Tuesday, October 31, 2006

the leaves aren't falling

Hooray! An FO, finally!

FO: Falling Leaves socks





Pattern: Falling Leaves socks, from Knitty
Yarn: Porridge-coloured Fortissima Socka yarn in a discontinued colourway, 75% wool 25% polyamide
Needles: Random 2mm DPNs, to my chagrin. This is the last pair of socks I knit on bloody 2mms, I swear. 2.5 mm power from here on in!
Time sucked: I suppose it's only a week and a half, on and off, but for some reason it feels like forever.

Verdict


Rarely have I ever felt less enthused by a project, and I'm somehow surprised that I even finished it. I'm not really sure why, but I think it's the yarn. The pattern is perfectly pretty, and look! I learned how to do toe-up socks. (I know that toe-up socks are the very apogee of True Sock Knitting, and now I can say, yes but perhaps I spurn them anyway. I just prefer the look of a decreased Kitchener toe, it's neater and more professional-looking.) So yes, a lovely pattern, I'm still slightly confused by the idea of lace (airy, lets in the breeze) wool (warm, insulates) socks, but they seem to be common currency on the internet, so I should probably shut up.

No, it was the yarn. I was young, I was weak, I was living it up in Berlin, but I am never ever again buying a yarn that inspires me so little. You can't see the pattern for the weird mottling, but it's not as though the weird mottling is particularly pretty in plain stocking stitch either:



Porridgey. Pointless. That said, I will wear them, because it's Hallowe'en and the leaves are finally, finally falling from the trees. But from here on in, it's hand-dyed or plain sock yarn all the way from me. Yarn snobbery, you will overcome us all in time.

(On a side note: the heel demanded a purl three together through the back loop. I struggled through one heel; I lost loops, shoved wildly through impossibly tight yarn, approximated stitches, resorted to crochet hooks, cried. Then on the second heel, I became a heretic and just purled three together. Yes, I know, I am a bad internet knitter. The heel looks a lot less fally-aparty, at least.)

Onwards and upwards! Yesterday I was round at a dear friend's for a knitting and gossiping date, whereI started Christmas Present Number Two, because it is a stocking stitch project and I can't concentrate on fancy stitchwork while screaming and shrieking over feminist theory. Here's a peekeen:



... and now sssh! till Christmas. I'm scooting through it, though. Good times.

I also finalised my plans for that kidsilk spray:



and the pattern's in the very first pattern book I ever bought, back in 2003, in the Wool Shop in Bray. Aeons ago, I know. Back then, I knew not of the way of internet knitting, and I bought patterns full price. Crazy talk, isn't it? Anyway. A Season's Tale is an elegant book full of classic projects for classy chicks, which isn't quite the way I would define myself. But I find myself drawn back to this top:



minus the lurex, because I think there's enough interest in the variegated yarn. But perhaps a little beading around the neck? Or even all the way through the garment? We're talking a fabulous, sexy, luxe top that I can wear to Christmas parties to hide the fact that I've ever been known to be an utterly nerdy internet knitter...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

unfinished musings

Thanks so much to all of you who came by to say such nice things about my ridiculous biker jacket! And particular thanks to those who agreed with how ANNOYING Debbie Bliss's schematic-free ways are. My current theory is that Ms. Bliss made her fortune designing baby clothes, which are basically square and hence need little finishing finesse. Perhaps some day she will realise that women and men are not actually giant babies, and that their clothes can't quite be put together like dinky infant sleepsuits. Some day.

OK! Enough snark, more constructive talk. First of all, I have finished one of the falling leaves socks, look:


Hmmm. No, honest, that IS a lace pattern. Look! Do you believe me now?



See? Yarnovers? Anyone? Ach, this is a funny yarn. I was hoping that when it knitted up the splotches of black and yellow and purple would resolve themselves into some kind of pattern or stripe or something, but no. It's just splotchy, or perhaps porridgey. Which is probably why it was on sale. It doesn't show the falling leaves pattern very well, but it doesn't look particularly great on the stocking stitch sole, either. O well. This is not my favourite project of all time, but I am loving my handmade socks so much that I will certainly wear them into the ground in any case.

And next up? Next up is going to be the dread Christmas Knitting. One good thing about my crazy eBay yarning habit is that at least I have a large and varied stash from which I can pick nifty gift projects. And I am trying to be very very sensible, and to follow two simple rules, viz:

1) only plan to knit four presents, because otherwise I'll be swamped

2) make one present between every project for myself.

So once these socks are finished, Present No. One goes on the needles. Alas, I'm not going to be blogging the presents till after Christmas, because although I'm reasonably sure that my family have no notion that I would have so nerdy a thing as a knitting blog, you never know, do you? But I might show you the yarn for the projects, yes. Such as this one. On eBay it looked a bright pink, you know, jolly and a bit extroverted; but once it arrived on my doorstep, I realised that it belonged to an entirely different species, perhaps a different planet of pink. As in, look. This is just how pink it is:



Yes. Pretty damned pink, no? But I think that the recipient will like it, and it is fun to knit with. All the same, who on earth thought of dying plain four-ply yarn such a colour?

And after that comes the teal-coloured tweed. Alas, I started swatching for the Verena cardigan, and although I got gauge, once I lashed into the back of it I realised that there was no way that the yarn would last out for the whole cardigan. It's only 550 grammes, and in terms of chunky pure wool, that's not enough for a big long jacket, alas. So *deep breath* I think I may design my own jumper. Eeek. My hippy heatwave cami doesn't look like it'll be the greatest of successes, so I am not convinced by my designing (read: Hard Sums) skills. But if I do a v. simple top-down raglan, based on the √úbernatural, but with a couple of cables? And just keep knitting till all the yarn is used up? I can't go THAT badly wrong, can I? Can I?



Poor teal yarn. What fate awaits you?

Friday, October 20, 2006

FO Friday

Look! LOOK! Finally, I have an FO to get off my damned sidebar. If only I were like the inimitable Aileen and could promise you an FO a week (except that, to my tender ears, that sounds much more as though I were promising you a fuck-off every week instead of a decorous and ladylike knitted garment. Who makes up these abbreviations, anyway?)

But after a year on the needles, I present, FINALLY:

FO: Debbie Bliss tweed biker jacket



Pattern: Debbie Bliss biker jacket, from the tweed collection (capital letters not included: this is a high-end English product, and capital letters appear to have been banned for all aspirational brands across the water.)

Yarn: Vintage Sunbeam Lux Tweed Canterbury alpaca/tweed aran mix, 500g; cuffs, collar and waistband knitted in Tivoli luxury aran tweed, 50% wool, 21% acrylic, 20% alpaca, 9% viscose, 100g. SO soft and snuggly, all of it. Here's the vintage yarn pre-knitting: the colour of it is truer here than in the first photo.

Needles: 5 mm circular for the body, 5 1/2 for the bands

Pattern modifications: Apart from not using the recommended yarn? But since when do I do that? I grafted the shoulder seams instead of sewing them up. And I am never sewing shoulder seams again, what's more.

Time sucked: Mensch, who can tell? I'm a year from cast-on to sewing on the last popper, but how long in total? I think knitting the pieces didn't take too long, back in the mists of last winter, but who remembers that far back?

Verdict


Oh my GOD, do I ever have a verdict! So much so, that you get BULLET POINTS...
  • Yarn: the yarns are gorgeous. Absolutely amazing. Much, much nicer that the Debbie Bliss tweed, which has no alpaca and therefore is not half as fluffy. This Sunbeam stuff knits up into a really solid, cosy fabric, which makes the jacket much more structured, rather than a cardigan. Which is perfect, really. Look, here are the real colours again, even if the photo is silly and blurry:

  • Pattern: NEVER, NEVER AGAIN. This is a commercial pattern from one of the biggest brands in British knitting, right? Then why the hell is it so hard to provide a schematic? There is none. None at all. And the finished measurements listed aren't at all sufficent to draw up your own.

    More, the finishing instructions were minimal. The sleeves ended up larger than the holes for them; my lovely lady friend, who is a tailor, informed me (through my tears of rage and fury) that this is standard for jackets, and that I had to gather the extra fabric in at the top of the armhole. Then, elsewhere on the net, I read that some people sewed the extra fabric along the body seams. Again, who can tell? I am not convinced about the sleeves as they are, I have to say. But then, it is a biker jacket, isn't it? they are supposed to be bomber shape, and funnily enough, this is precisely the season of the bell, billowing or slim sleeve, but most definitely not bomber jacket shape.


  • Overall: It's a biker jacket! In fluffy purple tweed! It's butch! It's femme! It's a classic! It's utterly square and hopelessly out of fashion! It fits perfectly around the body! It fits weirdly around the arms! It's a gorgeous dense fabric! It's particoloured! It's... oh, I dunno. It's finished. The proof will be in the wearing, right?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sock Swatching is for the Weak

As is buying full price sock yarn. Check out my bargainous Fortissima Socka that I got in Berlin for half nothing:



I count five ends. Five! Is this normal for sale yarn? Fretful little fragments at the beginning? But I battled my way past the mess, and cast on for a short-row tow (first ever!) and battled round the yarn-overs and up to the join, three times (it's all education, folks), and finally got to the falling leaves pattern:


to find that it was no use remaining in denial: not only did the sock look unpleasantly like a dead fish's head, but it was a monster, baggy, enormous sock. And this in a pattern that is "deliberately on the small side"! Gah. Time for the rip.

Look, here's a more cheerful thought: an old old FO which lazy me only just got around to putting in the post.



It's a Dream Swatch, knit in a fancy viscose-cotton-glittery-very-very-silly yarn (possibly by Filati, but at this stage I actually couldn't swear. What am I? A fool.) The idea is that you can headscarf it or neckscarf it... or look at it in bewilderment, wondering what on earth to do with it. Hush.



Q: Glitz, don't you have a baby dress and a biker jacket about two stitches from completion?

A: Hush. Yes. Some day, the tidy finishing fit will fall upon me, won't it? In the meantime, I am plotting plotting plotting. I have my family Christmas presents all plotted in my head (though not on the needles yet... sure it's not even Hallowe'en), and on Friday I had a genius stroke: last year, in a fit of desire to emulate my knitting friend hfnuala, I bought three balls of Kidsilk Spray for a lace shawl. Summer came and went, the pattern was sworn over, and five lonely rows languished on the needles. On Friday, the revelation struck: since when do I wrap myself in cobwebby fronds of lace? Do I think I am some class of Pre-Raphaelite Miss Haversham? Answer: no, but what I DO need is a drop-dead elegant sleeveless top for the winter party season. Definitely. So now I am on the scour, friends, for a truly glamorous Kidsilk Haze pattern: all suggestions very very welcome indeed.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Birthday Fingers

Stripey fingers are the very latest sign of true maturity, you know




FO: Seaside Mittens


Pattern: Seaside, from Magknits

Yarn: Rowan Tapestry, 70% wool 30% soybean protein fibre, in colour 172 (120 m per 50g), one-and-a-tiny-scrap balls.

Needles: 4 mm bamboo circular

Pattern modifications: Well. No intended modifications. Granted, I could have read the pattern properly and realised that at every stitch marked place bead, it meant place bead, not place two beads. But hey! Twice the glitter!

I also may or may not have done some exercises in knitting-on-the-edge and seeing just how far the one ball of yarn would stretch, which means that the ring finger of the right hand is a teensy bit shorter than it strictly should be. But O well.

Time sucked:
Three days. Not too bad, right?

Verdict


OK, gloves are always going to be fecky. That aside, it was a very clear pattern, and little was more satisfying than striking through each line of the fully charted stitch pattern as I knitted it. They're soft, and cuddly, and very very silly.

You know, though, I'm STILL not sure about that fancy schmancy yarn. It was pricy, it was luxe, but it still feels a little funny: slightly rough, very furry, and I can imagine that the stitch definition will disappear pretty quickly. (Watch out for the velcro on my favourite bag, yo.) My lovely lady friend has just finished some arm warmers in the alpaca silk that I gave her, and it's just that bit softer, just that bit crisper in texture. Also, less stripey and silly. Possibly, my verdict is that the yarn is a lovely idea, but... not so much in practice.

Then again, fluffy mittens! And the yarn lasted until the last two fingers of the second glove, so I have almost a whole ball left. I'm freehanding a cravat-type-thing to match the gloves. No particular reason...



The gloves had their first outing in the Centre Stage Bar last night, a tiny overdecorated dive that plays Las Vegas shows on the telly and has toile de joie wallpaper on the walls. I describe a very paradise? Well, it would be, did they not insist on keeping the door wide open. As it is, I was very, very glad of the fluffy warmth cuddling my fingers.



Sunday, October 08, 2006

Tiger Eyes. Or OWLS OF DOOM?

Urban lace!



Pattern:Tiger Eye Scarf, from Stitchin' Girl

Yarn: Rowan RYC cashsoft DK, 57% wool, 33% microfiber, 10% cashmere, in colour Poppy (197 yds per 50g)

Needles: 4.5mm random circular

Pattern modifications: I only did two edge stitches instead of three, to save yarn (silly, there was no need at all; the scarf turned out 168cm long blocked... or almost as tall as me. Hooray for lace!) Also, I did the grafted version

Time sucked: A week.

Verdict



I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I should have given you an AFTER picture fresh from the blocking pins, lace in its optimum glory. But I ripped it from its pins the second it was dry and danced out for a night in the boozer through the mists. That's how much I love it. Lovely easy-ish lace, glorious snuggly yarn, fabulous bright colour. O luxe yarns, you tempt me so much. So much!

Mme. Tapestry slips shyly onto the needles



Oh god, GLOVES. So fiddly! Fingers! So scary! And goodness, Madame the Fancy Schmancy Tapestry Yarn. Metal DPNS wouldn't do for her, so I ordered bamboo ones, which she does deign to wear, but she clings and snags on the slightest roughness, whining softly at every fray. She is indeed soft and fluffy, but she is also sticky like mohair: tinking is a horror, and even knitting at the gauge recommended on the yarn label is a tricky business, because she is hardly plied at all, just loosely thrown together and hence incredibly splitty. Awkward bloody stuff. Bring back the nice technologically advanced cashsoft, I say.



Moreover, the colours are monumentally silly. Which is fine for accessories, I don't mind stripey fingers one bit. But seriously, friends: this is what Rowan would like you to knit from this yarn:



Now look, I am a vegetarian queer woman myself, and even so, I cannot possibly imagine ANY man sighing, "O, all I want for this autumn is a quirkily striped jumper in SOY silk, please, a bit fluffy round the edges, and if possible, with a darling fussy placket detail on the shoulder? And maybe some adorable sky-blue buttons? But who would design me such a gentle garment?"

I mean, I would be more than delighted were I to get scads of comments from genderqueer knitting men, all going, "Actually, I LOVE that jumper, and I'm knitting it in the PINK colourway, to boot." I just doubt it, somehow.

Kelly also asked me about the biker jacket, so here she is:



Sleeves set in (weary, frail sigh... that is a story for another day), zip awaiting my lovely lady friend's sewing machine. But my lovely lady friend is deep in the throes of designing my BIRTHDAY presxent right now, so the sewing machine will have to await her flash of inspiration. Speaking of which, by the way, here is an answer to the vexed question, "but what do lesbians actually DO?"



Sit around of a Saturday night gaily knitting, designing, reading the paper, and making a godawful mess of the living room, is the answer.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Joy of Grafting

I was striding into town last night (to see The Black Dahlia - really, don't bother) in my Miu Miu coat (thrifted) and wraparound dress, and it was misty and moisty, and I really, really wanted my lovely cashsoft scarf. Which is why, of course, I absolutely had to stay up till two in the morning finishing it. Definitely.



I left the grafting till this morning, though. Daylight and concentration capacity always a good idea, no? Normally I love grafting: it's nippy and nifty and neat. Normally. But this is lace...


...ah, feck. But you wouldn't notice a thing, would you, gentle reader? If it were cast around my neck in an elegant fashion, and the flying ends were catching your gaze?

I am the queen of sloppy knitting. I am just NOT unpicking it. NOT.


Here we are then, unblocked. Two balls of cashsoft goes a long way, as I hoped. Hooray!



... in fact, precisely the length of my sofa. Rather handy that, no? Ah, blocking: now that is DEFINITELY fun. Those styling leaf-head pins were snapped up at the Turkish market in Berlin, and I wish I'd bought a second pack, seeing they were only a euro: they're headscarf pins, and therefore are much longer than standard-issue pins, about four centimetres.

And now, for the Rowan Tapestry armwarmers, for my bamboo DPNS have arrived. Only the best for Madame, remember. Ohh, hooray for a crisp nip in the air and an appetite for warm knitted accessories!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

a discreet flash...

Like the quick flick of a raincoat. Or something. At any rate, today I am going to flash a teeny tiny selection of my stash, but one that makes up most of its bulk. Namely, a certain eBayed burgundy aran yarn...


There it is. Plain chunky aran, in burgundy. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing particularly right with it, apart from the fact that I do have roughly a sturdy 600 grammes of it, so easily enough for a proper jumper. I bought it on one of my many, many eWhims, which generally take a hold of my fluttering fingers the second I see "pure wool" and "crazily low price", no matter how much yarn is actually on offer nor what weight it is. In my defence, I was also labouring under the delusion at the time that aran weight was the same as worsted, and hence the ideal weight for a jumper. But what I meant was, of course, DK, and now I find myself obsessed with a gorgeous little DK cardigan from Verena magazine:


Cute and elegant, no? Though obviously I'm not about to be knitting stuff in grey. But it is definitely a DK knit, and that aran is just too chunky. So...


There's this Rebecca jumper, you've seen it before. A nifty modern aran, and I love that nipping-in cablework at the waist. But the shoulders, although set-in, are still majorly sloppy, and if I altered the neck to a scoop neck the way I would prefer it might be even sloppier. Hmmm.

There's also this jacket from Verena magazine, which is distinctly different, and definitely chunky (though I would spare everyone the bobbles.) But once that tweed biker jacket is done (it needs a sewing machine taken to it, and I am terrified by the very sight of them), will I really need another chunky handknitted jacket? Or even a sloppy handknitted jumper? Wo. I am just much more into light, elegant, discreet knits in DK right now... but without the yarn.

In better news, I have just one ball of the Kilcarra tweed left, which should, I hope, be enough for a silly matching hat for the scarf, and the Tiger Eye scarf is zipping along. Just in time for the next suit outing? Who can tell?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Scarves, scarves and more scarves!

It's been a very very worky week, very worky, and alas, needles and yarn and fiddling over yarn overs don't really fit in very well with a worky persona. I haven't been knitting; but I have been stashing, O yes.

- Man at the post office: Have you been clicking on the internet?

- Me (staggering under myriad packages of yarn): Erm...

- Man: Because we'll be seeing a lot more of you this winter if so!

Erm. Yes. I'm not photographing my stash quite yet, as some of it is a bit peculiar, some destined for presents, and in general, I am rather ashamed of my stash, if truth be told. A lot of random eBay purchases, few notions of what to do with them. The shame, the shame.

But! I do have something to be proud of, viz. a FO, if not my shiny flashed face:

Diagonal Rib Scarf







Pattern: Herringbone Diagonal Rib Scarf, by Li at Life's a Stitch

Yarn: Kilcarra of Donegal chunky tweed, 100% wool, colurway 2525, 200g

Needles: 7 mm Addi Turbos; the yarn label says to use 5 1/2s, but you need more drape in a scarf, right?

Pattern modifications: Three repeats of the herringbone rib rather than four, at this gauge.

Time sucked: A week, including ripping and reknitting time. Not too bad, no?

Verdict

This is a lovely pattern, and it knits up really really quickly! It's designed for a DK yarn, but I think it works perfectly with a chunky tweed: just fancy enough to give it structure, but plain enough to let the tweed flecks show through. The perfect scarf for a blustery walk down the South Wall into Dublin Bay, or for throwing over a chunky cardigan when you just can't be bothered wearing a coat.

Wo



O, that Rowan Tapestry. I went to Crown Jewels and found the perfect beads for it. (Crown Jewels used to be on Crown Alley, back in the day, making sense of a rather silly pun, but now it's on Castle Market the allusion is a little... lost). But is the fluffy soy silk mix happy? Is it hell. It is too good for this world, that yarn is: it just slid off my hefty Addi metal DPNs with a shudder, refusing to countenance such brutal equipment. Bamboo DPNs are on order, madame. Whatever makes you happy...

Not More Goddamned Yarn


Yes, yes, I know. I know. The herringbone scarf is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. But as I said, it was a very worky week, and I found myself longing for a smart, light scarf, in an elegant pattern and a monochrome, luxury yarn, that would go with a suit and the Miu Miu coat that I picked up for half nothing in the charity shop. Yesterday, myself and my lovely lady friend and our friend Stellanova went on an intrepid expedition to Springwools, that vasty barn located far, far out in the badlands of Dublin West. We sat on the bus as a torrent buffetted us, and peered out in the rain onto such strange places as Cork Street, Dolphin's Barn, Crumlin and Drimnagh, none of which appeared particularly lovely in the sluicing storm.

Springwools is indeed an Aladdin's cave, but slightly bleak and windowless, with an astonishing selection but a utilitarian air about it. It abounds in yarns both novelty and luxury, and has a fantastic pattern selection, but I found myself yearning, I have to say, for the friendly company of Lisa and Jacqui of This is Knit while I browsed. But I did pick up some bargain basket odd balls (though Stella and my lady friend scored better deals, mumble grumble), and the yarn for the scarf: RYC Cashsoft DK, m'dear, nothing but the fanciest.

You may have noticed a certain... lilac quality in my knitting to date. And nothing wrong with lilac, but it was time for a departure, no? I rather like this pingy chilli (colour 512, Poppy), even if it won't go with anything I have...



The pattern is the fabulous Tiger Eye scarf from StitchinGirl. Though I think it looks a little more like owl eyes, like the creepy owls in the Owl Service by Alan Garner, for those of you who liked your childhood reading gothic. It's a great crisp urban lace, though, I hope, and far, far away from boho flowers and mad-old-lady purple.