Progress, with Cat for Scale

Normally I like to have something small and fast on the needles or hook, to prevent myself getting bored with larger, long-term projects. But my current wips seem to contrast with each other very well. I’m alternating between them each night, so I get variety but can still see progress.

The Mitre Vest is getting close to done. I’ve finished one front and am beavering along the other.

I’m going to have heaps of yarn left over, and suddenly I’m not sure I want to extend the length of the vest. Maybe, instead, I’ll make socks to match. Yes. Socks. The end of summer is drawing closer, which means the end of Sockless Summer. I’ve already decided on a sock pattern to knit first: Rainbow Socks in the October Magknits.

The Ribbed Wrap Jacket is ripping along. Perhaps it just seems that way in comparison to the mitres in 4ply. But I’m loving the yarn, the speedy gauge, the rythmic beat of the ribbing and the simple construction.

I still haven’t managed to get out and track down yarn for the contrasting collar. At the moment deadlines are so tight that every day is a work day. Unless something else drags me away, like someone’s birthday party or getting sick. I’ve managed quick trips to Bunnings, and some gardening, but to get to a yarn store means going further afield. I’d get my LYS to post me the yarn, but I want to compare the colours in person before deciding which to buy.

I’ve been so busy that I put my Painted Warp Scarf in for a quick soak and forgot about it. For a week. Yesterday I discovered it still soaking, squeezed out the water and gently hung it up to dry. The sock yarn has bloomed, making the greys and black more vivid:

It seems to have survived the long bath very well. Phew!

Scaping the Land

This is a non-knitting post for the benefit of friends who might want to see the landscaping work we’ve had done around our house recently. It’s also unavoidably picture-heavy, so apologies to those with dial-up.

First, our new front yard:

The bottlebrush tree and a bit of the retaining wall beneath it is about all that’s left of the original too-weedy-to-be-called lawn. Now there are mudstone edges and ‘artistically’ placed rocks, with native ground covers. I’m thinking of putting in some clumps of native grasses, once the ground covers start to spread and I get an idea of how they’re going to look. The lilydale topping drive now extends into a path to the side gate.

And there’s the ‘driveway bed’:

Trust me, there are plants in there. Ten native plants. The green thing on the left is a rose bush. New beds and plants are always a bit underwhelming to photograph.

Down the back we planted four bottlebrush trees that will eventually screen the fence and the neighbours’ back yards:

The grass weeds will have to be poisoned regularly between now and October, when there’ll be a chance that any grass we put down survive without watering (due to restrictions). And we want to get rid of the invasive species, which you can see invading the ‘citrus’ bed despite our efforts so far.

This is the ‘tree’ bed:

Which has become the place where plants I’ve removed from elsewhere get transferred to. If they survive, they survive. If they don’t, well at least we gave them a chance. The japanese maple isn’t looking too well, but the strappy green things are pretty robust. There are white lilies – unfairly maligned because of the association with funerals and death – in there that. There are also heaps of little bulbs passed on by a friend, which should be a nice surprise come spring.

This is the beginning of my potted succulent garden:

They’ll go on either side of a park bench, once I replace the rotting slats.

This is my new ‘servicable’ area, with my new gardening shed and our water tank:

This is the ‘herb and vege’ bed:

So far the only things I’ve planted are tarragon, thyme, oregano and a compost bin. Such a relief to have a compost bin again. Only problem is, the kitchen door is in the existing cat run, and the end of the run will be blocked until the run is finished. I have to walk all the way around the house to reach the bin. As you can see, the beau is in the middle of extending the run. We got the old wire door from a metal salvage yard. We used chicken wire on the first part of the run, which resulted in many cuts and scrapes and much swearing. The new part will be covered in plastic mesh we got from National Netmakers.

This is the cat run as it exists now:

The blue line shows where it ends now. The yellow line shows where it will extend to. The red line is where I’m thinking of putting a screening wall of some sort, with an archway cut into it, to block the view of the ‘servicable’ area and hot water service from the front of the house.

And finally, here’s a pile of rubble:

Why am I showing you this? Well, the main part – probably 80% of the pile – is leftover mudstone we want to sell. We ordered three cubic metres and ended up with five or six. About one and a half cubic metres of it is too small for our purposes, which may be why the supplier added extra to the load, but the remaining one and a half to two metres is a good size for garden edging. Apparently mudstone is all the rage at the moment. We like it because it matches well with both the colour of the volcanic rocks we already had, and the red brick of the house.

Leave a comment if you’re interested in buying it. We can’t deliver, I’m afraid, so you’ll have to pick it up. I’m giving friends a chance to buy it before I advertise it in the trading post in a week or so.

Hope you enjoyed my landscaping tour! It certainly is satisfying to have something nice again, after having everything covered in building rubble for a year and a half.

Mitres, Ribs and Bulges

I’ve been mitring along on the Mitred Vest most evenings lately. It looked a bit of a mess for a while as I worked around the diamond shaped hole in the back, but once the fabric on either side of the gap was joined together again it regained some structure. Last night I knit the diamond, and suddenly it was back to being one big piece again.

The first ball ran out around 10 or 12 mitres before the back finished, which was much further than I estimated it would go. Once I’ve finished the two fronts, sewn the shoulders together and tried it on I’m going to consider how much yarn is left and if I can add a few more rows of mitres to the bottom.

Though this is slow knitting with tiny needles and thin yarn, I’m yet to grow sick of it. The mitres are interesting enough to keep me, well, interested. And they’re simple enough to do while watching tv.

I’ve begun the Ribbed Wrap Jacket. I can tell this is going to be good tv knitting too.

Once again, I’ve altered the pattern. Looking at finished versions on Ravelry, I noted comments that there seemed to be a lot of sewing. The body is knit from the bottom of the back, up over the shoulders and then in two pieces to the bottom of the fronts. That means side seaming. I’d rather graft together the shoulders, so I’m knitting fronts and back together.

I haven’t decided on a colour for the collar yet, though I like all the suggestions in the comments. Raspberry, light blue or white? I can’t decide, so I figure I’ll make the choice in person. I’ve been carrying around my swatch, but the only yarn store I’ve managed to visit lately is Lindcraft, and they didn’t have the yarn.

I’ve also been experimenting…

The last item on my Sockless Summer list is the Droplet Scarf. I’ve had this idea for a few years now, for a scarf made of icords with little ‘droplet’ bulges down the cords. Yesterday I made a few attempts to create the droplets with no success. They came out all misshapen and were much too fiddly. Then I remembered an article in Yarn magazine about shibori knitting, where you tie objects into the knitting and felt it. The fabric that stretches over the object doesn’t felt and becomes a bulge. So I knitted up some icord and stuffed beads into it. Today I slipped it into a load of washing. It worked. Well, except for one problem.

How do I get the beads out?

I’m thinking I’ll have to plan to leave them in. And then another idea came to me. What if I used little bells instead of beads? Instead of a Droplet Scarf, I could call it the Wind Chime Scarf. I love the idea of the noise it might make as it was felting in the machine.

But I am a little concerned the cat might start chasing me around the house.

Painted Warp Scarf

I subscribed to Syne Mitchell’s WeaveCast a long time ago, but so far I’ve only listened to two episodes. This isn’t because I don’t like the podcast, but because by the end of the second show, on painted warps, I just had to try the method. Before listening to any more shows, because if I heard about any more tempting weaving methods my head might just explode.

Trouble is, you have to have some varigated yarn suitable for warp, or dye it yourself. I’m not all that keen on varigated yarn, so I only have a few examples in my stash. The first two I looked at weren’t suitable. Mum gave me some usable yarn for my birthday, but I was a bit hesitant to try out a new method on gift yarn in case it didn’t work and I wasted the yarn.

Sockless Summer drew my attention to a yarn in my stash that was suitable. I had most of a ball of Sunshine Yarns sock yarn in the ‘Blacksmith’ colourway. I also happened to have one stray ball of Paton’s Fireside in white that might work for a weft yarn.

Matching up the colours in the yarn was a bit of a challenge, but eventually I got it to line up between the warping peg that comes with the knitters loom and a yarn measuring device I’d got the beau to make me a few years back, both clamped to the table once I found the right distance apart.

Getting the colours to line up on the loom was harder. I suspect it would be much easier on a more sophisticated loom. I’d knot the yarn carefully at one end so everything lined up, wind the warp on, then find that tying the yarn at the other end at a consistent tension made the colours shift out of alignment. I’d tie some looser and some tighter, wind the yarn back again in order to adjust the first end only to find the looseness of the looser warp threads would be absorbed in the wound up yarn.

Eventually I decided I’d have to live with the colours not lining up perfectly, and started to weave. The result was more subtle than I expected.

But I like it. The effect would probably me more dramatic if the warp yarn was the same thickness as the weft, and therefore more visible against it, and I’d used bolder colours.

For examples, check out the last project in the shiny new WeaveZine Syne has started, Painted Skein Warps. I’m kicking myself I only discovered this yesterday, as Syne explains what I had to work out myself. I rather like the striped version. This is definitely a method I’ll try again.

(Added later.) Here it is after an unintentionally long soak in woolmix:

Which seems to have boosted the greys and blacks. Lovely!

Bag in a bag

The up side to being sick is I can justify knitting, crocheting, weaving and napping all weekend. Last night I had the itch to finish something, so I took the string bag out of my handbag and worked on it until it was done.

And here’s a little photo essay of how it works:

When opening it up, I tend to turn it inside out twice, first to release the string bag bit, then again to get the ties out of the way. I’m thinking of making another one, but using a loop of elastic instead of a tie so I don’t have to flip the bag inside out twice.

Knitting Pattern Daydreams

Last weekend I picked up a few pattern books and magazines.

The books, for Patons Jet and Inca, were on sale at Kmart Burwood for just $6 each. While there’s no particular pattern I want to knit, there are examples of shapes and types of construction that have been fashionable in the last few years, so I snapped them up as patterns I could use as a base to start elaborating on. I do have a lot of Inca in the stash, too.

The magazines were unexpected purchases. I don’t buy Knitter’s magazine on a regular basis, but I’ll flick through when I see it and buy it if there’s anything interesting. The patterns that caught my eye were these:

Vogue Knitting was a ‘must buy’ for me, but lately the issues had left me feeling a bit ‘meh’. My last, painful attempt at knitting a VK pattern had brought some general critism for their patterns to my attention. I’d only ever knit one thing before that – unlike Interweave Knits, which I’ve knit several patterns from. Heck, I’ve knit more patterns from CrapaciousCreative Knitting than VK.

So I did the flick-through thing expecting to be unimpressed… and ended up buying it anyway. Because of these:

White aran jackets have been appealing to me a lot lately (ever since Starsky appeared on Knitty) I have a suspicion that, if I finally decide to knit one, I’ll pull together all the white aran jacket patterns I’ve liked the look of and this one won’t be the one I choose. But the other feature I like about it is the collar. It brought to mind an ad for Debbie Bliss patterns I saw recently:

I wonder if big round collars are going to be the ‘in’ thing next winter.

Looking for the Perfect Crochet Pattern

I got to thinking about crochet the other day, after getting hold of the latest Interweave Crochet and feeling a bit underwhelmed. Something was bugging me about it. I flicked through and found myself thinking “yep, there’s the usual lacy shawl, wrap or blanket, bulky and shapeless jumper or cardy, whacky hat, knitted thing with crochet additions, man’s garment, textured thing with frilly bits, lacy ‘topper’, and felted things”.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot to like. I’m currently feeling the slouchy hat love, so the Hot Cross Slouch Beret is tempting me. The Infinity wrap is cool in a way that appeals to my inner geek. The Eagle Pullover is perfectly manly. And the pattern I desperately want to try but am too inexperienced for is the Stone Path Hat.

So what was bugging me? It certainly wasn’t the lack of variety. Maybe it was the fact that so much crochet falls in the same old categories:

The lacy thing.
The granny square thing.
The chevron thing.
The felted thing.
The weird mathematical thing.
The thing with crochet chain woven through.
The thing that’s knitted then crochet added.
The bulky and/or crochet with big hooks thing.

But I don’t think that’s what’s bugging me. I’ve seen patterns using all these approaches that looked fabulous. Even granny squares. I thought a bit more. Then I looked at crochet patterns I disliked, in IC and elsewhere, and asked myself what really bugged me about some of them, and came up with a new list:

Frumpy and shapeless.
Old fashioned.
Hip & Groovy (or slutty).

Which are maladies that knitting patterns can suffer, too. It’s just that there are a heck of a lot more knitting patterns out there so there’s more good stuff to balance the bad.

I began to wonder if that was why the only garment I’ve ever crocheted (aside from accessories) was a costume. I’ve been wanting to crochet a proper, serious garment for a long time now, but never found a pattern I wanted to make so badly it was worth the effort of stretching myself and tackling the whole US/Aussie terminology conversion thing.

That, I think, was why it was bugging me. If IC kept putting out the same old thing, would I ever find a pattern so fabulous I just had to make it? Maybe I needed to widen my source of patterns.

First I dug up my only copy of Crochet Today! and examined their back issue online. There were definitely some garments there that sparked an interest. I think I’ll be hunting down some back issues.

I also happened to visit a Borders yesterday, and went a-hunting for crochet books. My usual rule is: there has to be three or more patterns I like before I’ll buy anything. Cool Crochet qualified, and then some. Here are some of the patterns I like:

There was a book with a rather ugly cover called Crochet Techniques that I passed over a few times, but I had time to fill and decided to see if it was a good reference book. Turns out it was, but not in the way I expected.

Inside are five sampler rug patterns. The samplers cover plenty of crochet techniques, so by making them you learn a lot about crochet and end up with an attractive rug at the end. (I think the colours in the hexagon rug are uninspiring, but it wouldn’t be hard to substitute with more attractive hues.) One of the rugs uses Tunisian crochet, and another explores ‘crochenit’.

Now, I’ve been thinking about knitting a sampler rug for a while now, but that’s not what tipped my interest. Sampler rug patterns are not hard to find, and I could always just make squares from the pattern in my stitch dictionaries. What made me tuck this book under my arm and take it to the counter was the fact it used Aussie/Brit terminology and was published in Australia. I’m of the opinion that trying to improve your knowledge of crochet using US terminology (if you were brought up with Aussie/Brit terms) is like trying to learn to drive while on holiday in another country. Far easier to learn to drive at home, and wait until you’ve got the knack of it before tackling driving in exotic locations.

I haven’t tried to follow any of the instructions or charts in Crochet Techniques yet, but the diagrams are clear and there are both written instructions and charts. The photos of any of the three more attractive rugs would have made a much nicer cover and the title doesn’t really get across the concept, but the concept is an interesting one and I’m glad I had the time to give the book a closer look. And in the last 24 hours I’v been doing a mental stash dive, trying to recall if I have some yarn to start sampling with.

There was some more pattern/magazine aquisition over the weekend, but it’s all about the knitting and I think this post is long enough. I’ll save it for another time.

Slow Knitting

Knitting with fine yarn. Knitting large swathes of stocking stitch. Knitting big garments or blankets. They all take their time, and to ensure I don’t get bored, I like to knit other, smaller projects at the same time. Which makes the large ones take longer. But I don’t mind. I’ve appreciated the slow, repetitiveness of my wips lately, like when the landscaper found a leaking gas pipe which led to some expensive plumbing work being done (though hopefully they didn’t charge us for repairing the water pipe they broke and had to fix).

I’m still enjoying building the Mitre Vest, building it block by block like a soft knitted wall.

I’ve left a space for the diamand that will go in the centre back.

By knitting ten rows a day on the green blob, I got through the stocking stitch. Then I knit a garter stitch end, grafted at the middle. This made me feel very clever. (I’m easy to please.)

Now I have to decide how to proceed from here.

All the talk in the Aussie Knitting group on Ravelry about bags led to talk about string bags. Someone recalled a crochet string bag pattern in Crapacious Creative Knitting way back in the early days, where the bag is stuffed within a little pouch. I dug up the pattern and started to play, using the leftover Regia Surf I used for the Sock Yarn Hat.

And because I can’t help it, I immediately began modifying the pattern. In particular, I thought the gaps of the stringy part of the bag were too big. Things would fall out. And instead of stuffing the stringy part into a side opening between the two discs, I left a hole it the centre of a disc. Since I’ve changed almost everything, I’m thinking of writing up a whole new pattern. And maybe put it on this blog as a freebie.

In anticipation of my next Knit From Your Books project, I swatched some Cleckheaton Country Silk I bought at the ACS mill shop. It kept suggesting itself as a substitute yarn for the Jo Sharp Ribbed Wrap Jacket, and I’ve learned that when the yarn talks, you listen. The RWJ requires an aran weight yarn, so I thought I might try knitting a larger size.

Turns out the Country Silk knits up pretty close to gauge. I have enough for the body, but I need to buy it in a contrast colour for the collar. I’d love to use black, but it doesn’t come in black. The colour range is here. (The grey is no 9.) Orange doesn’t suit my skin tones, and I don’t like pink, but the rest are all interesting possibilities. What would you suggest?

The Knitter Who Mistook Her Sock For A Hat

Last night I hat a look at the Sock Yarn Sunhat I’d set aside as a portable project and realised I’d been messing up the increases in the brim. Clearly I needed to concentrate on those increases, which made it a bad travel project, so I may as well finish it. I ripped back and recrocheted the brim. I’d also found that the colour changes of the self-striping yarn were making one side of the brim dark and the other mainly light, so after cutting and reattaching the yarn a few times I decided this hat would look better with a narrow brim.

This morning I used my new head for the first time:

It’s so much better than my old head. I took a replacement photo for the last sunhat I knit, to put into Ravelry:

The Sock Yarn Sunhat didn’t take much yarn. Possibly less than a single sock. And I now have one full and two half balls left of this particular cotton/merino yarn (Regia Surf). It makes a nice hat, and I’m thinking the yarn would also make nice string shopping bags, too. This is good, because I found it a bit ropey and lacking in elasticity for socks.

I started Sockless Summer in order to slow the filling of the sock drawer a little, but it’s nudged me into learning methods I’d been too hesitant to try (mitred squares) and find uses for think yarn I’d never thought of before.

My other Sockless Summer wip, the Mitre Vest, is going slowly, but I’m still enjoying knitting up the little mitre squares. I’m on the fourth row of squares now. I’ll be adding shaping for the diamond in the centre back soon. In a day or two. The anticipation is killing me.

And in my other knitting bag… is endless stocking stitch. I’m getting through it by allocating myself ten rows a day.

At 170 stitches around, I suspect there’ll be as much knitting in this as there would be for a vest. And then there’s always the chance that the felting won’t go exactly to plan. Especially as I only have a front loader.

Which is probably why I suddenly have a strong itch to do some weaving.