Sunday, March 1, 2015

A couple of challenges

I find as I get to the end of one year, sometimes I have the brain space to think about the year to come and sometimes I don't.  Sometimes I have absolutely no choice and have to think about it because there is something going on that has to be planned and organised.  This year is that third kind of year.

This year, in December, we will be hosting my family's Christmas lunch at our house.  It's been 12 years since I last hosted, when my oldest was 4 months old and I had a massive dose of tonsilitis.   This time round we will have 12, 10 and 8 year olds to "help out" with the proceedings.  Such a difference!  I also hope I don't have the tonsilitis, that would be good.

I was talking to Mum this past Christmas and mentioned I needed to get moving on sorting out the garden, she said that I had 12 months, I would be fine.  I commented that I should have started 12 months ago, how little did I know how prophetic my words were.

To give you a base idea, we live in a small 3 bedroom house with one open living space and a kitchen with three doors off it and not a lot of bench space and a small oven.  We are likely to be catering for between 23 and 28 people all up.   The more we can have preorganised and the more we can transfer to outside the better off we will be.  We have a large back yard that has been at the mercy of our three boys for the past 11 years.  It needs some work, no that's an understatement, it needs a lot of work!  Work we have planned numerous times, but have never gotten around to carrying out.

Our garden at the beginning of the year looked like this.

(Not sure if that video is working so I have made a still picture version)

By the end of the year each of the side garden beds should be weeded, dug up, fertilised, replanted and growing nicely.

We want the back corner to be paved, we debated upon having decking but our reality is that we don't have the time, energy or inclination to look after it properly so some sort of paving it will be.

It's a lovely protected corner that gets late afernoon sunlight and has been in our targets for at least 5 years now as a "parent space".  This year it will happen.

The first order of the year was to remove three tree stumps.  Two are Magnolia's that died a couple of years ago.  Being a soft wood tree they have rotted quite a lot so their removal was relatively easy, dig out around the base, hack through a few soft and squishy roots and out they come.  The third stump is taking some more work.

The tree is still live and it's quite a determined one.  It's a Lilly Pilly in tree form and the roots are very strong still.  J is working on it steadily and it will eventually succumb.

That all sounds pretty easy doesn't it?  Well, it was, but removal of the first Magnolia revealed a problem.  It had been planted on and in or around what must have been a broken bottle pile from when the house was built, either that or we've had some really bad owners here at one point. In a patch 1.5 metres long by 80 cm  wide by 30 cm deep we have recovered this much glass.

And I haven't finished sifting all the dirt from this hole yet.  We are hoping that this is an isolated spot, that once we start moving further along the garden bed there will be less glass.  I really hope so, because my gardening plans have had a real slow down!  There's no way I can leave all that glass in there, the kids dig in the gardens and I garden without gloves regularly.  So I sit and sift dirt while listening to podcasts and I slowly see the results of my efforts.

I have two other challenges for the year, these are both of the craft variety.

I have been working on a quilt for my bedroom and I am up to the quilting on it.  Neither my skills or my sewing machine are up to the quilting so I am doing it by hand.  There are 25 sets of 4 squares to sew around in white thread and then a bigger coloured square about an inch out from the the 4 squares to make a bigger square.  I have completed 4 out of 25 of these squares and still have  along way to go.  This is another task that I do while listening to podcasts.  With 25 squares and 52 weeks in the year, if I can get 1 set of squares with their outside border done a fortnight I should make it by the end of the year.  So far I am on target.

The last challenge for the year is sock knitting.  I have all of these lovely yarns and patterns and ideas and so this year my target is to knit 20 pairs.  I have completed 4 pairs thus far and have started the fifth.  To make my target for the year I need about 2 pairs a month so I am currently on track.

So there you go, a whole pile of things to keep me busy for the year!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Variegated yarn

Variegated yarn poses a set of challenges when you are using it.  Sometimes it plays nicely and other times it doesn't.  Everyone seems to have a slightly different attitude towards it as well.  Some people like pooling and others find it frustrating.  Some do everything they can to see pooling and others do everything they can to prevent it.
I sit in the second camp.  I find pooling frustrating and try to avoid it if I can.

I have been knitting a jumper for myself.  It's a top down raglan using a variegated yarn and while working on the top portion of the jumper, the yarn behaved beautifully.  No pooling, lovely variation through it all.  Once I put the sleeve stitches on hold and started working on just the body however, things changed.  

Pooling started to appear.  It was spiraling thickly one way and then took a sharp turn and went the other.  There were big blocks of single colours.  As I knit I tried to convince myself that this was ok, it's the nature of the beast. I persevered.  After a couple of inches work, I couldn't do it anymore so I pulled it back and alternated yarn from both ends of the ball to see if that would break it up.  The same thing happened, this time with alternating rows of light and dark as you can see in the photo above, but still big patches of single colours.  I reached the end of the straight portion of the body and started the hip increases for the A-line shape and all of a sudden, the patches of colour were spreading out.  The pooling was getting broken up!  My problem had been the number of stitches in each round and by changing it up by as little as 8 stitches, this had completely changed the fabric that was being knit.  So this afternoon, knowing it would be well worth the effort, I pulled it all the way back to the armholes again, rewinding the two strands of yarn as I went.  This time instead of having 11 stitches under each arm I cast on 15.  Such a small thing to do to make such an important difference.

I have been knitting on my jumper this evening, and it is such a different fabric now, so very much more pleasing than before.  After a very small section of thicker pooling at the underarm height, it is pooling below that in a set of very narrow spirals around the body, it is essentially striping.  The colours are spread evenly, there are no big blocks of colour and most importantly I'm not wondering whether I'm going to want to wear it once it is done.  This will definitely get worn! 

I will have to remember this next time I am playing with variegated yarn, the difference between a pleasing outcome and one that really isn't, can be the difference of just a few stitches.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

An update

Well, 5 days after my last post I finished my James jumper.  That's 6 days for a sleeve compared to 6.5 weeks for the first one.  I am loving it as much as the first one I made and it went into immediate rotation in the wardrobe.  The neckline was greatly improved by using a firm cast on compared to the first one.  Still have to go back to the green one and add a crochet chain around the neckline to tighten it up a bit.  It is quite boatlike at the moment due to the loose cast on I used.

The boys were next on the knitting list.
I had already been working on a pair of socks from a Bendigo purchase for the middle and they were finished up a couple of weeks before his gloves.

Middle kid wanted the yarn he dyed during the June school holidays knit up into short fingered gloves and youngest wanted his knit up into a hat with ear flaps.  I searched Rav for a tip down glove recipe and came up with this tutorial.  I wasn't sure how long the middle kid wanted his gloves so didn't want to run out of yarn so tip down it needed to be.  His gloves came together reasonable quickly once all the individual finger pieces were done.  He is very pleased with the result and they have frequently been worn to bed.  I have found him a couple of times with both his gloves and socks on in bed but no pj's because he is too hot!  No idea why, who can figure out kids!

The hat for the youngest was just my basic top down, with a 1x1 rib band and then I did some short row ear flaps.  I winged them and next time would do them slightly differently as they poke out a bit.  The youngest is however very pleased with them.

Both of the children were very pleased to have finished objects from yarn they had dyed themselves and I was pleased for them that I pulled my finger out and did it for them!  Must mean eldest is next up.

I had started working on a pair of socks for myself in early July.  They were very slow to get going.  The pattern just couldn't seem to stick in my head at all.  But I loved the colour combo of the yarn, a teal and purple stripe, so I just kept plugging through the notorious* first sock.  After finishing up all the stuff for the boys I decided to go all out and finish up these socks.  After eventually getting to the end of the first sock and being pleased with the fit, I launched into the second and for some reason the pattern all of a sudden made sense and Zooooooom the second sock flew off the needles and onto my feet just in time to be a Birthday present for myself :-)

With one pair of socks off the needles, I immediately started another pair this time a 3x1 rib essentially plain sock.  In eight days I had these babies done and on to their new home!

Another ongoing project was a second hitchhiker for myself.   This one has been knit out of Malabrigo sock in the Cote D'Azure colourway, a navy with flashes of white in it. This was a lovely simple knit and was carried around in the knitting bag attached to my handbag while it was in progress.  With the weather warming up it is unlikely to get much use in the coming months, but I am now well prepared for Autumn.

In long term WIP's, I have a blanket underway using yarn that has had a previous incarnation as a crocheted flower motif which was neeeeverrrrr going to be finished so I frogged what I had done and am now happily knitting mitred squares in a colourful array of brights.  Very cheerful.  It will get as big as it gets with the yarn that I have to hand.  Goodness knows how big that will be, but I have a few younger  nieces now, so if it isn't big enough for anything useful to a grown up it will probably be fine for a dolls bed or something.  This one will be a long term ongoing project as there is no immediate need for the finished object and there is always something more interesting to knit!

The next three projects are not getting any air time at all at the moment.
A Hemlock ring blanket from someone else's handspun:  I got past the centre piece and am onto the neverending rounds of feather and fan.  This would be a great one to pick up when I watch the tv but I keep forgetting it's there.
A reversible scarf from 10 ply Cormo which I am quite ambivalent about.  It's probably a bit densely knit and I would be more likely to wear it if it was more loosely knit but I am also of two minds about the yarn as well, so this pretty much only gets a look in when I run out of everything else I have on the go.
Lastly a skirt for one of my nieces which just needs some sort of waist treatment so it doesn't fall around her ankles!  This would probably only take 10-30 mins of my time and I really should just pull my finger out for it so she can wear it before it gets too short.

New WIP's because hey when you've got stuff to ignore you really should cast on more stuff!
A Featherweight cardigan for me in Black.  I lost my last black cardigan quite a while ago now and it is well past time to replace it.  I am knitting this in a lovely Wollmeise lace, so it will be lighter than the previous incarnation of black cardigan but hopefully will be very versatile.  Today I got to the separation for the sleeves so now I am working on just body stitches and all of a sudden with 176 sts less per row it is zooming along!  But yes the picture looks like a puddle of black.

A new pair of socks needed to be on the needles so I pulled out The Knitter's Book of Socks by Clara Parkes.  It's a great book with lots of theory and info at the beginning and a whole range of socks by different designers in the back.  I had a look through and the Darjeeling socks really appealed.  I had recently made it around to a yarn shop I had never been to before in Northcote called Woolarium.  It was such a lovely shop to visit, all light and bright and well lit with lots of interesting yarns on display.  I escaped from the store with two skeins of Shibui knits Sock in the Peacock colourway and this is what I decided to use to make the Darjeeling socks.  After a false start due to the sock being too loose, I tried again on less sts and zoomed along the foot until I got to the heel flap.  Now I'm not a huge fan of knitting toe up socks, I find it really hard to predict when to do gusset increases and heel shaping but I translated my gauge and stopped where I needed to and did all the heel stuff fine and dandy until I got to the heel flap, where I took leave of my common sense and could not for the life of me work out why the heel flap looked and felt wrong.  The rest of the foot was fine, the heel shaping was fine, it was just the heel flap.  After knitting a few rows and pulling them out at least 5 times I got on to Ravelry and looked for errata for the pattern.  There weren't any, and not only that, no one who had completed the pattern and written notes seemed to have any trouble at all with the heel apart from complaining about the twisted stitches.  So I pulled the book out again and took a closer look at the instructions and sure enough I was doing it wrong.  Totally my fault, the pattern is perfectly fine.  Definitely a case of user error.  Doh!  The sock actually fits perfectly, I just have to finish up the leg and move on to the second sock.

As a present for myself, from Birthday money, I bought myself the eBook of Mystic Shawls by Annna Dalvi.  There are some simply stunning designs in this book very light and delicate through to slightly more sturdy shawls.  My favourite is Mystic Earth but I am not currently in possession of the right weight and quantity of yarn to complete it so instead I have cast on Mystic Fire using the Wollmeise Sock wool in the colourway Sonne (Sun) which seems like such an appropriate colourway to use.  This will be very bright and cheerful next Winter.

I plan on heading back to the Woolarium shop sometime soon because they had some Spud and Chloe cotton/wool mix yarn on the wall and I haven't been able to get it off my mind.  I'm thinking my next jumper may need to be knit from it.  First I have to figure out what that jumper might be!

* see previous post about First sleeve syndrome.

Monday, September 22, 2014

First sleeve syndrome

There is a popular feeling amongst knitters that second sock syndrome and second sleeve syndrome (or sleeve island) is a problem for many.   I have never felt that was the case for me,  I finish the first item, immediately cast on for the second and off I go,  no problems.   This past week I have I realised why this is the case. 

I suffer from first sleeve and sock syndrome instead.  I get halfway down the first sleeve/sock and feel like it is neeeeeeevvvvveeeeeerrrrrrrrrr going to end.   I can't see any progress and feel like the sleeve/sock is taking forever to get anywhere.   I push myself,  I persevere and eventually after putting the item down many, many times and knitting on various other items,  I eventually get to the end of the first sleeve or sock I am working on. 

All of a sudden I have great enthusiasm to keep on going because as soon as the second sleeve or sock is done,  I am finished! 

This has happened with my second James jumper.   I finished the body on the 7th of August and it took me until yesterday to finish the first sleeve, struggling the whole way, that's 6.5 weeks for one sleeve (with lots of other easy, quick knitting happening instead).   This morning I got up, picked up the jumper,  put the stitches for the second sleeve on the needle and off I went, I have completed two of the twelve decreases and the end is in sight.   I am full steam ahead now! 

As long as second sleeve syndrome doesn't arrive I should have a completed jumper in a few days ☺

Monday, June 30, 2014

Finishitis - Startitis

I have finished my most recent big project: The jumper is James by Amy Miller in Tosh Merino Light in the Grey Garden colourway that I bought at Bendigo last year.  I have knit it on 4 mm needles and love the fabric.  It used just less than 3 skeins which was fantastic and it relaxed a little once I washed/blocked it.  I am going to have to do a row of stabilising stitching around the neckline as my one mistake was my original cast on, which should have been a cable cast on or some other non-stretchy cast on, but I used my usual backwards loop cast on which stretches beautifully.   Not something you particularly want on a neckline!  I have worn it a few times already and it is lovely and warm for a 4 ply.  I have more Tosh Merino Light in another colourway (black currant) and it is VERY tempting to make this again.  Pattern is very straightforward and easy to follow and uses clever short row shaping to make the neckline.  Definitely going to get a lot of wear out of this one!

Getting photos of my garments is always a chore, I am super critical of myself in photos and find it really hard to get shots I like.  This time round after a false start by me, I employed the services of my 6 and 8 year sons.  It only took us 6 shots this time.

I tried first and had trouble aiming the camera:

Then the 6 year old tried, he had trouble with the focussing:

 The 6 year old tried again and got better focus but found it hard to hold the camera steady:

 Then the 6 year old with instructions to just do the jumper, he had great composition but the camera was just too heavy for him to manage.

 So the 8 year old was called in and he did a great job with the focussing and composition:

And after being reminded I just wanted the jumper in the shot, he took the photo shown here:

Not bad for a bunch of amateurs!

Now of course I want to finish the little things that are hanging around, 2 pairs of socks (the orange ones and the green/black ones) and a scarf and cast on the next round of things.  I have started and finished 2 hats in the past week the Cloche enough for Jazz and the Library Cloche, they are both drying now and will hopefully go to their new home tomorrow.  A friend is going through chemo and her hair has begun to fall out so these will be a welcome addition to her wardrobe for the current and continuing cold weather.

So the needles will be emptying out very soon and I'm looking around for the next option.  With the annual trek to Bendigo for the Australian Wool and Sheep show fast approaching maybe it will be small things until I've seen what the new yarn options might be!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The mysteries of children

One of the mysteries of children that has become more obvious in the past couple of months is their attitude to the various piles of washing in the house.

We don't have a clothes drier, so if things needs drying away from the weather we have 3 clothes horses.  Dry clothes from the washing line land in a chair in the lounge room or the not quite dry ones land onto one of the clothes horses and then onto the chair.  Once on the chair they get folded and the children are encouraged to put theirs away, generally with a certain amount of whinging on their behalf.

So, when looking for clothes, the children start in their cupboards, they then complain about not being able to find clothes and are directed to the chair and when really pushed, they check out the clothes horses for whatever it is they are looking for.  But, and this is a big but, if not directed to look on the chair, the washing on it does not exist.  It's always a surprise to them that there might be clothes of theirs on it.

Now, a couple of months ago I folded their stuff and placed it on the couch in separate, sorted piles so it was in their way when they got home and they weren't allowed to have free time (screen time, craft time, etc) until their clothes were away.  This seemed to work nicely.  Now, depending on the day, sometimes I put the clothes on the couch, sometimes on the chair.

This afternoon, the children walked through the front door, into the lounge, spotted the clothes on the couch and groaned about the washing and put it all away...WITHOUT ME ASKING!

There's been piles of clothes on the chair for days and they have done nothing about them!

Mystery Number 1:  What makes the couch so special?  Why is it that clothes on couch = put away, but clothes on chair = ignore?

Mystery Number 2:  If the clothes are sorted into piles on the chair and they have in fact gone through the piles looking for other items, why is it they still don't exist and can stay on the chair for days at a time?

Mystery Number 3:  How can two pieces of furniture, in the same room, less than 3 metres apart have such different responses?

Ah the joys of children!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

When last I was here...

I was working on a Harvest Moon which is now completed and with it's new owner who is very pleased with the new addition to her wardrobe, so that is fantastic!

I was halfway through another Tempest for me, today it is sitting out in the sun drying out the last little bit.  

All it needs now is buttons and it will go into rotation in the wardrobe.  I'm thinking I might give the Tempest pattern a rest for a little while and try my hand at something else.  If nothing else I know that I can come back to it and it suits me and my shape so that is great.

The limbo socks were indeed ripped and have been restarted on a smaller size and being toe up are now half way up the foot and I need to pull out the directions and work out what is next.  They are easier this time round, having been here before and they fit so much better this time as well.

I started a new pair of simple socks for J.  He's had a Zauberball floating around for a while, so now these are on the needles.  They are top down, made up in my head, and I have just reached the heel flap so they are going well.

In between times I needed something quick and easy so I pulled out a pattern for my nieces.  Using Bendigo Cotton I whipped up a Carnaby in next to no time.  It just needs some wide elastic in the waist band and it can go live with Miss A.  She tried it on for me on Tuesday night and it looks very cute indeed.  I might need to make a matching one for her sister Miss M first though or there may be some upset feelings.  We'll see how we go.

I started and finished a shawl for a lovely friend who is going through a hard time just now.  The shawl came out beautifully and I was able to keep the cats away from it as it dried so there are no catches in it anywhere, phew!  Couldn't keep the two legged helper away though!

And as is always the way when you approach the  finish of something, the cast on bug arrives and you start to think about what might be next...

I pulled out the Squared cardigan that I put aside at the beginning of the year with the intention of continuing the re-knit.  The original almost completed cardigan was way too big, it was my own fault.  I had frogged all of the body pieces and rewound them into balls and they had just been sitting around waiting for me to show an interest again.  So I cast on the back and worked the first bottom band section and then I set it aside, again.  There was something bugging me about the whole thing and I couldn't put my finger on it.

Fast forward to last night and I was looking through lots of lovely patterns and thinking about the yarn in which to make the items and I had a light bulb moment.  It occurred to me that part of my problem with the Squared cardigan in this yarn was that I didn't like the fabric that it was making.  It was too dense.   So it is going to be completely frogged and I will play with the gauge until I get the feel of fabric I am after and I will do the calculations and start again.  

Lucky for me, around that time, a friend posted on Ravelry that a designer was having a sale, so I went through the designer's patterns and noticed there was a jumper I was wanting to knit.  So I now have the James pattern and I'm thinking of teaming it with this gorgeous MadelineTosh Tosh Merino Light.

Time to get the ball winder and swift out methinks!