Thursday, October 30, 2008

Something so perfect

It's rare that I see a pattern, think, "right, I'll knit that!", and have the yarn, and then go, and cast on.

By rare, I mean it's never happened before.


Until this weekend, when I saw Knitty's Surprise - Venus. I love it. Love it. LOVE it.

And it just so happened that I have the perfect yarn for this in stash. Not only do I own it, I own enough for the whole project. Which is even rarer for me, because buying in adult-size quantities is a very new thing on the whole for me.

Like, I still don't really do it.

But this was a special case.

The yarn, that is, was on special.

It was outside the door (y'know, in the "look at meeeee... fall in love with meeeeee" place right before you enter the shop) of Wild and Woolly yarns. It's the Naturally Merino et Soie, which I worked with before for Zamara's baby blanket, and I love it.

It was a pack of 10. On special for $65 for the pack - not selling individually.

I'd gone there for one set of double-pointed needles. Which they didn't have, but nevermind. I walked out with a 10-pack of yarn.

But in my defense, you don't get deals like that everyday. Not for a yarn as wonderful and soft and silky and pretty as this.

The yarn was a gorgeous blue, similar to that not-stonewashed, fresh crisp denim you can get. A slight hint of femininity without being a "girly" colour. It was just, so me.

So far I've knit an Odessa hat out of it. Which I like quite a bit.

Odessa Top

As does Zamara.


But since then the yarn has been sitting, still in it's plastic bag, all 8-and-a-half balls of it. In fact I walked past it the other day as it's one of the yarns that hasn't quite made it to a permanent place in the stash yet and thought "I really need to figure out what to make from that".

And only a day later saw the Venus pattern.

It was, if you will, sent from the gods.

So I've cast on, and that's my current project of preference.

Venus Envy

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I can't help it

But it's getting to be that time of year.

And I really like the theory about not partaking of Christmas stuff until Christmas. Or at the very least after Thanksgiving.

Except that it makes life as a knitter - particularly a knitting-as-gifts knitter - very hard.

So despite the fact there's still two months til Christmas, I've definitely started my planning.

Thus, here is the list that I'm currently planning as gifts...

For my youngest daughter
, who will be 9ish months - Radiating Star Blanket (Ravelry link). I haven't bought the wool for this.... heck I haven't PLANNED the wool for this.... or really done anything except decided that it'd be quite nice to knit one, thankyou.
Miss Dashwood Might have yarn. Might not. Need to go stash diving.

For my two year old:

Sheldon Except, erm, yeah, no yarn for this yet....
Miss Dashwood Might have yarn. Might not. Need to go stash diving.
Possibly another little knit doll too (pattern's in a book I have but I haven't gone searching for a linky) depending on time and chaos levels.
Plus a couple dresses - at least one sewn, and possibly one knitted. Would like to make both girls a matching Rainbow Dress, but that may be constrained by time.

For my mother-in-law:
A series of dishcloths. I have plenty of yarn for these already, thankfully. Have toyed with the idea of something else as well, but can't think of anything 'just right' that she'd both like and use, so dishcloths it might have to be.

For my sister-in-law:
Socks. She's already requested them, I'm just behind. May see if I can snag some more Patonyle while it's on special, and dye it up special.

a very special scarf for someone who 'might' just happen to read this.
A couple other things for people who are highly likely to read this.

And, ohmygosh. It may not be Halloween yet, but it's less than two months til Christmas, and I have major knitting to do!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Projects Update Post

So I'm almost at project saturation point again.... almost. Almost.

Currently on the needles I have the kimono for Kate. Which is coming along nicely if I do say so.... but each time I work on it I grow more and more convinced that I will NOT have enough yarn. Rats. Have to place another order with the Wool Company.... what. a. shame.... don't know how I'll manage that! ;-)

Buglet's Kimono

Still on the needles as well are Kate's longies. Which I haven't made much progress on. So no photo because there's not a lot to show....

I did have a sock on the needles as well, since I always have a sock going. But the more I sat knitting it, the more I thought it was a smidgen too big. But like any dedicated knitter, I kept knitting it, blindly hoping things would work themselves out.

Until karma stepped in when I went to photograph said sock.

Leg of KnitPicks Essential socks

Now look closer.

Peacock Essential Socks

Yup. Took it out to photo it and the needle came out. Guess it's a sign. So, sock is now frogged and I'll restart it sometime soon... with a couple stitches less cast on this time.

New on the needles, I have a lace project! This is groundbreaking for me. It's actually a friend's wool, she bought it with good intentions of making a lacy scarf (it's 2-ply wool!) but didn't get to it. So I offered to do it. Hopefully it'll be a nice change from other stuff I'm knitting, plus if it works out I know what I'll be doing with some 2-ply wool of my own. It's Touch NZ wool, which is divine to work with, in a lovely earthy colourway.

Honeycomb scarf

And lastly, I'm about to cast on for a top. For ME! Just saw it today and I'm in lovvvve.... AND miraculously enough have the perfect yarn already in stash. SCORE! More details to come, seems a bit of a fraud to say I'm working on it before I've actually cast on.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A wee lesson on dyeing

Last time I dyed I had multiple people express disappointment that I hadn't photographed and blogged the process.

Thankfully I learn from my mistakes!

Thus, my most recent batch of dyeing.... revealed!

Now, I can't take credit for the process at all. My favorite method of dyeing (and the one I use here) is the low-water immersion dyeing, as seen on Paula Birch's Dyeing Website. I don't deviate much from it... although she talks about dyeing fabric, I've expanded it to include dyeing fabric OR yarn.... with pretty impressive results.

So, starting out. Both the batches of yarn I was preparing to dye were purchased in ball form, so I had to skein them (i.e., pull them out from ball form). Thankfully I have a swift and didn't need an especially long hank, so it was an easy process. And boring process. (Read: I forgot to take photos). Once I have my skein, I'm pedantic enough that I try to tie it with alternate yarn (any waste yarn will do really) in at least four places - any less than this and I usually wind up with lots of tangles when I try to get them back into ball form.

But, once hanked, this is what they looked like.
Ready to dye

The one on the left is my swap yarn, 100g of Patonyle. The two on the right are Sean Sheep yarn, labelled "100% Australian wool", bought at the Warehouse for $1.99. And I'd understand if you're thinking about things that are too good to be true...

Next - the yarn needs a bath. This important with any yarn / fabric before dyeing but especially so with wool, as lanolin (naturally occurring in wool) and dye (of any sort) aren't the best of friends. Plus it gets any other chemicals, or random spots of dust / dirt, out as well. I bathe mine in dishsoap as it's particularly good at removing lanolin.
Wool having a bath

While the yarn is soaking (I try to leave it for 15+ minutes) I assemble all my tools that I'll need. I've discovered after some trial-and-error that doing it this way is preferrable to tearing around the house with dye all over hands (and sometimes body) trying to find that last, essential, item. Y'know, like gloves...
Tools for dyeing

Next I scrunch it up into as small containers I have that still fit the fabric. In this batch, I threw in a plain flat cloth nappy just for kicks and giggles as well.
Ready to Dye

Then I mix the dye (a couple teaspoons of dye powder, more or less depending on shade required, with a cup of water) and pour over the fabric. For this lot, I did the on the left (with the cloth nappy in it) solid purple, and the batch on the right in orange (made with guesswork of mixing a lot of yellow with a very little red) and black. Aim was to get something vaguely tiger-like, but to be honest I haven't used multiple colours dyeing yarn this way before so it was a bit of guesswork as well too. (I have, however, dyed fabric this way before and it works a treat.)
Dyeing in progress

Then I add water until it 'mostly' covers the fabric / yarn. In a few cases I have to weight down the yarn so it doesn't just float on top - this is what I did on the right.
Dyeing in progress

The fact that most of the dye on the tub in the right rinsed out when I added the extra water was my first and most telling sign that I would not get the tiger-ish colouring I was hoping for. It's normal for the dye to lighten a touch (as it did on the left) but not to rinse nearly completely out.

Then it sits.

Then I add some dissolved soda ash to it, and let it sit some more.

Then I rinse it out - and it's in this stage one should start seeing close to the final product of the dyeing.
Yarn Swap yarn

And after that, it just needs to dry. How aggressive I am at squeezing the water out depends on the yarn.... pure wool I'm pretty careful with, the Patonyle I knew I could be a bit rougher with. Then it just hangs, to dry.

And yes, the yarn is mauve. Almost peach. Nothing like tigers. Bah. I'm blaming it on the yarn. It did cross my mind that perhaps I should have stripped it more (there are several other methods of doing this) but quite frankly I've never had to do more than a dishsoap soak with any yarn I've ever dyed, be it with Procion dyes or food colouring. Ever. So I'm actually starting to be a bit suss that the label is correct when it calls the yarn "100% wool". That or it's been treated with something very funny indeed. Then again, maybe they just have really weird sheep in Australia.

Finally, once it's dry... I twist it up nicely, or wind it. And marvel at the wonder I have created.
Lilac Wood Yarn

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Knitting in Catergories

This is as much an answer to SweetP's Works in Progress post as anything else. Plus it's time to update my current works-in-progress anyway.... so it's a perfect opportunity!

I don't have much currently on the needles actually. Mainly as I've just finished off a bunch of things - so I'm feeling just a touch bereft at the moment. But, I do have some things I'm working on, regardless.

First and foremost there's the Kimono Top that I'm knitting for Katerina. I'm sweating through this knitting really as I'm not convinced that I have enough of the white for the whole project. I could, of course, order more - it's freshly received 4ply merino Baby Wool from The Wool Company - but I'd really rather not. So instead I'm knitting with white knuckles and attempting not to waste wool. It's a Debbie Bliss pattern from her Baby Knits Book. I've not knitted it before, but I've made other Debbie Bliss patterns and found that it didn't use as much wool as it said it would.... so.... here's hoping.

Katerina's Kimono Top

This is a relatively simply knit, but it is in 4ply, so thus going slower. I'm starting to have a love of 4ply however... it does take longer, but it is so scrummy, soft, and almost delicate. I chose this pattern because Katerina needs a woolen top for wear as pajamas at night as she typically wears woolen pants, and needs a top that's not one that snaps at the bottom.

It's in purple and white.... because that's what I had on hand. I wouldn't have necessarily done white as a main colour, but I'm liking the way it's coming out.

Katerina's Kimono Top

And in the same vein, the other thing on the needles at the moment is pants for nights for Katerina. I'm running short on wool with these as well - so I'm not sure at the moment if they'll be bloomers, or shorts, or longs. I don't rightly have enough for longies I think, so if I go that route I'll have to do two different wools for the main part of the longies, to stretch it out. But so far I'm just playing it by ear.

Katerina's Soaker / Pants

As to "catergory" of knitting, these are a Knitting in the Dark item for me. I nearly always have a pair of longies / shorties etc on the go and these are my project of the moment for that. Also in the Knitting in the Dark catergory, I usually have a pair of socks on the go as well. Currently, however, I don't.... though now that I mention that, I'm itching to cast on a pair! The main reason I don't is because I finished these only last week:

Rotating Rib patonyle socks

They're the Rotating Rib socks as originally seen on The Yarn Harlot's blog in conjunction with her Basic Sock Recipe. They're the first pair of socks I've made for myself in quite awhile now, and they've been on my feet ever since I finished aside from when they were in the wash!

Also just finished was a quick knit - Instant Gratification - which I cast on shortly after sending the shawl to it's new home. Thus, the Double Moss Dishcloth:

Double Moss Dishcloth

Currently I don't have a BIG project on the go - but am about to start Wicked, just as soon as all my assignments for Uni are done!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The story of a shawl

I have very little currently on the needles.

I've also had very little knitting time lately.

My biggest project of late has been working on an heirloom shawl for the second baby of one of my dearest friends.... to be born any minute now. Technically she commissioned me to do it, but it was very much a work of love nonetheless. I used a vintage pattern from a Patons book that my Mother in Law has, and used Naturally Haven 4ply in cream. The pattern called for 8 balls - although it called for a 3ply wool instead of 4ply. I bought two balls originally, to do swatches and test knits - then bought a pack of 10 balls. I figured that should be plenty.

I did swatches - two, actually, because my first one didn't work out to gauge. And as I knew I'd have plenty of wool, I recrafted my first swatch into something else - a little clutch bag as a present for a 5 year old daughter of a friend of mine. For that, I did a trim with some Peter Pan 4ply acrylic that I've had sitting in the stash for nearly as long as I've been knitting, and embellished it with little girly things that I could find. It was also my first time lining a bag... and while it's not a brilliant job, it did the trick.

Bag for Florence

Bag for Florence02

Then I started knitting the shawl. The body of it is garter stitch, which works for me as I try to always have at least one 'mindless' project on the go, so that I can multitask. The shawl worked well for this, although not as portable as other projects due to it's expanding size and it's colour.


And slowly, the shawl grew.


Until finally the garter stitch part was finished - all 29 inches long of it.


Then came the lace part. I'd been secretly quite wary of it - I'm not an expert lace knitter, and my brief forays into lace previously had taught me that I don't often have the patience for it. I like projects that move quickly and show lots of progress - lace does neither. Plus it's much harder to 'fudge' any mistakes in lace. But lace is what makes an heirloom shawl, so it had to be done.

Once I started knitting it, however, I realised it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd worried about. Sure, every side when I picked up the stitches I had to do it two or three times before getting it 'right', but that's mostly because it's hard to get 108 stiches evenly distributed among 160 stitches. And I certainly had my moments of 'tink'ing (backwards knitting) where my count / pattern had gotten off as well.

Once I started the last side, I was about to start my last ball of wool, and realised that there was no way I could do the lace edging AND the border on top of that as well. I tried three different yarn shops and all told me that Haven 4ply in cream was sold out - let alone the specific batch number I needed. Finally it was decided that the border would be left off entirely - I thought the shawl looked good as is, and wasn't worried about it being too small.

I needn't have worried. When I went to bathe / block the shawl, once it was wet, I stretched it out on our bed to dry. On our queen size bed. And was amazed at the sheer size of it.


Finally - with my recipient now 38 weeks pregnant - I couried it off to it's new home. Apparently she's quite pleased with it - she sent this picture of it awaiting the new arrival:

Shawl at it's home