Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Knitting Tools I LOVE #2

I was at John Bead (huge wholesale bead supplier) the other day and while wandering around the clearance bins, I found something I have been looking for for a long time - a Magnetic Board.

It is about the size of a piece of letter sized paper and comes with both a little 6 inch mag ruler and a black piece of magnet that is about the same length and 1/2 inch wide. They both hold 1 page well - haven't tried it with a book yet but its size would slip right into a knitting book without distorting the chart or hurting the book (like that extremely expensive Scottish Collection that you are looking at on eBay - you know the one - starting price is 250.00 with a 350.00 buy it now - don't do it - I only paid 200.00 for mine!)

I tried it out right away and am fantastically delighted at how much easier it is to read a chart when you can stick a magnetic line under the one you are working on. It makes knitting in 2 colours so much faster and easier to follow.


And it cost 2.00!

I think my next step will be to get a larger one and try it out on some of the larger charts from Alice Starmore's Fair Isles - like Henry VIII that I am signed up to do for Yarn Harlot's Knitting Olympics. Why oh why did I sign up for that one - I am not even sure if I have all the colours of yarn that I need. Jagger Yarns HEATHER is what I plan to use so much swatching is required in the very near future.

Results to follow.

Au revoir

Friday, January 27, 2006

Knitting Tools I LOVE #1

I hate double pointed needles. Now please don't take it personally, I just find that they are awkward and have too many points. My preferred sock needle is a 12 inch Addi Turbo - usually a 2.0mm as I am a bit loose (as a knitter that is).

My usual sock is 64 stitches to start and 8 or 9 st to the inch. Sometimes I start with 68 or 72 if I think I am going to make a longer sock or am using a 2 colour fair isle pattern that I know will be a little less flexible. The first row or 3 can be a little tight but after that there is no issue with the needle being too long.

The only issue I had when I first started with them was how to hold them. I learned to knit with the pencil grip - right hand under the needle. This does not work at all with the short ends of the 12 inch Addi so I now hold them with both hands over the needles. I knit about 1 and 1/2 socks before this felt comfortable but it was well worth the short term pain.

If for no other reason, the 12 inch circs make knitting 2 colour fair isle patterns so much easier - so much so that I likely wouldn't have tried designing in 2 colours were it not for the little circ.

Other reasons:

I can knit faster - stocking stitch just whips by with no needle changes
No chance of losing one of your dpns (anyone heard Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's story about her lost needle? HILARIOUS!)
No ladders between stitches at the "corners" - since there are no needle changes!
No pointy sticks to poke through your knitting bag (mine is usually a ziplock bag - not the height of elegance but easily replaced)
Makes for a nice neat compact package to pop in your bag on the way out the door.

Try it - you might like it too!

Cheers to all

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Heart pounding yarn!

Met my Fleece Artist/Hand Maiden rep (the wonderful Julia) today to place my Spring order (actually my 2nd Spring order). This stuff is the most heart pounding yarn I have ever seen. More of the newish Sea Silk which I have now ordered 3 times and each lot just keeps getting better - sheen, drape and total gorgeosity are only part of this eye candy.

New Wool and Silk - which is now named Silk Maiden. I have a sample in Dragonfly ( fuchsia, green, blue , pink - wow) and want to eat it it is so lovely. It is going to make some gorgeous scarves and with the wool in it will be light and have some spring to it.

I ordered way too much - as I always do - but most of it will not come until April so I will have it for the Downtown Knit Collective's Frolic (April 22nd at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre again).

Spent some time working out samples of a couple of sock designs. One is a fair isle that I have swatched in 2 different yarns of different sizes and am now doing in fingering weight. This one I like best and have settled on the number of stitches for the pattern so all that is left to do is finish the sample. The charts are already done since I was having trouble seeing my pencilled versions and did them up in excel - much easier to read now and much less getting lost!

The other one still needs some refinement. It is entrelac and I have started it 3 times now, reached the heel twice, knitted half of the foot once and ripped back to the heel and am still not happy with the transition from the basketweave of the entrelac to the plain foot (it is a clog sock so a plain foot seems the best for comfort). Not quite back to the drawing board but back to the heel again. The yarn is standing up rather well considering the punishment it has been getting (Meilenweit Tweed).

Sometimes the designs flow and sometimes they don't!

The weekend will be dedicated to finishing up my last project for the OHS Spinning course. A little carding and a lot of spinning

And it is my son's 23rd Birthday on Sunday. Happy Birthday Christopher!

Have a great weekend

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Mixing it up

I love variegated and hand dyed sock yarn. Sometimes I am not quite as happy with what it looks like once it is knit up. Sometimes the skein is prettier than the finished product. I love to experiment by finding stitches and techniques that change the way the colours emerge.

One of my favourites is to slip every third stitch - with the yarn in front - knit 2 rows plain and then more the slipped stitch over by 1 each time. The slip stitch brings the colour up from the previous row and the yarn in front changes the "normal" flow of colour.

Another favourite is a "quilted" stitch. Slippping 5 stitches with the yarn in front which leaves a strand of yarn lying across the front of the fabric. 3 rows later, you pick the strand up and knit it with the stitch in the current row causing another chang ein the "normal" flow of the yarn's colour. You can offset the threads by 1 or 2 or 3 or have them all stacked on top. Have fun and experiment and see how it turns out.

Modular is fun too - in squares (all the same size or different sizes) or lines and I am working up one in entrelac that I am loving - spurred on by Lady Eleanor's Stole from Scarf Style and the Noro Entrelac sweater still on the needles.

Its all fun and games and makes for interesting socks too!

Both pics are self striping yarn - the squares are Fortissima Mexiko and the stripes are Scheepjes Invicta.

The techniques work for hand dyed yarns too:

Not that there is anything wrong with a good basic pair of socks knit in a pretty self patterning yarn. Great to knit when watching TV or on the bus or at the doctor's office.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

It may take a while!

Tonight is our monthly Downtown (Toronto) Knit Collective meeting - about alpacas. My dear friend Ilze who is the closest thing I have to a sister, has been coming with me for 1 1/2 years even though she is not a knitter. She enjoys the meetings and is otherwise very crafty and comes for the outing and the company.

We have known each other since we were 4 and lived on the same street. Ilze has been trying to teach me Latvian most of that time and I have been trying to teach her to knit. We bought her some blue yarn when we were about 12 and several starts ended up in frustration and ripping out the yarn. Now Ilze is a saver and she still has that darn blue yarn!

About 2 years ago, Ilze wanted to learn to knit socks to go with her Latvian dance costume so we got together and I diagrammed it all out. We did the math and in an incredibly small amount of time, Ilze had produced a pair of creamy white knee socks (KNEE socks - I haven't even ever knit knee socks!) in the finest gauge you can do with fingering weight wool and 2.0mm needles (about 10st to the inch). Quite a feat for a non-knitter.

That was her last knitting project until about a week or so ago when we talked on the phone and she told me she had STARTED KNITTING! - some wash cloths ! and WAS ENJOYING IT!!!!.

I guess the moral of the story is never give up or persistence is its own reward or if you beat your friend with knitting needles long enough, eventually she will start knitting.

We are talking about decades here - not just years.

I am so proud of Ilze! and so happy that she likes knitting now.

And I still don't speak Latvian.

PS. Ilze, a non-weaver, decided that she wanted to weave the 5 yards of cloth to make the skirt for her Latvian dance costume, so with the help of one of her weaving friends, got going on it and made the most gorgeous, evenly woven, fine wool and cotton cloth I have seen. It is amazing and Ilze is a genius!

Monday, January 16, 2006

More done!

My house is bigger!

Well, not really but it sure feels bigger. My niece and nephew just bought their 1st house and it is fabulous but needs furniture. My house is crammed to the rafters with furniture and 2 pianos (why the heck does she have 2 pianos when she doesn't even play the piano - more about that later) . Lindsay and Brett took 1 piano (oak, from the 30s and a Canadian maker named "Ennis") and the dining room wuite (oak again - table (5 feet long with 2 18 inch extensions) and 7 chairs) and now I have room room room!

So off to Home Depot to choose paint colours for my long empty wall that right now is yellow - and definitely needs to change. I am going for a cool blue with a cool white trim this time - my house is so dark that I want to lighten it up. I always have trouble choosing paint colours - not sure why since it is such an easy thing to change - $35.00 and a roller and it can change completely.

The paint chips are taped to the wall now and I think I have made my choice. Will paint next weekend and then start moving things around. Fun!

Projects on the weekend:

Finished a scarf in Hand Maiden Sea Silk (Silk and Seacell or Kelp) in a prettily geometric lace from Jackie Erickson Schweitzer

And I finished the body of my Noro Entrelac sweater in Kureyon 156. Now on to the sleeves (about 6 inches done so far)

A good knitting weekend

Have a great week all

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Many, many blogs

Gasp! I took the time to count the number of knitting and spinning blogs in my favourites list - gasp - there are 167! All of them are fairly current as I delete any that haven't posted in a month. Most are just quick - yes, I've seen this post - next - but some are lengthy and worth reading - Yarn Harlot of course, Wendy Knits, Fibre Raven Soiree (off and on) and are entertaining and full of information and enthusiasm for knitting.

What a great phenomenon this blogging is - exchange of ideas and projects - like getting together with 167 of your closest knitting friends and having the greatest knitting, stitching and kvetching session on earth!

The weekend is for carding some more of my Romney Rambouillet lamb for my last spinning project for Level 1. We have to make a small item - 150 to 200g - from raw fleece to finished product. My fibre came from a shepherd in one of the barns at Maryland Sheep and Wool last May. I did a little, very unscientific washing experiment by taking 4 parts and washing them in 4 different detergents/soaps. I tried Mane and Tail, Purex liquid, Gain liquid and my usual Tide powder.

I washed the fleece in parts, first a cold water soak, then 2 detergent washes in hottest water (soaked for 30 minutes each) and then 2 hot water rinses (removing the fibre before doing anything to prevent agitation). The Tide is whitest (optical brighteners?), the Gain smelliest (highly perfumed - bleck) and I will card the other 2 this weekend and compare.

I hope to do some knitting on my Hanne Falkenberg Mermaid too and finish at least one pair of socks.

Here's Mermaid:

Isn't she a pretty lady!

Have a wonderful weekend

Thursday, January 12, 2006

More yarn?

Wow - January 12th and it was 10C here today - warm enough for me to head off in the car without a coat - what a treat.

Speaking of heading out - I went to one of my suppliers today to pick up some new yarns and to order some cotton sock yarns. I brought home a bunch of new Meilenweit Tweed - fantastic colours - looks like the Trekking that so many are blogging about.- I think the purple is calling to me to be made into a sample that will become a new pair of socks for me me me.
6 bags of goodies some of which will go up on eBay (musthaveyarn - that is my motto and also my eBay name) - like several colour of Dale Tiur and some Tivoli Celtic Aran - a wonderful Irish wool that shows texture beautifully.

Just got a low battery warning so will post more later

A demain

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Homework is DONE!

Yeah! Finished my spinning homework and managed to mail it on time.  Yeah!

This one was colour blending and spindle spinning.  I can do the blending and am starting to be able to spindle spin – only dropped it a few times spinning the singles and not once while plying.  

I am in Level 1 of the Master Spinning programme given by the Ontario Handspinners group – took the first part last summer in Belleville (Ontario) and hope I can continue for the next 5 years.  I have learned so much – started out as a rather beginning spinner and am still a beginner but am managing better now, after lots of practice.  

I will always be a knitter but love the idea of being able to create my own yarn from single breed wool (like yummy Cormo and shiny Wensleydale and pretty Romney and luscious Merino and so on and so on…).  

Quite a collection of fleeces in my stash at this point, including all of the above plus an interesting Merino/Teeswater cross (very fine with very long) in a beautiful black that I bought from the breeder at the Estes Park Wool Market last June.  I haven’t tried it out yet but am planning to as soon as all of my homework is done (1 more to go – a small project from raw fleece to finished item).

No knitting today but knitting tomorrow

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Starting and finishing

I was on a mission to finish a few of the multitude of UFOs in my cupboard over the Christmas/New Years holidays and actually managed a few (2 pairs of socks, a Kiri shawl in black Kid Seta), made a bit of progress on a couple (another pair of socks, a Hand Maiden Sea Silk scarf in a Jackie Erickson Schweitzer pattern) but gave into the temptation to start Hanne Falkenberg's Mermaid (colour 3 with some additions). The body is half finished at this point but I had to stop to work on my spinning homework.

So am I any further ahead? Not really. I do have some more socks (most of mine are missing in action - put away last spring in some hiding place that I have not yet discovered) so my poor bare feet will now have something to keep warm, but I also have as much unfinished (actually more now since Mermaid is the full deal) as I had before.

So much for mssions and resolutions.

On a more positive note, I have finally tried out toe up socks. I haven't really liked the start of most I have seen - the toe is too wide and straight or it is way to fiddly for my taste so I checked a few patterns a developed a variation or 2 to suit me better. The toe starts with a two needle wrap of 6 loops and moves on from there in a star/round toe with lifted increases and more of a taper. The heel is a modified short row heel that is a little longer due to double wraps and the end finishes up with a nice loose bind off that I have seen on a couple of shawls. Thus Toe Me Up is born!

I have a few sock knitting hints to share and once I figure out the formatting etc will add some pics.

A bientot mes amis!