Saturday, 29 September 2007

Spring Vegetables

I'm doing another pattern from Fancy Feet with the Kauni. I've got past the length of maroon yarn, thank goodness. It's really one of my least favourite colours, maroon /burgundy. I'm only happy to see it in a bottle or a glass.
I'm knitting orange and green now; the orange is real carrot and the green is young and fresh so it's like knitting with the diced vegetables for Spring Vegetable Soup - three carrot and one celery, three carrot and one celery...
I'm doing this with a 4mm bamboo circular. I tried 3mm, the recommended size, and 3.5mm, but they both came up very tight. I expect this yarn to bloom and soften quite a lot when it's washed for blocking so I thought it best to come up to 4mm. I even swatched with 4.5mm, but came back down to this.

I promised to photograph a swatch of the Malabrigo, but the weather has been so grey that it hasn't seemed worth it. The sky is much the same colour as the yarn, but without the depth and shifting shades. I've been poring over the patterns for the Rib Warmer, and peering at other people's, but I still foresee a lot of ripping out in my immediate future. I'm going to have to size it up to accommodate my bazooms, but I have narrow shoulders so I will have to be careful not to make it too wide at the straps.

I think this may be one of those patterns that one has to work through, only to arrive at the end and say, 'Oh, I see!' and tear the whole thing out and do it again properly.
These are 6mm needles in a lavender blue plastic, which I bought because I liked the colour. I find it very difficult to knit with long needles now, as clamping the right one under my arm brings it far too close for me to see properly unless I take my glasses off. I find it a bit uncomfortable to hold them on my lap, but I had better get used to it or I'll have to give away all my long needles.

Ah, the wonders of youth, when one could knit and watch the television at the same time without waggling one's head about behind a few-hundred-pounds'-worth of spectacles.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Kauni Continued

I've done a few more bands of this pattern. When you first look at it you see the dark birds flying to the left, but if you let your eyes unfocus, you'll see the light birds flying to the right. Or at least I do.
I can't decide whether to do any more of this design, or whether to start another one.
I'm not the only blogger to hit upon the combination of Kauni and Anna Zilboorg's Fancy Feet: String Theory has done it too and is making a wonderful Turkish cardigan.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Sylvester on the Runway

A kind commenter suggested that I might knit a scarf for Sylvester to keep for himself. That's a nice idea, and I'm considering what might be the best yarn, but meanwhile I've let him model an umbilical hat.

This is for the same baby who's getting the Pumpkin Hat etc., and is made from Regia Classic Colors sock yarn in Candy, from Jannette.

You can see it before blocking and after.

As you can see, the yarn has relaxed quite a lot.

My camera has a setting for Red Eye but not for Red Nose.

I like this yarn for a Coming Home From Hospital Baby Hat, because it has a little bit of blue and a little bit of pink and yellow and purple so it covers all eventualities.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Sylvester's Sulka Scarf

I've finished the Scarf in Mirasol's Sulka, the fairtraded merino/ alpaca/ silk. Sylvester thinks he should have it but it's going to be a Christmas present for someone else. I did something stupid when I was making the slit, so I had lots of ends to weave in, but they're done now and I'm happy with it.

This is beautiful stuff to knit with, and more robust than it looks. John Lewis seem to be the only stockist in the U.K. so far.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Kauni Started

I bet you thought I'd stuffed the Kauni down the back of the couch because I couldn't decide on the first pattern row. Well, I didn't. I did spend a long time trying to decide where to start the two yarns, which colours I wanted to line up with one another. This is my notebook with ROYGBIV lined up in a variety of ways: did I want Green with Blue, even if it meant also having Yellow with Indigo?

I looked at quite a lot of Kauni cardigans on the web too, but decided that the lighting and the photographs introduced too many variables and I eventually just decided to get started.

A friend recently lent me her copy of Anna Zilboorg's Fancy Feet, which has a lot of two-colour patterns which she recommends you try with the colours reversed, so I've started with one of those - no. 17, Heart Crook. It's a sort of sideways-Rorshach or Escher pattern, where the colours mirror one another. I'm not doing a very good job of explaining this but it will become clearer the next time I photograph it.

I keep the balls of yarn in plastic bags (a.k.a. 'yarn holders') marked '1' and '2', so that I will be able to keep track of what I'm doing once the colours change, but I expect I will get muddled anyway.

I had two rows of one colour while I was watching a film the other night, and I skated past the end-of-row marker and have got to take it back a bit now. I was watching Broken Trail, which I rented before it won all the Emmys but hadn't actually watched. I'm not usually a Western fan, but in my snotty way thought this one might be worth watching for its historical value which it is. Robert Duvall is always excellent and it was good to see Thomas Haden Church in something so different from Sideways. The women looked real, which is something of a novelty for a Hollywood production - well, Greta Scacchi's teeth were far too good, but I'm prepared to overlook that.

The autumnal cotton from the mystical yarn company has never turned up; I'm fairly sure this is Royal Mail's fault as there are a few other things which have evaporated, including a parcel that they left me a postcard for but are now unable to lay their hands on. I can't decide whether to get some more autumnal cotton from somewhere, or just wait until the babe is born and knit a BSJ in boy or girl shades. After all, the mother-to-be doesn't know I was planning to knit a coat to go with the Pumpkin Hat, so she won't miss it. And I had better write a cross letter to Royal Mail, which I know is a waste of time but one has to make a stand. Their Customer Service section writes the most amazingly unhelpful letters; they should really be called the Customer Disservice section.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Malabrigo Gorgeousness

This arrived this morning. Isn't it lovely?

It's four skeins of Malabrigo in Polar Morn, which is a grey-and-white with shades of lavender, I think. I got it from Quality Fibers, who are lovely too.

The lavender is very hard to see, in fact sometimes I think it isn't there at all, and then I find myself looking for it again. So I think it must be there, because you don't keep looking for a colour that isn't there, do you?

I'm planning to make Elizabeth Zimmermann's Rib Warmer with this. I have a copy of Knitting Workshop, which contains the pattern, but I've ordered the Spun Outs which contain additional information, partly because I want to finish the Creamy Scarf before I dive into this and partly because I'm a completist. When my boss used to ask me to give him a report or an outline or a proposal or whatever, he always used to add, 'And just one side of A4, Helen,' because he knew that otherwise he would get a thesis on his desk. And I would say, 'Can I single-space it?'

Once I've wound a ball of it, I'll do a little swatch to show you.

Georgetown Socks

I knitted a sock on Lorna's Laces Georgetown ages ago, last year I think. I used Wendy's toe-up pattern and put a sort of basketweave pattern around the ankle. I started the second one and got as far as the ankle and then discovered that I couldn't find the first sock to check the length of the ankle.So there the second sock sat, taking up my nice rosewood dpns and deterring me from beginning any other socks. Periodically I would shuffle through one or both of the places where I knew the First Sock must be, but all I ever found was other sock yarn that wasn't being knitted.

Then recently I was looking for Something Completely Different in a third place, a place where I couldn't possibly have put a completed sock, and I found it. So I was able to cast off, and I now have a lovely pair of socks which match clothes I have bought since I made and lost the first sock - can you guess my favourite colour? I still like these, but they highlight a phenomenon which makes variegated yarns so intimidating. When I looked at this shade in the skein, and in the ball, it seemed to be pale blues and greens and a pale lilac, but once it's knitted into a sock a sort of yellowish green has appeared, which is quite acid. It's not the end of the world, but it's enough to make me nervous.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Creamy Scarf

I bought a couple of balls of Mirasol's Sulka and it's heavenly. I had meant to buy the baby alpaca, which is called Miski, but when I examined them in John Lewis I chose the Sulka instead. It's 60% merino wool, 20% alpaca and 20% silk. This colour is called Snow White, and it absolutely isn't; similarly, the cream in the Miski baby alpaca is called Snow Drop. They are both soft, creamy, natural colours, not stark whites. Much more flattering to the complexion. Click on this picture: I promise, you will want to lick the screen.

I had seen a scarf somewhere which combined a creamy natural yarn with a very pale lumpy yarn in creams and gold and greys, so my plan was to reproduce this in a simple yet sophisticated scarf, which I should give as a Christmas present - unless I found it irresistible in which case I would keep it. I couldn't find a lumpy yarn in a pale enough shade (there is a Noro Kureyon, 211, but I wanted a softer yarn to match the Sulka) so I got a ball of Noro Silk Garden in 47.

I cast on and worked garter stitch on 6mm needles. I ripped, and cast on and worked garter stitch on 7mm needles. I peered at Brooklyn Tweed. I ripped, and cast on fewer stitches and worked garter stitch on 8mm needles, and added in the Silk Garden. I ripped, and cast on again and did the same except that I did the Silk Garden in a different stitch. I peered at Brooklyn Tweed again. I ripped, and cast on and did 1x1 rib. I ripped.

This yarn looks impossibly fragile. It's soft, buttery, shimmery, looks and feels like angel's breath. But I can testify to how tough it is. You can knit the first few inches of a scarf and rip it back eight (8) times, and it still looks beautiful and still knits like a dream. Sometimes it's useful to know that sort of thing. I now have 21 stitches on 8mm needles, in moss stitch, and it's going to be all cream, no pale lumpy porridge colours in any kind of stitch. I'll have to buy another ball. It will be quite short and I'll knit a slit in the second end, so that the first can be pulled through it. It will probably still be a present, although it is so soft that I think once I've wrapped it round my neck, it might not come off until Spring. Somebody will be getting a pair of mittens in Silk Garden 47 as a present.

John Lewis is selling this at £4.95 for 50g/55 yards. I don't think that's expensive for a luxury yarn, and especially not for a fair-traded one which helps children to go to school. At the risk of sounding smug, I hope I shall be giving more than one Mirasol scarf this Christmas.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Baby Hats

I've been knitting some little hats for my cousin's daughter's baby, due next month. It's one of those mixed times, because my cousin died two years ago of ovarian cancer and while we're all looking forward to welcoming Baby, we're all thinking of the person who won't be here. However, Baby still needs hats.

All of these are from Susan B. Anderson's Itty Bitty Hats. When the baby's mum was born, I bought her a lovely striped woolly hat (I wasn't knitting at that time, so I had to buy one.) It made her itch and gave her bumps, but my cousin liked it so much that she made a little cotton lining for it so that her daughter could wear it. So, just in case this baby has itches, I've made all of the hats in cotton.

We don't know whether Baby is a boy or a girl but the original delivery date was Hallowe'en, so I started with a Pumpkin Hat. It's in Rowan Handknit Cotton instead of RYC Cashsoft. I've ordered some hand-dyed cotton called Autumn Leaves from Mystical Creation Yarns to make a Baby Surprise Jacket to go with this, but it hasn't arrived yet. I suppose if a company actually has the word 'mystical' in its name, I shouldn't expect them to be very organized about going to the Post Office, and I'm sure it'll be lovely when it gets here.

Next, I made a stripy hat (you know about me and stripes). In the book, this hat is striped red and white, but I wanted something a bit softer. I discovered this lovely shade in Handknit Cotton, called Gooseberry, and I was sold. I love gooseberries and this is a lovely fruity shade, strong without being acid. Baby's dad is of Irish descent, so I hope he'll like the green.

I hadn't made a pompom for decades, and this took two goes, but I was pleased with it in the end.

The third one I made is the Felted Flower Hat. This one came out quite large, even after the hot wash and hot dry. I'm still dithering about putting it through again and giving it another blast. On the other hand, it's quite heavy and might be more useful later when Baby's a bit bigger. I think I'll leave it alone.

I think it'll be a good hat for a boy, without the flower, and if it's a girl, then the pink Koigu flower can be sewn on. I didn't do the felted flower in the book, because I'm very taken with the flowers on Nicky Epstein's Anniversary scarf for Vogue, so I just did a couple of them.

The bigger flower, on the shelf, is a corsage for Mum to wear so that she can match her baby girl, or not of course if it's a boy. By the time I knit the next hat, I'll know what colour to choose.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

More stripes

I'm very naughty. I've started another Noro Lara, which means another sleeve-to-sleeve stripy cardigan and I haven't even done the finishing on the stripy Mably.

Lara is from Debbie Bliss's Alpaca Silk collection and the largest size is a little bit small for me, so I made it first in Noro Kureyon, which just sized it up nicely. I made this last year. It's shade 150.

The colours have a lovely misty Hebridean look, and the stripes remind me of the endless horizons you see up there. The turquoise is the sea, and the grey and lavender are the mists and mountains. I took up knitting in my twenties, having not been a great success with it at school, after a holiday in South Uist in the Outer Hebrides. I was living in London at the time, a city which seemed no have no horizons at all, and when I went back there I was obsessed with reproducing those watery horizontals, shading endlessly between blue and green and grey and brown.

Since I can't draw or paint, it occurred to me that one way of achieving the effect I was after, was with the lines of knitting. I got some wool from somewhere and started knitting a Hebridean landscape which turned into, I think, a cushion; when I got to the top, I couldn't remember how to cast off and had to look it up in a book. Then I made a bag, and then a sweater, all with sea and sand and sheep and little white cottages. I did them all in a mixture of colour stranding techniques which I made up as I went along. I think I must have started looking at patterns while I was making the sweater, but only for the shaping. If I had been able to buy shade 150 of Noro Kureyon at that time, I maybe wouldn't have learnt how to do all of that.

This year's Lara is in Silk Garden, shade 8. I bought a couple of balls to make a curly scarf for a friend, and I was lost. With the leftovers I cast on at one cuff, and the next time I was in my LYS, I bought another ball. I have this idea that if I buy the yarn one or two balls at a time, the cost will be more bearable, rather than facing up to the cost of a dozen balls of Silk Garden, eek.

This is more like a Caribbean landscape. The colours are quite dull here because I took the photo on Sunday morning before I had opened the blinds; in reality they sing and dazzle. The first green is a little harsh. I'm toying with the idea of taking it out in the rest of the cardi, but I don't really believe in messing about with the colours in variegated yarn and perhaps the blues need it. It will have to stay like this until next pay day when I can get the next instalment.

Meanwhile I shall return to the Kauni and some baby hats that I haven't told you about.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Victorian Scarf

The scarf from page 80 of Victorian Lace Today was finished a while ago but lay and lay and lay until I got round to blocking it. I finally blocked it on my bed, and actually found a pin the hard way a couple of days later.

It's pretty but I did get bored towards the end; I think if the pattern weren't in garter stitch I would have loved it more. I must remember that the next time I'm choosing a lace pattern. The yarn is an alpaca and nylon sock yarn from Fyberspates and is quite beautiful, has many more flashes of pink in it than you can see here. I took about 17 photographs of it at different settings to try and capture the subtleties but they all came out looking much the same. I'm going to give it away, as I have scarves the way some women have shoes, and I think the colours would suit my niece better than they do me.

Because I made the scarf quite short, there is yarn left over and it's so delicious to work with that I couldn't bear to put it away, so I'm using it for some of the flowers on Nicky Epstein's Anniversary scarf in the latest Vogue Knitting (Fall 2007). It goes very well with some of Natalie's sock yarn in a slightly purplish denim-blue (cool blue needles from Natalie too). I'm looking for a third shade; I tried some Lorna's Laces in Georgetown but it's too icy a blue so I'm still looking.

What about Kauni? Well, the indecision continues and is expanding exponentially. I spent a long time looking at child-sized patterns while the little voices in my head kept saying, 'But if you make a child's sweater then the blocks of colour will be wider, probably too wide,' and 'If you try to make up the shoulder shaping yourself it will go wildly wrong,' and 'Why didn't you buy the blue / green / purple colourway instead of the rainbow?' So I spent another long time looking at Kauni pictures on blogs. I've wondered about making a sort of sleeveless thing for myself but that brings me back to the colourway. I've thought about a bag, but I don't really like knitted bags very much and anyway I have trouble using the bags I've already got. I could make a blanket, but I'm not very into them either. Oh, wait a minute, what about a cushion? A big enough one to let the stripes be fairly narrow... I could use the cast-on for Ruth Sorensen's cardi to start me off and then it would fit one of my big sofa cushions. No shaping, no different sizes of stripes, just lots of lovely colour changes and some pretty patterns. I think I've got it.