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Monthly Archives: May 2013

beanie for a bonce

More work in progress.

DSC_2296

This size by request, but with no particular colour scheme.

This just about matches the mittens, doesn’t it? However, the orange is darker and the yarn quite different. It’s the Bendigo Woollen Mills’ Murano yarn in a not-quite-finished beanie. My fear that the cables won’t show up clearly seems to be well founded but, do you know what? I’m going to keep knitting anyway. It will provide an element of surprise if someone thinks it’s a plain beanie then finds the cables.

This is for a northern hemisphere friend, who reckons if she has it by September she’ll get a lot of use out of it. I think that the sooner I get it to her the better it will be, since the weather all over the planet is unpredictable. Today is a very wet, and for me quite cold enough, day in my part of the world. A good day to be curled up knitting; so that’s what I’ve been doing. How about you?

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2013 in Knitting

 

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updating

In the face of great difficulty – other people making demands on my time, that is – I finally finished Eldest Niece’s Really Quick Mitts. It turned out that for me they weren’t really that quick, but that was my fault not the pattern’s; you might recall I ran out of yarn.

I’m disappointed with the results – they’re decidedly not up to my usual high standard, I say with a grin – but they’ll keep Eldest Niece’s hands warm. Given the chilly mornings of late, I think that’s far more important than whether or not I did a fantastic job of the knitting.

Thick and bound to be warm

Thick and bound to be warm

I used Lincraft’s Premium Luxe Yarn, a 100% wool that knitted up nicely on the 7 mm needles. Do they look like the picture? Sort of; near enough that you’d know they’re mittens. Would I make them again? Probably not.

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2013 in Knitting

 

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beanie there

The knitted guernsey I showed you the other day is 30-odd years old. I started it while I was doing first-year night duty and must have come close to finishing it on third-year nights. Part of the reason it took so long was that I had several projects on the go (as you do; or at least, I generally do, because of portability considerations and urgency of request, et cetera) and because it was knitted with an 8-ply yarn (DK, I think, for those who use that system; and I have no idea what the North American equivalent would be) on very small needles: UK size 14/2 mm for the bands and UK size 12/2.75 mm for the body. The usual choices for such yarn would be UK size 10/3.25 mm and UK size 8/4 mm for bands and body respectively. To make a dense, nearly-windproof fabric, which is partly what a guernsey is all about,you need to work at a tighter/firmer tension. That would, I think, probably have been made using Patons Totem yarn. It was certainly pure wool.

Striped, of course.

Striped, of course.

This animadversion is simply a way of explaining why, when I made Dr B a beanie to wear during PBP (the 1200-Km ride that is the pinnacle of Audax cycling), I elected to knit it at a rather firmer tension than I would normally use for the 8-ply yarn I chose, although not quite such a firm one as I’d used for the guernsey. The theory was that he’d want something on his head when he was sleeping. There was never any intention that it would, for instance, go under his cycling helmet. But, having so little hair, he needed something soft to provide comfort and warmth during rest stops. I selected  Lincraft’s Zambezee, a Tencel yarn which is supposed to be good at wicking away moisture while retaining warmth (much as good cycling gear is intended to do). Dr B has quite a large head, so the beanie ended up being knitted on something like 156 stitches, if I remember rightly. In any case, it was around that number and it was certainly a big knit for a little garment. I probably used UK size 11/3 mm needles for the body of the beanie.

Now that PBP is but a distant memory, he uses the beanie for a nightcap to keep his head warm while he’s asleep. Mission accomplished, I think, don’t you?

 
 

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FO: Fabrique scarf

This is another of those fancy knitting tasks that make you look very clever. Once again, I didn’t pay full price for the yarn – if one can call it yarn; Lincraft Fabrique Ruffle Yarn which is, as the website says, a 100% polyester chiffon rather than a yarn per se – but the experiment was worth the shade over half-price that I did pay. I admit to having had difficulty getting this started. For some reason, the stitches seemed to slip a lot. Obviously, I eventually got the hang of it. I would have to say it wasn’t the nicest feeling article I’ve ever made and the resulting ruffle is scratchy against the skin. It would, however, look great draped around a collar on a jacket. It would add quite a bit of extra elegance. It took less than a week to make, so it’s impressively speedy.

Surprisingly difficult to photograph, but it's just a medium length ruffly scarf

Surprisingly difficult to photograph, but it’s just a medium length ruffly scarf

I am now so snowed under with bits of projects that I don’t quite know what to do next. I’ve knitted almost up to  dividing for the underarm on Nonna’s cardigan, which is now too heavy to be travel knitting and about which we are divided in our opinions. YoungB and I think that Nonna will wear it because it’s a purple yarn with other colours through it, Dr B thnks she won’t because it’s not a solid colour and he’s never seen her wear anything else. That might simply be because nobody has ever given her anything that wasn’t a solid colour; and in the days when she knitted herself, yarns were generally plainer than those readily available today. We’ll see.

I’m about two-thirds done on the Easy Lace Cowl (it’s looking nice and should be warm and cosy; luckily it’s lightweight enough to be still good travel knitting). Fingerless gloves/fingered mitts? Nah. Really quick mittens? Nah. Polar fleece toobs for needy motorcyclists? Oh, I can’t even get to my machine at the moment, I still have so much junk on the table as a result of bringing home all my things from the office. Sporadically, I clear a patch but it’s almost as quickly gone again with some other thing I’ve been asked to deal with. I can just about keep track of the black polar fleece, but it’s in imminent danger of disappearing, I tell you, and I still can’t track down any white.

And then I’m meant to be signing up with job sites and preparing this, that and the next thing for employment folk. Yeah, right. That would be a fine thing if only the technology would play ball!

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2013 in Knitting, Sewing

 

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this whole creative thing

It’s possibly weird, and probably because the things others regard as creative I regard as just part of everyday life, but when I think about my own creativity, it extends to what I do musically and not at all to the sewing, knitting, crochet and the like.

The music? I take a song and make it my own. The words and the notes provide direction but the interpretation is mine. I think about it even when I’m not actively singing. I plan how I should best approach certain technical aspects and ponder what story the words are telling and, therefore, how they should be delivered to impart maximum impact.

The knitting? I’m just following a pattern to make something that looks like what the picture says it should. I don’t necessarily consider that clever. Maybe if I were a more adventurous knitter, I’d have a different view of things but, you know, what I knit is easy stuff and pretty yarn does a lot of the work. Mostly, there’s a need for something and I have the skills to make the something to meet that need. It’s usually the case that someone else has already done the hard work of nutting out the pattern. And that some other knitter could follow that pattern and come up with a very similar result.

The sewing, specifically making clothes? I arrive at having something functional and necessary that possibly – even probably – fits better than RTW and is better made (I don’t, however, make many clothes because, frankly, I don’t see the need for a new dress each day of the week; and I wear my clothes for a long, long time). I understand about the cleverness some people bring to their sewing, cleverness that is decidedly creative, but I simply don’t sew enough and certainly not enough clothes.

A very old, very well cared for and much worn guernsey that's almost as good as new. You don't need a new jumper every day!

A very old, very well cared for and much worn guernsey that’s almost as good as new. You don’t need a new jumper every day!

I make lots of lavender bags and simple things like shopping totes and bandannas and toobs for cyclists but they’re neither terribly clever nor at all spectacular and, in many cases, not truly my invention. Someone else came up with the idea for a toob, for example. I merely re-created something similar when necessity dictated because YoungB was fed up with having a cold face and something that got dragged down his face each time he put his helmet on. You might call that an improvement, I suppose, but the basic idea wasn’t mine.

I have a book that describes making pyramid-shaped juggling balls for kids (to stave off boredom during holidays) and I saw some dashing pyramid-shaped paperweights (filled with rice, I think the seller told me). I’d spent a lot of years making little, ravioli-shaped lavender bags, completely handsewn and extraordinarily time consuming, so I was looking for something simpler and faster. I merely adapted those two similar ideas to come up with my pyramid lavender bags (look on Etsy and you’ll see that plenty of folk make pyramid lavender bags). Original? Hardly; though perhaps the mix in mine is one nobody else uses. Creative? Not to my mind.

Is it all about the mystique that nowadays attaches to these once mundane tasks? Time was, and it really wasn’t that long ago, when every woman and quite a few men did these sorts of things as a matter of course and necessity. It is probably true that there have always been some who took it to better levels – tidier stitch definition, neater seams, precision finishing – but it wasn’t anything exceptional and/or special. My Dad used mattress stitch to mend everything; not always neat but always effective! My Mum, who’d been taught by her own mother who was a tailoress, had the right stitch for each mending job: always tidy, even when she apostrophised it as “cobbled together”. She would often add in such cases that, “A blind man would be glad to see it.” Quite so.

Time was, we were a more musically literate society, too. I grew up in a family where everyone sang, everyone had piano lessons and it wasn’t at all weird to gather for a sing-song. I’m of an age and system where the recorder was standard issue at school (or fife if you went public system, like Youngest Aunt; a much trickier instrument altogether) or perhaps there was even a school band where you could have a good time blowing your own trumpet (or possibly trombone, if your arms were long enough). I’m not necessarily suggesting we have to bring back that era or those values or that older system. But when I grew up and everyone knitted and sewed and a lot of people played piano and sang, to bring excellence to the music was special. You had to have something extra to do that.

Maybe that’s what I mean when I say music is where the creativity is, because there were many fine, skilled pianists and singers, too; but only some of them made you sit up and listen and really pay attention to their performance. By and large, the other things – the sewing, knitting and crochet – don’t grab your attention as anything out of the ordinary. They’re part of life and that’s about it. And if they do, then perhaps they’ve gone past that utilitarian stage to being something beyond. Perhaps then they truly are creations.

And perhaps you should now go and read Karen’s post!

 

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the upside of the downside

I’m now officially unemployed. No income. Definitely a downside.

I’m now officially unemployed. Plenty of free time. Definitely an upside.

Today when I was trying to fix a cardigan I’d washed for Nonna, Dr B asked could I maybe knit her a new one? Uuh, yeah, sure. I had to get some new buttons – my button box had nothing the right size in anything remotely approaching the right colour or quantity – so while I was out and about, I did at least buy some thick yarn that might assist in getting a result before Christmas. But, you know, as I often say, I am not a fast knitter and there are lots of other things I have to do. All the same, Nonna has never been a high maintenance person, so if I can get a plain cardie knitted fairly quickly – pretty yarn to do all the work, but stocking stitch fabric and maybe simple garter stitch bands – then I’ll think it’s for a very good cause.

That’s in between every other bit of knitting and sewing I’m trying to deal with, of course!

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Knitting

 

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FO: Elicia scarf

That lattice yarn? Yeah, sure does knit up quickly! A six-foot scarf in a few days? I’m impressed! IRL it’s slightly darker but the colour contrast within the skein is nowhere near as stark as what’s depicted on the ball band and I like the more subtle result.

What a lot of pink gorgeousness

What a lot of pink gorgeousness

The yarn is Lincraft’s Elicia Ruffle Yarn, a lovely bit of 100% acrylic that was out for half price recently. Well, I’d been itching to attempt using it and what better reason could there be than a colleague’s birthday AND a reduction in price?

I used size 9/3.75 mm needles, because they were handy and I like using them. The ball band instructions recommend 5.5 mm needles but add that needle size does not affect end result. To state the obvious here, the finished size will depend on how many stitches you cast on and how much of the yarn you use. If you follow the instructions on the inside of the ball band and cast on five stitches then knit to nearly the end of the skein, you’ll end up with a scarf that’s about 8 cm wide and 230 cm long. That’s what I did.

Dr B and YoungB think it’s a bit weird and I know they’re both hoping that, having got that out of my system, I’ll now get back to the serious business of making some more polar fleece toobs for them to use while motorcycling. The sewing table being somewhat clearer because that large piece of knitting is no longer there, I’m probably going to find that a much easier undertaking.

 

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