July 2008

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I am quite pleased with myself and my yarn. I spun the roving and rigged myself up a lazy kate:

(It’s a shoe box with knitting needles jabbed through it)

I plied the yarn, but as you can see I wasn’t quite perfect on making the bobbins the same length. Can anyone tell me if there a fix for this that I don’t know about?

I had a little trouble getting the feel for the plying at first, but by the end the yarn was beautifully balanced with no weird twistiness, and for what I want to use it for I don’t think the mis-plied sections will matter that much (I am keeping my plans up my sleeve for now).

Here it is on the bobbin:

And off:

I am quite pleased with my results and have a bigger bag of the same stuff in a red colour way to work with in a little while after I try out a few more things. I fancy a matching beret and gloves out of that one as I think it will be enough.

I am messing around with different fibre I have, trying out different yarns — trying to figure out what works and how best to use each kind.

This is the roving I have decided to tackle next:

It is hand painted alpaca.

There isn’t that much of it. I have split it in half and am spinning it thin:

I plan to spin the other half the same and ply them.

The Vogue Knitting and Interweave Knits pattern previews are out, which always excites me.

I don’t actually have time to knit anyone else’s patterns anymore as I can’t seem to find time to get all the ideas in my own head out in the time I can devote to knitting, but I love to look at them still.

If I did have time to knit someone else’s pattern (so if this were, let’s say fall 2004), I would be most likely to knit the orange/red/salmon cardigan with short sleeves and cables in the “Signature stitches” story in the Vogue issue (I like all the sweaters shown in the preview for that section) and the “Afterthought darts cardigan” by Theresa Schabes, which is similar to some ideas I have kicking around in my head.

I don’t think I could ever have too many cardi’s and the “Afterthought darts cardigan” looks eminently wearable. The only change I might consider would be to make the sleeves three quarter length as I like all my sleeves to be three quarter length, and the only change I would consider on the Vogue sweater would be to have a straight garter stitch border on the sleeve instead of the chevrons that seem to be there in the picture.

I love knitting for that reason, you can’t walk into the _______ (insert mainstream clothing store of your choice here) and say: “I will get that one, but in green, with long sleeves, and with the buttons on that sweater over there.”

Setting twist

I was absolutely incorrigible last night and sat in the bookstore and actually read Start Spinning by Maggie Casey cover to cover. I did not set off the alarm when I left the store, but I should have. It really is a great book, and I recommend it to anyone learning to spin as it had all sorts of things I didn’t know yet (that isn’t actually that difficult at this stage).

For example I figured out why the tension didn’t work initially on spinning wheel: from the instructions it wasn’t clear which way the tension should be set up, and I was using both Scotch tension and double drive tension at once. Now I am just using the Scotch tension and it works fine. I plan to try the double drive tension with my next skein.

Maggie explained about setting the tension and why it matters and what it means to be able to spin a balanced yarn, so got up this morning and tried to do what she said for setting twist. I didn’t do the whole process for the plied yarn as it didn’t seem like it needed it (I said I read it, I didn’t say I would obey it), so I soaked it in hot water with Eucalan. I did the whole deal for the single ply as it was weirdly overspun and a little willful — I decided that a good dunk in scalding water with dish soap was just the thing it needed:

(Please don’t take those as the whole instructions — read the book instead)

I then squeezed out the water with a towel and hung it on my airer:

The one at back is actually balanced, and I made it before I knew what that meant. The one at front is weighted and still twisty, but I think I want to do some sculptural crochet with it, so at least it won’t be a twisty sweater.

I was trying to get the knitting machine working again. I had Glenda come over to teach me about it and while she was here it all seemed so very logical, but then she left and the logic went with her.

At this point what I want to make is a stockinette stitch rectangular shawl — that should be easy enough, or so I thought. I have this lace weight silk noil, which I want the shawl to be made of — of course that won’t be happening any more.

I got cast on and was going along as pleased as punch:

And here is a look up its shirt:

My yarn was wound; I had done my swatch; everything was going according to plan, when I noticed I was dropping a few stitches here and there, but I thought — it’s the first thing I have made with the machine and its for me and a rustic style anyway, so I will carry on. It doesn’t look that bad:

Here is the kind of thing that was giving me a hint something was wrong:

Then there was more:

Finally the whole thing had a bit of a fit, threw up its metaphorical hands in the air and in a final insult to me and my efforts, broke the yarn with a snap and the whole middle of the shawl jumped right off the machine and just sort of hung there.

There are no pictures of this stage as I had to peer through the space between the beds and up from beneath to figure out what had happened. I am used to hand knitting — you can always see the part where you made the mistake even if you don’t know what you did or how to fix it.

So I took the whole thing off the machine and don’t have enough yarn left to start again, and I have another weird bit of knitting to figure out what to do with. I think it may be calling out to be another cushion cover:

Spinning tales

Here is the story of the second skein I have made with my wheel.

I got this romney roving from Princess Farms:

I spun it into a single, which looked like this:

I bought this lace weight mohair silk blend on my trip last week:

and it seemed like the perfect thing to ply the romney:

and here it is:

I just can’t tell you how proud of myself I am — it’s like real yarn.

Now I am thinking about how to use it. I think I will take Debbie New’s example and combine scribble lace and labyrinth knitting like she did in her Scribble Lace Bolero from KnitKnit: Profiles and Projects from Knitting’s New Wave, but I am not sure what it will be.

In bloom

The flax is just coming into bloom:

I am glad I will have a bit of time to figure out what to do with it before I need to do anything with it. The spinning is coming along nicely.

I have been out of town for a few days, so I don’t have that much to show, but I would like to show you a little skeinlet I have spun with my precious spinning wheel:

I got the niddy noddy on my travels and gleaned the information that skeining yarn actually has a purpose, so there it is, and I will be taking off the yarn and washing it to set the twist in a bit.

It’s fun having a new craft — it’s all so mysterious with all these steps, some of which can safely be skipped and some of which will ruin your project, yet no information on which are which.

Susan Gibbs has finished her draw for her stash, so if you bought tickets, head on over and check.

I didn’t win, but that’s okay I don’t really need more yarn anyway and it sounds like the mounts raised are substantial.  She raised $10,380, when she needed $5000 to cover the costs of the wheelchair.

Congratulations Susan! You must be so happy your efforts are so successful.

After a great deal of waiting and impatient checking, my spinning wheel arrived this week. I have not written sooner as I wanted to commune with it alone for a few days.

Of course the last any of you know it was on the Pacific somewhere — I had great imaginings about its life on-board ship. I think my imaginings were not very realistic and revolved around a strange mixture of the ages of sail and steam. Actually I think a great deal of it would not have been out of place in a Joseph Conrad novel. I imagined it in a wooden packing crate, stuffed with straw, strapped on board, tossed by the waves. Perhaps it stopped in Tahiti or Fiji on the way or was held up in the Doldrums.

As you can see I had some pretty unrealistic unexamined assumptions about what was happening. I even asked Jon to come with me to help me carry it, so you can imagine my surprise when Glenda put this on the counter for me:

It was so clean and spare and light: I confess I was somewhat taken aback, but not so much that I didn’t have to contain myself from opening and taking everything out of the box in the store.

When I got it home this is what it looked like:

And here it is taken out of the box:

I didn’t really internally examine the fact that it would come disassembled, and while I did get it together in one evening, it wasn’t the easiest assembly job ever. If any of you are thinking of buying one, you will want to have a hammer (preferably one of those rubber ones that won’t knock the wood around), scissors, candle wax, and screw drivers — this of course will only be an issue for those like me who go through life perennially unequipped or who get divorced.

After a modicum of frustration and receiving blanket permission from Jon to buy any furniture that needs assembly I want to as I can obviously put stuff together, I was inordinately pleased with this:

The hardest part was getting the brake and driver right — as there were not great instructions in the box on that part (the rest were fine), but after messing with it for a little while and making some odd overspun yarn, I think I have got it going, and here is the fruit of my labours on my first evening spinning:

I am working on modulating the thickness and making it more uneven, as my natural inclination is to make a yarn of about fingering weight that is perfectly smooth and boring. Lexi Boeger (I think it was here) said that you need to be able to spin a regular yarn before you start experimenting with fancier fare. I am giving myself permission to start that phase of my spinning career now (but please don’t judge me if I am not the most exciting spinner at first — it’s a work in progress).

When I was a child, one of my favourite stories involved a prince who fell in love with a commoner who would not marry him until he had a trade, so he learned to weave cloth. They ruled for several years, but he didn’t know how people really lived in his country, so he dressed as a poor man and went out into the city to see for himself.

He was taken by a group of priests to a cave and forced to work with others as slaves. He found an old friend in the cave and together they made a very precious piece of cloth that would only be suitable for the queen, and in it he wove the story of his capture and where he and the others were being held.

This was done in such a cunning way that the priests would not be able to understand the message, but the queen would. Whereupon she rescued everyone.

This story mesmerized me — I loved the idea of a message in the cloth, and I was thinking of how to do something like that myself.

This is my scarf with a secret message in progress:

So far the message is really secret as you can’t see the way I have rendered Morse code into the stitch pattern, but I will be more explicit and post symbol charts for this particular rendering in a few days.

I will now leave you with a final picture and a note: it is an Armenian story called Anaeet.

Knitting in code

I love it when movies deal with things I like and give them a disproportionate level of importance. Perhaps it is confessing too much, but I love The Mummy, and a lot of that is the importance it attached to reading a book.

I went to see Wanted over the weekend, and I think I can say without giving too much away that a central part of the narrative revolves around “the Fraternity” a guild of medieval cloth weavers who formed a secret band of assassins a thousand years ago, and who are still in business — in both the textiles and killing business. Aside from the interesting observation that they appear to be running a cloth factory that only produces rather coarse cotton or linen plain weave fabric (I think this should be forgiven as it makes for quite nice spare images, and spools of thread in other colours do occasionally make an appearance), messages woven into the cloth in code are central to the plot.

I have been thinking about ways that messages could be incorporated into knitting for some time. So far, I have been focussing on Morse code, but really all sorts of codes could be knit into different garments.

I have been working on a project to create a lace scarf incorporating Morse code, and I will post about that with pictures and codes in general more extensively in a few days.

Susan Gibbs over at Martha’s Vineyard Fiber Farm is raffling off her entire stash to help her uncle buy a special wheelchair (for full details see here). Besides being very generous, this seems like it is too targeted at my demographic* to pass up, though where I would personally put it all I am not sure.

This raises all sorts of musings for me, the main one being: imagine having a stash that was actually full of yarn other people would want? I would definitely have to cherry pick my stash, or no one in his or her right mind would thank me.

Good luck to all the entrants.

*fibre obsessed people

I just got several weeks worth of the Berroco KnitBits newsletter in my Bloglines account today, and I am so excited about the new fall patterns.

Nora Gaughan has been blogging about her design process for one of the sweaters here, here, here, here, and here. I very much like the outcome (see Prospera). It’s so fun to watch how she does it, which I suppose is the point of the Berroco Design Studio Blog.

I don’t think that is the one I would actually make and wear though. I can see why that sweater is one of the showcase pieces, but I just can’t get over how great the gloves attached to a scarf are (see Usher) — that is the pattern that made me think about it all day.

Eastlake is probably the one I would wear and love the most. I think it would make feel very elegant, but I would likely undermine the effect by being unable to control the little dance I would want to do.

The whole pattern line is linked from here.

I am considering how I would like to adapt the scarf/gloves idea — it’s just too good not to want to mess with.

Well last night was the first night it has hailed so far this year. Yesterday was so hot (please humor me if you live somewhere that gets really hot, I have lived in the tropics, I know of what I speak), and the thunder started rumbling in the distance at about 10:00pm, and as we lay in bed the hail started, and I feared for my flax.

I jumped out of bed this morning and ran out to check on it:

See it is verdant and not in least trampled to the ground. Jon tells me that if it were trampled to the ground it would make me a real Saskatchewanian — because I would have lost a crop to hail. The summer is new: it may happen yet.

The cauliflower is also okay:

Taking pictures of cauliflower makes me think of Kaffe Fassett — he was the first designer who got me really excited about knitting, though I started with needlepoint. I think my cauliflower would be different from Kaffe’s (see Glorious Needlepoint): I think I would put some weeds in mine and holes where the bugs have eaten their share. I made his pear panel, and now it occurs to me that all these years later I still haven’t made in into a cushion or anything.

I like having a blog because it makes me complete things — under your watchful eyes I feel I need to produce something worth telling about. The knitting is running apace, but I am mired in projects I can’t write about. One think I will tell you is that I have a design coming out in Knitting in the Sun by Kristi Porter, which will be published next spring barring a flood or something. I sent the pattern on Sunday, and I am almost finished my sample. I am also very excited to be published in the same book as Stefanie Japel (see here). It makes me feel very accomplished and important.

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