Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Doesn't time fly?

Even when you're not having fun.

I can still remember the look of utter exasperation on my mother's face when, many years ago, I whined about being bored. Ah, those golden days when summer holidays lasted forever, or at least until school started. No time for boredom here, and no golden days either: it's grey and cold and wet, but at least we haven't had any flooding. I've been apologising to my sweetcorn, though. I think it was expecting sunlight.

Stuff is happening fast and furious here as the countdown to holiday continues. I'm trying to herd cats encourage clients to finish some work projects so the transition from holiday back to Real Life is less painful. For us it happens on the 12-hour drive home from Scotland. Glasgow is the transition point: south of the city conversation ceases as we both remember things we'll have to do the next day. I hate that. It's even worse after two weeks away, because that's long enough that 'holiday' is becoming Real Life. I was going to say 'We won't make that mistake again', but we might well: if our knees hold out and we enjoy wildcamping, then we might do the West Highland Way next year. Where are we going this year? Torridon and points north. What are we taking? Well, there's bound to be books, some food and some clothing and walking gear but mostly I'm considering knitting/spinning projects. The Sidewinders Socks I are finished:
And a second pair is just past the halfway point:
That's Colinette Jitterbug in 'Jewel', the yarn I wanted to be Jaywalkers. I think of these as the Electric Sox: they're painfully bright in full sunlight. (I look forward to seeing my mother-in-law's face when she sees them.) Joanne, I understand why you (and many others) have given up on Jaywalkers: I failed several times to get a fabric I liked and a working pattern variation to produce a sock that would fit me. Jitterbug is just too thick for that pattern on my feet. Also, a word of caution: the skeins are less than 300m. Which is short. Too short to make socks for him, for example, and I shortened the leg of this Sidewinder by 7 stitches to be on the safe side for me. Looking at the leftover (I always wind the skein into two balls for socks), I would probably have run out if I'd tried the full length. I could save the second sock for mindless knitting: I could almost knit these in my sleep now. And grafting stockinette will never frighten me again.

I could start a shawl:
I'm rather pleased with that. It's the first time I've spun sufficient handspun to make something: that's over 600m of 2-ply fingering weight alpaca/silk. It's precisely the weight I wanted (I'm so proud); it could be just a little more tightly twisted, but I love it as it is, soft and with a gentle silken sheen. It's going to be a birthday gift for my mother. I really should make a final pattern choice and start knitting BEFORE I succumb to something else for me. But I think it's too valuable for what could be rough handling, being stuffed into and out of a pack. I'll just have to have a look through the stash and make some decisions. This is where Ravelry comes into its own: I spent about 2 days (yes, I should have been working) in total photographing my stash and uploading the images into My Notebook via Flickr. Now I can see what I've got and whether it's enough for, well, anything. If you want to see, search for cinereous and you'll find me.

That's Slioch, on the north side of Loch Maree. One day, possibly soon, I hope to take a photo to pair with this one: looking down on the mere mortals parked beside the road. Incidentally that photo was taken on the warmest October day on record a couple of years ago. This year we're thinking of taking our architectural raingear. I call it that because it's like a house, complete with windows and ventilation flaps and so far it's kept us perfectly dry even in horizontal rain in November. Look on the bright side, I say: midges HATE rain.

Now: nose to grindstone, or more accurately, eyes to monitor. Illustrator awaits :-(

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sidewinders Sock I

A Fabulous PerpenSOCKular pattern!
Pattern: Sidewinders Socks, a play in V Acts from Nona.
Yarn: Socks That Rock lightweight in Rooster Rock.

Comments: Got gauge (gauge is crucial) on a 2.5mm circular, which produces a slightly looser fabric than I'd normally knit (I prefer 2mm). No matter, the fit is PERFECT and I love this sock. It's a witty, elegant pattern (the toe shaping is wonderful) that really shows a handpaint yarn to perfection. Nona's instructions are almost foolproof; I managed to mess up the toe the first time round (I should have placed the marker one stitch from the edge, not two), which means I'm late finishing but did give me the chance to relax a bit and thus improve my gauge. I was getting a bit tense by mid-sock as my competitive spirit rose to the challenge of finishing each installment in time for the next. I spent over two hours grafting this morning, but part of that was re-working the toe graft three times. It's the first time I've worked across the stitches: my first attempt resulted in a tidy line of purls across the right side, the second was an almighty mess, and the third I can live with. I've posted a picture for those who don't know what it could look like; I'm not certain this is what it should look like, but I think it will even out a bit after washing and wearing.
Life is about to get very interesting indeed. I'm on holiday at the end of the month, my annual large typesetting job started landing (late!) a fortnight ago, another large project has just announced a tight deadline, and all the little projects are crying because they want to play too. My Ravelry invite arrived (which means cataloguing my stash for the first time), I'm not yet finished spinning that [expletive deleted] alpaca/silk for my mother's scarf/shawl, I've got silk to spin for me, I've got some Addi Turbo lace needles petitioning to be introduced to Sundara's silk and the gift shawl... and all I can think about are Sidewinders Socks: a PERFECT PerpenSOCKular pattern.
Get thee behind me, Satan... too late.

Nona, would you write me a note to explain why I'm late for work?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Small things

Life is currently throwing just about as many balls as I can handle given two arms and the occasional judicious use of my teeth. Others might deflect balls by bouncing them off their heads, but I want to catch and keep everything I see. I'm like that.

Nonetheless there is another pair of socks in my drawer:
My Ugly Socks.
Yarn: Tofutsies 722 'Stand on your own two feet' (I think).
Pattern: my own. Basketweave rib instep and leg, sole and heel ribbed for snug fit because I doubted whether the yarn would be stretchy. It's worked, and I haven't noticed the ribbing texture when I've worn them.

I had doubts about the appearance of this yarn as soon as I opened the parcel. The colours don't work particularly well for me, and I dislike (is not too strong a word) the vague heatheriness added by a strand of white in the mix. It's very splitty indeed, but as others have said, once washed it blooms and gains a slight silky sheen. The fabric is quite thin, eminently suitable for summer wear. I will knit with it again – I have another ball in a different colourway that will be socks for him, he likes thin socks – but I don't think I'll buy more unless I can inspect the colour in person.

What else is new? Well, not new, but I've been trying to find time to make the summer top that's living in my head a real project. Remember the Duct Tape Dummies? Here's mine, fully marked-up with my measurements:

Very Strange. Like people, dummies gain weight when seen through a lens. I was honestly surprised by my shape. I'm not fat, really I'm not. Just... stocky. Not wobbly, no gross bulges (other than the bust, but that's not my fault). Sturdy. Ages ago Joanne asked what it looked like wearing a piece of clothing I like; that's another Crea Concept top. I wear it over a tight-fitting camisole roughly the colour of the duct tape.
Again, I love the structure of this garment. It's so interesting. Knitted in rayon, according to the label. I'll spare you pictures of the dummy draped with a bit of cloth heavy enough to emulate the fall of knitted fabric while I tested the ways that a cowl neck (or whatever you call the thing with excess fabric falling into folds above/over the bust) might work on me. I don't know why, but the thing in my head has one. And it's just developed what could be a very interesting way of growing that excess.

Next: a quick glimpse of some spinning. This is my first attempt at silk cap, beautiful stuff hand-dyed with indigo by the Mulberry Dyer. I initially spun the singles quite thickly and very loosely as I tried to work out how to handle the slubs and variations in thickness spinning from the cap. The end result would not have knitted, so I put it on a felt plying ball and basically re-worked it thinner, and with more twist. This time the singles looked pretty (so blue! so shiny!) but still very uneven, so I plied it back on itself. And decided I'd ruined it: the yarn looked a mess. Now, after washing, I wouldn't say it's ruined. I think it will knit or weave a very nice rough fabric that gleams in the light. I have to try again for a better single, then compare singles vs 2-ply when knitted. I might need to buy more cap, though. It's a challenge, but so interesting!

Not quite last, but far, far from least:*

If you don't recognise the thing stretched out under the rocks (it's shy), go and get that fabulous hand-paint sock yarn out of the stash, the one you've reserved for a very special pattern, and take it to Nona's place. Can you resist it? More importantly, can you get gauge? This came close enough to be worth a try (there are lies, damn lies, statistics and then my swatches). Go on, what are you waiting for? Shoo!

* I abandoned my first pair of Jaywalkers for this. Just dropped them in the project bag and headed for the stash.