Friday, March 30, 2007

It all seemed so happy

Oh, last Sunday! My parents had just left me; the sunshine was beaming in through my bedroom window; I had no work to do, and Ivy had just been knitted up. All she wanted was careful, neat sewing, and I was so excited about how clever this pattern is, how scrupulous in its details, that I was prepared to spend hours getting the seaming elegant and strong.

I seamed the shoulders. I seamed an arm. I tried it on. It billowed, it blew, it looked handmade and lumpy. I checked the other arm, and found that somehow, I had gone way off gauge, and the arm was 5 inches wider across at the shoulder than it should have been. It didn't look puff-sleeved; it just looked crap.
bah, ivy, bah!
So, yeah. There was nothing for it. I ripped the shoulders back. I love that pattern so much, and I won't have it looking lumpy and sad, you hear me? I won't! But I have this awful crashdown now; I was so looking forward to the finishing line, and to showing off a truly elegant handknit garment. I think the thing that I find most discouraging is that I don't really know why the sleeves went so horribly wrong; I couldn't make either one add up to the pattern, both went way too wide, and yet I got gauge, so I have little real hope of being able to fix it. I mean, I'm trying, but the yarn is a mess now it's ripped and has a different gauge, and in short, I have lost the love. This is a shame, because it was going to be so pretty. I will try harder, I will!

Here, have some Happy Colourdy Spring Photos instead, yes?

spring is sprung

Look, bright green new spring sandals, and sunny forgetmenots to dance on!

one skein of joy

And this, this is an impulse internet purchase: those colours. Could you have resisted? Now really, could you? I'm sighing and lusting and stroking it, and its dizzying kaleidoscope is taking my mind quite away from the sad Ivy mess.

It's sock yarn, really, 100 grammes (or 280 metres) of it, and of course it would make glorious socks, but I think I don't want it for zany socks. I am torn between making it into a One Skein Wonder shrug, and a very plain openwork shawl. What can you do with 280 metres of fingering weight? Tell!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

the first day of spring, the first day of lace

Look at this!
second tie
Yes, I know it's a dark and obscure little photo. The point is, it's the last tie for Ivy. And that when this is done, I will have all the pieces finished, and will only have to sew it up, and it will be DONE. I have a few wibbles about the size of the pieces - my shoulder decreases on the sleeves would and would not work out, no matter how I tried, so I have a feeling it'll be a little bit puff sleeved - no bad thing in itself, right? But in general, it's going to be a slim slim cardigan in this season's silver, and of course youse are right, I am going to keep it silver for as long as metallics are in style. Next winter it can preen as an all-new violet or green garment; for now, it can stay as it is.

The ties are actually quite painless, particularly if you knit them on DPNS, rather than wrestling with a big long circular that engages in intimate embraces with a long dangling string of knitting. Zip! Zip! Watch this spot!

Last week, you may remember that the heavens were shining, I was trying on new green sandals, and spring was in the air. The soft red cotton of Orangina called to me, and I cast on. Oh, luxe yarns! This is the nicest cotton I have ever knit with, for real: soft and non-splitty and with amazing definition, definitely and definitely worth the extra you pay for Rowan if you don't get it at a bargain price off eBay. Go Rowan.

orangina 1

So I sat on the train, and chatted about politics and poetry, and the train sped ever-northwards, and the wind blew stronger, and flurries of snow started dancing alongside the window, and now it is about zero degrees and all thoughts of pretty light cotton lace seem as folly and vainglory. Oh well. I made a start.

orangina 2

My thoughts are also turning towards that vintage chocolate Langora yarn, and I suddenly was caught by the thought that I haven't yet made a long-armed shrug, and that those are actually perfect for this season's dresses and the breezy Irish weather. But are shrugs completely, utterly, indelibly over, friends? Do you know? What do you think? Would you ever speak to me again if I knitted a shrug?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

In the spring, a young woman's thoughts lightly turn to...

A young woman's thoughts lightly turn to thoughts of being fickle.

You know? I've nearly finished Ivy. I really have. And I think she's very clever, very elegant, is going to be a gorgeous addition to my wardrobe. Really. It's just that... well, those very last steps, seaming and (yawn) knitting the ties), they don't really appeal. Worse, I then have to dye her, because that pale grey will just wash me out if I wear it as-is, and that sounds rather tiresome, too; how do you dye a woolen garment without a giant stainless steel pan? I suspect you can't. Some day, I will get round to it, in the meantime...
Rowan Rosehip yarn
Look at that glorious blue sky! Doesn't that put you in mind of spring knitting? And look at the lovely red yarn, too. I ordered it with Orangina in mind; the eBay seller swore it was Rowan, but I was sceptical. After all, Rowan doesn't come on cones, does it? it comes in strokable little pricey skeins...
Rowan Rosehip
Well, it might do now, but this is the genuine article all right; proper vintage yarn in a lovely glowing colour called Rosehip, which I think is discontinued. eBay at its best. Mmm. Little lacey tops, soft summer breezes. Soon. Soon. In the meantime, I will prance about in my new sandals at home, and pretend it's spring proper.

Oh and! Did I tell you about the tragedy that befell my gorgeous bargain cashsoft DK? In our infinite wisdom, my lovely lady friend and myself decided to stash our yarn behind the sofa in the living room this winter; out of sight and ready to hand. Every so often, we would comment to each other about how the heating in this flat really didn't seem to be working, and how cool it got in the evenings. Then, one day, I was convinced I detected a funny burning smell from somewhere...

and dragged out a melting bag of cashsoft from right up against the storage heater, which immediately started cheerfully emanating heat into the room. So we did get a cosy second half of the winter, once we figured out that keeping highly insulating wool right up against the heater mightn't be the most heat-efficient way of heating a room; but I sacrificed rather a lot of yarn in the process. Sigh. There's still quite a lot left that is in perfect nick, and that which is damaged can be used for swatching...

cashsoft tragedy

But still. Oh, the poor sorry scorched bits, and the indelible bits of melted plastic clinging on for dear life to the lovely luxe yarn! Let this be a lesson to you all, friends. Anyone who can think of a good pattern for roughly 400g of good cashsoft and 100g of, erm, distressed, please comment below...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

tiny tiny knitting, tiny tiny needles

The trouble with this knitting on 3mm needles malarkey is that there's not really that much to report. I read, I knit, I read, I knit, and slowly, slowly, slowly, the ivy leaves creep up the body of the cardigan. Ivy really is a beautiful pattern, so elegant, and so cleverly made, full of neat little details. And look! I feel like I make no progress, but look at this:

ivy, back and front

Add one and a half sleeves to that, which I currently have in the bag, and that's really almost done, isn't it? Apart from... THE TIES. Five feet worth of 1x1 rib, twice over. I'm going to have to get drunk to complete them, there's no other way.

I did get a moment of martyred knitter's gratification, though: on the bus on the way down to the metropolis, I was scrunched in a corner knitting and reading (it IS possible! Did you know? Alas, I am a devoted public transport person, and hence have no opportunity to go cruising around in search of little yarn shops en route, sorry Gilraen) and slowly, slowly marching up the first sleeve. The bus stopped in Newry for a five minute break, and in the pell-mell scramble for the ladies' loos, a girl grabbed me: "I'm sorry for bothering you, but what are you making?"

"It's a cardigan," I replied, "that's the sleeve I'm working on."

"Oh!" she said, "wow! That's amazing! I couldn't work it out, because of the tiny needles, you see! I mean, I knit scarves, but big chunky ones from huge wool. I couldn't figure out what could be so fine!"

You see? Masochistic pride. Obviously, there's no actual virtue in teeny tiny knitting, but it was nice to get the admiration, anyway, from a disciple who KNOWS.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

fine-grained fantasy

Hooray! After the sober report of knitting progress come the Wild Future-Knitting Fantasies. This is the fun bit.

I've finished both fronts of Ivy, and have cast on for the sleeves; I'm trying very, very hard not to remember that I despise sleeves, and instead to tell myself that stocking stitch sleeves are absolutely perfect for reading along to. I am also congratulating myself at being half-way through a cardigan knitted on 3mm needles. Yes. 3mm. Call me Vera Lynn, or whichever 1940s diva you like; I'm knitting at almost vintage tension. And this spring, I've decided, is going to be all about the vintage tension. Fine knits are the way forward. No, I will never get sick and throw up my 3mms in disgust. Never!

Last night I dreamed I was in Berlin again, and shamefully, I did not dream of museums, cityscapes, or even dear friends I had left behind; no, I dreamed of Fadeninsel, the blessed yarn shop. Tragic, no? All the more so because here, in the slightly less money-obsessed North, the local yarn shop is still thriving in dusty side streets, little havens run by little old ladies filled with acrylic, some pure wool and just a few luxe yarns, all of which you can touch and feel. Like this one, which I found on special offer:

the lambs of spring

Vintage Jaegar yarn, lambswool and angora, and hence springlike - which is why I photographed it in daffodils - despite its autumnal rich brown colour. I have fourteen 20g balls of the stuff, which unfortunately gives me no yardage, but hey! this is what bargain yarn is all about, right? Living dangerously. So I think a fine, tight knit is in order. Something very like Knitty's Thermal, close-fitting and slightly textured; I have another pattern for a similar knit in a Verena magazine, with a cabled stitch that eats up yarn, but which looks foxier. Maybe I will drag out a stitch directory and experiment. That would be fun.

And then, there is this, the very pick of eBay yarn:
berry-coloured DK

proper berry-coloured red-haired flattering DK yarn, incredibly soft, pure wool, pure cheap. I'm still looking for cardiganal inspiration for this one, and am thinking of - eeek! - using that damn white-elephant SnB knitter's notebook to actually design one. This, of course, involves Maths. I am crap at maths. No really, crap, but crap. Believe me. Watch out for baggy, sorry knits, sometime very very soon. But at least they will show my Creativity!

And then, for summer, there's this poor yarn, fabulous, fabulous raspberry-coloured Russian angora, which I've been neglecting for ages:

It's beautiful. I keep thinking it should be a shawl, but I have now decided, firmly, Look, I Don't Wear Shawls, What Am I , Miss Havisham? So it's going to be a fine lacy cardigan instead, quite possibly Knitty's Serrano - I'm loving Laura Chau's elegant, detailed designs right now, and even though I know some oneline knitters have had problems with this one, I'm more than equal to its sneaky intricacies, right? And that will be that.

In the meantime, though, although I am in a provincial, indeed rustic location, with little call for glittery mohair, I will damn well finish the Harlot's Progress as soon as I've stitched up Ivy. I will I WILL. I owe it to the Kidsilk Haze, so I do. Luxe yarns demand a little loyalty, I think.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

and it turned to spring without me noticing!

Hello, dear readers! If... if there are any readers left out there? (Imagine me squinting out through my computer screen, but too bedazzled by the unexpected spring sunshine to be able to see any of ye.) It's been a month, and a ferociously busy month at that: new job, new town, new temporary life. The first three weeks were spent in such a frantic frenzy of trying to locate photocopiers, remember names and forgetting to eat that the very thought of a knitting needle was laughable. But the other feature of my job is a long, long bus ride home and back nearly every weekend, and the best way to spend a bus ride is, of course, with an absorbing audiobook and a pair of knitting needles and... a little bit of stash yarn. Just a little.

titania yarn

This is the first eBay yarn I ever bought. I can't remember how much I paid for it, but I thought it was a bargain at the time; only when the box arrived did I realise just how much a whole kilo of fine mohair actually was. Clouds and clouds and clouds of silvery grey yarn, with French labels; I suspect, from the styling, it's vintage yarn from the 1970s. For reasons best known to an earlier, more knit-ignorant Glitz, I decided to double the fine, fancy yarn and knit my first jumper, Cowl and Howl from it; this resulted in a floppy, seethrough, chilly, huge garment, that I tried to wear, but eventually binned. The mighty failure barely made a dent in the stash. My flat is still coming down with the stuff; I tried to knit a cardigan with it a year later, but got the tension utterly wrong; abandoned that, and then finally thought, hmm, Ivy, there's a fabulously curvy cardigan that is just begging for a soft, drapy, sparkly yarn.

ivy cable

So here's the cast-on, fussocky tiny cables that took forever to get through, and made me wonder if this project would ever get off the ground...

but once you're through the cables, you're stocking-stitching away, just perfect for reading simultaneously. Here's the back, and I'm on to the second front now:


Sparkly, fine and drapy, if a teeny tiny bit itchy; just as I had hoped. Have you noticed the larger problem, though? ...the above photo is black and white, and it makes little difference to the image. I don't do monochrome, really; I'm a red-head. Kind of. Of sorts. Look, I haven't seen my original hair colour in about ten years, so it is really quite plausible that I actually HAVE gone red in the interim, right? So I'll knit it up, try it on, and see if I can really imagine a silvery grey top in my wardrobe; if not, I'll dye it dusky purple. Or what do ye think?

I have lots and LOTS of knitting stash and planning news, but in this entry, I'll confine myself to Cold Hard Facts. Stashes and plannings are the exotic spices and trendy cookboosk of the knitting world: it's all very well buying them in, but the proof is late at night when you get in shattered from work, and reach for the pasta and pesto again. Or something. In other words, it's all very well me planning, but give the hours in the new job, I'll believe it when I see it.