Tuesday, January 30, 2007

fairest isle

It's finished! And I am ridiculously in love with it...
Fair isle cosy, finito

FO: Endpaper Fair Isle i-pod cosy

Pattern: Knit in the round, based on Eunny Jang's Endpaper Mitts fair-isle, and inspired by tragicheroine's iPod sock.
Yarns: Fortissima Socka, in colour 1012 (that's the hot pink), and Sirdar Town & Country 4-ply sock yarn, in colour 154. I used the teeniest scrap; you'd hardly notice I'd touched the skeins.
Needles: Ribbing done on 2mm needles, body on 2.5 mm
Corrugated ribbing
Here's the corrugated ribbing, and the attempted tubular cast-one. There's a row of weeny holes where the ribbing starts, and I'm not sure if that's inevitable with the technique, or whether I've done something wrong (most probable).
Time sucked: Half a day, more or less
Earphones hole
And here's the earphone hole, at the end of the three-needle bind-off, because nanos, confusingly, have the Hold button at one end and the earphone socket at the other.

(I hate earbuds, can't keep them in my ears for the life of me, feel like a complete fool walking down the street trying to cram them into my ears every step I take. Am I alone in this?)

I know it's silly, but although I've knit far more mighty and far more practical projects than this - cardigans, socks, scarves - this tiny scrap of experimental faux-isle makes me prouder than almost anything I've done. Perhaps because of the number of new techniques I've crammed into this miniscule project, perhaps because of its perfect dinkiness - the pattern just the right size for so small an object - or perhaps just because I like shiny consumer electronics.

Next up: learning to fair-isle properly and to strand my yarns in a consistent fashion, instead of at random. But first, the move. The move!

Monday, January 29, 2007

all isles excelling

Isn't the way that Eunny Jang writes about knitting so seductive? I'm a slapdash knitter myself, possibly happiest when mindlessly zipping around stocking-stitch socks while watching television, carrying on a conversation with my girlfriend, and possibly reading the Times Literary Supplement at the same time. Fecky attention to detail makes me, like Laura Ingalls Wilder, feel as though I am flying apart. Moreover, proper attention to detail involves maths, an implacable enemy that cannot ever be underestimated.

And yet, Eunny makes the poetry of detail, the pride in precision seem like a reflection of the works of the Almighty himself. Thus, although, like Felinity, I had been intimidated away from fair isle by Debbie Stoller's dismissive description of it in Stitch 'n' Bitch, Eunny's rhapsodies about "just a little hit" for her Endpaper Mitts had me seduced. I don't really need another pair of fingerless mittens, but the tiny detailing of the project sounded wonderful.

And then, I came across this truly ravishing fair-isle iPod sock, based on Eunny's chart, but with lovely little details such as the corrugated rib and black side seam. Mmmm, I thought. Such a strange coincidence that precisely this electronic item of desire was delivered to my door last week...
wild goose
...and that, although I had bought a silicone case to protect it, I quickly discovered that silicone cases and knitting households are almost entirely incompatible. Silicone picks up fluff like nothing on earth, and my lovely consumer electronic looks like something the feral cats outside dragged in. (There really are feral cats outside this flat.) I'll just swatch for the cosy, I thought, I don't need to learn all that fancy two-handed throwing yet, just see whether or not it works at all as a concept...

but when it comes to something as microscopic as an iPod nano, a swatch is more or less the size you need.
fairest isle
No, it's not perfect: the pattern doesn't quite match up, I'm not convinced about the corrugated rib, I didn't manage to figure out how to put in those side seams. But look! how utterly dinky, what fairy tininess is in this project:
weeniest isle
Teeny teeny tiny, the perfect size for trying out testing new techniques: in one inch, we have a tubular cast-on, corrugated rib and stranded knitting, all new to me before midnight last night. Such a delicious little project. I foresee many, many more.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

this one go chunk

A small cold moment on a freezing January afternoon gives me the perfect opportunity to finally show off my triumph:

FO: Bulky Cabled Cardigan

bulky cabled cardigan
Pattern: Glampyre's Bulky Cabled Sweater

Yarns: Tivoli Chunky Tweed, 100% wool, in shade 755, and a random ball of Tivoli Chunky yarn, also 100% wool, in navy.

Needles: 8mm, 7mm and 5 1/2 mm Addi Turbos

Time sucked Probably about a week and a half

Pattern modifications: Ah. Yes. Several. For one thing, I didn't get gauge, but then I didn't expect to, and a top-down raglan is reasonably flexible. For another, if you follow that link, you will notice that Glampyre's snappy original has the ribbing right on the waist, creating a nipped-in silhouette, despite the bulkiness of the overall design. By contrast, you will notice that "nipped-in silhouette" is not quite the way you would use to define my version. "Vast, shapeless mass", perhaps. But I have, you see, a fondness for long floaty tops, and fashion demands, still, low-slung jeans. None of the cardigans that I own actually cover that crucial strip between top and jean, over the kidneys, and you know? it's January. So I knitted on and on and on.

back cabled cardigan

But it worked. Also, I knitted it in reverse stocking stitch rather than in garter stitch, for that tiny bit more structure; given that this isn't precisely the most structured of garments, I'm glad I did.


: I DO love it, in all its shapeless glory. Already, the weight of the chunky wool is beginning to tell, and it is becoming more and more an off-the-shoulder cardigan, and a draggy-around-the-hips cardigan. Elegant, it ain't, and I think it'll require a scarf for full body insulating purposes. But oh, it's WARM, and it's generously sized, and the colour is fun, and in general, although I feel slightly bashful about wearing such a classically hand-knitted looking lumpy garment... it's all good. It's warm. It's dancy!

action cabled cardigan

Next up will have to be a very fine knit. But where, oh where will it be knitted? Finally my news: I'm moving to Northern Ireland for a new job next week, so will be in parts foreign and peculiar for four months. No more This is Knit! No more raging at Hickey's! (And of course, no more lovely lady friend, BOOO.) But at least I will now only pay local postage on online knitting orders from the UK. There's got to be some upside, right?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Berry Nice

Life doesn't stop whirling, here at Glitz Towers. Tell you what: I'll tell you why at the end of the post. And in the meantime, you have to ogle me knitting and tell me it's only gorgeous. OK?

So first up, that beret:

FO: Twilley's Freedom Spirit Beret

Pattern: Beret, from the Twilley's Freedom Spirit pattern brochure

Yarn: One and a half balls of Twilley's Freedom Spirit, 100% wool, in Earth.

Needles: 3 1/4 mm and 4mm circular needles, though this isn't actually knitted in the round.

Time sucked: Swifter than lightning! Two days, three maybe? And I was very busy doing other stuff those days, what's more.


I love it! As Aileen says, it's a very different construction to the Le Slouch: you start increasing almost immediately, then you knit straight around for a few rounds, and then you decrease again. Also, it's knitted flat and then seamed, but since my Lovely Lady Friend taught me to seam, this no longer holds any fears for me.

The stripes in this are a lot more subtle than in Aileen's version, but no less lovely. And janey, do I ever need a dacent beret in this weather...

Actually, I lie. I'm going to put off my news till the next post. Bwa ha haaa!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

new lady on the block

Hello, lovely readers! This is an exciting notice: my lovely lady friend has finally succumbed to the craft blog temptation, and is now posting her styling threads at http://msbias.blogspot.com/.

Ms. Bias is much much cleverer than me, because not only can she knit like a fiend, she sews. As in tailors. As in can actually make a substantial portion of her wardrobe herself, and frequently does. Go ye and ogle!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Patience is a virtue

...and we all know how that one ends.

The bulky cables are finished, and alas... the yarn didn't last out. You know that moment as you are hoping against hope that the last skein is still barely touched, and then when you can suddenly see through the few remaining coils of yarn, and realise that all is lost? Yes. All was lost. Thankfully, the kind eBay seller slipped in a completely random ball of navy chunky Tivoli yarn with the teal tweed, so a rescue, of sorts, could be effected. I dithered and dallied between the relative virtues of a pure, unadulterated teal tweed cardigan, and a cardigan that covered my kidneys, and January won out.
Bulky cabled cardigan, blocking
My lovely lady friend claims that the navy makes it look more pulled together; I'm not convinced. It's all looking a bit shapeless and worrying from where I;m sitting. But I will button shop tomorrow, and perhaps that will be the saviour of the cables. In the meantime, chunky pure wool yarn takes a looong time to dry.

Oh! Here is a thing to think about in the meantime:

Last Christmas, my mother, having learned about my new hobby, gave me a stack of King Cole black acrylic yarn for Christmas. I smiled thinly, and freecycled it. This Christmas, she said meaningfully, "I do hope you made yourself something nice with that black yarn," and gave me... this.
Pounds and pounds and pounds of pure acrylic. Please note the classy "Eurogeneral" label. Mmmm. I was in some despair, because evidently my mother would be really, really pleased if I made something with this: but what, hell WHAT? And then, in a charity shop the other day, I came across this:
granny bag
Somebody's sweet handmade flowery bag. I feel a bit sorry for this bag, because it is handstitched; at the same time, it has no fasteners, and I am not given to yellow floral print, either. But! Look at those on-message handles! It occurs to me that, while all that grey acrylic would be grisly for a jumper, for one of those cabled clutches that are so fashionable right now, it would be just the ticket. And I could knit a strap and put in a metal snap and line the bag and truly, from a well-meaning granny bag it could go to being This Season's Cabled Tote.

Plus, my mum would be happy. Which is the main thing, I think.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

winter, fear me!

It's been a busy old week here at Glitz Towers, I'm telling ye. And I didn't even get caught up in that astonishing hurricane that Europe saw last week. Nope, I had hurricanes of my own, of the worky variety. The week didn't see that much knitting, though I did make some progress on the cardigan. But last night, in the course of watching The Wind that Shakes the Barley, the ridiculousness of having a pair of socks with just four rows left to knit up grabbed me, so I finished. It felt like knitting with vicious little toothpicks, after my clunky clumsy 8mm needles, but I didn't let myself get put off...

FO: Edinburgh Bohemian Socks

These are from Lana Grossa Meilenweit Magico, in colour 2529, knitted toe-up on 2mm dpns. Plain stocking stitch, the simplest socks imaginable.

Edinburgh Bohemian socks
Look, matchy toes! After the last self-striping pair, I took the trouble to make sure they did actually match. A wise decision, I think. As was the stocking stitch: that colour pattern is far too pretty to mess up with funny stitching. I love the fabric.
Edinburgh Bohemian toes

And so back to the bulky cabled cardigan. Ah, clunky bumpy 8mm needles, flying through the chunky yarn at a rate of knots. No dangerous little spiteful 2mms, just good honest workhorse needles knitting up cardigans super-fast.

Bulky Cabled Cardigan, sleeves completed

A little too super-fast, perhaps. I fear this is going to be an extremely attenuated and rather tight-fitting cardigan. The curse of ebay yarn, where you can't buy an extra ball if things go wrong, and perhaps the curse of Tivoli chunky, which doesn't reveal its yardage. "There's nothing in chunky wool," said Aileen, yesterday, "especially not with cables. It's a scam." It was fabulous to meet up with Aileen again, and somewhat startling to realise it's only the second time we've met, so avidly do I read her very entertaining blog. We wandered off to Trimmings for notions and Hickey's for yarn, and alas, it was a far cry from our meeting in Berlin and the riches of Fadeninsel. Hickey's gets more depressing every time I go in there. Who on earth invents these yarns that look as though a plastic goat excreted them? Why on earth don't they stock plain, sensible 100% wool yarn at a plain sensible price? Argh!

However, they DO stock this particularly luscious yarn, Twilley's Freedom wool. The second I saw the photo of the gorgeous beret Aileen knit out of it, I was smitten. It's even prettier in real life, too. Such subtle colours! And look, although I was very, very tempted by the purple colourway, I resisted. Look! Green yarn! Fresh new resolutions for a fresh new year. No longer will I be a slave to pink, I swear it.

freedom spirit

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Bulky Cables, redux

I've been reading a lot about vintage knitting, here and there, over the last while, and one thing that has remained imprinted in my mind is that old-fashioned knitting was done much, much more tightly, to give a more structured knit that repels water and resists wear and tear more efficiently. Whereas today's lackadaisical urban knitters prefer to whip up a giant jumper in Rowan Biggy Print and 12mm needles in the course of a weekend, because at the end of the day, knitting is a fun hobby and not an economical necessity.

Now, I'm somewhat allergic to the concept of hobbyism, the idea that you lavish leisure time and energy on a pursuit that you believe to be useless and extraneous, and don't strive to attain excellence in it, to turn it into art or to make it useful to others. Also, I'm somewhat allergic to the idea of disposable clothing, and knitting knit too loose certainly has a built-in obsolescence. My beloved Ubernatural is feeling a bit bagged-out and loose these days, knit as it is on 10mm needles; then again, it's knitted from recycled yarn, so I guess that's OK.

Anyway! All of that was by way of a wordy preamble to the conclusion that, although Glampyre's pattern for the bulky cabled sweater was knit on 8mm needles, the ball band on my Tivoli bulky tweed yarn recommended 6 1/2 mm, and I decided to compromise and knit it on 7mms. This yielded a very stiff fabric, one that practically walked around my room barking, "Get it together, girl! Sure aren't the rations fierce tight this winter, and after the Glimmerman came calling there'll be no gas to heat the house tonight..." Wartime fabric. Unfortunately, wartime fabric also eats up yarn at a fierce rate. I had just got down to below the armpits, and forty percent of my yarn was gone; robust and noble the cardigan might be, but there was no use knitting it if it wasn't going to cover my waist in my very post-modernly low-slung jeans.

So I picked up the end and cast-on again on eight millimetre needles and sadly slayed the old cardigan to feed the new, as is my wont:

old jumper, new jumper

I know that technically speaking you are supposed to rip back the cardigan entirely, wash the yarn to get the kinks out, and then wait for it to dry, but honestly. I am not that traditional.

Slight modification: although I like the photos I've seen of other knitters' versions, I don't like the two fat cables going side by side down the middle of the back, so in the newer version (the one on the bottom) I've spaced them by 11 stitches, rather than by 3. Also, the cardigan is being knitted in reverse stocking stitch rather than in garter stitch, because really, a looser drape is one thing, a giant springy elastic fabric another. I do need some structure.

I'm not sure whether you can see the difference between the 7mm fabric and the 8mm, but here are the cables side by side:

old cable, new cable

The 8mm one is the one on the right, and the cable is mighty, I'm telling you. Plastic and commanding and giant. And although the fabric isn't as tight, it is softer and has a more elegant drape; which leaves me wondering, what on earth were Tivoli thinking when they asked me to knit a bulky, tight-spun, pure wool yarn on 6 1/2 mm needles?

I'm whizzing down to the waist as we speak, so I should have an FO in a few days. Maybe chunky needles are a good idea, after all.

See! I'm not updating once a day, but I'm not dead yet. Oh hell no.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

oh look, it's 2007

Q: Guess what my New Year's resolution is?

A: Yes, you are right. Not to knitblog devotedly every day, no. Sorry, dear readers, if any still remain: I am a ridiculously negligent knitblogger. Yes, Christmas was mental, no, it does not lend itself to quiet reflection and genteel knitting, yes, work is also quite hectic, but still. Still. There is little point having a blog if you don't update it, is there?

But I have learned an important life lesson, one that I will never forget, from this Christmas: I hate knitting for other people. Gift knitting is the worst kind of drudgery. There, you have it. I slogged through two of my Mystery Christmas Presents, abandoned the third and bought a book instead of the planned fourth. Never, never again. Does this make me a bad person in the cosy world of knitbloggers, all patiently turning out socks for dear old grandmas and cute dresses for winsome babies? But if I can't imagine every stitch transforming me into a foxy bemohaired temptress, or keeping me snugly warm against the astonishing gales we have here in Ireland at the moment, it's no good. I just hate it.

So look. Here's my mystery surprise present for my dad:

Socks! How very dadly! And look, here's the toe:

Now isn't that exciting? Well... no, not really. Inoffensive navy socks make for fierce dull photos. And my father hasn't even bothered to try them on yet, so in general, grrr. Christmas knitting bites. Perhaps my daughterly labours will bear grateful fruit yet; or perhaps not.

The other present was a second Ubernatural for my friend D., and it was a roaring success. Unfortunately, it was also a roaring last-minute success: I was frantically ribbing the waistband half an hour before running out the door for New Year's Eve shenanigans. Said last-minute-merchantry meant that no photos were taken, and now the Ubernatural is shielding D. from the bitter cold in Vienna, where she lives. I'm visiting her in two weeks, so I promise scenic photos on location.

I spent Christmas in England, which entailed a long journey in the middle of the night including bus changes, standing around foggy cities in the very early morning, trekking through the night toting a case, and my health was delicate, to say the least. A hat was clearly required. Neelia's rhapsodies about berets convinced me to give the Le Slouch pattern a try with the Tivoli Aran yarn I had left over from my biker jacket. Et voila! Le style!

The pattern is a simple k4, p4 check, and it came out fabulously textured and took one and a half balls of yarn. I love it. Very now, very warm. You should all beret! Most saliently, though, it took me an evening. Whereas the dadly socks took about two weeks. Proof that altruism is most definitely not the root of efficiency.

(I neglected Neelia's advice, and cast on as many stitches as would go round my head. DON'T do this: the brim stretches no end. However, a quick fix with elastic seems to be working just fine, though less elegantly than a properly fitting rim.)

Since then, I have lashed into another pair of Lana Grossa socks with my Edinburgh yarn:

And started swatching for Glampyre's Bulky Green Cables cardigan, in gorgeous chunky teal Tivoli tweed.

I'm still in two minds as to whether or not bold, bulky cables over my bosoms are the most slimming idea ever, but curiously for a knitter, I don't seem to have very many warm jumpers this winter, and I'm longing for the chunky comfort of a simple woollen raglan. Plus, it's a Glampyre top-down pattern, and as she says in the Ubernatural pattern, "If you don't get gauge, don't sweat it. You'll be fine." That's the kind of pattern I like.