Friday, October 30, 2009

Random Stuff Friday

I still feel a little bit like I've been run over by a truck, but probably a smaller truck than yesterday - maybe a Holden Ute rather than yesterday's Kenworth. So it's "Random Stuff Friday" again.

1. My copy of Interweave Knits Weekend arrived today (thanks Kelly and the team at Tangled Yarns). Well, actually it arrived yesterday but since I wasn't at work, it was sitting patiently on my desk this morning, beautifully wrapped. I want to cast on for the Gooseberry Cardigan, Dax's Jacket, the Hero Pullover and the Whirligig Shrug RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE. I think I have impulse control issues.......

2. While we're still on the topic of enabling, my new 2010 Cotton shade card and sales ad arrived from Bendigo Woollen Mills. Any ideas for where I can store more yarn?

3. We're having a "best dressed" competition along with our Melbourne Cup lunch at work next Tuesday so I made a fascinator and necklace to go along with my pretty pink dress.

4. The first component I need for my costume for the party arrived in the mail from Mum and Dad. It's an old flying suit. No, I'm not going as a fighter pilot, the suit will get considerable alterations before it's ready. Anyone want to hazard a guess?

5. In the parcel from Mum and Dad was a really cool article from their local paper about my Grandma and Grandad, who have recently celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary. They are two of the absolute coolest people in the whole universe and I love them to smithereens. I used to see them every 1-2 weeks when I lived in Sydney and I really really miss them, now that I live 1000km away.

6. I got the left side of the front finished on Dad's alpaca vest today. I'm hoping to get the other side finished tomorrow.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A little bit miserable.

I've been very tired lately and yesterday at work I was having trouble concentrating and had a couple of vague, slightly dizzy moments. So I'm at home today, resting. I don't think I totally got over the head and chest cold I had a few weeks ago.

I've not felt like doing much lately but thought I would share some photos of an activity The Boy and I did last night for school. They had read "Letters From Felix" about a lost toy rabbit who goes on a world tour (presumably having been picked up by someone at the airport) and sends letters home from all over the place. The Boy's teacher arranged for them all to take turns taking home a teddy bear called "Mr Cuddle Bear" and write in a shared book about their experiences together. It looks like The Boy is one of the last kids in the class to bring Mr Cuddle Bear home so there were a lot of interesting adventures already written up.

The Man was at his weekly poker night and all I wanted to do was go to bed, but I thought that we needed to make some sort of effort for The Boy to have as good a page in the adventure book, so here are a few photos of The Adventures of Mr Cuddle Bear

Playing Xbox and Playstation 2



Playing Bakugan

And what else do we do here for a bit of fun? We learn to knit and knit our own vest.

I'm hoping to feel a bit better tomorrow, as I will have to go back to work, and at least by the weekend as I have more shopping to do for my costume for the costume party in two weeks time. And now, I'm off to crash on the couch for a bit with a cup of tea. 

Monday, October 26, 2009

A little fall of rain

It hasn't rained in ages. The grass in the front yard is beige and crunchy, which seems entirely the wrong way for grass to be.

So it was really great when the big grey clouds rolled over this afternoon - not so great that they chose the period in which I was walking down the hill from the bus-stop to dump really hard, but brilliant that I can see puddles in our front yard, and I'm sure my shoes will dry out.....eventually.

In knitting news, while I'm gutted that I didn't win the Malabrigo contest over at Salihan Crafts, I'm soldiering on.

I finished a wrap with love square last night and sewed it onto the growing blanket. 8 squares down, 19 to go. It's all acrylic so I hope the homeless or otherwise needy person this blanket ends up with doesn't get it too close to a fire. I'm hoping that the "knitting for charity" karma outweighs the whole "knitting with acrylic" thing.

The alpaca vest has reached the "huge and unwieldy" stage and is slowing down as a result. I've got 17 rows left on the back before the shoulder shaping and then the front from where I split for the armholes and the bands.

It's getting a little bit tricky to carry this to and from work now due to the bulk, so it'll probably slow down even more now.

Not that I'm short on "carrying to work" projects - I've decided to make bags for two birthdays coming up in our family and as a Thank You for The Boy's school teacher. I haven't decided which patterns yet but will probably fall back on the old standby bags, Booga and Sophie. They're both quick and easy and I've made many before and I know they will turn out well. I want to try out the new needle-felting needles I picked up recently as well, and I know either of these bags would be a really great starting point for that.

Oh - from the comments (Squee! I've got comments! I feel privileged that a couple of people like my blog enough to leave a comment, thanks Fenella and Maria) - Fenella asks how it went when I saw my Doc after my recent colonoscopy .....Well, it didn't. When I finally got hold of his receptionist over a week later, she seemed surprised that I was concerned and said "Oh, the polyp is nothing - some people have polyps and we tell them not to come in for 5 years!" and "Dr P said for you to come in, in three months time". So I guess he reckons I'm okay, which is good, but I wish he'd indicated that on the records I got given at the hospital so that I didn't have to go through more than a week of worrying. I was pretty crap symptom-wise for about a month after the colonoscopy but it's settled down mostly now, I can live with it, and I don't want to go back on the steroids. At least not until I really feel that I need them, or after an overseas holiday later this year (I got travel insurance cover for my crohn's for an extra cost, and contingent on the fact that I hadn't had steroid therapy for over 6 months at the time I applied) So I'm going to wait until I'm back from hols to see the Doc, unless I get worse. The holding pattern I'm in at the moment is not brilliant, but it's managable. :)

(and I don't think Dr P's receptionist really meant to be so flippant about polyps. In my previous life where I was a genetic researcher (straight out of uni, I don't mean a real previous life), I worked in a lab with a guy researching Familial Adenomatous Polyposis, which is a genetic condition where people get hundreds of polyps. FAP can be really serious and needs close medical supervision and care. I just think she was trying to say that my lonely singular polyp which they removed anyway, was nothing to be worried about)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Does this make me a bad person?

A while ago, I found out that there were three babies recently born or due very soon among my workmates. These were all from parents who I don't work directly with, but I felt that I could handle making two simple cardigans for the little boys and finishing a bolero which was in the UFO pile for the little girl. I gave away one of the cardigans and the bolero, and found out that the other baby's mother wasn't going to be coming in to work for a few months, by which time the cardigan I'd made probably wouldn't fit. But not to worry, her Boss said, someone else in her team had announced that their wife was due to give birth, so I could give them the cardigan I'd made and make another larger one for the original little boy. I was also working on a ribbon-tied wool vest for my old Boss (also at my current work, but no longer my Boss), whose baby is due towards the end of the year.

I didn't have enough superwash wool within easy reach to start the remaining cardigan, so I used a ball of Bendigo Luxury 10 ply (Lake) I had sitting in the cupboard, and started another Felix's Cardigan yesterday morning. (I've made so many of these lately that I'm sure Jack from The Complete Fabrication is going to start up a fair-use policy!) I finished the knitting this afternoon and realised that by using 10 ply wool and 5mm needles as I did, the resulting cardigan has ended up 55cm in the chest, making it about the right size for an 18-24 month old baby. This is probably a really silly size for giving to a baby about 2 months old.

 We will rule over this cardigan, and we will call it.....this cardigan.

Never mind, I thought - there are 4 big plastic boxes full of yarn in the shed, surely there's lots of superwash wool for making up another one. But when I went and raided the boxes, I found that I had rather less superwash wool than I thought I had amassed in my stash, and rather more acrylic, purchased before I knew better.(I haven't weighed it, but there's probably about 5kg of acrylic yarn down there. What was I thinking?)

After a lengthy dive through all the boxes I did find enough superwash wool to make one more short-sleeved cardigan, cast on and knitted about 15 rows before I felt all desire to knit this cardigan draining out of me. I have no motivation to knit another thing for people that I feel like I have to knit for. And I'm really angry at the person who got me into this - myself. None of these new parents expected anything from me. I just thought it would be a good idea, until I realised just how much time it was taking and how much I'd rather be working on other things.

I ripped out the 15 rows. There are a pair of little blue booties in my finished object box, and a baby jumper made from acrylic yarn. (I stopped making baby jumpers from acrylic some time ago due to the risk of melting if it gets too close to a heater, and this jumper was a leftover which I couldn't work out whether to give to charity). I've given woollen cardigans or sweaters to 4 out of 5 new babies and I'm considering giving the 5th one a pair of booties or an acrylic sweater?

Does this make me a selfish, horrible person?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

There's a possum in the garbage bin

Some time ago our green wheelie bin had a bit of an accident and it's been missing its lid ever since. We should probably contact the council and get a new one but not having a lid doesn't really stop it doing a good job as a bin, and while this may change as we really come into summer, it hasn't really smelled much or attracted many flies, so we haven't bothered.

Today we discovered a reason why we should probably make the call to the nice council people on Monday. I went out this afternoon to throw down some rubbish, and when I looked over the edge of the deck, I could see a little furry grey body sitting in amongst the garbage. A brush-tailed possum had obviously been looking for some food, and had fallen in and been unable to get out.

We turned the bin on its side and encouraged it to come out, whereupon it scampered up one of the brick pilings supporting the house and found a place to rest at the top, sitting on one of the wooden supports of the deck. The poor thing is still there, probably waiting until dark so he can make his way back home. He doesn't appear to be hurt in any way, just quite freaked out.

Well, I think I would be pretty freaked out if I'd fallen into someone's garbage bin and couldn't get out!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Random stuff Friday

I'm tired today. I've managed to get rid of most of my cold but the last creepy tendrils are just hanging on, and I've got a bit of a headache and all I want to do is curl up on the couch with a cup of tea.

That, combined with the fact that nothing phenomenally momentous is happening, has led me to invent "Random stuff Friday", where I will cover a few random things which don't need much description, explanation or philosophising.

Random stuff 1. - A finished object - Ribbon Tied Wool Vest from Erika Knight's Simple knits for cherished babies. In Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 4ply, colour Oceania. Modeled here by the gorgeous and talented Bernie Bear.

This has already been wrapped up as a giftie for the soon-to-arrive son or daughter of a colleague from work. (Just the sweater, not Bernie, who has gone back to his place in The Boy's bed).
I love this yarn. It's beautifully soft and knitted up like a dream. I found the 8ply that I used for The Boy's jumper earlier this year to be a bit pilly, but the 4ply was smooth and sleek and lovely. I'm thinking of getting more of this yarn to try some lace with.

Random stuff 2. - Our new Boss started at work this week. He seems nice, and experienced and knowledgeable, all of which strike me as quite important.

Random stuff 3. - The Brisbane Stitch n Bitch group who meet at The Three Monkeys from 7pm on Tuesday nights, have proven to be lovely and friendly and inclusive people and I feel a bit silly for ever being nervous about going to meet with them. They also seem to be really great people to talk to, with whom I have a lot in common beyond the sticks and string, and Tuesday night conversations have been funny, intelligent and bawdy, sometimes all at the same time. I've always had trouble making friends, but, while it may be too early to tell, I think I just made a huge bunch of friends without much effort at all. What is it about knitters that makes them such nice people?

Random stuff 4 - One of the really nice people from Stitch n Bitch has invited me to a costume party, so I'm having all kinds of ideas about making a costume. Since most of the party guests will be crafters, I want to make an effort to make something a little bit clever, so I'm off tomorrow to see what bits I can get at op shops. I'm not good at sewing so it will be a minimal sewing effort, but I've got high hopes for a good result. I want it to be a little bit of a secret, if not until the party, then at least until I can work out if I can pull this idea off, but there will be photos later, I promise.

Random stuff 5 - There has been yet another baby at work. That makes 4 born in the last month in addition to the one to come that I mentioned earlier. I didn't know about this one - I work with the Dad, and he was keeping secrets, so I have another Felix's Cardigan to start on the weekend. Good thing they're such a quick knit. The fact that they look amazing is a bonus.

Random stuff 6 - And to finish off, for no other reason than they were the most random thing I could see easily from my desk, here is a photo of my old, crusty collection of Smurfs. They are all dirty and some of them are broken, but I love them just the same.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ooh - a giveaway, and it's Malabrigo!

Not here, although I'd love to have enough Malabrigo to be giving some away.

Head over to Salihan Crafts and enter for the chance to win two skeins of Malabrigo of your choice!

(and stay and have a bit of a read while you're there, Salihan is great, and her amigurumi pears are seriously gorgeous. They make me want to learn to crochet properly!)

Monday, October 19, 2009

The need for speed?

Over on Ravelry, it's not that hard to find a discussion about knitting speed on the forums. It seems to be something of importance to a lot of knitters.

I must admit that I'm not overly concerned about my knitting speed now, but that could be because I've reached a skill level and speed with which I am content.

Out of interest, I timed myself the other day. On my current primary project (still the alpaca vest for Dad), which is a round of 246 stitches on 3.25mm needles (KnitPicks options, 60cm circular), I'm getting about 45 st per minute. At the moment, this project is plain stocking stitch with no shaping. I haven't timed myself on ribbing or moss stitch or on purling, but those would be significantly slower.

This is snail's pace compared to Miriam Tegels, who holds the world record at 118 st per minute. I have no idea what the average knitting speed is, and whether I'm faster or slower than other knitters with my amount of experience, but I've decided that it doesn't really matter.

I think what's much more important is how I feel about my own knitting speed. I used to get frustrated when I was much newer to knitting and it seemed to take forever to get to the end of a row. I knit English Style, or by throwing, and when I first learned, I did as many new knitters do, and held the right needle from above with my right hand, supporting it with my left fingers at the point and removing my right hand from the needle every time I made a stitch. It was very slow and my tension was all over the shop.

The person who had the most influence on how I actually form knitting stitches, and by extension, my tension and speed, was my beautiful Mother-in-law, a talented knitter herself, who made the simple observation that things might be better if I held the right needle from underneath, hooking my thumb under the needle, and not removing my hand to make the stitch, but rather putting the yarn round the needle by the action of straightening the first fingers of my right hand. Now that my knitting action has settled down into a pattern reinforced by years of use, it takes little effort and movement to make each stitch. I keep both elbows pinned to my sides, courtesy of many years knitting on crowded public transport, and there is virtually no movement of my wrists. I can knit for hours with little risk of cramping and about the only weird thing I've noticed about it is that while the first three fingers of my right hand are never completely straightened during the process, my pinky finger stays pointed straight out the whole time. There's no purpose to it, it's not involved in maintaining tension or anything like that, but I've tried to keep it bent out of the way and my hand starts hurting after less than a minute. So I've learned to ignore my silly pinky finger.

I taught myself to do Continental knitting once, in the interests of seeing if I could get any faster using that method. I can do the knit stitch, but I accept that I would need to go through a learning curve with it, and I'm happy enough with the speed I get using the method I do now, and I'm really proud of the even tension of my knitting, so the Continental knitting had never been something I've been prepared to persevere with enough to get good at it.

I think overall, for me at least, the most influential factor in how much I get done is not how fast I knit, but how much time I get to knit. I guess you could say that I'm fairly obsessed with knitting. I think if you got anyone who knows me to describe me, the fact that I knit would come up pretty quickly (probably just after the fact that I carry many more bags than seems sensible). It's really unusual for me not to have at least one project with me. At the moment I'm carrying two projects to work with me every day - Dad's alpaca vest, and since the vest is now too heavy to knit while I walk, a Wrap With Love square which is tiny enough to fit in my handbag. (Earlier today, when we could hear fire alarms and thought they were lower down in our building and we would need to evacuate, I made sure that I had the square with me so that I could knit while we waited to get back into the building. It turned out that the alarms were coming from the building next door, which I think was having a fire-drill). I knit at almost every chance I get - in the car (as a passenger only), in the bus, waiting in queues, at lunchtime, in the evening while watching TV or listening to Audio Books. I even have a device called an Easy Read, which I use to hold books while I knit.   I once tried knitting in a work meeting when I needed to listen and contribute but not take notes, but people tend to think you're paying attention to your knitting rather than the meeting, even when you're holding your own in a fairly robust argument!

I think all that extra time I get to knit is what's making me a much more productive knitter now. Although I suppose that's easy to say when I knit twice as fast as some people I know. To the question "How do I speed up my knitting", all I can say is what worked for me, which was finding a technique which was comfortable, and practicing on getting good at forming the stitches well in a consistent rhythm, without concentrating on the actual speed. If the real question is "How do I get more done", then my answer is to knit every chance you get, and ensure you always have a project with you, so that you can take advantage of the knitting opportunities you weren't expecting.

(Of course, there are also the times when knitting is my meditation, when I concentrate on the feeling of making each stitch. At those times, speed is completely inconsequential, it's all about the rhythm and the flow and (dare I get all hippy-chick and everything), being at one with my knitting!)

The alpaca vest is now 35cm long, so I've only got 4cm to go until the armholes. (I haven't taken another photo so please just imagine yesterday's with an extra 4cm on it) Dad was blown away when I told him on the phone today that I had that much done. Don't you just love having someone who thinks you're a genius even when you're only knitting round and round in stocking stitch?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bits and Pieces

It's not been a particularly exciting weekend. The cold I have been trying to fight off for the last week laid me flat on the couch for most of it and I haven't felt like doing much of anything, including knitting. I haven't even really been able to concentrate enough to read Unseen Academicals.

We took the Boy to his first swimming lesson yesterday. He seemed to go okay but he has trouble relaxing in the water, especially when he is on his back, so we will have to see how that goes. We've booked him in at the pool at his school, which is just around the corner from home, so the 9am lesson on a Saturday morning is very convenient. The teacher seems better and more attentive than the teachers he had at the last place he did lessons so I'm hopeful that he will get something out of it.

I've got 31cm done on the alpaca vest - there's 8cm to go before I split at the armholes and knit back and forth for the fronts and backs.
I searched through all my easily accessible knitting boxes (the ones in the house as opposed to the countless ones in the shed) yesterday in an unsuccessful attempt to find my runaway 4mm KnitPicks options tip, and found the Ribbon Tied Wool Vest (rav link) that is destined for the soon-to-be-born child of a colleague and has been sitting nearly finished in a box for over a month. I need it for before L goes on maternity leave in November, and yet I've been ignoring it and working on a vest Dad won't be able to wear until next winter. I'm not certain why, except that the Wool Vest needed sewing up and stitches picked up and the collar knitted, and the alpaca vest was just mindless knit stitch round and round and round. I forced myself to get the Wool Vest out this morning and now I only have the collar ribbing to knit so I'm hoping to get that finished tonight, after I go searching for a more elastic cast off than the bog-standard one I normally use.

While going through all the boxes I kept coming back to the 10 balls of Rowan Kidsilk Haze in Daffodil that I won in Jacqueline's competition for those who had donated to the Victorian Bushfire appeal in March this year. I've been a bit stumped with what to do with it, because, while it's gorgeous, it's not really a colour I would usually (or ever) wear. I'm thinking of making a Kiri (rav link) and deciding when I finish whether it's something I would ever use, or whether I will give it away.

I don't think it's going to be the next thing I start though. I've been thinking about my wardrobe lately and realised that I would really like some more cardigans. I wear them virtually all the time in the office as the air-conditioning can often make it quite cool. I've been surviving on three or four that I got years ago at a cheap clothing shop but they're starting to look fairly tatty and I'd like to replace them with some basic cardigans I've made myself. I'm thinking of a couple of Chicknits Eyelet Cardys in Bendigo Luxury, and maybe a Franken-Cardy using the top of the Eyelet Cardy, the concept of the February Lady, and a lace pattern I haven't chosen yet.

I've also got more babies to knit for, and there's always the Cabled Cardy I promised Mum, and the jumper I'll knit for the Man when he picks one he likes. I think perhaps there's just a little too much on my plate!

Oh well, I've got to start somewhere, so I'm off to try and finish that wool vest.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Nothing if not fickle

Dear Alpaca Vest

I have something to tell you.

It's not easy to say this, but I think we need a break. I know that yesterday I said that I loved you and only you, and that l wanted an exclusive relationship with you and, well, most of that is still true.

I do love you. I think you're lovely, and I still really enjoy spending time with you. It's just that, well, something new and exciting has come into my life. I wasn't looking for it, I thought I was happy just to hang out with you, but sometimes things just happen, opportunities arise and you've got to see where they take you.

Today, on my way to get some lunch, I walked past the bookshop. Now, I will admit I've got a bit of a weakness for books. It's just part of who I am and I'm afraid that you're just going to have to learn to live with it. Anyway, as I was passing the  bookshop, l glanced at the new releases table at the front. Just glanced, by the way, it's not as though I was looking for something new, just so you know.

Well, you see, during this glance, I noticed out of the corner of my eye the new Terry Pratchett novel ''Unseen Academicals '' and you know, if you know me at all that I just can't resist a new Pterry novel. There's no use even trying, I just can't.

I think "UA" and I will be inseparable for the next few days.

But this doesn't mean I'm abandoning you, just that I don't want to be exclusive any more. And you know that I'll always come back to you - I can't go for too long without knitting. This is just a bit of a fling. I don't think the story even has any knitting in it so you know it won't hold my interest forever.

And I'll try and find time for you, I promise. Maybe while I'm watching TV.

I'll even understand if you need to be with other yarn or with the February Lady sweater for a bit.

This is just something I have to get out of my system.  You understand that, don't you?.

Lots of love

(Phew. I think l may have got myself out or that one. But if anyone tells the vest that I picked up a copy  of Stephanie Pearl- McPhee's Free Range Knitter at the bookshop while I was there, there may be trouble.)

* I've stolen borrowed the concept of writing letters to my knitting from the stunningly talented and clever Yarn Harlot, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. She does this much better than I do.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The benefits of monogamy.

I've been noticing over the last few days that monogamy has its benefits. I'm talking here about staying faithful to one knitting project, not about staying faithful to one person, although that has its own fair share of benefits as well.

I normally have a large number of knitting projects on the go at any one time. I choose whichever one I feel like working on depending on what sort of knitting I feel like doing, or the situation I'm going to be able to knit in. So when I'm going to work, where I'm likely to get a short, frequently interrupted bout of knitting at lunch, and about 20 minutes on the bus home, I like to have something simple and not too bulky, so I don't have to carry a pattern, and I can fit it easily in a bag. Something that I can knit on while I'm walking or standing at the bus stop is a bonus.

At home, on the couch, where I can settle in for some dedicated knitting time, I might choose something more complicated, like where I might need to constantly refer to a pattern, something fiddly like sewing together a garment, or something bulky like a big afghan.

But for the last week or so, apart from a brief affair with a wrap with love square that was small enough to fit in the handbag I took to the Queensland Youth Choir concert on Sunday night, I've been committed to Dad's alpaca vest. There are other unfinished items I could be working on, there are many new patterns in my queue and yarn in the stash for new projects, but concentrating on the vest feels right at the moment.

After the struggle to get the gauge and the ribbing right, it feels good to be finally getting somewhere, and because I'm knitting on this one project every chance I get, I can see the progress. I got 6cm done yesterday and I've done 4cm so far today. The body is now 16cm in total, and there's only 23cm to go before the armhole shaping.

My cold hasn't got any worse but neither has it got better so I'm not feeling up to anything complicated, and going round and round in 246-stitch-long stocking stitch circles seems to be exactly what I need. I can lose myself and the stress of the day in the rhythmic action of stitch after stitch. The Bendigo Alpaca feels soft and luxurious in my hands and the fabric feels and looks beautiful.

So I think the vest and I are going to stay exclusive for a bit longer. (I'd better not catch it fraternising with my February Lady Sweater!) 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Third time lucky?

Well, this is the third time I've done the ribbing and the fourth time I've done the first few rows of stocking stitch on Dad's alpaca vest. It looks okay but I'm trying hard not to get excited about it until I've done enough stocking stitch to really know that I'm still getting something close to the right tension.

I ended up having to go down to 3mm needles for the ribbing and 3.25mm needles for the stocking stitch. It feels really weird to be knitting with needles that size on an adult garment. I don't usually knit with anything finer than 8ply/DK and until now that's always been on 4mm or 4.5mm needles. I tend to mentally associate 3.25mm needles with baby clothes and with knitting that takes forever to get anywhere. But I figure that since I'm getting the same gauge that I would normally get on the larger needles, then it will go at the same pace. I could be wrong there, I often am!

The Queensland Youth Choir concert on Sunday night was great. The choirs and various ensembles were really talented and the show was put together really well. Voice Works performance of Billy Joel's "And So it Goes" was my favourite of the night, but there were a lot of other great performances. I've sent away an enquiry for more info on Vox Populus (the community choir for the over 26's) and may even join up if the planets are in alignment. I haven't really sung outside of the house or the car for a long time!

Seeing The Idea of North live was a highlight too. They were amazing, even giving the audience the chance to sing along with them on the end of "Isn't She Lovely"so now I can say that I've sung with The Idea of North at QPAC. They were signing CD's after the concert as well, so I bought some of their CD's and had a brief chat while they were signing. They were all really friendly and I got the distinct impression that they would have been more comfy in jeans at a BBQ than in their fancy performance clothes. I haven't met many Australian performers but I'm glad that the few I have met seemed to be friendly, down to earth people. Of course, I'm passing judgement on talking to these people for all of 10 seconds!

It's only a little thing, but I love that I can now get in Lulu and drive to things like the concert. I know it's completely environmentally unfriendly of me and I should be catching buses and walking but the independence my ability to drive now affords me is special. And I suppose that you could argue that I wasn't polluting for all those years that I wasn't driving between the ages of 18 and 34....

I've got a bit of a cold and a sore throat at the moment and I'm feeling kind of miserable. I don't even feel that much like knitting, which is not like me at all. I guess it's a good thing that I have a basic project like Dad's vest on the go so that I can just pick it up and knit for a bit without having to think about it. I just hope that the gauge is really right this time though, because if it isn't, I think I'm just going to cast off on the 10cm band of ribbing and find an elephant that needs a head-band.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dr Strangegauge: or How I learned to stop worrying and love the swatch.

Yesterday I finished the ribbing on Dad's Alpaca vest. Or, rather, it finished me, and I decided that 20 rows (out of a recommended 24) was quite enough and started on the plain stocking stitch of the body.

I used the 4mm needles called for in the pattern and had about 15 rows done before it started to dawn on me that it didn't look or feel quite right. It was gathering up quite a lot on the 60cm needles, so it was obviously quite large. And the stitches looked...well, ... big. I was on the bus without all of my supplies, so I tried to stretch it out as much as I could on the needles and measure it. 5 stitches to the inch...(there was no way I could get a flat 10cm to count the stitches in that distance)......that makes 20 stitches to 10cm, and the pattern calls for 22. It's okay, maybe I'd stretched it out a little bit when I was trying to get a flat bit. I decided to keep knitting and measure again when I got home and could stretch it out on a longer cable.

When I got home I used my new Knit Pro cable connectors (love them!) to join on a longer cable and pulled it through, then smoothed a section out flat to measure. Ouch. 18 stitches to 10cm. The vest was going to fit your average elephant. (Just in case you were wondering, my Dad is not an elephant).

You may ask why I managed to get so far off track. Didn't my gauge swatch tell me which needles to use?...Um, well, no, because I didn't swatch.  You see, I swatch so rarely it might as well be never. If I measure my gauge at all, I do it partway into the project, which usually works out okay. I knit with 8ply yarn about 80-90% of the time, and I almost always get gauge (or close enough that it doesn't matter) with 4mm needles for all of the 8ply wool or acrylic I've ever used. I think i can count on the fingers of one hand the times when I've been off slightly, and was lucky that always happened on projects where gauge wasn't important.

So I'd obviously been lulled into a false sense of security. I should have known. Not only have I never knit with this yarn before, but I've never knit with this fibre, not even in a blend. In the end, when I did swatch, I had to go down to 3.5mm needles. I suspect I should have redone the ribbing with 3mm needles but I'm not going there again. It's probably not perfect but it looks okay, and Dad's supposed to love it regardless, right?

I ripped back to the end of the ribbing and started the stocking stitch anew with my 3.5mm needles. This is what it looks like now.

I'm not sure how likely this experience is to influence my future swatching behaviour. Despite the title of this post, I don't think it's looking good for future swatches, especially seeing as though the swatch that identified the need for 3.5mm needles was only about 15 rows deep, although it was about 15cm worth of stitches across. Hmmmm. I suppose we'll see what happens next time.

I also got another square finished and sewn onto my Wrap With Love blanket this afternoon. I now have 7 out of 28 squares done. It gives me something to do with the acrylic which has been slinking around in the stash.

Edited about one hour later to add:
And yet still somehow I got it wrong. I've now knitted enough with the 3.5mm needles to work out that I'm getting 21 stitches to 10cm instead of the desired 22.5. (Am I knitting a bit looser due to the weight of the whole piece? Don't think I've done that before.) That's going to result in the vest being 8.5 cm larger around the chest than it should be. Since I had to go up 2cm from Dad's chest measurement to fit one of the pattern sizes, an extra 8.5cm doesn't sound like something we can accommodate. So I'm off to swatch again, and maybe go down a size on the pattern. And this time I'm not going to get away with keeping the existing ribbing. That's going to have to be done on 3mm needles, which had better be good enough, as it's the smallest I've got in a circular needle! Aaaargh. Oh well, at least I'm getting lots of practice at the tubular cast on.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sometimes it's a good idea to read the pattern......

I started a plain v-neck vest for Dad on Sunday night, in some Bendigo 8ply Alpaca that I had originally purchased for another project, then changed my mind. I did my usual trick of using the needle size recommended for the body of the garment rather than the needle size stated for the ribbing (I don't like my ribbing to pull in too much), but after 17.5 rows of k1p1 ribbing I realised that it was looking a little bit flabby and stretched already. I don't know if it would pull out of shape badly in the finished vest but I've read that Alpaca can stretch and sag a bit. This is the first time I've worked with alpaca so I don't know from experience. I wasn't prepared to risk it so I ripped it all last night and started again with the 3.25mm needles called for in the pattern. Now it looks like this.

Not much to show for all that work, but I think it has a better chance of being good in the end. At least I hope so.

A colleague at work visited my desk today and gave me a flyer for a concert this weekend. His family are involved with the Qld Youth Choir, who are having a concert on Sunday night to celebrate their 25th Anniversary. I love choral music so I was interested anyway, but they have a stellar lineup of other singers performing as well, including The Idea Of North, who I've wanted to see live since I first heard of them. I'm really looking forward to it. I'll leave you with this link to The Idea Of North's gorgeous rendition of Isn't She Lovely, which I just love.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Let's Twist Again

When I started my cabled cardigan with my newly delivered Bendigo Classic 8ply, I realised very quickly that knitting with this yarn was going to be a challenge. I noticed in passing while I was casting on (using the long-tail method) that the yarn wasn't untwisting as much as I normally notice with cast-ons but that was a bonus so it didn't really warrant further attention. It wasn't until I began the first knit row that I started to have problems. The yarn was untwisting badly with each stitch I made, so much so that if I didn't watch closely, I was splitting quite a lot of my stitches.

To start off with, I thought it was something new that I was doing, some bad habit l had picked up along the way, as l couldn't find any evidence online of anyone else having a problem with this yarn - in fact it seemed to be well-loved. The knitter l am now would have stopped right there, put it aside and found some other nice yarn for this project and saved my sanity a bit. Unfortunately, the knitter I was then decided to persevere - after all, I didn't want to waste all that yarn. So l kept on persevering along, which became a bit of a nightmare when I reached the cables. This was my first cable project, and the combined difficulty of not only learning how to make a cable but also dealing with all those split stitches and (horrors) split stitches in the cables! made me want to discard the project more than once.

Then, courtesy of a couple of other projects I worked on while the poor cardy languished in a pile in the corner, I realised that the other yarns I was using weren't untwisting. So it wasn't me, wasn't something strange with the way I was forming the stitches.

I looked closer at the yarns and worked out that the culprit was the direction of twist of the yarns. The other yarns I was using, which untwisted when l was casting on, but not when I knitted, were twisted in a different direction to the Bendigo Classic, which untwisted when I knitted but was fine when I cast on. A little bit of internet research made it clearer. The Bendigo Classic is a cabled yarn made from three (four? I haven't got any in front of me so I'm not sure) S-twisted plies plied together, resulting in an overall Z-twist to the yarn. The other yarns I was used to were all S-twist, so the twist of the yarn is in the opposite direction. There is a good explanation of twist and how it relates to yarn construction in the fall 05 issue of Knitty.

Since I couldn't find anyone else online commenting on how they can’t knit with Bendigo Classic, I assume that my action when I knit serves to put more of a clockwise twist to the yarn than most people, thus increasing the twist of the S-twist yarns and decreasing the twist or the Z-twist yarns, or untwisting them. So I’ve decided that it’s a good idea for me to avoid Z-twist yarns.
If only I'd remembered that the other day when snapped up 10 balls of Moda Vera Mousse on special at Spotlight. It’s a beautiful yarn – soft and smooshy with a slight sheen, but it’s a single. And like most singles, it’s a Z-twist. I swatched, and it is untwisting really really badly. The extra problem with an untwisted single is not only split stitches but the risk that it will pull apart.

Anyone want some yarn?

And in other news that is only related to yarn if you're interested in continuing to be able to afford to buy it, our Reserve Bank put up interest Rates today. Only by 25 basis points, or 0.25% but the cynic In me expects that my Mortgage company will use it as an excuse to put rates up by more than that - I would expect 0.4 to 0.5%

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday, I've got Friday on my mind

Monday again. The weekend always flies by so quickly!

The Boy is back from school holidays with his grandparents and School went back today. I asked him how his day went and got the standard response..."Bad". No elaboration, so I don't know what in particular was bad about today, but I guess I'd better get used to being told only what he chooses to tell me....Some days I wish I was six years old again, but I'm glad I don't have to go through those teenage years again.

I got my copy of The Knitter number 8 at the newsagent today. I notice we're two issues behind here but that may be to try and be a bit closer to our seasons. I like the Lacy Blouse and the Caper cotton jumper. Some of the other patterns are nice to look at but I can't see myself knitting them.

Unusually, on the way to the bus this afternoon I saw another woman reading the same magazine. Part of me wanted to catch her attention and show my copy in some strange act of solidarity but I just smiled and walked past.

I've finished off a number of little baby tops for a plethora of new little people - three Felix's Cardigans and a Tie-front Bolero. They've all had a soak in some Soak and are drying after their wet-blocking. They should be ready for packaging up for the new Mummies and Daddies tomorrow.

I've also started a plain v-neck vest for my Dad in some Bendigo 8ply Alpaca I purchased for a jacket for Mum (and decided not to use as I thought the jacket would be too heavy for the alpaca and would pull out of shape). I did a tubular cast on and so far I've done 7 out of 24 rows of k1 p1 rib. I'm doing it in the round so there's 4 stitches less to get all the way round but each 246 stitch round still takes a long time. It should be a bit quicker once I get to the miles and miles of plain stocking stitch. :)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Congratulations, Neil.

Over on his journal, Neil Gaiman is discussing the fact that The Graveyard Book has made it to 52 weeks on the New York Times Children's Bestseller list. I got The Graveyard Book (audiobook) as my first download on my membership and I'm loving it. I'm not to the end of it yet, so I suppose it's theoretically possible that it all goes to pot in the last chapter, but knowing Neil's previous work and suspecting how good a book would have to be to even get into the 10-place-long Children's bestseller list, I think that's highly unlikely.

This is an amazing achievement.  Congratulations, Neil.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tell me something I don't know

I wrote this some time ago, starting it before my move to Brisbane three and a half years ago, and finishing it afterwards. It came to me in bits and pieces, words and ideas here and there, and totally out of order. After it had settled itself into its final form, I entered it in a poetry competition. It didn't win anything (but then, I didn't like any of the poems that did win). I haven't really written any poetry since, except for the occasional orphaned line, so I think it must have been something about that time.

If, at the time that I wrote it, you had asked me what it was about, I wouldn't have been able to tell you, part because I've always believed that to a significant extent, the reader chooses the meaning of a poem, part because I just didn't know. Over time I've come to feel that for me, it's about a journey being made by two people who know each other well, but are no longer travelling on the same path. I hope that maybe it might mean something to you, too.

Tell me something I don't know

Tell me something I don't know,
I'll hide my fears and let them grow,
For Thursday's child has far to go,
There's no time to delay

And while I choose the path to take,
You'll shake the dreamers wide awake,
There's never been so much at stake,
So much to hold at bay

So I'll stand by while you romance
The idiots and sycophants
Until there's nothing left to chance
And even less to say

And I'll remember, you'll forget,
The epitaphs and epithets.
There's no time left to feel regret,
We did that yesterday

Recall a Sunday afternoon,
Another year, a different June,
We knew the night would come too soon,
I knew you wouldn't stay

But while that endless fire burned
I found what you'd already learned
And looked to see your face, which turned
A paler shade of grey

I heard you'd found a place to dream,
Here, underneath the evergreens
But nothing's ever as it seems
With other things at play

With memory in close pursuit,
You'd got there by a different route,
For dreams are never absolute
They always fade away.

© 2006.