Monday, May 29, 2006


All those things I said I was going to do and look what happened. I think I've been bitten by the Sock Bug. Those are the soles of what are, to be painfully honest, my second-ever pair of socks. More about the first in a moment. These here are real socks, ones that fit (so far), in Fleece Artist 'Sea Storm' sock yarn (feels a little harsher than the Cherry Tree Hill, but not badly so), knitted toe-up two at once on two circulars. I started (!) on Magic Loop, which is really no different in method, but two circulars allows me to knit the pattern in 2.5mm and the soles on 2mm which by all reports will make them last longer and be softer underfoot. The glittery thing is my stitch counter, more beads (the fabulously detailed black&whites are Corina's lampwork) and silver-coated copper. When I desperately needed a counter yesterday I remembered a bracelet in what looked like leather and large wooden beads I'd seen on a website and invented an equivalent. As soon as he saw he said "It's an abacus". Clever man :-)

I refuse to think about the heel yet, but I've already learned a lot. I comprehend Second Sock Syndrome: I'm certain the thrill of making these will carry me through to the end, er, top, but I already understand that after making one by itself the second would be less a thrill, more a matter of grim determination. I'm testing a theory about the causes of the pain that some bloggers report when knitting socks. I have found that the wool can hurt my fingers, and I do get arm pain sometimes. The two usually occur together, and I think it's a function of tension/stress AND the need to see what this fine-ish yarn is actually doing on these thin needles. When things started to hurt I analysed what I was doing, how I was holding the work (three cheers for Pilates and previous wrist/elbow problems that have taught me that these things matter), and found that I'm holding the knitting far more tightly than I need to -- the wool on the needles is biting into my fingers because of the ferocity with which I'm pressing down on it -- and I'm holding the knitting close to my face, high up my chest so my middle-aged eyes can see what I'm doing. By looking OVER the top of my reading glasses to see it, which is too stupid for words. To hold the knitting up I'm bending my arms, compressing my elbows and wrists, which is painful if I do it for long periods especially when I'm tense. The solution I've found is to consciously stop stressing and hold the work more naturally. Work in better light - I'm looking for a lamp to stand by my comfy chair - and, if you wear reading glasses, make certain you're using them correctly. My VDU glasses (reading lenses set up for the distance I should be sitting from the computer monitor, essential for someone who spends hours every day in front of one) were a significant improvement because the 'Reading' bit of my bifocals is set up for a closer distance than is comfortable for holding knitting. For some people it might be worth getting a really cheap pair of glasses made up for their comfortable knitting distance in the same way that weavers have glasses set up for weaving.

Those first socks. Let's keep this short, shall we? Toward the end of my First Phase of Knitting I diversified away from aran with a brief foray into intarsia (Phase Ib, as an archaeologist might classify it). Rowan, Kaffe Fassett, 'nuff said. Lots and lots of bits of expensive wool left over, sat in a bag for ages until the day when, while cleaning a particularly inaccessible bookshelf, I came across a Patons? 1970s? booklet of sock patterns I'd never done anything with. Everything was striped and for no reason I can now comprehend it occurred to me that the leftover bits could become striped socks. So I bought some dpn needles, cast on and started knitting. I gave no thought to gauge, to suitability of yarn, I just followed the pattern with the yarn I had. I didn't even think to keep track of what I did where and when so the socks (I was so certain I was knitting socks) would match. I just knitted, and if you try to imagine what I made, your imagination will probably fall far short of the awful reality. They were vaguely sock-shaped, but that's where any resemblance to 'Socks' as wearable items ended. One was a bit too large for him, the other a bit too large for me. Neither was sufficiently beautiful to be a Christmas Stocking or a sculpture, or a cat toy. I have no idea what happened to them, and I don't care... I love what's on my needles now to the point of distraction. In fact I hear their siren song now. Excuse me, I could be knitting socks :-)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

oooh, shiny

See? A shadow: the sun is shining! It's glittering off an array of markers, nearly 40 of them so far in silver-coated copper wire (I'm not good enough to deserve real silver :-), amber and... damn, I've forgotten what the green stone is. I had to think of something to do while scanning stuff yesterday. I hesitate to continue with work that matters just in case the machine decides I'm asking too much of it and lets an application die. InDesign does its own backups, but everything else requires me to do it and I rarely remember at the right times. I'm thinking of lace, Sivia Harding's Diamond Fantasy Shawl and, of course Birch. Handmaiden Sea Silk colourway 'Ivory' is swatching on 3.75mm in the DFS pattern; I love silk, but in the last week or so I've begun to understand why one might want to use it spun with at least a little wool. Its lack of elasticity is very unforgiving, but I almost got that 'this is Right' feeling knitting after lunch today. When I finally decide if I got gauge on the Enigma (those blobs confuse the issue) I'll cast on my first try at a proper *fitted* t-shirt. I bet rain descends again as I do so.
The post this morning delivered two 60cm 2.25mm Inox circulars, so I did the figure-8 cast-on for my first proper pair of socks in the Blueberry Hill. Woot! (I believe that's the appropriate exclamation to describe my excitement.)

What else... ah, you might want to see the weaving. I keep admiring it, well, bits of it. Note that the neat Really Twilly bit at the bottom of the picture is not correctly aligned (at 45°). I corrected my tension after the first lavender insertion. That vertical band was an attempt to be very, very clever. It would work if I could keep track of the pattern in it hasn't worked. My thought was that the scarf would be very, er, horizontal with all those horizontal bands of twill and various wefts, so I set up four shafts I just happened to have spare to produce a diamond pattern that would repeat up the length of the scarf to give it some verticality. Problem is that, with other plans not yet visible in that sample, I am working 12 shafts and with only an hour or 90 minutes at most to spare in the average day, I just can't establish a rhythm and spend ages writting stuff down, or working knitting row counters to keep track of what each set of four shafts has to do when I get back. Basket weave is easy (and absolutely GORGEOUS in that silk) but inappropriate. Grrrr. Another lesson learned. Annoyance made worse because the nice smooth silk becomes quite hairy with the wear from the heddles (I am not overworking the reed, honest, I'm being extremely careful), and it's sticking. I'm having to clear the shed manually each time I pass the weft. Someone suggested hairspray; you can't see it, but I've bought some to try. I also briefly considered a quick pass with a blowtorch to scorch the offending haze, but that might have been from annoyance. We'll see... Silk's lack of elasticity is a minor annoyance here, too. It contributes to the thread binding. On the other hand, as the tension evens out further down in the weaving the twill design slowly pops out. I love it.

ps. Notice that plastic drinking straws make perfectly acceptable bobbins/shuttles for short lengths of string. I just wish I'd wound that lavender onto the hot pink straw!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Knitting needles as weapons

Out of curiosity I researched this briefly as a cross between procrastination and a reward for starting work at 7 am and working without pause until 1030, when I stopped for hot chocolate. It's... interesting. In the Chinese sense. There's no consistent policy, which must be fun for knitters who fly a lot. According to the written regulations (presumably airport security has the final say) the Canadian Air Transport Authority (responsible for all airports) allows all knitting needles (just keep scrolling down until you see 'yes' glowing a friendly green). The Canadian airline Zoom refers people to the CATA; on the other hand Air Canada has a cute cartoon of knitting needles (complete with knitting) in company with knives, scalpels and what I think is a Stanley knife (it might be an electric razor or a USB drive, but I'm not going to try to imagine the ways in which those could be used to hijack a plane) as things that have to go in hold baggage. According to this website the US Transport Security Administration allows knitting needles. The British Airports Authority says nothing at all about carry-on baggage on its website; Gatwick is a BAA airport and its list of prohibited items does not include knitting needles (I'm very taken by the notion of a sporting bat. How are they trained? Are there inter-species competitions? I'd be willing to subscribe to a sports channel to watch them). Birmingham isn't on the BAA list; it doesn't allow knitting needles. British Airways cheats, saying only "Please note that you cannot carry sharp items in your carry-on bags". HOW sharp? Do they prohibit pencils? I can put a point on a drawing pencil that you might not believe; I believe it because I've got a permanent tattoo-equivalent on a finger where by some incredible sleight-of-hand (that's what I call it) I managed to embed one and break the lead. Without even trying. I reckon that a properly sharpened pencil of the appropriate length could be a lethal weapon even if it wasn't used to draft cutting political satire, or blackmail. More to the point (sorry), why so many different policies? Is the head of the TSA married to a knitter? Was the head of Birmingham Airport Security forced to wear scratchy wool sweaters as a child? Whence comes a deep-seated fear of knitting needles? I suspect it's Freudian. Shouldn't I be using my time more productively?

I'm just glad I never acquired the habit of always having a hatpin handy for self-defence (my grandmother's advice).

Monday, May 22, 2006

Have we had enough rain yet?

Probably not. But this mix of sunshine, looming cloud, driving rain, overcast and scotch mist is becoming tiresome. On the bright side it means I can't do anything that needs doing in the garden (I've established that glaring at the uncut lawn and thriving weeds does not result in the grass dutifully shortening its height, and the weeds just ignore me completely) which means I could have lots more time for knitting and weaving if I didn't have so much work to do :-(

I have had some fun, though. It's Open Studios in Norfolk this month, so we declared Saturday a Holiday (he had to work Sunday) and set off to enjoy ourselves. I discovered a source of what could be very interesting dyestuff: a Norfolk farm is growing and processing woad. You can order products from Woad-inc Ltd. The woven, dyed scarves may seem expensive, but they're Melanie Venes hand-woven and the one I saw/handled in wool and linen was both lovely and interesting, as the wool took up much more dye than the linen. The bamboo facecloth I fondled was incredibly soft, so soft I'm not certain it would suit me. I like a bit of sandpaper, I do. Saves on exfoliants :-) Mind you, I want to wear something as soft and warm as that! I'm told the dyestuff works well: I've got three skeins of undyed silk from eBay that were earmarked for dyeing one day; now I know how I'll do it.

On the left preparations for my first serious attempt at socks. Cherry Tree Supersock in Blueberry Hill, a beautiful colourway on sale at Get Knitted... I got 2 more skeins yesterday. Only one left when I checked to get that URL. Suddenly I feel lucky! According to the Twisted Sisters sockbook one should swatch socks in the round to be accurate about tension. It currently records that I've gone from 3mm to 2.5mm and now onto 2mm as I try to get gauge (I need to find some way of labelling this permanently). It's on 2 circulars, which is dead easy and I think directly comparable to magic loop in terms of pattern instructions. Each time I change needles I change the pattern in some way. One needle is always stockinette, the other is currently different kinds of ribbing but as I gain confidence I'll test some lace patterns. I'm going to keep adding to the tube as I swatch for more socks (another idea from the TS sockbook). Speaking of socks: I'll be taking a rare trip abroad later this year. I've been reading about what one can and cannot take in carry-on for international flights, and I'm trying to work out how I could take a pair of socks to knit. Metal needles aka Addis seem generally to be frowned upon; circulars are better, but it still seems they're likely to be confiscated. Denise may be disassembled into apparently harmless components (there's a Bond sketch in there somewhere), but aren't small enough. Perhaps I should have a travelling shawl rather than a travelling sock? I'll try to find an Authority at BAA, but I'd be grateful for advice on this. Personally I can think of several things that one takes on board that are less useful than knitting needles and could be lethal weapons, but I may have read too many thrillers.

Also a swatch of Colinette Enigma in Venezia (shown below in more detail. This is weird yarn that doesn't (to me) much resemble the photo on the Colinette site. It's a fine-ish shiny rayon with randomly placed slubs(? is that the word?) of matte cotton, which form the prominent 'blobs'. Not the nicest stuff to knit, as it doesn't flow nicely through my tensioning fingers, the blobs make it difficult to maintain a relatively easy tension while knitting and they seem to jam and prevent 'evening out' by stretching the finished knit. The Venezia colourway isn't what I had imagined either, but having said all this... I've warmed to the yarn after seeing the swatch. The yellow is a bit strident, but the subtle shades of purple, mauve and grey are lovely. It will make a rather dressy t-shirt, I think. Speaking of t-shirts (and the plan to make one that fits) I note that Eunny Jang is promising an 'Unraveling' on tailoring knitting patterns to fit. That's another seriously talented person. Oh, well, if we didn't have goals to aim for we'd never achieve anything. Right?

And a FO: I'm still working my way through the results of a major online credit card injury; this is a Wavy Scarf kit in silk bouclé and cashmere. I like what I've made, but I've used a tighter? smaller gauge than intended so it's smaller than the suggested size. That was interesting: I started with a 6.3mm Denise (can't remember the US size), which produced what I thought was a rather sloppy fabric. I switched to a 6mm Addi, and got something I liked much more; the difference was far, far greater than I'd expect from a .3mm difference in needle size. This experience bears out what I've read about needle composition affecting gauge; important to remember!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Thank you, Stephanie

Of course I read Harlot... don't you?
Years ago, before ever I left home or got married, I realised that the loo/bathroom was an easily accessible fine and private place for those of us who shut the Door (I was bemused to discover recently that there are houses in which the Door is never shut). In stressful times I would retreat there with a book. From this has developed a tradition of 'bathroom books', magazines and books left in the loo to be read in those glorious moments of private contemplation snatched from the ravening jaws of routine. Yes, I'm bitter. Anyway, I decided that the copy of Knitting Rules! I acquired last week would be a perfect bathroom book. It is. The wonder of it is that he's been reading it too. Yesterday evening, while I was musing aloud on the possibility of assembling enough yarn from my stash to make another felted moebius bag, he said "You won't. I've been reading that book, and your stash just isn't big enough."

Thank you, Stephanie!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Of cats and wool

I'd welcome advice on a problem. It's perhaps not the largest problem in the world (climate change, anyone?) but it's haunted me for about 20 years.
Imagine those wavy lines that indicate the story is moving back in time, back to the late 1970s...
I had my first real job, living away from home for the first time in Jasper, Alberta (some of you are green with envy :-) for a summer. I hiked every free day, but there was nothing to do of an evening bar hit the bar (anyone else remember cocktail bars? Rusty Nail, Mmmmmm) and I was doing this to save money for tuition fees. The library allowed me to borrow *one book* per week. When I found myself reading the labels in my clothes I realised I had to find something else to occupy my mind: I decided to learn to knit. I bought a large quantity of what was then extremely expensive good cream acrylic (they had no wool), a pattern for a large and complex aran afghan, a pair of knitting needles, and a cable needle. My boss showed me how to cast on. The afghan was knitted in strips and sewn together. By the time I finished about a year later (my husband-to-be helped cut and knot the fringe) I knew how to knit and everything I'd learned was recorded in those strips, together with memories to cherish. I loved that afghan and displayed it proudly draped on the back of a chair/bed/sofa everywhere we lived. I love cats, too, and of course when we could, we acquired some. Siamese, they were, Aquila and Nyctea. Beautiful, intelligent, and Nyctea chewed wool. Some cats do this, but I didn't know that until I caught her eating a sweater one day. A couple of days later it occurred to me that she might not distinguish between acrylic and wool by taste... you guessed it. I was heartbroken. After ascertaining that there were at least two holes, big ones, ragged ones, I stuffed it into a black plastic bag and didn't look at it again.
The bag moved house with us, it travelled from closet to cupboard, and I couldn't bear to look at it. Until about a fortnight ago. We're really short of cupboard space in this house.

Dyson is such a soft-hearted cat. He wouldn't dream of chewing wool; he's just trying to cheer me up...
There are at least 6 holes. The largest is about 4" long by 3" wide. These are ragged-edged holes in aran stitches, cables and so forth. I can weave stockinette if I have to, but I can't bear to think of the time I'd need to spend unravelling fringe to get yarn to spend even longer (aeons, it would feel like aeons) weaving that in pattern even if I could. So. What do I do with this? It's big enough to cover a double bed. It hurts to look at it now; I remember my sorrow and anger at that cat, now long dead and still sorely missed. I plan to (eventually) knit something similar but different one day, so I don't think I want to keep it. I could bin it, but what a waste... Someone, somewhere must need or want something like this. If Afghans for Afghans were operating in the UK I'd patch it properly, somehow, and donate it. Is there something similar here?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Minnow approves :-)

I put it down to admire the colours and the curve of the strap, left the room for five minutes and returned to...

I think that's approval.

Bordi's book includes patterns for moebius cat beds, and I did buy some wool (the purple) knowing I'd have to make at least one. Sooner than I'd planned, by the look of it!

Monday, May 15, 2006

I made *another* felt!

A moebius bag, again from Cat Bordi's book. (The colours are more accurate than in the detail below but I apologise for the photo fuzziness.) I really, really like it. Really. He says it's a hippy bag, not because it rides happily on my hip, but as in suitable for flower children. I didn't think I was one but, hey, if the bag fits...
The weather has turned cold and wet and I found myself working at the computer wearing the bag because it is comfortable. And comforting. The wide strap warms my chest and back and sits on my shoulder like the hand of a friend. The bag itself curls around my hip as though it was some sort of adhesive cat. It's beautiful to look at, too. I chose the
Manos del Uruguay wools online, and the 'Citric' I chose as an accent looked painfully bright In Real Life against the 'Granite'. But I persevered, and indeed the felting process softened the contrast, possibly because the Granite shed a lot of brown dye. I know this because I tried to felt it by treading it in the shower (don't try to picture that). It didn't work, so I tied it in a pillowcase and put it and my Tevas (never miss the opportunity to try to get those clean) through the wash and first spin of a cotton cycle in our Dyson front loader.

The detail is intended to show that once again I've produced something that looks like a rock, and I love it. Geology Rules! Knitting, er, Rocks!

Anyone else thinking of felting Manos for the first time should note that 'Manos del Uruguay felts beautifully' means it felts at something approaching lightspeed in the wash. I panicked when I saw how small it had become, but it stretched. It had not choice but to stretch, what with my foot in the bag pushing while both hands pulled the strap... Another caution: do the i-cord edging very loosely indeed. I became increasingly tense as I convinced myself I would run out of Citric (no chance), which made the i-cord tense too. I had to Seriously Stretch it to make the strap lie flat. US size 11 needles got gauge and knitted according to the book I've got enough of both wools left to make a bigger bag/longer strap. Given the Dyson is the only washing machine I've got, next time I'll make the strap a couple of inches longer, and I'll use the rest of the everything to make the bag a bit bigger. Things learned in addition to relaxing the i-cord? I finished the bag using the 'three needle' bind/cast-off, which basically amounts to knitting the seam. It's brilliant. I love it, and I want to work out how to do that to shoulder seams even if it means learning short-row shoulder shaping: so much tidier/easier/less hassle than sewing. I kitchenered/grafted the i-cord and couldn't see the join even before felting, which was extremely satisfying (is that sad?). I have to get some more Manos ASAP: I have to make more fuzzy, friendly bags.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Thanks, Dawn... I think

My husband's away so after reading Dawn's comment on my previous post there was no one to remind me of time passing as I tried to remember where I'd seen a (relatively) simple explanation of short row shaping for those who have, er, bosoms. It wasn't much past 11pm that I found this at Knitty. I need it because I made this resolution, see, and she's called me on it :-)
Let me explain in more detail, first warning any males reading that the following paragraph might contain Too Much Information. Skip down to the one with the picture.

Cast your mind back to last Friday, when after several years (when did they screen that TV program on the designers who tried to invent a more comfortable and effective bra?) I decided to (hang the expense) visit Rigby & Peller in Conduit Street (London) and find out my bra size. A nice lady at a John Lewis store once told me I was a 36D, which was larger than I wanted anyway so for years I've disregarded this nagging feeling that it didn't fit. The nice lady at R&P was appalled. Horrified. Turns out I'm (gulp) a 32F. Let me make clear that any bust is a damned nuisance as far as I'm concerned. Perhaps this view is influenced by bust size, as most females with what I regard as appropriate, er, figures feel they're under-endowed. But most of them aren't trying to do the full mat in Pilates.

Anyway. This information, combined with my new-found interest in clothes that actually fit instead of the XL t-shirts I've hidden in for decades (Pilates and the gym pays off in the end), explains why those XL shirts hang like tents in what is (as the R&P lady said and my friend the costume maker has pointed out time and again) a really unflattering way. SO. I'm going to try to make a t-shirt that fits. Here you see some Colinette Enigma and Mercury in the shade 'Venezia', (which has slightly more red and yellow in it than I'd like, but we'll see what happens when it becomes fabric) and the pattern 'Cadiz' (worn by a model who really needs to do something about her attitude. And her shoulders. I can hear my Pilates instructor from here...). Raglan sleeves, which apparently flatter the fuller figure (why? how?). The fit seems comfortably loose. Now, I can't get my head around the idea of knitting a size 32 and using short row shaping to make it fit over the bust. That would be far too much, too soon, and besides which (below which?) I have hips. So, what to do? My tape measure tells me the actual, er, circumference is 38". The pattern says a 36 is 37.5" at the underarm, and there is some narrowing between the hips and that point. A 34 is 35.5" at the underarm... but I bet the hem is too small for my hips. OK. Gauge is 14st/4". *WHEN I get gauge* the 34 would be 134 stitches around the hem, which gives 38". My hips in jeans are 41". 38 would stretch, but I hate tight hems and I think they're unflattering, and I'm a bit frightened by the thought of a really fitted top. 36 would be 40.5" at the hips, which is much better. I go with the 36. Knitted on circulars, TWO circulars if necessary so I can try it when I get to the region in which I'd do short row shaping for the bust and see if it's necessary. Perhaps I'll want to make more decreases before I get there, too? The Knitty article makes it look relatively straightforward (I'll practice one with some waste yarn on the weekend). I CAN do this. You can do this (probably better than me. If so, and you have some advice I'd love to hear it!). It just means a bit of planning in advance, a little thought instead of just falling in love with some yarn and/or a pattern and going for it. And, probably, the willingness to sacrifice an hour's worth of knitting if I have to frog back to get something that fits. It's not the end of the world, practice makes perfect, and all that.

The other things that happened on Friday made it a perfect day. It was sunny, for one thing. By sheer good fortune we saw most of The Sultan's Elephant, the most astonishing, marvellous bit of street theatre. We were there when they opened the rocket to reveal a 5m marionette that walked! (suspended from a tractor, worked by a crew of about 30, all in red velvet jackets and breeches and accompanied by a live band) to Horse Guards Parade where she encountered a 15m? elephant animated by hydraulics and yet more people clad in red velvet. It was utterly, completely fabulous. I'll post photos (sadly only from our mobiles) when I can access them. And THEN, having decided to stay in town for dinner, we found Ten Ten Tai which is a 'real' Japanese restaurant with real food including gyoza (which is Korean, and delicious). Bliss, sheer bliss. Bar the blisters -- I shouldn't have worn those Birkenstock sandals, but never mind.

Monday, May 08, 2006

And that must have been summer.

At least that's what it felt like. Three or four warm, sunny days and now we're back to damp and gloom. I do have tangible, er, painful proof that I saw the sun: no work done, lack of blog, sunburned shoulders, and a 'green bin' (compostable waste) full of the cleavers aka goosegrass that would otherwise be smothering one of the borders. There's more of it running rampant in two other beds, but I can't see them from here so that's ok. I did finish the next moebius cowl. 'Mineral' is very apt for the colourway. The plant nestled in the 'rock' is Sweet Woodruff. It's a relatively desirable relative of that blasted cleavers, which is spreading nicely to provide ground cover. The flowers smell lovely; according to Grigson (The Englishman's Flora) the entire plant smells of sweet hay when dried and was traditionally used to strew floors, stuff mattresses and scent linen. I want to know how they managed to dry it in a traditional English spring!

Within minutes of finishing the cowl I had cast on for The Second Felt, a summerweight moebius shoulderbag in Manos 'Granite' with 'Citric' stripes from A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting. Lovely wool. I had an accident on Amazon recently that included a copy of Alterknits. I feel even more compelled to knit the laced armwarmers now I've played with the Manos. It's very soft.
I also like the scarves that lace together to become a wrap. I haven't cabled for a decade or more, and the urge is growing stronger every day. There's a lovely top with velvet edging, too. I've already bought the Jaeger Trinity to make the Modern Bustier although I'm not sure why I want one -- I don't wear tops 'like that', or at least I haven't done so in the past. Perhaps 4 years of Pilates and regular gym attendance (>6hrs/week) has finally convinced me I'm not fat. A friend whose fashion sense is admirable spent considerable time trying to work out why she thinks it's ugly; I think it's because it's too big for the model, whose collarbones could serve as coatracks. I may summon the courage to change the pattern, though. The straps look too narrow and I think I'd prefer a slightly curved top.

I find my reluctance to consider altering knitting patterns interesting. I'll gaily substitute ingredients in a recipe, even if I'm making it for the first time. I can be creative with pen&ink on paper, no problem. But I really, really want to blindly follow a knitting pattern even when I know the pattern as written might not fit me. I know how to assess possible problems, I understand the relationship between stitch gauge and fabric produced, and am capable of doing the math to alter patterns. I'm just too scared to try it. Even yarn substitution makes me extremely nervous. So... I have resolved that I will devote the rest of this year to overcoming my fear. For example, the bustier has to fit. The curve for the hips has to curve where my hips curve, not a couple of inches lower or higher. I have to think about this and even take measurements before I start. It's not rocket science, and it's clearly not the end of the world if I have to rip back and do it again: the blogs I read prove that many people do so, time and again. I'll just start a shawl at the same time, a refuge that requires blind obedience to a chart. Birch? I must be the last knitter with access to KSH who hasn't done one...

Monday, May 01, 2006

That was the weekend, that was

Alas. And I should have been working today, but instead spent the morning knitting in the queue for folk festival tickets. More than once I had the pleasure of showing someone how to knit a moebius strip... yes, I've started another one, this time in Handmaiden Silk Spun (silk bouclé) in an elegant blend of brown, grey and black (Mineral). The cap sleeve top is on hold again as I try to decide whether something basically tube-shaped will fit me (definitely not straight tube-shaped, and not accustomed to tight-fitting clothes). The kit includes 750m of yarn so I should be able to make something a little more flowing!

Baking is as much an art or craft as knitting or weaving, and it's just as satisfying even if the results are short-lived except in memory. Weekday breakfast is eaten deep in the rut worn by the ratrace; weekend breakfasts are not just eaten, they're enjoyed. Slowly, luxuriating in the pleasure of not having to race out of the house. Weekday breakfast is muesliandfruit; weekend breakfast is often home-baked bread or sweet rolls (made by hand, not in a machine). Carol Field's The Italian Baker is one of my favourite bread books; the only problem in the Raisin Bread (Pane Tramvai) recipe is working in all the raisins: it calls for equal weights of raisins and flour -- and then you *soak* the raisins! This is how risen dough and raisins compare in volume, and the first stage of adding them to the dough.

Roll up the raisin-covered dough and allow to rest before flattening it again and spreading with more raisins. Repeat as necessary. Bake according to the instructions, but keep an eye on the oven: the enriched dough means the loaves may brown more quickly than you expect.

The end result is two loaves like this, utterly glorious lightly toasted and spread with butter.

It's raining fish! Some knitting, but not mine:
A beautiful long scarf knitted from fibres of the Giant Nettle Girardinia diversifolia that grows in Himalayan forests. Charities such as Transrural and The Mountain Institute are working with local people to build sustainable industries based on this crop. Melanie Venes (who teaches the loom weaving courses at Handweavers) has worked with people harvesting and weaving the fibres; as I recall, traditionally each village has 3 days to harvest what they can. The stems are left to dry and then threshed to separate the fibres from the rest; the fibres are then handspun into the yarn known as allo or alloo sold by some specialist yarn suppliers including Handweavers. Some items are knitted locally as well; this scarf was purchased from the Hemp Store stall in Cambridge market square on the promise that it's a fairtrade item knitted on the slopes of the Himalayas. The yarn is usually unevenly spun and feels coarse and unpromising, so suppliers recommended uses include shopping bags and such. But
I've had the pleasure of handling a well-worn and washed lace shawl knit from nettle fibre; it was as soft as you could wish. Like linen it's not only hard-wearing, but softens with use. I look forward to cherishing this scarf (I called the pattern 'Raining Fish' when I saw it hanging in the stall) until it's as soft as merino, and while I do so I'll think of the people who made it so many thousands of miles away. Here's a detail to show more of the thread thickness:

Sorry for the delay in posting all this; Blogger was objecting to the photos yesterday!