Wednesday, July 26, 2006

It's too hot for all this

Expected high today of 34C. Not as hot as last week (36C), but the humidity is higher. My poor G5 is already roaring gently as the fans strain to cool it after a bout of graphics work. There's so much to do! I'm off work next week, so of course three clients are *demanding* I get drafts to them before I stop... I've pointed out as tactfully as possible that two of them delayed getting resources to me earlier this year, so why do they expect me to sweat blood for them in this heat? The third, gah, the third deserves his. I'm doing my best. In addition to baking bread for a friend's party this evening ("In this heat? You're mad" he said). Making lists of stuff I have to do before I leave, stuff I have to take, stuff I want to buy, printing maps to find places in cities I haven't visited for decades (I've got google maps to find yarn shops, too). Oh, and there's the man to replace the windscreen. Isn't it FUN that the heat stress makes stone chips send out lovely wavy cracks across the glass?

(excuse me while I dimple my foccaccia...)

The handspun scarf is on hold: it's too hot for that lovely yarn and I've thought of a more appropriate gift (in August!). Remember those blue cashmere socks, a wedding shower gift for my sister? My bro-in-law-to-be deserves socks too, but I don't know his size. So I'll give him a Sock Token. Two per A4 sheet, each folds in half to become a ruler with which the recipient can measure his/her feet. Designed to be wrapped around something (in this case a bar of rather nice soap) in the following manner: fold the strip, then run a strip of clear stickytape the full length of the ruler (to give it some strength), ending with a small, er, sticky tab of tape on the end where it says 'cut here'. Wrap the token around the gift and stick that end down with the tab.

Addendum: I haven't yet worked out how to make a PDF available for download, and Blogger won't accept the large files necessary to make this print nicely from your machine. Email me if you want one and I'll send you the PDF (c. 150kb).

The Badcaul Socks are well underway in Fleece Artist 'Jester', not as loose as they look in that photo. The Elfine socks were a bit tight and this pattern is not only smaller, it's cabled, which pulls the diameter down even more, so I added 6 stitches to the circumference, making a new small cable running down the centre front and back. I love cabling. I love cabling *without a cable needle*, which is what I've learned this time. I've also learned that reading and knitting at the same time is Not A Good Idea. But I kept doing it anyway, and reaped my reward as shown. Spot an error 10 rows down, unravel, recable. I hesitate to say this, but I actually enjoyed doing that, even though I've had to do it several times. Very satisfying just to be able to do it and it's easier to keep track of which strand is next using multicoloured yarn "pink, flesh, green, pink, hot pink, purple". And, of course, the error is gone.

(must just go and exercise the ciabatta)

The other major knitting is almost certainly a waste of time and yarn, alas. I have succumbed to the lure of Norah Gaughan's Shell Tank in Knitting Nature. It won't suit me, I know it won't. I'm short and squarish with a bust. But the cable... I have to try, I just have to. It's not a difficult pattern, but I've never knitted cotton before (that's Jaeger 'Aqua' in Willow, that is). It's not inclined to forgive the tension variations due to my stop-and-start knitting times. 15 minutes here, an hour there. I can see the changes. Dammit.

I have to work on my tension. Ha. At this wedding I'll be seeing family I haven't seen for over 20 years, plus a vast number of other people I've never met before. When I spend almost all day, every day talking only to my computer and henchcat. Tense? Moi? At last, after 48 years I'm happy to be me, but I expect I will have to hold that thought hard on occasion. It's lovely to read the blogs of people who love and like their families and are loved and liked by them, but it makes me all the more conscious that not all families are like that.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The forecast is for more socks...

but not knitted by me!
I potter about on the fringes of re-enactment, the wearing of period clothing (done properly it is NOT costume) at various historic events. I hope one day to have time to become actively involved, demonstrating weaving and other crafts to introduce people to the various pleasures to be gained from handcrafting goods, but at the moment I'm amongst those who just add colour to events by showing up in my garb. I can be early medieval wealthy middle class, wearing c. 8m of silk-lined fox-coloured wool over a silken shift (at least the bits that show are silk), or I can be early medieval presentable (ie clean) peasant, in a lighter wool gown and linen shift. I even have fake hair to wear under my headcovering, as only a condemned harlot or woman at death's door would have had hair as short as mine. Every time I wear these clothes I think about social history. For example, each time I stand up or walk in my wealthy persona, I am reminded of my social position by the sheer weight of fabric. I am stately -- given the weight of the dress I have to be -- and I was interested to discover that I hold my skirts up when necessary (to climb stairs, for example) in the same way as the women in a host of medieval illustrations. There's no other way to do it. The peasant garb is much better suited to housework. It's positively comfortable and extremely flattering regardless of weight: women who'd honestly look *terrible* in shorts and a t-shirt look comfortable and attractive in this style. I'd happily wear it every day, although I'd be arrested for carrying my belt knife :-)

Anyway, as usual, I digress. Earlier this week a friend asked if a friend of hers could talk to me about Saxon/early medieval clothing, as she's to be a demonstrator at a local Archaeology Day event. We arranged that O and her husband would drop by on Tuesday evening to have a look at the peasant dress. Which they did. And two hours later we were still talking, about weaving, lucetting and knitting, with much of my stash spread out on the floor, and both husbands watching with that look of tolerant amusement I find so touching. She stopped knitting about the same time that I stopped knitting, for roughly the same reasons, and had just realised herself that Yarn Has Changed. And then she saw (and felt) The Blue Socks, and her husband realised they didn't have the seam that makes his toes sore in standard socks. So I showed her the Socks In Progress, and we discussed knitting on two circs, and then I loaned her Cat Bordhi's book and gave her all my old circular needles to use Right Now until she can buy better. Then I emailed her all my knitting bookmarks: online retailers (we have no good LYS), magazines, patterns, blogs :-) Now she's replied me to say that on seeing the book her son instantly demanded she learn how to knit socks so she can teach him. She mentioned it at work and her co-workers want to learn to knit socks...

I emailed back to point out that, bearing in mind I'm only making my third pair (but I've made short-row 8 heels :-), perhaps we could meet as a group one evening and learn to Knit Socks together. I was thinking of meeting in one of the rooms of the village hall, but if we don't do it soon we might need something quite a lot larger!

One of the other students in my Pilates class has been watching me knit as we wait for class to begin told me about her Aunt (who knits) and her Mother (who knits), and how she'd quite like a reason to learn to knit one day because it looks interesting. She's a dancer, beautifully thin, so I excised the Teva Durham Ballet top pattern and the Anne Modesitt camisole from my Interweave knits and passed them to her on Wednesday. Turns out she's going away for a week with her Aunt and her Mother, and now she's decided she'll learn to knit while sitting by the pool :-)

A gratuitous cat photo: nothing escapes his notice, I'd better get back to work.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Socks at last

Finally, some knitting that pleases me. Those %@**! Socks are finished and a friend whose opinion I value considers them to be desirable objects, so that's alright (I'll have to knit her a pair, too).

%@**! Blue Socks: Hipknits Sock Cashmere, pattern 'Priscilla's Dream Socks' (subscriber download from Interweave Knits) with some modifications: knitted on two circs rather than dpns, and using different needle sizes; I don't know K's measurements, just her US shoe size, which is larger than mine. I made the large size but used smaller needles to produce a smaller sock that's nonetheless slightly loose on my foot, and with a denser fabric that I hope will wear well. The entire foot was knitted on 2mm/US 0. I had a fair amount of difficulty with that short-row heel, so opted for a different toe, a standard 4point decrease finishing with my first serious exercise in grafting. I enjoyed it, really satisfying, thanks in part to these videos.

You'll note what seems to be a very small bra for two large balls of yarn; that's the next pair of socks already underway. Fleece Artist Sock Merino in 'Jester' which will probably become 'Badcaul' from Anna Bell but with at least one major modification (I'm getting bolder...). 'Elfine' was almost too small, and 'Badcaul' has an even smaller circumference. I could knit on larger needles, but I think I'll add a cable to use the extra stitches. I can hear a small voice muttering "Look behind you... "

And more knitting! I dithered about this scarf for far too long, given the time constraints. Started a pattern and ripped after 5 rows so often that the first bit of the first ball was left in the last swatch; precious though this handspun alpaca/silk is, it was in no condition to be on public display. Having decided I wanted cables, I was wrestling with the fact that almost all of the fabulous cabled scarf patterns are one-sided: the back has an interesting texture, but does not resemble the front OK, it does, it has to, but you know what I mean. Given that both sides of the scarf are always seen, this bothered me. Nora Gaughan's 'Here and There Cables' in Scarf Style proved there was an elegant solution, but the pattern repeat was far too wide. I started playing with graph paper to make something smaller then, while browsing Socks, Socks, Socks for something else, I came across the 'Ribble Socks' pattern. Same reversible cables, smaller repeat. Inspecting the first 6 inches I couldn't decide if I was making a mistake or a truly elegant item, but as the scarf grows longer I'm becoming more and more certain it's the latter.

This yarn is a treat to knit, and is teaching me to knit loosely to allow the handspun space to breathe. 4mm needles produced a fabric that's too dense; 4.5mm makes something that looks like tree bark (alpaca/silk treebark, the softest trees you've ever encountered. Imagine the forest, with silk lace leaves...). Stretched as it will block the cable pattern shows more clearly and the looser fabric drapes beautifully. I think it will bloom when washed as the cashmere did, developing a halo of fine hairs and softening even more. I am *really* looking forward to seeing what happens and, if it's as good as I think it might be I look forward to knitting with that yarn again. Lots.

Some of the questions I didn't answer... the fabric strips will be a knitted carpet. I've saved an old duvet cover, a silk shirt, and I'm watching his most ramshackle pair of jeans. Shades of blue to go on our bedroom floor (all blues and white with a polished wood floor). And alas, none of the dpns are smaller than 3.5mm. I wonder what I used them for? Was my subconscious dreaming of socks so far in the past?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I have seen the future...

and it works. At least for knitting needles in this house (I wouldn't touch it on a computer :-)

Other bloggers occasionally provide glimpses of their needle storage. I envy those who use straights the simple elegance of their options. A chic, casual arrangement in a flower vase, a colourful array of felted needle cosies, or a full house tucked tidily in simple strips of elastic sewn into knitter's version of a jewellery bag. Those of us who use circs have to cope with an untidy, inelegant array of dangly bits. I've seen the circ equivalent of jewellery bags hanging from doorknobs, needles dancing in space to entice cats to leave yarn-catching toothmarks in the slick smooth surface of the needles or sever the cords entirely. (Aquila would then have
thoughtfully *eaten* the cords, with horrible results.) Until this morning I left all my needles in their bags, bound into an untidy stack with rubber bands. The postman kindly leaves a rubber band on our drive almost every morning; perhaps I should tell him that paperclips are the route to my heart? Yesterday I thought to check whether or not the needles fitted in the plastic wallets of a CD binder I was given ages ago and never, ever use. YES!

Can you see what I've done? The nice fat binder unzips to reveal... my needles. The Addi packets are wide enough to be punched for insertion. Inox packets are too small, so I've put them in the CD wallets. They're filed by size and length; I can flip to the size I want instantly. You might be able to see the huge Addi I'm going to use to knit fabric strips winking at you between the two sets of folders; that packet is large enough I've punched it for 3 of the 4 holes in the binder. I'm very happy. I generally have great trouble achieving 'tidy'. Spurred by that success I decided to clean out my needle stash. I seem to remember reading that there are people who like the old circs, the ones that had to be soaked in boiling water to straighten them. There may even be people who hoard knitting needles. If you're either of those, everything in the photo below is free to a good home. Some are priced in Can$, which makes them c. 30 years old.

Knitting? I'm not going to jinx anything at this point. I hope to have a FO soon, though. I don't precisely regret deciding to adjust the size of those cashmere socks and make them wear longer/better by knitting the entire foot on 2mm needles, but I will be so terribly glad when they're finished!