Thursday, March 31, 2011

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, Day four (2KCBWDAY4)

Today's prompt:

Whatever happened to your __________?

Write about the fate of a past knitting project. Whether it be something that you crocheted or knitted for yourself or to give to another person. An item that lives with you or something which you sent off to charity.

I was mulling this one over last night on my way to knit night at I Knit London; and there, I met a couple of lovely women from Chicago who had met through knitting and had included IKL's knitting group on their itinerary of London. Totally aside from it being really interesting to meet more people from Chicago, a couple of the phrases one of them used struck me - charity knitting versus selfish knitting.

That sort of knocked me back. I knew exactly what she meant on one level; and then not on another. On a given day, in a given year, I suppose one of my on-the-go projects might be for me; but generally the other two (I try not to keep more than three things going) will be for someone else. Sometimes that someone else isn't terribly definite (I stash finished socks until they find the perfect recipient, or I just cave in and wear them myself; I do small amounts of test knitting which sit around until someone has a child who's the right size, that sort of thing...) but mostly, I do know the people I give knitting to. I do a small amount of charity knitting; but a very small amount. I wouldn't necessarily categorise the rest of my knitting as selfish though.

Before that - and I sort of had to get that off my chest without, actually knowing where I was going with that one - my subject for Where are they now? was a couple of baby/toddler cardigans I made quite some time ago.

The first one was made in the late spring of 1997, and I bought the yarn in a Phildar in Cahors, and cast on in the garden of the very first gîte (or, indeed, holiday) my ex-husband and I could afford after spending all our money in the previous few years making our house liveable-in. [On the way home, the car broke down irreparably around Orléans; and yet it still sticks in my mind as a really excellent holiday.] It had a garden full of butterflies, and, in between aiming the camera and the binoculars at them, I knitted this cardigan full of Weather. It had lightning clouds, and possibly ducks, and all sorts of little pictorial Fair Isle on it; and it was made for the prospective first child of college friends. All three of their children wore it; and then it was passed on to a sibling's children, and both of those children wore it. Somewhere, I have a picture of the Fifth Recipient wearing the cardi (and sorry, Anne, I can't find it). This was about 10 years later. The cuffs had almost entirely gone, and the general surface was pretty scrubbed, but it was a lovely picture of a small child, with food all over its face, wearing what was recognisably a completely knackered-through-wear Weather cardi.

The second was a cardi made in about 2001, in gold, orange and red DK cotton (three plies, one of each colour). Again, I made it for Big Sister, Little Sister wore it, and then it was passed along the road to the neighbour; which I realised when said neighbour came into the library one Saturday morning with her twins, and the little girl was wearing it, complete with the Fimo buttons I'd made for it, intact... We were ceremonially introduced (I was Suzanne's-Friend-Liz-Who-Knitted-The-Cardigan). I mentioned at that point that I had another of those buttons at home (they were made for a City and Guilds project). About a year later, the mother contacted me, to say it was a bit cheeky, but did I still have the button, as the cardigan was good as new but they'd lost a button and they wanted to pass it on to another family...

Seems to me that it's a very good reason to knit. You give knitted gifts to people, and sometimes they just don't connect, and are never worn. Sometimes they do connect, and the same person wears them and wears them until they wear out (my Dad's getting to that stage with the first Felted Tweed scarf I made him, I think; socks are good for that, too). And sometimes they do connect, and they're passed on, and whole families wear them, and friends of whole families.

It's heartwarming to know where things are occasionally; but it's not essential to making them in the first place...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, Day three (2KCBWDAY3)

Today's challenge:

How do you keep your yarn wrangling organised? It seems like an easy to answer question at first, but in fact organisation exists on many levels. Maybe you are truly not organised at all, in which case I am personally daring you to try and photograph your stash in whatever locations you can find the individual skeins. However, if you are organised, blog about an aspect of that organisation process, whether that be a particularly neat and tidy knitting bag, a decorative display of your crochet hooks, your organised stash or your project and stash pages on Ravelry.

I love the proviso that "organisation exists on many levels". My entire life seems to consist of small pockets of organisation surrounded by seas of relative chaos. But some of those small pockets of organisation are knitting-related...

This is my pretty-needle stash. It lives on the counter between the kitchen and the dining room, behind the digital radio and the bowl that, at the weekend, holds vegetables, but by this stage of the week is somewhat bare. (One lemon, one hunk of ginger and a head of garlic at the moment!) And, these days, behind my brand-new James Naughtie egg-cup. This is where pretty plastic needles (I particularly love the Durex brand ones from the 50s) and other favourites live...

Otherwise, when organising, throwing some purple at the problem always helps.

The folder on the left holds my fixed circular needles - it holds an amazing number. It's made of thick, rip-stop nylon, and has little tabs you can write the needle size on. It's quite brilliant, made by a company called Happy Bags which seems entirely untraceable on the Internet, and it was a present from a friend in the US, probably about a decade ago. I've never seen anything quite as useful for needle storage before or since.

The box on the right holds small/short DPNs and stitch holders. Both of these live in the top couple of drawers of a yarn chest in the dining room.

Otherwise, my main organisational tools are Ravelry (queue, projects, etc.) and a couple of spreadsheets on my PC. I start one each year for finished objects (dates, yardage, weight knitted up), and have a running one for the Stash Inventory; the main Stash is in 14 plastic crates in the loft so a spreadsheet is a bit vital to avoid running up and down there all the time...

Having said that, I also have baskets, boxes, bags, mailing envelopes, etc. etc. of yarn kicking around the place too... And thankfully, a near-photographic memory of what's where... Having said that, the Stash can still surprise me.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, Day two (2KCBWDAY2)

Today's theme:

Look back over your last year of projects and compare where you are in terms of skill and knowledge of your craft to this time last year. Have you learned any new skills or forms of knitting/crochet (can you crochet cable stitches now where you didn’t even know such things existed last year? Have you recently put a foot in the tiled world of entrelac? Had you even picked up a pair of needles or crochet hook this time last year?

Well; I think I learned a lot over the last year; but you wouldn't necessarily know it from my projects. I think that's because I have such a long list of projects that new techniques find it difficult to sneak in under the wire all that quickly - my project list is like trying to stop a supertanker in its tracks...


I took a series of excellent classes at Knit Camp last year. Many things have been said about this event - and most of the stories about the organisation are true, particularly the more extreme ones - but the standard of tuition was impeccable. I want to finish my little Roositud sampler, do more double knitting (and we have a chap at knitting group who does double knitting all the time so I know where I can go for help) and after two years promising myself I'll steek, I still haven't done it, but this year...

One thing I have tried to put into practice this year is knitting things which fit. Joan McGowan Michael's class was a bit of an eye-opener, and proof that yes, I am actually an extremely awkward shape (and regardless of what I weigh, realistically always will be)! So I've tried to make things which don't swamp me. That means that I'm currently rather self-conscious about anything I've knitted recently because it feels a bit more fitted than I'm used to, but that certainly works better for work-wear. (I have no decent pics of either of these projects though, as taking photos with the self-timer really doesn't work; maybe when my parents visit in a couple of weeks I'll be able to get Dad to take some).

Lanthir Lamath

Another wonderful learning experience this year was knitting the Lanthir Lamath hooded scarf (Ravelry link; commercial pattern still in preparation) along with Ann Kingstone, a wonderful designer I met at KnitCamp. One of the (many) interesting things about Ann is that she's a true left-handed knitter (as opposed to me, a left-hander who knits); she does everything the leftie way round. And fascinatingly, she has a right-handed twin who's able to do demo videos the rightie way round. But that does lead to a difference in terminology in her patterns - Ann will talk about the active or passive needle rather than the left or right one - and that in turn really trips an "aha!" switch in leading to a different way of thinking about making a fabric. It's little things like that...

There were also several lovely technical twists in this pattern - a centred double increase which you have to watch the video several times to master, and then shortly after becomes almost second nature, and which matches the centred double decrease which I love; a different way of making short rows neat; some wonderful twisted cabling. And all in a lovely, friendly, supportive knitalong group.


Small technical things - I think I've nailed the M1R/M1L/M1K/M1P increases thing so I don't get holes. This has been a problem for ages, so I'm glad to have sorted that out...

And although I say it in the linked post - managing to cast on 42 stitches in a long-tail cast-on and not spend the whole 3 hours of Nancy Bush's class doing so made me tearful with joy (thankfully not in the actual class; afterwards while contemplating the sheer beauty of my garish little sachet...)

Often I learn new techniques by teaching others, but I haven't done any formal teaching this year; need to push myself a bit further without that prompt, maybe. The technical thing I do really want to learn next is brioche - Nancy Marchant's brilliant book shouldn't be allowed to languish on the shelves any longer.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, Day one (2KCBWDAY1)

So, I heard about the second annual Knitting and Crochet Blog Week over at Wibbo's blog at the beginning of the month, and it seemed like a good idea to get myself kick-started again - if there's anyone still reading this, it's obvious that my blogging mojo vanished over the winter and I didn't want to put up another book review post (even though there's one just about ready)! But British Summer Time has started so I'm hoping I'll feel less like hibernating...

Today's topic:

Part of any fibre enthusiast’s hobby is an appreciation of yarn. Choose two yarns that you have either used, are in your stash or which you yearn after and capture what it is you love or loathe about them.

I should probably state now that I am not, and nor have I ever been, a yarn snob. I have a lovely test-knit on the go in James Brett Marble, a soft acrylic; and I'm just as likely to rhapsodise over something by King Cole as by Noro (in fact more so - King Cole don't have a nasty habit of knotting their yarns in the middle and losing the colour progression! But I digress).

However, sometimes you do knit with a posh yarn which just stops you in your tracks. Such is Casbah, by Hand Maiden.

Vital statistics: sock weight; 81% merino, 9% cashmere, 10% nylon. 325m/115g. Superwash.

It's not the longest yardage you'll ever see in a sock yarn, but the cashmere gives it a wonderful smoosh, and every stitch is enjoyable to knit. It comes with a fairly hefty price tag, but it's totally worth it. This is destined to make a Haruni shawl, when I can round up the nearly-a-whole-skein Gerard from I Knit London very kindly passed along to me after he ran out very near the end of his shawl, and get the two in the same place long enough to start knitting...

In terms of the "loathed" yarn, the only one I seriously hate is Rowan's KidSilk Haze. However, Wibbo's blog post today has summed up our mutual loathing of the stuff beautifully. (I'd also add to the litany of faults that it's the only yarn I've ever had problems with in terms of it snapping while I knit it - and I'm a loose knitter.)

So in its place, a yarn I love, but have found seriously difficult to use. Step forward, Cherry Tree Hill's Merino Lace in "Fall Foliage".

Vital statistics: 2-ply laceweight. 100% merino. 2195m/227g. Hand wash only.

I just love this combination of colours, and having 2km of yarn in a single skein is very cool. But as serious lace addicts will realise, a highly variegated yarn has its own problems when it comes to lace patterning - you can have colour or pattern, but if you try combining both...

Suffice it to say that a mystery Pi shawl knit-along was frogged about two-thirds of the way through when I realised that nobody could see the lovely patterns in the shawl, and a second attempt at a simpler lace pattern was also abandoned...

Eventually I took a leaf out of Jackie's book (sadly blogless, but jackier on Ravelry) and combined the yarn with something more subdued (an aubergine-coloured Artesano alpaca 4-ply), and it seems to be working.

This is destined to become a Botanical cardi. I'm hoping to get cracking on it again this week, as a couple of gift knits are nearing completion. I have the body made and one sleeve started, and it's not a complicated pattern...

I have History with CTH Merino lace - the first skein I bought was also too variegated for the pattern I wanted to use it with, too... In the end, I ended up knitting one project with it, and then overdyeing it because it had overwhelmed the subtle patterning... Here it is in its original state, with the overdyed project underneath it...

You'd think I'd learn, really! Well, I have, mostly - I'm still attracted to the really heavily variegated yarns, but then I step back and realise that unless I'm making something pretty plain, less is more...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

2011 books, #16-20

Death in Oslo, by Anne Holt [audiobook]. Read by Christopher Oxford. Bath: Oakhill, [n.d.].

The (female) US president is kidnapped on a visit to Norway; the Oslo police and the secret service reluctantly co-operate in trying to recover her. However, unknown to them, the motive for her abduction isn't political. Hanne Willemson, the police detective from 1222, read earlier in the year, also features in this one, and while her presence is as the result of a very unlikely coincidence, she's still a fascinating character.

Home, by Marilynne Robinson. London: Virago, 2009.

This is, as one of the cover reviews says, the saddest book I've ever loved. Jack and Glory end up at home in Gilead, both of them outcasts from their own lives in diffferent ways, and look after their elderly father. Glory has been rejected by her fiançee, Jack has been wandering for many years and has always been the black sheep. Nothing very much happens on the surface of this book, but the old man's dementia and religious conviction lead to a gradual stripping down of the layers, and revelations of what has happened to bring the characters home again. There are glimmers of resolution or redemption, but ultimately this is a heartbreaking book. Another Kniterati book I'd never have read otherwise. I'm glad I read it, and also that I had a good supply of tissues for the end.

The forgotten, by Faye Kellerman [audiobook]. Read by Jeff Harding. Oxford: Isis, 2002.

I realised a couple of tapes into this that I had actually borrowed this audiobook before - but it was a long time ago, and before I started reading this series in chronological order; and Jeff Harding could read the stock exchange prices to me and I'd listen. Another Decker book - the synagogue the Deckers have helped found is vandalised by a teenager called Ernesto Golding, a schoolmate of his Decker's son Jake. Golding confesses, much to the shock of his ultra-liberal parents, and is put into therapy as part of his reparation. However, this is only the beginning of his problems, and Decker gradually uncovers a web of deceit and intrigue, including some unpalatable facts about his younger son's life.

All the pretty girls, by J. T. Ellison. Richmond, Surrey: MIRA Books, 2010. Kindle edition.

For a change, I'm just going to steal the Amazon summary here, because it's better than I'd manage for this book.
When a local girl falls prey to a sadistic serial killer, Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson and her lover, FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin, find themselves in a joint investigation pursuing a vicious murderer. The Southern Strangler is slaughtering his way through the Southeast, leaving a gruesome memento at each crime scene - the prior victim's severed hand. Ambitious TV reporter Whitney Connolly is certain the Southern Strangler is her ticket out of Nashville; she's got a scoop that could break the case. She has no idea how close to this story she really is - or what it will cost her. As the killer spirals out of control, everyone involved must face a horrible truth - that the purest evil is born of private lies.
This is a debut novel, but it certainly doesn't feel like one - extremely gripping.

The glassblower of Murano, by Marina Fiorato. London: Beautiful Books, 2008. Kindle edition.

This is a wonderful book, and the fact it's set in Venice is absolutely vital to the plot and atmosphere. Leonora Manin's husband has left her, and she leaves London for her father's city of Venice, to continue to make a living as a glass artist. She is engaged by a company in Murano on the grounds of her own skill and her ancestral name; her ancestor Corradino was a famous glassblower in the 17th century. Gradually her own growing curiosity about the mystery of her ancestor, and the possibility of a new romance, lead her to try and discover her past. Meanwhile, we begin to learn the story of Corradino through his own eyes. This is beautifully written and there are some very puzzling parts of the 17th century story which are gradually resolved as the novel comes full circle.