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musings on mail and vexing calculations

Definitely white; this was a practice effort that has found a home with a colleague

Definitely white; this was a practice effort that has found a home with a colleague

Online ordering is quick and the results are occasionally fantastic. I was delighted that YoungB’s combined Christmas and birthday present, a pair of mid-length Ugg boots, arrived safely in a remarkably short time frame (particularly given that he’s in Italy; and, yes, I did send him some fingerless mitts for his actual birthday). The colour of the boots is brighter than I’d thought it might be but he loves them. Excellent.

I remain similarly impressed by the rapidity with which I take delivery of yarn orders from Bendigo. The contents of one recent packet were earmarked for a couple of cowls and a hat or maybe a couple of hats and a cowl but the idea was that one lot was for immediate use crocheting Youngest Niece’s requested cowl. My heart sank, however, when I pulled out what I’d seen as a white only to discover it wasn’t white at all. No matter. It won’t go to waste. That did, however, leave me with a shrinking time frame that I thought would be best addressed by the purchase of different yarn that I could actually check for myself as to colour.

Friday nights in the city can be quite a lot of fun. I walked into town after work, then I tucked into a bowl of laksa noodle soup with dumplings and a big pot of jasmine tea at one of my favourite eateries (Dumplings R Us, but it has no website). After that, I set out to buy yarn. I went from Lincraft to Spotlight, looking for a thick, white, woollen yarn. What I eventually found wasn’t what I’d had in mind but it was soft and, although there’s an acrylic component, it’s not so high that the resulting yarn feels plastic (unlike one that I used to work out a pattern; that was so plastic it actually squeaked). Luckily or unluckily, having been unwell with a cold, I was able to sit about and do not much but crochet the cowl, so I finished it well in time for Youngest Niece’s birthday.

What would it cost if I were to charge for it? Of course I take no account of the practice cowls or any of the work I did on the not-white one – I’ve now finished that and put it in my “this will come in useful for someone” box – but it took me easily 10 hours of work. You couldn’t possibly expect anyone to pay what that would mean in terms of cost, even if I worked it out at the Australian minimum wage (which is around $16.88 per hour). The yarn was $8 per 100-gram ball and I made a sizeable dent on the third ball. Let’s call that was $20. The work? Even at $10 per hour – such a low figure would raise the ire of people who do this sort of thing for a living; and rightly so – let’s say we’re looking at 10 hours or $100? No, you couldn’t anticipate that anyone would actually pay that amount for a very plain, hand-crocheted cowl. Yes, in real terms, it would be worth at least that much. I personally would be astonished if anyone were prepared to pay $50 for such a thing. So there’s the old discussion: handcrafting doesn’t pay.

As I say, for me this is just a hobby so I crochet in this case, or knit more usually, during my long commutes and maybe while I’m sitting around after tea discussing the day’s news or the next day’s schedule. It gives me something to do and makes me a nicer person. That shouldn’t devalue what I do but I understand that some might make an argument that I ought not to charge a high hourly rate. Some might even suggest that I shouldn’t charge at all for my time in those circumstances. I’m happy to make things for family members who appreciate them – and that Youngest Niece actually asked for this because she loves the original so much means she certainly is one such person – and I would never expect to factor in cost. All the same, if I wanted to be paid for my time, how would I ever calculate its worth?

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2015 in Crochet, Knitting, Musing, Travel

 

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there probably is a time for everything

You might recall I said I’d been doing a reasonable amount of crochet and knitting while my computer was not working. One such item was this pair of fingerless mitts for a work colleague. They started out a couple of years ago as a birthday present for someone else but plans changed – as they so often do – and the mitts languished, awaiting their moment. I’ve often said I don’t frog projects when they come to a grinding halt, just put them away for a while, which sometimes works in my favour if I need something in a hurry.

The building where I work has airconditioning that’s unpredictably crazy, but errs on the side of glacial most of the year. When birthday presents were mentioned, mitts seemed a sensible notion and these fitted the bill in many ways, mostly that they were about 50% done, the colours were right and I had a couple of weekends available for knitting the remainder, weaving in the surprisingly large number of ends and allowing plenty of time for blocking; or so I thought.

just the shot to keep your fingers functioning in a chilly chamber

just the shot to keep your fingers functioning in a chilly chamber

Dr B was good enough to photograph them for me, though you’d probably agree that we need to work on our layout and presentation. 😉 The pattern is one I’ve used many times, knitted using Lincraft Cosy Wool, a pure wool 8 ply yarn, on size UK10/3.25 mm needles. The plain yarn is a navy colourway, the variegated something I thought would play nicely with that (and whose ball bands have long since vanished, so I’m unable to provide detail of either colour or dye lot). As it turned out, they weren’t quite ready for the birthday breakfast – being still damp as they blocked in the spare bedroom – but I was able to hand them over on the following Monday morning at work with the usual accompanying lavender bag. Their time had finally come 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2015 in Knitting

 

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substitution suggestions?

I could make mitts like these but perhaps it's time for a change

I could make mitts like these but perhaps it’s time for a change

I’ve said before that I don’t make resolutions with and for new years and that I don’t really have defined plans for what I might knit during any year. Of course, there are things I have an idea I’ll get around to doing, anual goals I might achieve such as birthday knitting  – YoungB’s new jumper comes into that category; but he’s having second thoughts about which design he’d like, hence it’s already stalled! – and others that I wouldn’t have foreseen in any planning – cousins with cancer and jungle-themed birthday parties might come into that category in terms of unexpectedness – but which require my doing something. Well, to me they do. Others might do different things but I suppose my response to bad times as well as good tends to be handmade gifts: mitts when Youngest Aunt had a heart attack; a moebius cowl for a friend when her mother died; a cowl and bandanna for the cousin. It’s what I do and I think it’s too late in life to try to change my habits, at least in that respect.

Then there are all those serendipitous little things that happen along – new babies in the family and so on – and other things that you decide on a whim you’ll make. Today’s plea for assistance relates to an item in the whimsical category. One of YoungB’s mates is turning 21 soon. Her party takes place at the same time as the family’s jungle-themed one so YoungB won’t be here. However, he’ll certainly catch up with both birthday girls at some point. I offered to knit some fingerless mitts for the friend. She’s also a scientist and her fingers would get cold in winter, too, and handknitted, woollen, fingerless mitts would be a wonderful, impossible to replicate gift (well, I suppose they might be found somewhere if you knew where to look, but not at prices affordable by an impoverished uni student; as if there’s any other sort).

We’ve decided on the these mitts (another of the many wonderful, free patterns on Ravelry) but not yet the yarn. I’m wondering if Bendigo‘s sock yarn, that blue, self-striping colourway, might be an OK substitute (colourways available in other yarns might be better but aren’t available in 4 ply). What do you think? (I’m not against attempting to find something closer to the specified yarn but I am loath to order from an overseas supplier if I can find anything local that’s remotely similar; and I’m also fairly impoverished, being still unemployed and all that, so there are budget constraints at all levels.) I accept it might not be quite as subtle a result as the yarn specified and, indeed, may well be far too strong for the delicacy of the design, but – well, has anyone used it that I could see made up? Or do I need to just buy some, start knitting and see for myself?? (It would be no hardship at all to do that, of course, because if I thought it wouldn’t work for the mitts, I could use it to make socks.)

Lincraft‘s Hand-Dyed Effect (in either of the Rock Garden or Regal colourways to capitalise on the blue favoured by the birthday girl) might be a good substitute but it’s considerably dearer and its quality unknown even though the fibre composition is similar to the Bendigo yarn. There’s a shop in town that sells Noro yarns so I could pick up some sock yarn when I’m in that vicinity (employment agency interviews and things of that sort invariably happen in town). I love the unexpectedness of Noro’s colourways but suspect they also might be too strong for the subtlety of the Hedgerow pattern. In addition to the financial consideration, there’s a time constraint, too, and it’s quite pressing, so I need to find something suitable immediately if not sooner. Yesterday would have been good!

Or, of course, if this gets all too difficult and headache-inducing, I could use a different mitt pattern. There’s no shortage of those, I know, or I could stick to this designer’s work that I keep coming back to (and of which I’ve made a goodly number of pairs and they’re all lovely). But the Hedgerow one is lovely, too, in a different way; and a 21st birthday is a special occasion. So if you have any yarn substitution suggestions, I’d be forever grateful. Thank you.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2014 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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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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