Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Wind Up Tin Toy Knittin' Kitten

I saw one of these for sale on eBay recently, and I have to admit I was terribly tempted, but I convinced myself that I already have enough Things so I didn't bid. Even although it still has the original box.

I couldn't stop thinking about it, however, and it finally occurred to me that there was probably one on YouTube somewhere.

So I had a look this morning and here it is. Isn't it fab?

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Knitting New Scarves Knitalong

Melanie Falick is hosting a knitalong for Lynne Barr's Knitting New Scarves on Flickr. See here.

Photos of some scarves from the book have already been posted to Flickr.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Kauni Disaster Averted

Something really annoying happened with the Kauni yarn. I was knitting along with Strand 1 going red, orange, yellow, green, blue and it turned back into blue, green, yellow and was beginning to be orange. I hadn't encountered a knot, so it must have been spliced quite well. And going backward? Does that mean the yarn is twisted the other way?

The yellow was turning into orange at about the same time as the other yarn was turning from red to orange, so I was going to be knitting the Zilboorg pattern (page 34) with two strands of yarn the same shade. Very Zen, don't you think?

I got sort of apoplectic for a while, I mean I could have handled an abrupt change of colour with a great big knot because I would have seen that and dealt with it before I'd knitted another 20 rows of pattern, but having this sneak up on me was a bit much.

However, I eventually decided to be philosophical about it - in the Alan Bennett way; 'Be philosophical about it, don't give it another thought!' I cut the yarn and pulled the other end from the centre of the ball, tied a great big knot in it, and carried on.

I've decided it was actually a blessing in disguise because it will give me more colour combinations. In fact, I could do it deliberately after this pattern. Here we have yellow and blue together, which wouldn't have happened if the colours had continued correctly, and which is agreeably Monet-ish. And since then it's turned blue and orange, like blue corn chips and regular corn chips. Mmm, crispy snacks.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Noro Lara

I allowed myself to buy another couple of balls of Silk Garden and have done a bit more of my second Lara. I love the colours and the stripes are intensifying now that I'm past the sleeves and am on the sides: it is done in one piece, so I'm at the bit which goes from to hem over the shoulder. The straight needle which is rammed up the side isn't anything to do with the construction; I just put it in for the photo so that you can see more stripes. I've made the increases in the sides straighter this time, so that it's less fitting.

In theory, this should be last-resort knitting and I should be doing other things first, but I've had a spell of needing something mindless because I had subtitles to read, so this has come to the front. I have two more l-o-n-g Chinese films to watch (Film Four had a season), so knitting which requires counting or looking will slip to the back of the queue again.

A friend asked me to knit her something for last Christmas after she saw some Noro yarn, and I agreed. She settled on a pattern quite soon, Mavis from 'Naturally Noro', but has been quite incapable of choosing a shade, a problem that any of us can sympathise with. And unless one is enormously fortunate, it's difficult to find a shop which has a very wide range of colours; even if they stock Noro, they'll probably only have a few shades of each yarn, so a lot of her failing-to-choose has been done online. We ended up sitting at our computers last night, a few hundred miles apart, wrangling over the possibilities in Jannette's Silk Garden selection. I have had to warn her that if she doesn't choose soon, I may be tired of the project before I've started, something which has happened to me before when I've taken ages poring over a pattern and possible yarns. I hope this doesn't sound too mean, but I don't want to hate the project while I'm knitting it, or even worse, not knitting it and feeling guilty because I should be knitting it. I hope I will receive a parcel of Silk Garden soon. I'll let you know what colour she finally settles on.

Another Zilboorg Pattern in Kauni

You haven't seen Kauni for a while. I finished the rows of little hearts and started another Zilboorg pattern. It's on page 34 and it's called 'Turcoman's Earring'. When I first started it, I couldn't understand why it didn't look like the sock in the book, until I worked out that she had reversed the light and dark yarns between the photo and the chart. She recommends that you try the patterns both ways as you get very different effects and I was looking to forward to the rainbow yarn doing that for me, but I had forgotten that momentarily.
There are no rows with long carry-overs, the occasional one with five stitches, where I choose to do a carry-over with the middle stitch, but nothing more than that. It's quite extraordinary the variety of forms and the elegance that she achieves with such simple variations.

If you think you can see a mistake in the above photo, it isn't. There is a Major Mistake, but you can't see it here; what you can see here is where the number of stitches in the pattern (14) doesn't go into the number of stitches in the row (240). I chose 240 because it would accommodate patterns of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10 and 12, but I didn't think of 14. So at the end of the row (indicated by the large jadeite heart marker) there's a sort of coggle. Since this a sampler cushion, I am allowed to do that. I must remember not to photograph that bit again, but I tend to stop-n-snap at the end of a row.

Then, I had a problem. I'll do separate post about that.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Pooh Scarf

I knitted a college scarf for Pooh Bear.

What do you think Poohs study at university? Honey Studies?

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Lynne Barr's Scarves

Now that I'm back in glorious technicolour, I thought I'd expand on Lynne Barr's Knitting New Scarves.

I love this undulating sea creature.

And I always like black and white together. Or charcoal and cream.

A simple idea, but if it's so simple then why didn't I think of it?

And the detail that makes these scarves achievable, the excellent instructional photos. Thanks again to Doug.
Does anyone fancy a knitalong?

I started this one, Parallelograms, with two yarns I've been sitting on like a broody hen; on the right, a lovely merino from A Piece of Vermont, and below, Cherry Tree Hill's discontinued Possum Paints Worsted, which is 70% merino and 30% possum (that's the New Zealand possum, not the North American one). Or is it Australian? The label doesn't say.

I've decided they're not the right yarns for this scarf, but I might try them without the diagonal. The possum is fabulous yarn and should make a very warm scarf, but it has absolutely no stitch definition. I think the best thing to do with it might be just to make a stocking stitch tube: I bought rather a lot of it under the impression that I was ordering the laceweight, and that might use it up. But the scarf is a good design.

Then I started Shag.
The yarn is some Debbie Bliss Maya (aka Soho) in a discontinued shade. The colours look wonderful on the ball, a mixture of grey, lilac, cream and petrol blue (it's worth clicking on the picture) but once knitted it tends to turn into an undistinguished smudge -and I speak as one who is quite fond of smudges. I've swatched it for a few things and never been satisfied, but I think it works better here, where there are lot of edges where the colour can catch the eye.

I read the instructions and thought I could wing it, count the rows in my head and that, and I ended up with this.If continued, it might make a good collar, but it's meant to be straight. So I started again, made myself a 17-row counter, and thought about what I was doing, and now I've got this.

The pink strand is my row-counter.

I put it down while I was circling the Kaffe Fassett hat, but I've picked it up again. I like it a lot, and am trying to decide who I know who is cutting-edge enough to wear it.

A Book Meme

I was tagged by Anne.

1. Hardcover or paperback, and why? Always a paperback; my arms are too weak to hold a hardback and anyway I prefer to read without my glasses and that means holding the book at the end of my nose, which is much easier with a paperback.

2. If I were to own a book shop, I would call it… I wouldn’t own a bookshop. A librarian, me. I expect to lend books or share their contents, not charge for them – not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s too late for me to change. Anyway, I would make the worst shopkeeper in the world, after being the worst restaurant-owner in the world.

3. My favourite quote from a book (mention the title) is… My mind always goes blank when people ask me questions like this. If I think of one, I’ll add it.

4. The author (alive or deceased) I would love to have lunch with would be… Dinner, not lunch, please. Again, so hard to choose one. Samuel Johnson, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Lytton Strachey, Aldous Huxley, Evelyn Waugh (on a good day), James Thurber, Nancy Mitford… They’re all dead, aren’t they? Catherine Gildiner , Stephen Fry, Ian Rankin. I have had lunch with Eric Lomax and I enjoyed it very much.

5. If I was going to a deserted island and could only bring one book, except for the SAS survival guide, it would be… There’s a temptation to choose something long which I haven’t read yet, but that could misfire. There could be a good reason why I haven’t read it yet. Something multi-volume, collected letters or diaries, would be better. Frances Partridge’s Diaries would entertain but also teach me to cope better with adversity.

6. I would love someone to invent a bookish gadget that… Can’t think of anything. Books are all the gadgets I need.

7. The smell of an old book reminds me of… Libraries. Where I’m happiest.

8. If I could be the lead character in a book (mention the title), it would be… Maybe Chris Guthrie from Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Scots Quair quartet although I’m not sure I could live up to her high standards. In some ways, she’s more like my mother than like me.

9. The most overestimated book of all times is… Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code (you don’t need a link). I’ve nothing against a good page-turner but that has to be one of the worst-written books that ever actually got published. Stereotypical characters, clich├ęs, unnatural dialogue, inadequately researched theories, bad metaphors, don’t get me started. John Naughton used to write television reviews in the Observer and he said of some long-forgotten drama, ‘The dialogue was terrible but it didn’t matter because you couldn’t hear it for the sound of the cardboard characters being ripped from their adhesive backing.’ That just about sums up the Da Vinci Code for me.

10. I hate it when a book… just stops without a properly conceived and written ending, when the author couldn’t be bothered to think of one.

And I've tagged... Vivienne.

Back in Business

My computer's happy again. I got in a local therapist, and it's humming away, a little more quietly but probably the better for that.

What would you like to see first? How about a Kaffe Fassett Sock Hat?

It's not actually a sock hat in any real sense, but it's knitted from Kaffe Fassett's Design Line sock yarn from Regia, in the 4251 colourway, Landscape Storm. I nearly got Caribbean, but now I'm glad I didn't. I loved this yarn as soon as I saw photographs of it, but I have come to realize that I am not a sock knitter, so I went for a hat. I don't suit hats at all, and also I have a huge head, so I can't buy hats unless I buy a man's Extra Large, so this might have been a bit rash but I'm actually quite pleased with it.

The colours are lovely, and spread out over a head instead of a leg the colours sometimes come in as a flash rather than a stripe. I just cast on, on a circular needle, and knitted until the wool seemed to be running out. It's the knitting equivalent of a hamster running in a wheel, but I had some sub-titled films to watch so it was perfect.

I watched The World, a Chinese film set in the Beijing World Park, a theme park which contains reproductions of the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Pyramids and so on. Although it shows the emptiness and difficulty of the lives of the young people who work there, it was enchanting too and I enjoyed it more than I think I was meant to. The characters spent a lot of time answering their mobile phones and reading text messages, which made me wonder what the keypad on a Chinese mobile phone looks like and how many keys it has.

I also watched A Common Thread, a French film about a pregnant girl who works in a supermarket but wants to be an embroiderer. It was fairly laconic and obscure too as the heroine was not given to chatting, but there was always something to watch and the music was fabulous - Michael Galasso and a French band called Louise Attaque - very jagged strings. The girl succeeds in working for an embroiderer who supplies the serious couture houses in Paris and although I felt she acquired her skills rather rapidly it was still fascinating to see.

There was a scene in this film where a housewife, who was simultaneously complaining bitterly about how nobody ever gave her any help in the kitchen, killed an eel, nailed its head to a shelf and skinned it. I thought, Well, you wouldn't see that in a British film. Or an American one. I wondered if this was a piece of business that the actress introduced during filming or if it was in the script from the start: that would have been an interesting casting call - 'actress, between 40 and 55, must be able to skin an eel'.

Anyway, back to the hat. I did a little umbilicus at the top and there was only a scrap of yarn left over. It won't be the warmest hat ever, but I like the way it looks and the colours are just as wonderful as one would hope.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Picture-free post

My computer has had a nervous breakdown. It did one of those Microsoft Automatic Updates, re-booted and took it into its head to do a CHKDSK, and it's been quietly weeping in the corner ever since. It hasn't lost any files, it just can't remember what to do with them. Or how to find the Internet. Or how to play music. Or anything.

I'm using my neighbours' pc this afternoon - they're out watching a sporting event of some sort (rugby? what rugby?) - and I can't find the slot that would take the card from my camera, so this shall be short and sweet. Don't be disheartened though; my pc will be repaired or replaced early next week and I'll catch up then. Being computer-free, I have had more time for knitting, and have got worse RSI from knitting than I ever had from computering, which is a surprise.

Before I go, I must recommend Knitting New Scarves, by Lynne Barr, which I got last week. I am not always terribly enthusiastic about people who take a 'new', 'exciting' or 'architectural' approach to knitting, since I often find that these are terms used by publishers to describe the same old same old, i.e. very large needles, lumpy yarn and holey shawls. 'Spectacularly modern' and 'fun-to-make' are not usually terms that make my heart beat faster either, but this time they're actually true.

There are 27 patterns, some easy (one I worked out how to do it from looking at the picture, but it's still a brilliant idea) and some challenging. They are clearly photographed (by Tyllie Barbosa) in close-up and full-length. The instructions are clearly written and also very helpfully laid out with effective use of colour and type sizes. And most brilliant of all is the section for each scarf which has instructional photos. These were taken by the author and really are easy to understand - they're the photos you need. She says in her acknowledgements, 'Finally, but not minimally, thanks to my husband Doug. He rigged up an ingenious little photo studio, so I could take the instructional photos as I worked, clicking away with my foot, while my hands were busy knitting. ' I think we should all thank Doug too.

Until I can post pics, you can have a gaze here. There really are a lot of things I want to try.

I have nearly finished one scarf and have done a few inches of another. I am very tempted to combine this book with my stash and make everyone a scarf for Christmas - would that be too selfish?

Monday, 8 October 2007

Kauni Decisions

I'm trying to decide what pattern to do next, after the second set of butterflies, which are a quarter-done. I'm doing a second set because I want to use the two yarns at the same pace, not because I'm in love with the stitch.I like the way it looks, but I'm not happy with the rhythm of it. I don't understand how one arrangement of 2, 3, or 4 stitches can be more or less satisfying to knit than another, but it definitely is. Less, I mean.

Knit the Knits is doing some fab scrolls with Kauni. I like this pattern a lot because it's curvy, but it doesn't use the yarns evenly so I would have to do at least two alternated bands of it. I don't suppose that's really a problem. I've drawn up a chart from the photos.

I could dig out last winter's Interweave Knits and use the chart for Eunny's Venezia, that's nice and curvy - see left.

I keep going back to look at Elizabeth Zimmermann's Shaded Aspen leaves. At the denser end of the pattern, the colours are used pretty evenly.

I love Passing Down Crazy's Damask Kauni, but I don't think I'm inclined to hunt down the chart. Maybe I could draw that from the photos.

Endless possibilities.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Jeans and a Sweater for Pooh

I told you I was going to knit some clothes for somebody's Pooh Bear. One the left, you can see what Pooh looked like when he was new.

This is what he looks like now. He has seen some hard loving. As well as needing some new clothes, it was thought that they might help hold him together.

I didn't use any of the patterns from Knitting for Children and their Teddies by Fiona McTague, because, although it's excellent, it doesn't actually have any patterns for bears of this very special shape; I did get all my ideas from it however.

It has lovely patterns for sweaters and hats and scarves, in child sizes and bear sizes, and they are so cute it's difficult not to make a fool of yourself while you're looking at the pictures. Lots of shrieking and cooing.

It has a handy little guide to How to Measure Your Teddy.

It has a pattern for a little pocket-size teddy with a l-o-n-g scarf.

The teddy will fit in the pocket on a child's scarf.

The only complaint I have about it is that it doesn't have schematics, a situation which usually reduces me to foul language, but one can't really curse in the presence of these pictures.

First of all, I made him a little pair of jeans, in Rowan All Seasons Cotton in Dusky, using the pattern for the trousers that accompany the stripy sweaters in the first photo. They became dungarees, held up by a single strap, so that they couldn't easily be removed by a certain Little Sister.

And then I made a little sweater in an apple green shade of Rowan Wool Cotton. I had offered to make a stripy sweater, to match one I knitted for his owner, but this offer was tactfully rejected and a single colour chosen. The sweater perhaps lacks elegance, but he does look well turned out.

I started about tea-time on Friday, and had them finished by the time I left after Saturday lunch, stopping only to eat, drink, have a game on PlayStation 2, and sleep. Otherwise I was kept pretty hard at it. Frequent cries of 'Is it ready yet?' kept me going.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Fair Isle Hearts

I decided I had done enough bi-directional arrows from Fancy Feet, although I think an entire cardigan done in Kauni in this pattern would look wonderful, and I've moved on to a couple of rows of Fair Isle Hearts. I like hearts, as a symbol and as a shape, and many of my home-made stitch-markers are made from heart-shaped beads, as you will see if you squint at these photographs.

I got these hearts, which alternate upside-down and right-way-up, from a favourite little book, A Shetland Pattern Book by Mary Smith and Maggie Twatt.

It has some pages at the beginning with notes about Shetland knitting, but it mostly consists of patterns drawn up on graph paper, all in black and white. It is a wonderful source book and could supply endless ideas. You can see my hearts at the lower right of the spread shown above, and you can just see them taking shape below.

I always copy the patterns I wish to follow onto more graph paper; I don't usually bother with knitter's paper, I just use the squares, but I think that copying them out helps me get into the swing of them before I pick up the needles.

For some reason that I can't put into words, I want to avoid the very square or sharply angled patterns of traditional Fair Isle and that was another reason to settle on the hearts. I also want to avoid gaps of more than a few stitches between colour changes. I have been looking at charts for leaf patterns, but they were all too naturalistic. Knitasha von Stashenskeins has expressed this idea more elegantly and is doing a heavenly Kauni cardi using a design she's adapted from Elizabeth Zimmermann's Shaded Aspen Leaves in Knitting Workshop. I won't copy her leaves but I must confess to spending quite a lot of time poring over the different aspen leaves EZ shows.

I'm going to visit one of my youngest relations tomorrow, and amongst other things will be exploring the possibility of knitting a sweater and 'jeans' to help hold together his disintegrating but still much loved teddy bear. I will be helped by Knits for Children and their Teddies, a wonderful little book. More anon.