Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I'm trying

My husband would say so. But what I mean is that I should post more often. All across knitting blogland people are saying the same thing, so it's contagious or seasonal. Knitting gifts takes time. And bits of that cold are still, STILL lingering. I've had a mild sore throat for three weeks now, and at the gym or Pilates all my energy runs away, like water down a drain, about 45 minutes into the session leaving me cold, breathless and struggling just as we approach the most strenuous bit of the workout. It's better than it was, though. I keep telling myself that.

Look, finished knitting! (Note: the colour values in most of these photos are bad even though I've tried to correct them. 'tis the season of bad light.)
These are gift socks for someone with smaller feet than mine, so my hand does the modelling to show the River Rapids lace pattern from Sockbug. Copper Rose merino/tencel sock yarn from the Woolen Rabbit, toe-up on 2mm needles. The lace pattern is both easily memorised and easily worked out from what you've already knitted, so this is an ideal travelling sock pattern.

More finished knitting!!
Knot a Knitted Paper Bag, pattern by Setsuko Torii in Interweave Knits Summer 2004. This picture is to show that it does work as a moderately large shapeless bag, and that I'm much, much taller than you thought. The yarns were chosen from Habu's stock at Alexandra Palace in October: they only had enough of the paper moire in these colours, so mine is a bit more mottled than the original. I like it now and may end up liking it even more: the shapelessness is ineffably elegant, quintessentially Japanese, and it will look marvellous with jeans and the right top. I think I have a few right tops :-)
I used it yesterday as a carry-all for spinning night. The plastic bag visible above contains the fibre shown here, spread over what I laughably think of as a desk.
That's the stuff I was spinning as I sat by the sea in Scotland in July. I haven't had the heart to spin more of it yet, but I decided to at least find out if the singles were what I'd intended.
That's a UK 5p, which is roughly the same size as a US dime. Looking at the photo now I feel justified in mentioning that the singles on the spindle are about the same thickness as those in the mini-skein, they just look larger because they're closer to the camera! The skeins have been washed and prepped, and I'll knit samples from them later. The 2-py is as near as anything the 2-ply that I dreamed of making from this fibre, which will be something warm and lacy. I hadn't thought of using the singles, but they're surprisingly even and I've just read a comment that a singles may work very well in lace as the twist is often controlled by the combination of different stitch types. So I'll see what that looks like. What interested me most was the way in which these two skeins show how the twist of the singles is partly undone by plying: the 2-ply is beautifully soft and loose. Important lesson learned!

I'm being reminded of another lesson even as I type: stuff I don't want to do takes longer to accomplish.

Caution: depressing thought ahead!
Most of my interpretive work deals with sites of natural history or archaeological interest, but an acquaintance persuaded me (aka twisted both my arms) to produce some panels about a WWII airfield. The airfield itself is scarcely visible today, having been sold as farmland in the early 1960s, but many of the buildings associated with it survive in the surrounding countryside and the village wants to be sure residents understand this bit of their history. Now, I knew a little about Britain and WWII but not enough to draft anything explaining the significance of this particular airfield, so I've been researching it. Britain was not ready for a war in the air in 1939: they'd only realised Germany was a threat in the early 1930s; prior to that they were preparing to fight France. Again. This was one of many airfields hastily constructed in 1940, where those who'd learnt to fly - in 10 weeks - were taught to fly bombers. And here's where my nebulous general reluctance begins to crystallise, because I now know that the type-written text of the original displays glossed over the facts of WWII. "Bomber Command suffered the heaviest losses of any British unit in the Second World War. Roughly 12,000 aircraft were lost and 55,500 aircrew died: almost 60% of all those who served were killed." Six out of every ten of the smiling faces in the photographs I've been leafing through. I can't gloss over this, and I can't forget it. In my draft the quoted text sits baldly under a photo of young men (and a few young women) in the airfield News Room. And, as I struggle to sort out the rest of the panels, I find myself thinking how different this world might have been if so many young men -
of any nationality - with ideals and a clear sense of right and wrong had not died in the two Great Wars.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The (cold) hard light of day

So there I was at the beginning of last week, ensconced in my corner of the couch, virtually surrounded by yarn and knitting books, almost enjoying my cold. I had the projects I was knitting, alternating hard and easy, I had the radio, books to read, with hot chocolate or a quick hit from New Style of Heirloom Knitting when I needed a bit of excitement. I'd been looking for a copy of that ever since I saw the Mondnacht Shawl (3rd down on the right on the link above), and recently found it at the NeedleArts Bookshop. I'd had a couple of accidents at Colourmart, one as soon as I had the Mondnacht pattern in my hot little hands and the second being the direct result of his standing over me chanting "Go on, buy it" while I was gazing longingly at this, which I'll discuss another time.

The Great Cashmere/Silk Invasion of Nov '07. Each of those cones is 2500 yds.
The angels have the phone box? Ha. The yarn has my living room.

I was set, with a long list of projects to look forward to. Then I checked my email and found my sister's reply to the perennial "Any idea what you'd like for Christmas?". I'd sent a scarf and one of the Kiris in the Christmas box last year and heard nothing, so I'd filed knitted items under 'possibly inappropriate'. I was therefore a bit stunned to read that she still loves her socks and he cherishes his scarf, and did I ever knit mittens? Perhaps they'd felt that asking for knitwear was too... forward? Pushy? Perhaps I should just be more generous. After all, I LIKE knitting. I think I'm becoming a process knitter. And what does a knitted gift tell the recipient? It says "I care enough for you that I spend time, precious irretrievable seconds, minutes, hours of my life making stuff for you." Even if the recipient doesn't get that message (I know some people don't), the important thing is that you've said it. I went back downstairs, pulled back the curtains of my mind, and looked hard at what I was knitting and what I planned to knit. The travelling socks will be a gift, but I haven't been rushing it; I'd cast on the handspun for socks for himself. Other than that? All for me. My conscience stood up and kicked me, hard. There are many patterns I've looked at and thought: interesting, but I'd never wear it. Gloves, scarves, winter hats. Mittens. How self-centred I've been. I am. I will not be.

I'm set, with a long list of projects to look forward to. And none are for me until I finish and post some gifts.

Because I've finished the Gairloch Socks!

Based on a traditional pattern from Gairloch, Scotland. Inspired by a dream, knitted in Wollmeise sockyarn, Indisch Rot and Gewitterhimmel. Sole on 2mm, instep/leg 2.5mm, 68st circumference. This is my second stranded knitting project and the first where fit really matters. And they're nearly too small: I hadn't realised how much the stranding reduces the elasticity of the fabric, and I hadn't considered the bulk that stranding adds to the fabric. I must remember to add c. 6st to the circumference to allow for these factors. The colours are roughly accurate on my monitor: these socks are bright!

His handspun socks await the end of Christmas Knitting (he already has socks). Instead we have:

Sockbug's River Rapids socks in Woolen Rabbit
'Copper Rose' Merino/Tencel, (2mm sole and instep) followed by Dream in Colour, sorry, Color Smooshy in Blue Lagoon 2mm sole, 2.5mm instep. Simple 2x2 rib on the instep, but I may do something silly with it on the leg. Drunken cables? And perhaps some ornate ribbing. This is an amazing book!

I also have yarn and patterns for mittens and, if time, hand- and arm-warmers for all and sundry.

Wing o' the Moth is my reward for knitting a minimum of 1.5" of sock.
Fiddlesticks (Jaggerspun) Zephyr in Sage, on 3.5mm needles so I've added two pattern repeats to Chart A and some messing about in the reverse stockinette band to give me an extra repeat of Chart B. This is a nice yarn, warm, bouncy, light glinting on the silk, but it feels a bit... dead? in the hand. I think washing may help.

And, because my self-control occasionally fails, I have this:
That's a swatch for Mondnacht. Colourmart 65%cash/35%silk, 3/45NM 'ancient green' on 3mm needles (the recommended Japanese size is c. 3.3mm), before washing. I think this yarn is finer than the recommended, but coned yarns are lightly oiled so it may bloom when washed. But I think I'll go down to 2.5mm for this. Would you believe me if I told you I find it incredibly exciting? Ah, you think I should get out more :-)

Perhaps you'll find this exciting.
Buying stuff online is a bit of a lottery as regards colour. I usually win, especially with Lisa Souza, but 'Sea Glass' proved much brighter and more blue-green than I'd expected. Originally intended for the Moth, it sat in the stash for over a year. Each time I saw it I measured my desire to over-dye it against my abysmal ignorance of dyeing and then, last month, I had a brainwave. Dee's colours are amazing. Why not ask if she'd do it? She said yes. I sent a long list of the colours I'd loved (a list I didn't like would have been shorter). The end result is utterly gorgeous. It's purple and plum and grey with touches of bronze. It's the colour of heather and gritstone and storm. It's going to be a Kimono Shawl (I think). When I finish the Christmas knitting.

I still have the cold. It's just sniffles and a minor sore throat now, but still... THREE WEEKS.

If you've read this far, here's your reward

We Three

Go, enjoy.

* As in 'unallocated to another project'. To be fair I have to add that qualification.