way to stay cool is get in the car and drive; and the Bendigo Art Gallery was holding an exhibition of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s work.

As we hit the freeway, we found we had a stowaway on the windscreen:

Remarkably, it clung on for ages, at 100km an hour, before a gust of wind finally blew it off. I couldn’t help imagining it going “wheeeeeeeeeeeeee!” in insect language. Now it’s doing whatever a praying mantis does, in those nice grassy gardens along the freeway. (I refuse to consider the possibility it may have been squished on a windscreen or under tyres. There were hardly any cars on the road, so its chances were good.)

Upon reaching Bendigo, we sought out the local wool store, the Busy Bee, and found an empty shop. The nice lady in the quilting shop next door told me it had shut down. So we headed into the gallery to see the exhibition, which was great, then saw an excellent one of Cecil Beaton’s portraits.

We couldn’t visit Bendigo without dropping into the Bendigo Woollen Mills. In the bargain room I found this:

4ply cotton for socks. Yes, more sock yarn. I haven’t tried making any in cotton yet. I’ve recently discovered the joy of white cotton ankle socks and I think it’s time I made my own.

This was just what I was looking for:

A small cone of red that exactly matches the bulky wool I bought the other day. The bulky is too thick to use as both weft and warp (have I got the terminology right?) so I needed something thinner to go with it. And there it was, in the bargain room, reduced to $4 because the base had been cut. I unwound the damaged bit when I got home, and the pieces were mostly still of a usable length for a woven scarf, and the cone is mostly undamaged otherwise.

Finally, the wool I’d gone there for:

More Classic 8ply to go with leftovers from other projects (the snippets are the other colours I have), to make Tubey! (Don’t you love how you can buy wool to go with projects that are essentially stashbusters? I’m using up stash – I just need to buy a few extra balls of…)

I suspect Tubey will be the next project after the Liquorish Allsorts jumper. And I’m determined to finish my current pair of sock before starting another pair. The only trouble then is, will I make the next pair from the cotton or the argyle I bought on Wednesday… or any of the other balls of sock wool in my collection?

Winter is still a way off. I think it’ll be the cotton.