Friday, June 30, 2006

Perfect Peony

So I was having a quick sneak round the UK Knitters Blog Ring (when I should have been finishing a chapter of my thesis) and whilst looking at annarella, I saw some aran weight silk yarn that I thought would be just perfect for the gift I want to make my pal Katie for her birthday in July. I saw it was a Hip Knits yarn, so I emailed Kerrie to see if she had any left. She told me it was called Peony and that she'd hunt some out for me and moments later had emailed me to let me know my skein of Peony would be on its way to me on Monday.

I'm so excited. I think the colours are perfect for Katie and coincidentally her favourite flowers are Peonies! I'm also really chuffed that Kerrie was so quick to find it for me! Thanks Kerrie.
So to repay Kerrie for her fab and fast service, I thought I blog about it as quick as I could!!!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Completed - Socks

Behold, my beautiful socks!!!!

Just to recap, these were knitted with the handpainted yarn and 2.5mm Rosewood DPNs given to me by my (wonderful) Secret Pal, and I used the 'Ragg Time' pattern on page 9 of the Socks Socks Socks book (also given to me by my Secret Pal) edited by Elaine Rowley.

Monday, June 26, 2006

All's Well that Ends Well

So, I have finally finished my first pair of socks! But despite the fact my sock knitting started rather well, more recently it became somewhat fraught and even a little distressing, so I shall tell you my sock saga...

The first sock was done and I had noted the following issues:
1. the top edge wasn't quite as even as I thought it should be i.e. the jump from first round to second was rather pronounced.
2. I had little holes where you pick your stitches after the heel flap
3. my grafting was a bit bumpy

I cast on my second sock and got pretty much straight to work. I went really fast round all the ankle ribbing and to my surprise discovered that this time, there was no discrepancy at the top edge (issue 1 resolved!). I got to the heel flap and with few minor problems worked back and forth ready for the gusset. My Secret Pal had given me advice on picking up stitches, but unfortunately I forgot this and made the same little holes as before - although my picked up stitches do look more robust this time (issue 2 half resolved). I did my gusset decreases and made it to the foot part imagining that I was some kind of sock knitting whiz who would be able to knit socks while talking and even without constantly referring to a pattern!!! Boy was I wrong!

My toe decreases went fine and as I neared the toe I remember that my Secret Pal had recommended doing a 3 needle bind-off rather than grafting. And this is where I encountered my first problem. I knew that in order to do this, I needed to turn my work inside out, but I had already put it on 2 needles and try as I might, I couldn't work out how to reverse it. I put the stitches on a holder and this didn't help. I tried staring at it for a long time and this didn't help. So I finally decided that it would have to be on 3 or 4 needles to turn inside out. So I put it on 4 needles and eventually and with much caution, I managed to pull the sock through the tiny opening and reverse it.

Now for my next problem, when I got down to my final 16 stitches (before the turning inside out saga) I had arrived at the point in the pattern where it tells you to:

"Knit 4 st from first DNP to 3rd DPN"

I remembered this from the first sock as I took it to mean slip 4 stitch from 1st to 3rd so that you had 2 needles with 8 stitches on each. In fact I still think this is what it means, but what then happens is that your working yarn tail is right in the middle of one of your needles (because the round beginning was in line with the middle of the heel in this pattern - I don't know if that is different to other patterns). When I did sock number 1, I rectified this by simply passing the yarn to the front of the needle and beginning the graft from there. I didn't think you could redistribute the stitches across the needles so that the working yarn would be at one end because I thought this would mean that you would be closing up the toe at an odd angle, rather than flat with the decreases at each end.

So after the 'turning inside out' bit, I again slipped 4 from 1st to 3rd and again had the working yarn in the middle and again passed the working yarn to the front to start the bind-off. Can you imagine what happened? Can you??? Well, forgetting that the sock was inside out and that I needed to pass the yarn where I could see it, I instead passed it underneath the needles. I did the 3 needle bind-off which is of course easy-peasy lemon-squeezy and was so excited at my sock success that I broke the yarn and woven in the tail.

Disaster! When I turned the sock the right way again I found this loop of yarn outside of the sock running from the middle to the end, where I had passed it to start the bind off!

Being a perfectionist (although increasingly less of one the more I knit), I decided that I would have to undo the bind off. So I pulled out the tail and pulled out the bind off. Disaster struck again when, unable to do this gently enough, stitches started to drop in front of my very eyes. At this point, holding my breath and I can honestly say holding back a few tears of frustration, I turned the sock into a construction site and picked up every stitch I could find using all 5 of my DPNs. I was slightly relieved to discover I had 20 stitches - just one round off my final decrease - but rather distressed again when I realised that I couldn't work out how to get these rather precarious 20 stitches back on the right needles.

For a week I consigned the sock to the knitting basket to think about its behaviour!

After the trauma had lessened, I set about putting the stitches back in order, doing the final decrease row and the 3 needle bind-off with the working yarn right under my nose where I could see it and it couldn't misbehave. To do all of this I added a new peace of yarn as the tail I had left was too short to work with, so I had several tails to weave in and had to remember how my Anuty Wedny (Anuty Wendy) taught me to join yarn and knit it together with the first stitch.

But I am relieved to report that sock number 2 is now finished!!! (sigh of relief)

I am off out to the second meeting of my knitting club later and I shall wear my socks with pride and at some point, when Blogger lets me upload photos again, I will post a picture of them together!

Monday, June 19, 2006

30 Things for Kerrie

In answer to Kerrie's competition at HipKnits:

30 Things About cfknits (That Count to 30)!!!

I have spent 1 night in my car, at Scarborough beach, wrapped up in leopard print bedding (nobody said sleeping in cars couldn’t be glamorous),

I have had 2 car crunches that were my fault, and both of them were with stationery objects (moving targets are harder, obviously),

I have attended 3 schools and 3 universities (just can’t get enough of them!),

In a restaurant called Sambo’s in Santa Barbara I once ate 4 breakfasts in one go (American ones and I’m only little),

During my lifetime I have had 5 imaginary friends and they were called Doocie, Jank, Cockie-Knickers, Nothingness-1 and Nothingness-2 (I have yet to afford a therapist),

My birthday is the 6th of September and my brother’s is the 6th of October (but luckily there is no other sibling to make the third 6),

I’ve been studying at HE level for 7 years (thankfully not 7 years straight, but who knows),

When I was 8 I told my mummy I wished Debbie Harry was my mother instead (I really have no reason for this, its as utterly random as it sounds),

9 is the only times table I can do (other than 2s, 5s and 10s) because I know a trick for it,

I like to take 10 minute showers and believe I am entirely responsible for the drought in Hertfordshire (but using a stopwatch I’ve cut it down a lot OK),

Since starting knitting I’ve knitted 11 items (and counting),

I spend £12 on organic vegetables each week but I don’t eat fruit (except the occasional banana),

When I was 13 a school friend pierced my ears and my whole face went septic (pretty eh?),

I own 14 sets of knitting needles but no knitting needle case (woe is me),

I’ve so far won £15 on the Monday Lottery (but don’t tell my Mum because she doesn’t like lotteries),

When I was 16 my school friends and I ate all the Easter eggs in the junior school Easter egg hunt, but failed to fully dispose of the evidence (it was too much chocolate even for me!) and were punished,

I starting dating my first boyfriend when I was 17 (and prior to that wasn’t the slightest bit interested in smelly boys),

The Tai Chi form I’m currently struggling to learn is called 18 Hands (but I only have 2),

I had my first mobile phone when I was 19 (and it was the size of a pencil case and you couldn’t text on it),

I own 20 antique costume jewellery brooches bought over several years from a market stall in Dorset,

For my 21st birthday my then boyfriend bought me a car stereo (where’s the romance in that?) and my Mum made me a huge collage of pictures and keepsakes from my whole life (a true work of art),

22 was my house number for role call at boarding school,

My Dad is tracing our family tree and so far he has found 23 ancestors we didn’t know about (I’m looking forward to hearing about Ebenezer),

I cn ansa in jst 24 charactrs!

My boyfriend is 25 (apparently I’m a cradle snatcher),

I broke my nose (pretty spectacularly) on a shop floor when I was 26,

Right now its 27 degrees outside,

I am 28, but next year I will be 30 (clearly I’m an alien and age 3 years for every human year),

I met my boyfriend on the 29th of October (in Halloween costume),

It took me 30 minutes to complete this set of facts.

Still No Pictures!

How is it that I can post a picture of a magazine, but Blogger wont let me post any pictures of the things I've been making??? Its very frustrating. Please let me back in Blogger, please!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Want 1!

I really want to subscribe to this magazine!

I've read various reviews of it on the net, which have been mixed, but Luciana let me see her last copy, and I thought it was wonderful. It is of course very 'fashion forward' but then I like that! Most of the bad reviews I have read were written by people who I am sure are not the target market for such a publication, so I haven't been deterred!

On top of that, this is the 'art issue', could it be any more appropriate?! I am going to have to find out how to get hold of it!!!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Bloggin' Blues II

Why blogger why???? I just spent half an hour on a post and blogger has chewed it up and spat it out into the ether without letting me save a draft!!! I've really got the bloggin' blues now!!!!

How 2 Start Knitting...

A couple of people have recently asked me how to get into knitting, so this is my:

Learners Knitting Guide (from the perspective of a learner!)

I would firstly recommend getting a copy of Stitch and Bitch by Debbie Stoller. I know this isn’t the only book for new knitters, but so far it is my favourite because although I’m not fussed for the patterns, I think the approach is fun, easy and memorable (and you might like the patterns!).

I would then take a look at Knitty and trawl though all their free patterns – particularly the ‘mellow’ ones and find something (either from Knitty or Stitch and Bitch) that you feel like having a go at – probably a scarf?! Probably something in a chunky/bulk wool?!

(For further assistance with techniques, once you actually pick up your needles, I’d try Knitting Help. You can even sit in front of the computer with your needles for a tutorial.)

I would then take a look at Get Knitted (even if the site is a bit of a mess) and Pavi Yarns (because the site is simple and clear). Offline, any John Lewis is always a good option for basic stuff and then there is Loop (in Islington) and (the newly opened) Stash (in Putney), and I’m quite fond of the Knit Tin in Olney - who by the way do beginners scarf kits which look really good!

Next I would join a knitting circle. There are lots of them around and most of them comprise mixed ages and abilities, so you don’t need to feel daunted. You can find knitting group locations on the UK Stitch ‘n’ Bitch site.

Another great resource are knitting blogs. I personally find it really good fun to hang out with other knitters online through a blog, so I would recommend setting up a blogger, typepad or livejournal account and getting stuck in. Alternatively you can just start surfing your way round some of the web rings such UK Knitters, Knitty Kitty for ideas and inspiration. Two of my favourite blogs are Purl Friday and Purly Queen because they are way better than me, but not so much so that it scares me, and they post really regularly and honestly abut their projects.

Eventually you will need bags and boxes for all of your yarn, and essential tools such as scissors, pins, counters and tapestry needles, but you don't need to worry about that to start with, you will acquire things as you need them. First of all its fun to just play around with some wool and some some needles and see what happens...

Bloggin' Blues

I've got the Bloggin' blues! Blogger wont let me upload any images and meanwhile I've finished 3 projects and I want to show them off. On top of that, all around me other people's blogs are changing daily - especially the ones I'm watching for Secret Pal - and I'm feeling very left out!

Fingers crossed everything is fixed soon!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Completed - Birthday Shawls

I have been working in secret on two birthday presents recently. I fell in love with the Stefanie Japel pattern City Shawl, and decided to try it out in two very different yarns for two friends who have birthdays in June.

For Jessica, I chose Giotto by Colinette (see below), which is a ribbonny yarn. I chose the colour 'Sunrise' (121), which is pale pinks, lilacs and blues. With the slight sheen in the ribbon, it looks decidedly girlie and a touch shabby chic.

For Rachel I chose Soft Lux by Rowan, in the colour 'Basalt'(see below), which is dusty pale blue with tiny metallic silver thread through it. The effect of this more like a traditional shawl with a modern twist, so I think it had a bit of a retro edge to it - especially if worn with some choice vintage clothing.

I also bought lovely stick fasteners from Get Knitted (one in pink and one in blue) so that the shawls can be worn differently, and made labels for each shawl complete with washing instructions.

The yarns were of course very different to knit with. The Giotto slightly more slippery and slow to work on circular needles (but not in the round as per the pattern); while the Rowan was an easier knit. Both projects were time consuming because the pattern doesn't tell you how many stitches you should have on the needle at each stage, and as this was my first project with 'yarn overs' and I made a few mistakes, I had to keep ripping the wool back to the last stage at which I was sure I had the right number of stitches (usually the first row of YOs in a section). (I know I could have worked the number of stitches out, but my maths isn't great and I didn't want to rely on my own calculations!)

I blocked both shawls, despite the pattern saying it wasn't necessary, because even though they looked fine when finished, somehow they were both slightly off-centre. Blocking seemed to fix this up fine and it was also good to see how both yarns responded to blocking. The Giotto in fact changed quite a lot - for the better - because it became a lot flatter, lost a bit of its spring which is more appropriate for a shawl and became very drapey.

Knitting the same pattern in different yarns one after the other was a really good project to help me get to understand how differently yarns can be worked. As a result I've decided to keep a yarn journal where I'm going to make notes on how yarns were to knit with, alongside little samples of the yarns (in the form of tassels or knitted squares) to remind myself.

The final thing I want to say about this project was how much fun it was to make gifts for my friends. I knew from knitting my boyfriend's jumper that it is extremely rewarding (especially when its appreciated), but Jess and Rachel mean the world to me as mates and I felt so much closer to both of them (because I don't get to see as much as I'd like) by putting my heart and soul into their gifts.

Little Knits

I just wanted to show these little knits off.
I bought them at the beginning of the year at an Anthroplogie in Chicago. They were on sale and were a crazy $8.00 each! I just had to have them because of all the detailing which makes them look so glamorous - despite the fact they are only a few inches in size.
I wish I'd bought more of them though. There were about 10 different styles and I thought I'd be relatively cautious and just buy four, but now I wish I could add to the collection.
I display them on my wall in bedroom, in between some paintings and photos, where they look just perfect because my bedroom (with its deep metallic pink walls) is rather boudoir-ish and is the perfect setting for such tiny tricotage!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Sock! Sock! Sock!

Oh my goodness, look, a sock! I can't believe it. I've knitted a whole sock!!!! I'm just thrilled. I have been using knitting help and socks 101 for extra assistance where needed - and thank goodness for both of them - but I still did it myself!

Excitement over, I would like to say that it bugs me that I didn't graft the toe as neatly as I'd like. I'm pretty sure I've done it properly, but it is a bit loose and bumpy. I know I'm being a perfectionist and that this is my first go, but I'd still like to have done it better. I'm also a bit troubled by the stitches I picked up at the gusset; I'm not sure if I did them too close to the edge as it looks less robust than I think it should. I'd also like for there not to be a slight discrepancy in the top edge where you start the first round. I'm wondering if I did something wrong, if there is a trick, or if I should just put a stitch in to bring them level?

So I've cast on the second sock so as to avoid 'second sock syndrome', but I've got to finish the jacket I'm knitting to wear for my friend's wedding, so it will still be on a back burner.

But for now I'm proud as punch of my lone sock!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Colinette Addiction

My Mummy and I are fast developing a major Colinette habit! We both devoured our Giotto projects and although hers is still in the final stages, I found out today that she had conned my Dad into 17 mile detour to the Knit Tin after a business meeting and stocked up on another lot of Giotto, 3 Colinette pattern books and pile of Zanziba. Now I wouldn't mind, but I've got a hankering for Mercury, which I've seen knitted into a simple stockinette stitch scarf (at the Knit Tin), but they didn't have any in yet so she only got treats for herself!

Mind you, I complain too much because I am working away on my friend's birthday presents so that I can get back to my sock!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Craftivista Article

My Anuty Wendy (I think I have to call her that forever now since she picked up on an earlier typo on my blog and now signs her name Anuty!), sent me a fabulous article which was in the Guardian last week.

The article is about women reclaiming handicrafts in order to shed its associations with drudgery. The article notes that women across the UK are finding that handicrafts are not only enjoyable - sometimes more so than a trip to the pub although you can now combine the two - but that engaging in them can be a bit of a political statement too. Some people knit so that they can make a stand against mass-produced fashions and be more ethical and individual, whilst others knit so that they can recycle, or use 'knit-ins' as the new sit-in!

I too have been thinking about recycling yarn from knitwear found in charity shops. I often (but not as often as I'd like) have a bit of a trawl through charity shops hadn'tit hadn't occurred to me, until I read knitting pal Luciana's Erika Knight book New Knits, that it would be easy to frog old knits and make them shiny and new. I must keep an eye out!

The article also talks about how much fun you can find in craft-making now that it is no longer a necessity, and this too is notion close to my heart. I have really been enjoying my knitting and I've also been doing a lot more cooking and baking recently - making some absolutely amazing almond macaroons last week. And now I have been given a 1937 baking manual to hone my skills.

The article says that this resurgence in crafts is being called craftivism. I have long considered myself a feminist, but have also long battled with people (men mostly) to show that enjoying certain shall we say 'feminine' pursuits doesn't negate or contradict my politics. Debbie Stoller of course introduced me to the idea that knittingaren't feminism aren't mutually exclusive pursuits, but now I am starting to see my knitting and the burgeoning knitting community I feel a part of online as something much more political.

The article mentioned some sites where the radical and indeed retro approaches to knitting are being displayed and discussed. They include craftster and craftivism, and whilst I can't see myself knitting a hand grenade any time soon, I might be tempted to knit some kitschy draft excluders to do my bit for global warming next winter - sausage dog anyone?! I'm also looking forward to the release of House Proud by Danielle Proud later this year, which promises to help me make pretty things for my purple palace (read small flat) out of junk.

So anyway Anuty Wedny, if you are reading this, thank you very much for taking the time to send the article to me. I look forward to knitting with you again soon! xxx (oh and sorry for the typos its a blogging hazard!)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Sneak Peek at Sock Progress 2!

Look at my lovely sock! I'm thrilled with it. I know you read about how much people love sock knitting all across the blog-o-sphere, and I know I thought I might rather enjoy it too, but I am in love with it - totally!!! I was discussing it with Louise the other night (when we really ought to have been discussing the art lecture/book launch we had just attended) and I said that I love how compact it is and how comfortably you can settle down with a bit of sock knitting - or indeed take it with you. I love how quick and easy it is to slip round and round in circles and how neat the little stitches look, I mean, I love big, chunky wool too, but there is something unbelievably satisfying about a neat little knitted row of v-shapes! At this point I realise that I should calm down and remember that it is only knitting, but honestly, this sock stuff is fun!

Another reason I must not get carried away is the simple fact that I haven't finished it yet, and on top of that, who knows if I've 'turned the heel' correctly or done the gusset right?! I think it looks right and I think I understand how to do the toe section and graft it, but I will have to wait and see. Unfortunately I will have to wait longer than I'd like because I am working on a tiny little gift for my Secret Pal and two larger scale projects for for two Geminis who are very special to me and gifts for them are more important than my sock!