Wednesday, November 29, 2006

How fast can this WWW go, anyway?

As it were. Just a quick post to mention two projects? events? Things... that will deliberately or inadvertently measure aspects of internet communication via blogs and the people who read them. Put the pedal to the metal, people (a phrase current in my youth).

First, a plea from a chap who's trying to get hard numbers to describe the propagation of 'stuff' across blogs for an MLA panel (I didn't know what that was either. I found this, which might tell me everything I could ever want to know, but I haven't time to read it. I hate it when that happens.) Anyway, he's asking bloggers who hear about his Cunning Plan (as you've just done if you've read this far) to post a link to his blog, beg any blogging reader who might pass this way (that's you again) to do the same, and then visit his blog page (same link again) to ping Technorati via the link on his blog to record another dot on the map. So I've done that. Ouch! Some rust just fell off my halo.

Second. For UK readers only, probably. The company of which Threshers is a part is running a promotion: 40% off the cost of your purchase of wine or champagne, total value less than £500 and it's got to be stock in store (no ordering in, and if the shelves are bare when you arrive you're out of luck). The trick? It runs for a limited time (30 Nov to 10 Dec), and is unadvertised, information spread only via blogs and (in my case) email. I came across the story and necessary voucher here, and verified it by ringing a Threshers near us to see if they knew about the offer. The store manager did know and said he'd certainly honour the voucher if my purchase fulfilled the conditions, so I think it's not a hoax. The chap who mentioned it suggests the company may not have intended that the entire world take advantage of the offer, so this is another chance to see how efficiently bloggers can spread the word. My halo is now shining so brightly I can't read the screen.

Knitting news soon. As soon as I finish something worth mentioning!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

"Red Socks at night,

Knitter's delight.
Red socks in the morning,
Warm feet all day."

And you can warm your hands at them, too. I think it works. Thank you, Miriam, for clarifying the toe-up heelflap sock. These socks fit. They fit like hand-knit socks. I have to tug at them a bit to get my heel past the ankle, but as my foot slides home the ankle slips into place and it's just... (almost) perfect. The foot is fractionally too big (I should have started the gusset about 2 rows/5mm earlier), but I'm not worried about it as the fit will change once they're washed. The fit across my instep seems to be perfection. No sense of constriction at all. If you ever have been unsatisfied with the fit of a sock, this is the way to go, it really is. I'm a convert. I loved the look of the Porsche short-row heel with its clean, elegant sophisticated line. By comparison heelflaps look clunky, old-fashioned... a bit like the umpteenth-hand VW Variant estate that was our first car in the UK. We handpainted ours fire-engine red. But (how far can I take the analogy?) like the Variant, the heelflap meets all my? our? needs. Reliable, hard-wearing, easily repaired, you can sleep in it when the tent blows out in a Welsh hurricane. Too far. Just try the heelflap, people.
The heelflap is a slip-stitch rib. And see all the cables? I love cables. That is one very happy foot. There's another one just out of view. Now I've got three pairs of socks for me and I still wear them reluctantly for fear I'll wear them out. Yes, the back of my closet is full of clothes I bought because I loved them and never wear because if I wear them I won't have them to love anymore. I must grow out of that attitude, as I've grown out of (ha) so many of the clothes...

Next on the sockneedles: socktoken socks for one of my sister's friends. Time to share the pleasure by knitting for someone else. I have the yarn already. I have lots of sockyarn. I shudder to think how much I've acquired, and how quickly. About 6 months-worth if I knit nothing but socks. And yet every time I read a knitblogger's description of some other sockyarn I want some of that, too. There I am, clicking for larger images, exclaiming over the colours, wondering what it feels like. Looking to see if they ship to the UK (other than Piece of Beauty, which is in the UK. Hurrah!). I didn't think I had an addictive personality, but perhaps it's just very, very particular. At least sock yarn isn't fattening. Gah. I could be imagining what it would taste like, too.

[calendar pages blowing in the winds of time]

Having just finished a really frustrating hour-long conversation about a project (they hire me as a specialist so WHY won't they listen to what I say?) I'm going to blow caution and the rest of the afternoon finishing this entry and whatever else suits me. Baking bread that's already over-risen thanks to that, that... that CLIENT and trying to relax. Holding the phone to my ear for over an hour of increasing tension levels makes the muscles of my left arm lock into knots. Why do I never remember I bought a headset to prevent that?

Anyway, here's part of a socktoken and the start of a socktoken sock in Lorna's Laces Bittersweet. Peculiar yarn, feels like cotton after the Bearfoot and I find it a bit splitty, too. I'm not at all certain I like it, I hope there's not masses of it lurking in the stash.

I did a little maths from my ongoing circular gauge swatch and worked out that a 66st sock would be about right for her foot, allowing for a little stretch. Cast on 18st using
figure-8, blithely started increasing the toe, and realised I had almost no idea of what I was going to do with this sock, how I was going to pattern it. Now, this is a major milestone in my knitting life: never before have I just cast on and started anything without a plan of attack. I must really be comfortable with sockknitting :-) Which leaves me thinking about a simple rib, something with some 'give' to allow for variation in foot/ankle size, perhaps with a couple of details for pretty. Cables? An inset simple lace pattern? I need to chart some thoughts, which means I need some knitters' graph paper, which means a visit here, where someone has kindly written a program to produce exactly what I (or anyone else) needs.

Now I'm off to light the fire, put the bread in the oven, and knit until I've relaxed a bit. Question is, do I leave the next draft of that project until I'm less annoyed, or shall I get the annoyance over with tomorrow? Another conversation like that and I won't have to think about it: I'll bail.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I like it

Taken by roomlight on the kitchen table so the colours aren't quite right, that's almost all of my spinning to date. The white is my very first yarn (undyed blueface leicester), the rest is the merino and silk I posted about on the weekend. These have been treated according to the method in Priscilla Gibson-Roberts Spinning in the Old Way: the skeins were heated in water with a little woolwash slowly to simmering point, then allowed to cool naturally before rinsing carefully. I put a little vinegar in the last rinsewater, as I've read that wool and silk prefer to be slightly acidic. I allowed them to drip-dry a bit, then 'set' the twist by putting my hands into the skein and pulling them apart, smartly, several times. After washing, the wool and silk plies had become a bit limp, separated in places, and the end result looked a bit sad. I was astonished by the effect of 'setting' the twist: everything just snapped into place insofar as my spinning allowed it to do so. Joanne has very kindly and patiently been answering my plaintive queries about spinning (that's the third time I've had to go back and insert the 'p' in 'spin'. Are my fingers trying to tell me something?) via email; she commented that merino is more difficult to spin (I thought it was my incompetence), and that it tends to bulk up a lot after washing. Which it did -- it became incredibly puffy. And this is what it looks like knitted Not so bad. In fact I like it a lot. I'd like it better with less lime, but still... the colours are true in that picture, but a bit washed out by bright sunlight. In my hands it reminds me of the northern lights, sheets of colour sliding across the night sky. I like it enough that I'm not going to knit that sample anymore, I'm going to frog and wind it back into a tidy ball to wait until I've got enough to knit a hat. Which means I get to play with the colours more. Making one length of randomly-selected wool and silk, then plying it back on itself made my inconsistent yarn even more inconsistent, as two thick or two thin bits together rather emphasise their presence. Plying a length of wool (of more carefully selected colours) with a length of silk (similarly selected) will result in something a little more even, and every bit of it will have silk shimmering in the light. While knitting this I realised it is possible to paint with hand-spun yarn: a consistent spinner/knitter could actually do the math to work out precisely where to change colours to make a garment coloured precisely as s/he wished. The rest of us can settle for planned colour combinations and hope for serendipitous intersections.

And this is what's been eating my knitting time recently. I just can't leave them alone!These are socks, started as Widdershins to learn toe-up with heel flap, but rapidly metamorphosed into something different. Still toe-up, but I had to re-write the cables to accommodate more stitches due to my liking for smaller needles and finer yarn. (Mountain Colors Bearfoot wool/mohair from Caryll in Ruby River. This was one of the yarns waiting for me in Canada, but she does ship to the UK.) The two outermost cables are from Widdershins, the rest are mine. And I utterly adore the result. I think the cable combination works well (I'm so proud) and the colour... it's scarlet and burgundy and crimson and carmine and vermilion and murrey and minium, with dashes of copper. It's the very essence of red, and the colour and cables combined make me think of 'opulent' and 'baroque' every time I see them. After making my 'class sock' and reading Mim's detailed instructions, I am looking forward to the challenge of the
toe-up heelflap as I work doggedly up the slope of the gusset.

And what might be a useful link if you're looking for cards, or a Christmas gift for the person who has everything: get them some special paper on which to write thank-you letters. I bought some; sadly it's too thick to feed through a laser printer, but it has a lovely texture, takes ink well, and doesn't smell at all.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Spinning in colour...

Or What I Learned Today. So Far.
I honestly think that 'the day I stop learning is the day I die' is one of several good rules to live by. Playing with fibre makes that an easy rule to follow. This is me yesterday, courtesy of A, who was vastly amused by the way I'd spread fibre all over my 'real' work-in-progress.
May I just assure you that what you see is not a hideous mess? I know where everything is. We, that is I, need a house with just one more room. He was so inspired by the colours that, despite *hating* my digital camera, he
tried to capture the opulence. Doesn't work, does it?

At that point I was spinning silk top for the first time. What looked like long c. 18" strands pulled off the side of the piece of top turned out to be made of shorter strands which did pre-draft, but was incredibly slippery by comparison to the stickiness of the merino roving. Weird. The silk was.. languid, as though it didn't really want to be twisted, but couldn't be bothered to object. Unlike the merino, which seemed to be enjoying itself. Anyway, for lack of a better idea I started by just spinning pre-drafted sections of the roving, randomly choosing another colour as the first finished, and interspersing the odd length of silk. This gave me one longish length of stuff to ply back on itself. Which is what I've just finished doing. I'm fairly sure that I'd have done better to spin the silk as a separate singles; it didn't seem to want the same twist as the wool. Anyway, the singles on the spindle looked like this. I thought the lime accent looked promising,
but the end result was not good.

I don't like the candy-cane effect at all, not when it's so BRIGHT. No, 'bright' is too mild. GARISH is more accurate, especially when contrasted with the smoky purples and greens. I see now how 'ordinary' spinning melds and blends colours in the roving as fibres of different colours are pulled together in the drafting process. I've seen yarns in which one ply is much, much finer than the other; perhaps that would be a way of introducing just a little bit of the lime. Or perhaps a few strands, a smidgen, could be incorporated occasionally into a single of a different colour. How fortunate that the entire cop? thing? of yarn slid off my impromptu nostepinne (a plastic straw) and twisted so badly I felt justified in abandoning the last bit of Lime :-)
I really like the silk, though I knew that already. I love the way it catches the light. And I love the interplay of the subtle colours in everything. I'm going to 'finish' that (tiny) skein properly, then knit it. I've been thinking about the way that knitting affects the colours of a yarn. In a knitted garment each strand of colour is crossed by other strands, breaking that colour into flecks, specks, dots. The end result is, or can be similar to a pointillist painting;* if you can, take a look at some of the sock pictures in the Twisted Sisters workbook. Perhaps that will break up the Lime candy-cane a bit, although I suspect this yarn is too thick.

Sweater News Headline: Self-Discipline May Prove Key To Success!
Sub-head: Calculator and glass of red wine prove essential.
I re-read the textbooks and returned to the mirror armed with a stern sense of purpose as well as a measuring tape. My shoulder-warmer sweater-to-be currently has raglan seams measuring c. 6" in length. Me and my tape measure reckon that I need seams about 9.5" to the underarm (given the wider-than-usual neck). So I have 3.5"-worth of raglan increases with which to attain my desired width of back and front at the underarm, which is 21" or about 95 stitches. The back is currently 74st, so I want about 21 more (call it 20), which is 10 right-side rows or 20 rows all told. I'm getting 7 rows/inch... 3.5" is about 24 rows total, 12 right-side rows, which is 24 stitches added at the seams. So if I continue the raglan increases as I am doing, the back will be 98 stitches (74 existing stitches + 24 stitches) wide. Which is nearly 22", which added to a front of 22" gives me a sweater 44" at the bust instead of my planned 42". I think. If so, that's bad news. I must slow my rate of increase so that I have, lessee, 20 increases instead of 24.
If I increase on every 3rd row from this point, with 24 rows that gives me 8 increase rows which is 16 stitches. Too few... but the books say it's permissible to make up a small shortfall by casting a few stitches at the armpit. I think the example was 6, which is more than 4. I might not want the extra stitches at all; 42" is ample ease (I measured an existing sweater to get that crucial measurement), plus I'm planning short-row shaping at the bust. And I gather blocking works wonders...

* And someone's put up a page where you can play with the technique! Isn't the internet wonderful?

Friday, November 03, 2006

What does this tell me?

1. They were right. For about a year Stuart (who cuts my hair) and my husband have told me I look better with slightly longer hair, so I tried it. Since May I've had hair long enough to touch the tops of my ears, long enough at the back to be inside my high-neck sweaters, long enough on top that it felt hot under there. It looked good, I have to admit it. People actually paid me compliments. Yesterday I demanded that Stuart (poor chap) cut it the way I like it. Really short, shorter than my husband's, clippered up the back, so short on the sides that my ears stick out. It feels wonderful and it looks... well, now I know what I could look like. I cropped my head from the picture to spare myself the embarrassment. Last time I felt this way about a haircut I wore a scarf or two wrapped around my head for about a fortnight. Poor Stuart. He didn't want to do it.

2. About the sweater shaping? I've nothing to compare it to, so I don't know; this is the first time I've done any of the following: top-down, one piece on circulars, raglan sleeves, v-neck :-)
You can't really see from here, but the raglan seams are indeed running in the general direction of my armpits; the angle of approach changes as I change the drape of the thing. I have a feeling that the 'real' angle is a bit shallow, so the sweater might be wider than I'd intended by the time I hit the underarms. It might not hurt to change the rate of increase from 1 in 2 (every right-side row) to 1 in 3; Zimmerman comments that it may be appropriate to do this once the sleeves reach the point of the shoulder. The actual size of the neck opening is hard to decide, there's a long way to go? knit? before the v closes. And the ribbing will change that anyway.

3. That I will wish I had more yarn. This is 2/3 of the first skein -- I've got 4 more, a total of 1000yds. I'm hoping for bracelet-length sleeves, but may not make it.

I didn't need the mirror to tell me I love the feel of the yarn (Sundara's Aran Silky Merino). It's as soft as warm butter and will feel lovely next to the skin. Warm, too. Which would be nice: November has decided to play the game, and I'm being stalked by a cold.