Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Another day, another lesson learned...

I've run out of the inspiration I need for a leaflet I'm working on, the weather is cold, cold, cold and grey and that ball of sari silk is like an ember glowing hot pinks, orange and gold. I wonder, I thought, if I could warm myself with it? So. What to do. Well, it's got some largish lumps and some very thin bits, but most of it is reasonably even (see the weasel-words? Am I capable of judging these things?). It has a gentle halo of loose fibres, it's probably not suitable for heavy use, has no elasticity. For no good reason at all I decided to try a simple lace pattern first. I found the silk surprisingly easy to knit, even the thinnest sections are coherent enough to cope well with my best loose-ish tension on 5.5mm needles. I finished a section of the pattern quickly enough – it's only seven rows. And realised just how foolish I've been. Even a simple lace pattern requires more regularity than this silk possesses. Duh. OK, what else to try? Something really simple. Not garter stitch, I don't like the way the purl blocks of the lace look really solid. I think a rib of some sort, perhaps with a YO or something to open it up a bit.

What currently intrigues me, though, is that I am starting to like the colours. I HATE PINK. I was a girl, so I had to have a pink bedroom. The spare bedroom was blue, I wanted it more than anything in the Known Universe for several years. When I was old enough to know my own mind and make it known (about 9) I demanded a PURPLE bedroom, much to my parents' dismay. I demanded it more loudly, and they agreed... but somehow nothing darker than the lilac undercoat ever appeared on the walls. I wuz robbed. But now, when I see the different shades of hot pink melding with orange and gold flowing down from the needles it's "Wow! What amazing colours!" instead of memories of girlie curtains. And I feel all the warmer for it. Dare I wear it? Perhaps it could be my folk festival scarf this year :-)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

I did a Felt!

OK, lots of people felt stuff, some of them deliberately. This small bowl is special because it's the first thing I've made on the spur of the moment, without a pattern, that's really worked. I like it. Perhaps the last 48 years have taught me something after all :-)

I was intrigued by this moebius scarf thing I'd read about, so ordered Cat Bordhi's
A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting because it had cat beds in it, too. In the book I read about felting as something worth doing on purpose, as opposed to something bad that happens if I mistreat my sweaters[1], and decided to try it using my least-liked wool left over from a Kaffe Fassett sweater. Remnants of brown, red-brown, unmentionable brown, ochre, red, and a tiny bit of green and blue I rather liked. I found a pattern for something completely different that told me how to make a circular base and just... started knitting. I changed colours as the fit took me, made it what seemed 'big enough' (after all I had no idea how big it would be after felting) and late one night I cast off and just felted it without stopping to worry about 'how hot' and 'how long'. Putting it through the Dyson would have wasted water, so the initial felting I did by hand. Hard work, that, especially at 10pm after a long day. The books may say water temperature doesn't matter, but I found a kettle-ful of boiling water really made the wool pay attention to what my hands were asking it to do. The potato masher was a good idea, but (like so many good ideas) no use at all In Real Life. The end result was felt, but not as small as I hoped, so on the the spur of today's moment I sealed it in a pillowcase, sealed that in another pillowcase, and put it through the wash with a load of darks. 40°C, cotton cycle, heavy stains, 1400RPM spin was on reflection a bad idea, but I've been able to work the creases out. I love it, especially purl side out. It's like a sunset, or layers of sedimentary rock, but it feels so organic, so nest-like. I am astonished that something I liked as little as I liked those scraps of wool have been transformed into something I like so much. Minnow is in the picture for scale, by the way. One should always include something to give the scale; Maine Coons are useful that way. And that pink lump in the bowl is the sari silk, which was OK after all. Tightly wound into a ball as some website-or-other suggested, and waiting for me to be inventive.

[1] The only momentous felt I can recall was when my mother machine-washed the woollen suit I'd had to make in my how-to-use-a-sewing-machine course when I was about 9. I still wonder whether she did it on purpose. Was it that bad? I'll never know.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Work, eh?

I suppose that if I had to knit or weave for a living, I might really be looking forward to a spot of graphic design of an evening. After all, I used to draw and paint for fun, but after 15 years of doing it to deadlines I'm less inclined to think of these as pleasurable. But as things stand, InDesign and Pshop are work and playing with string is fun. I am eternally indebted to the re-enactor friends[1] who introduced me to tablet weaving, which led me to the Handweaver's Studio in London, which offered the course that introduced me to Melanie Venes, who teaches loom weaving, which inspired me to look for yarns for a scarf. Thanks to the internet I found... a new world.

I stopped knitting about 20 years ago, smothering everyone I loved in aran sweaters so structurally cabled they'll stand up by themselves before finishing in a brief flurry of knitted lace doilies. I've still got two half-finished sweaters in bags stuffed behind the couch (I am so glad that knitting blogs tell me I'm not the only person in the Universe with unfinished projects), one an attempt to inspire me to patience or something, a sweater in some extremely soft Rowan cotton mix so fine and complex that each row of the back took an entire evening. And there's an indigo cotton cabled sweater in there as well. It might be lovely if it's finished when it's finished, but it smells of indigo and leaves blue everywhere. And that's how things stood until about a month ago, when I lost an entire day stunned by the beauty of the yarns flashing onto the monitor, not to mention the fabulous things people are making with them. And Addi Turbo needles. So... I bought some Colinette 'Giotto' cotton/rayon in Jay to see if it was as beautiful as it looked onscreen ( it's even better in real life, because it's real) and started again, taking the opportunity to force myself to learn to knit *properly* like, holding the yarn in a way that makes it easier to keep a reasonable tension. And as soon as I started to cast on I realised I'd missed it, this convenient, portable way of transforming string into things. Freezing its potential into one of a myriad possible forms.

Currently reading: Cosmonaut Keep, Ken Macleod

[1] The Society for Creative Anachronism is one place to find an explanation, although the people I know aren't members. If you're in the UK, the Templar's Fayre at Cressing Temple Barns, Essex, 6-7 May 2006 will give you the chance to see and feel more. Come and be lured into Living History, just as I was :-)

Friday, March 10, 2006

I should be working, but

I've done other stuff. Then I went and visited the sari silk making a mess in the bath, remembered that I'd mentioned the rock I was using as a weight, and wondered whether anyone else would like to see some pictures of where it came from.

So... to start, here's a larger version of My Photo (I look like any other person you see on the street; there's a sense in which these photos say more about me than my face does), which will also show me what blogger's photo resampling does... not too bad. That was taken from a viewpoint (roughly Lat 57°34'12.45"N, Long 5°37'59.58"W according to Google Earth) looking southeast-ish over Upper Loch Torridon in what I think is the most beautiful, emotive landscape I've seen: the Northwest Highlands of Scotland. The mountains are Torridonian sandstone, layers of magenta, rust-red or maroon depending on the sunlight (if you can see them; it does rain quite a lot). The Diabaig Formation (the rippled rock weighting the skein) comes from the very bottom of the Torridonian; you can't see it here, but if I turned around and walked west for about a half-mile from the viewpoint I'd be in Upper Diabaig, looking at the hairpin bend in the road where he stopped the car so I could take a picture, a rock fragment, and a philosophical lesson. I like the way that water still flows over the ripples, a reminder of the water that shaped them nearly a billion years ago more info. I won't worry about the sari silk. Life's too short. If the threads tangle I can cut and knot them as I knit.

I can work tomorrow.

er, Hello. And Help!

10 March 2006
I've been reading and enjoying a lot of other blogs recently. Blogs are a bit like newsgroups, or swimming, in that you have to try it to know if you'll like it. I like newsgroups, I've decided I like blogs, and I don't like swimming. Perhaps one day I'll feel brave enough to explain what I think is the reason I don't like swimming, but at the moment I have a different problem. Allow me to tell you about it (and ask for advice), then I'll be able to relax and say something more interesting than "aaaaargh". I bought some sari silk from mintfabricsin on eBay. A lot of four skeins, three pink/orange (not my favourite combination) and one worth all the rest and more beside. Blues, purples, turquoise, shot with gold and yellow. The photo doesn't do it justice. Anyway, I wanted to have *that* skein in my stash for a possible weaving project that I don't know enough to plan yet (I won't collect my loom until the end of my course on the 19th). The other three are, well, spare, so I thought I'd try actually knitting the stuff, or crocheting it, or something, just to see what it does.

But they all smell a bit musty, like a goat's-milk cheese I ate once and hated. So I thought I'll handwash it, rinse it in lavender water and hang it weighted to dry and see, well, smell if that helps. I don't want to play with something that smells like that cheese. I washed it gently, rinsed it... and aaaargh. Many of the threads have relaxed in the water (they must like swimming) and twisted back on themselves. It wasn't a tidy skein to begin with, and some of the threads are currently as taut as bowstrings while others are limp. I could spend ages trying to tidy, untangle and stretch threads as it hangs wet, but I'd really rather not if the problem is likely to correct itself when I wind it into a ball after it dries. What do you think?

I think I need to find time to refresh my memories of html in order to make this more beautiful and find some way to put those images where I want them.

Incidentally, look carefully at the little you can see of the rock weighting the problem.
It's a fragment of the Diabaig Formation of the Torridonian Sandstone in northwest Scotland. You might just be able to see that the top is slightly hollowed; that's a fossilised ripple formed about a billion years ago. Normally I keep it beside my monitor, a reminder that whatever the problem, it's unlikely to survive a billion years!