Wednesday, 31 October 2007

It's nearly NOvember

I have (rashly?) agreed to take part in NOvember.

This means that I will cast on NO new projects in November until I have reduced my work in progress to more manageable levels.

This is much needed, actually. If you look at that list on the right - well, I am ashamed of how long some of those things have been on the needles. My particular downfall seems to be the 'quick project' that 'won't take long at all' and ends up taking absolutely ages. I cannot even remember when I cast on for the Ruffles scarf, let alone Milli.

So I am going to take some positive action and deal with things. Now, I am not happy without some variation in my projects, so I'm not going to reduce things down to a single project as some people are doing.

I like to have one pair of socks going - these are of course very portable, and I think it is essential to have one project that I can just stuff into my handbag. So, no more than one pair of socks on the needles. The Lilac Socks are finished, and I have cast on for another pair of gift socks - these are the ones in Opal Tiger yarn, again with a picot hem. And when those are finished, I will cast on for another of the gift socks, and so on. All fine there then.

I also like to have one lace project - at the moment this is Birch, in Smoke Kidsilk Haze. No problems so far....

Now, scarves and hats, which arbitrarily I think should go together. I've just finished the Koolhaas Hat in teal alpaca (to be a gift) and I would very much like to make another one for myself. But currently I have no less than four scarves on the needles - clearly, this won't do to begin with, let alone casting on for something new. There is the Iro scarf - this is about half finished; the Tartan scarf - this just isn't being worked on at all, although it is truly luscious; the Swirly Scarf - this is very nearly at the half way point; and finally there is Ruffles from Scarf Style, worked in Berrocco Suede - I was stalled on this by being unable to find the rest of the yarn (embarrassing but true) and I've found it now. So, no excuses with regard to any of these.

I think it isn't unreasonable to have one scarf or one hat on the needles as well as the lace project and the sock project. So, before I can cast on for another Koolhaas Hat - deep breath - I will finish all these scarves. No idea in what order, as yet.

And then we come to garments. The lovely, lovely Kauni cardigan has been sitting in the top of my main knitting bag (yes, I have more than one now, and yes, I know I said I wasn't going to do that) - sitting in my main knitting bag for ages. The Key West pullover has been sitting on top of the piano for ages too. The Milli jacket from Rowan 20 (lovely colourwork in long-discontinued Rowan Magpie) has been sitting on a top shelf in the stash wall, also for ages. And I have not been working on any of them at all. That's three garments all going nowhere. Not good.

I have a long list of new projects that I am keen to start. Top of the list is the Cobblestone pullover, closely followed by Mr Greenjeans, from the current Knitty - I have some Louisa Harding Kashmir Aran that would be just right. Also, I want to cast on for a Helen Hamann trapeze tank in black Elann Peruvian Baby Cashmere, this would be perfect for Christmas.

And more besides - there is the Simple Cardigan in black Cotton Fleece; Cromarty, from Alice Starmore's book The Celtic Collection - I have some Rowan Wool Cotton in a dark coffee colour which will be just stunning; Patrick, in ecru Rowan Denim; Mabelle, I have some Elann Quechua that would be lovely; Jamesey in cafe Pakucho Cotton, if I could just decide which size to make...... And the list goes on. I can think of at least eight more things without even trying too hard.

Clearly, this won't do at all. I think it is not unreasonable to have two garments on the needles, but ideally only one of the projects should be for myself - there are several pullovers that my husband would like me to make for him. So when I have finished two of the current garments, then I can cast on for something intended for my husband. Only when I've finished all of my own current garments can I cast on something for myself.

Oh dear. This may not be too easy.

And finally, there are 'other projects' - things for the house such as throws and cushion covers. I think these should be classed with garments not for myself, as they are major projects and take a similar amount of time (at least). There is only Lizard Ridge to consider here at the moment, and right now it only consists of a couple of completed squares, which I had been intending to pull back and rework with a variation to the pattern. So, I need to pull those back and return this to the stash until I have room on the list for it.

So - one pair of socks, one lace project, one scarf or hat, and one garment for myself, and one garment for someone else, or for the house. No more than five things on the needles.

That shouldn't be impossible, should it?

More on the lifeline provisional cast on

I've sorted out how to deal with the half stitch at the beginning of the cast on.

The fix is quite unbelievably simple, and I can't believe that I didn't think of it before. Anyway, better late than never - here it is.

This mess is the provisional cast on just before I start working in the round.

This is Opal Tiger yarn, as you might guess, 16 stitches on each of 4 needles. The yarn tail is the dark brown bit, and the working yarn is the orange bit. That sloppy thing at the end of the last needle is the last yarnover, not to be mislaid.

All you need to do - before you work the first stitch, make sure that the working yarn is picked up from underneath the yarn tail. Or, in other words, make sure that the yarn tail goes over the working yarn.

Literally - put the (dark brown) yarn tail across the (orange) working yarn -

- and bring it back down again, out of the way.

Then just carry on.

So, after that, I worked my picot hem, unzipped the crochet chain completely, and picked up the stitches from the lifeline all the way round - and there was exactly the right number, with no half stitches to keep track of.

Here you can see the first needle where the half stitch used to be, at the very beginning - with 16 solid stitches on it. Very gratifying. That dark brown end of yarn is still the yarn tail, by the way.

I promise that all the other needles also have 16 solid stitches on them.

Here is the wrong side of the work after I've finished joining the hem, just in case you are interested. I do like this method, in fact I can't see that I would ever use any other method for hems now.

And now I think I shall go and knit some more sock, actually.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Of socks, steam irons, and neatness

I've finished the Lilac Socks.

These took most of two skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn in Lilac, on 2.25mm needles. This is my own basic pattern to fit ladies UK size 5 foot, picot hem worked with the lifeline provisional cast-on.

I did get rather stalled on these after the photographs of the picot hem, but yesterday I picked them up again and worked down to the heel turn, and today I finished them off.

There have been some questions about neatness, and how it can be achieved. Well, I am here to tell you that it isn't necessarily neatness in the knitting, it is what you do with regards to finishing that can make all the difference.

Here, to show you exactly what I mean, is the second Lilac sock straight off the needles. I have woven in the ends, but that is all I've done to it.

Still a perfectly nice sock, but not quite the same as the first photograph. The difference is two minutes with a steam iron, and that is all. Usually I don't bother with this and the socks go straight from the needles into the sock drawer, but these are going to be gifts, so I want them to look good.

One thing I do wish is that I could find some nice wooden sock blockers here in the UK. I've got some blue things from Fibretrends which do the job perfectly well, but they aren't very beautiful. There must be some out there somewhere.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Monday morning

I finished the Koolhaas Hat, and I'm really rather pleased with it.

Pattern by Jared Flood, from Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2007.
Yarn is Tess Dawson's Baby Alpaca Aran, in teal - 2 skeins.

This is an excellent pattern, written with perfect clarity, and very enjoyable to work. The decreases at the top are particularly clever, fitting neatly into the lattice pattern. But the very best thing about it is the way that it fits - there is a lot of stretch in it. I think that I will be using this pattern again and again.

This is the smaller size, by the way - I worked this option because I would not have had quite enough yarn for the additional repeat, and happily it fits me perfectly as it is. I almost invariably have problems getting hats to fit, including handknits, where I usually have to make the men's size, or add stitches, or work additional length. My head measures 23 1/2" around, by the way. But no problems here, as there is so much stretch in the pattern.

The only thing I have been wondering about is why the ribbing was not worked with twisted stitches like the rest of the pattern - apart from the sheer tediousness of working it that way, of course. I have a strong suspicion that Jared's first version of this hat - the green one, which you can see here - was indeed worked with twisted stitches in the ribbing. Yet the red one - the published pattern - clearly was not.

Perhaps with the next one that I make, I will work twisted stitches in the ribbing. Except that I will probably then discover why Jared changed from that, and have to rework it myself. We shall see.

Anyway, I have in mind another Koolhaas very soon. At the moment I cannot decide which colour I want, though. There is some of Tess's Merino Aran, also in teal - and there is Cascade 220, in either ruby red, an earthy brown/green, or a heathered light green. I haven't made my mind up at all....

Also at the moment, I am very much wanting to cast on for another Jared Flood pattern - the Cobblestone Pullover from Interweave Knits Fall 2007. I have some Rowan All Seasons Cotton which would work beautifully - but I do have rather a large number of things on the needles at the moment. Possibly I should deal with those first.

Willpower is required - never my strong point....

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Nameless buttonhole

Here is the nameless buttonhole.

It was inspired by EZ's afterthought buttonhole, but with this one you do need to decide where you are going to put it. It works beautifully in garter stitch, as you can see -

It does hide itself quite nicely - here you can see it more clearly.

I am sure it isn't original - what is ever new in knitting, anyway? - but it is new to me and I am quite pleased with it.

It is extremely easy to work, very logical. I shall demonstrate on a stocking stitch swatch, as it is easier to see what is happening.

When you reach the point where you want your buttonhole to be, you drop your working yarn and work the appropriate number of stitches with a piece of waste yarn. Three stitch buttonhole = three stitches in waste yarn.

Then you slip those stitches back to the left hand needle -

- and you pick up your working yarn and continue. Like this, straight across.

You end up with a little blip of waste yarn where the buttonhole is going to be, of course.

And when you are ready, then you finish the buttonhole. Using a length of the working yarn, bring it up through one of the stitch loops next to the buttonhole -

- and work around in back stitch, taking care to work through the separate stitch loops.
This is the corner stitch, the one next to the waste yarn - and the same goes for the other end, of course.

This is what you end up with - it is easy to weave in the ends for this, because you can leave them as long as you like.

And then you simply remove the waste yarn. If you've been careful with your stitching then it will come away very easily indeed. And your buttonhole is finished - a neat, symmetrical result. Not so bad, I don't think. And if you like, you could make the stitching into a decorative feature. You could use a contrast yarn perhaps, or maybe chain stitch rather than back stitch.

Looks best in garter stitch though, definitely.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Fun with Google

It is quite interesting looking through the searches that bring visitors to this site from Google. For instance, someone came here looking for 'Pinocchio knitting pattern' - and someone else for 'side to side knitting pattern' - and 'free knitting patterns for V neck dress' - and were disappointed, of course. None of those here, sorry......

There are also quite a lot of people who came here looking for information on Flicca - lovely cardigan, definitely - I love mine! - if that's what you are after, then you can find the posts about my Flicca if you look at the labels in the sidebar. And now the picot hem and the lifeline provisional cast-on as well, which seem to be quite popular, which is nice, as I do think it deserves to be more widely known.

But for some reason there seem to be even more people who come here looking for information on the afterthought buttonhole. If that's you - please don't go away just yet. I have an idea that you might be interested in.

Now, I haven't actually written about the afterthought buttonhole per se, other than to mention that I find the idea of weaving in those teeny little ends more than a bit scary. What I did write about was an idea that I had for a buttonhole, inspired by this. I think that it is time that I played around with a swatch or two, and then I will put up some pictures to actually demonstrate what I had in mind - because I think it will work quite beautifully, especially in garter stitch.

All I need is a name for it. Not-the-afterthought buttonhole...?

Hardly original - but I wonder what Google will make of that one.

Friday, 26 October 2007

It's all about the yarn

It really is all about the yarn, too. Although I do believe that Jared Flood has something to do with it as well.

I have given in to the lure of the lovely wool and silk mixture that is Noro Iro, and its beautiful slow colour changes, and started an Iro Scarf for myself.

So far I have worked about 30 inches of this, and it is growing very fast. I had two-and-a-bit skeins to start with, left over from my husband's pullover, the name of which I cannot recall at this minute. I've used the bit, and started one of the whole skeins.

This is extremely simple. Inspired by Jared's 'You're My Iro' scarf - and also by the Ellis scarf in Jane Ellison's Simply Noro book, now that I come to think about it - I cast on 20 stitches with 8mm needles (US #11) and I am working in straightforward garter stitch. Jared's scarf took two full skeins and was worked on 17 stitches. I have slightly more yarn, so I cast on a few more stitches - and I think I am just going to keep going for a while now. This is coincidentally the same shade that Jared chose - #47.

Such a pleasure to work with, truly.

And yes, those are Denise needles that I am working with - and yes, they are bright yellow. I have a set of Rainbow Denise's which I bought from Amy, and I use these in preference to the grey ones nowadays.

That multi-coloured thing in the background is another of my favourite things. I decided that if I was going to have projects lying around the house, it would be nicer for all concerned if they were in attractive bags rather than plastic carriers. So, this is a vintage knitting bag which I recently bought on eBay, and it is made of random strips of different corduroys and velvets.

I love things like this. Somebody made this, years and years ago, and they used it for a long time - you can tell. And now I am using it, and no doubt it will be passed on again in due course.

Where was I? - oh yes, the yarn. And Jared Flood's ideas.

The new Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts magazine has an excellent pattern by Jared, the Koolhaas hat. I loved this as soon as I saw it, and as soon as the magazine arrived I started looking through the stash in search of some Cascade 220 that I knew was in there somewhere - a lovely ruby red. I did find it eventually (I must get the stash into some sort of organised status, no doubt at all about that) but whilst I was looking for it, I also unearthed some of Tess Dawson's Baby Alpaca Aran in teal blue. And that was it, I had to cast on straight away.

I know that I am starting to sound like a stuck record about this range, but really this is lovely yarn. It is so good that I am having trouble getting back to the Iro.

The Swirly Scarf is slightly stalled by the presence of all these lovely alternatives - although this, too, is about the yarn. Tess's alpaca again, you see.

Not the most inspiring picture, but what can you do with 450 stitches on the needle, worked in garter stitch with fine black yarn? It is always going to look like a blob, as indeed it does here.

Actually I think I am going to make this rather wider than the scarf in the pattern. I have completed 14 of the 20 rows so far, and I have plenty of yarn - 200 metres for this half of the scarf, as opposed to 160 metres for the Koigu that the pattern is written for. I'll need to find out roughly how much yarn a single row takes - later today, perhaps.

And finally, more yarn. If you are a member of the Blue Moon Rockin' Sock Club, and don't want to see the October yarn, then - well, I don't know. Avert your eyes, or something. Also if you are an arachnophobe, that goes for you as well. But if you do want to see it, then scroll down................

Here is Lenore. This is the first appearance of Blue Moon's Raven series, to be released in November. The name of the series - and also of the kit, of course - refers to Edgar Allan Poe.

Red and black, I believe, and very definitely Gothic. The pattern is also called Lenore, and is by Stephanie. I'll show you that later. Now, I am extremely non-Gothic, but I absolutely have to cast on for this straight away.

I need more hours in the day.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Lifeline provisional cast-on and picot hem in the round

Now there's a snappy title.

Anyway, lifeline provisional cast-on - not original, but not widely known. To begin, as with any provisional cast-on, you need some waste yarn. This needs to be thin and smooth, as it is also going to be used as a lifeline, so you want something that will pull through the live stitches easily. I use either a piece of 4ply cotton yarn, or this stuff.

That is cast-on cord used by machine knitters, it is sometimes called ravel cord. It's extremely cheap, lasts forever, and is ideal for this purpose. It's made of nylon, and as you can see it comes in an assortment of bright colours - believe me, these are bright. The picture lies.

Having got your waste yarn or whatever, you now need a crochet chain of a bit more than half the cast on number that you are wanting. These socks have a 64 stitch cast on, so I need at least 32 chain - I worked 40 to have a bit of elbow room.

Pull the last loop out nice and big, so it isn't going to go anywhere. Or you could thread the loose end thru the loop if you like, I don't do this because it always gets itself into a knot for me.

And now you start your cast-on. It is unbelievably simple. Exactly as usual, you work into the bumps along the back of the crochet chain, but with yarnovers between the knit stitches. It doesn't matter which end of the crochet chain you start with - I've started near the end with the last chain, the one pulled out into a loop. And you don't need to start right at the end of the chain either, that's what the elbow room is for.

Sometimes people have a problem deciding which thread to pick up. At each point along the chain, there are three threads. You can see the V shapes on the front of each chain, these are two of the threads - the bump is the other thread, the one along the back. When you pick it up, you can still see the V at the front of the chain, that's how you know you've got the right bit.

Knit into the first bump - and then yarnover. Knit into the next bump - and yarnover. All the way along.

Here you can see seven stitches sitting nicely on the needle, plus a yarnover which is sort of in mid air. I've worked four (k1, yo) pairs - the last yarnover is the one that is in mid air - and I've just put the needle into the next bump for the next knit stitch.

And here I am rather further along. In fact I have just finished the 64 stitch cast on. I've put 16 stitches onto each of four dpns, each of which finishes with a yarnover of course. If you're working flat then this doesn't work so well - if you need an even number of stitches then it is better to work one stitch extra so as to finish with a knit stitch, and then drop one stitch at the other end when you work back - but in the round it is no problem at all.

Now, I start knitting round. I don't need to do anything particular with regard to a join, of course. For a picot hem I work seven rounds knit, then one round (yo, k2tog) all around, then another 7 rounds knit. And then it is time to actually form the hem.

The next step is to pull out the provisional cast on, so the live stitches can be picked up. And literally that is what you do - you unzip the crochet chain. You don't need to do it particularly slowly or particularly carefully, as the stitches are all going to end up on a lifeline. But don't pull the lifeline right out of the stitches!

Here we are unzipping the chain, and there are the stitches on the lifeline. Very pleasing, actually.

So, unzip the crochet chain completely, and then you can start picking up the live stitches at your leisure. I use a set of needles in a smaller size because it makes it easier, and easy is good. You can start picking up from either end of course, as you wish. Make sure that you get them the right way round on the needle though. Once again, four needles, 16 stitches on each.

Picking up from left to right here....

And here from right to left. There is a sort of half stitch at the beginning, by the way. Don't lose that - or if you do, reinstate it afterwards. It isn't going to unravel. I have an idea about dealing with this actually, I am going to try it out on the next picot hem sock and will post about it if it works. In the meantime, remember it when you come to work the joining row.

After all the stitches are picked up, you need to do a bit of rearranging with regard to the two sets of needles, so you can work the joining round. You need to wiggle things around so that you have the new smaller needle (the red one, here) sitting behind the main needle (pale green here) - with the right side of the work facing outwards, of course. And then you work around knitting two together, one stitch from each needle. Like this.

This is the last needle of the four. And then the hem is finished.

My favourite way of starting ladies socks, these days.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Wednesday evening

Well, the kitchen no longer smells of sheep, but this evening the conservatory smells of damp wool. The washed fleece still isn't dry, despite being outside half of yesterday and all day. Where has the sunshine gone?

The first Lilac sock is finished, and the second is cast on - in fact I have finished the picot hem - but there is no way that Blogger is going to cope with any pictures whilst my connection is as slow as this. I shall put up some photos of the lifeline cast-on in progress tomorrow morning.

By the way, before I forget - there is a small but not insignificant error in the illustration of this cast-on in Yarn Forward magazine. They have added colour to my scruffy pen and ink drawing and made it quite miraculously colour-coordinated and beautiful - but in the process, the line representing the first stitch on the needle has not been put back in quite the right place. So, it now looks as though the first stitch was a yarnover - and it isn't. It is an ordinary straightforward knit stitch. I am told that the errata should be going up on the Yarn Forward website next week, but hopefully nobody will be too confused in the meantime.

What else - my husband is feeling slightly better, to the extent that he actually managed the stairs today and has spent a certain amount of time pottering around - without sitting down. Sitting down is another problem entirely. The rest of the time he is still flat on his back, but the medication is definitely helping, and tomorrow he will hopefully show further improvement. I certainly hope so - this has been quite memorable painful for him, I can see.

I have also cast on for the Koigu Swirly Scarf - but not in Koigu, in Tess Dawson's Baby Alpaca 4 ply. This is beautiful stuff, as I believe I may have mentioned already a few times....!

I decided to use the needle sizes as given in the pattern, and I've just got past the second set of increases and changed up to the larger needles. I decided to use my Addi circs for this, rather than Denise's - and it seeme to have been a good choice. With so many stitches on the needle, you want them to slip along as easily as possible. The 80 cm length is going to work nicely throughout, I believe.

Anyway, more tomorrow - Blogger and my broadband connection permitting.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

My kitchen smells of sheep

I have decided to wash the remaining Shetland fleece, whilst we still have some sunshine.

This one is white (theoretically) and it doesn't look anywhere near so appealing as the moorit one did. In fact it seems positively unsavoury. There aren't too many daggy bits but it just seems a whole lot messier, and it really does smell rather strong. It isn't an unpleasant smell - just extremely sheepy. I cannot quite believe that this is going to end up as nice, usable wool.

I've taken a good portion of it, pulled it into manageable sized pieces, and deposited them in a sinkful of water as hot as the tap will deliver, to which I had added a kettleful of boiling water and a good squirt of Fairy Liquid. And now I have just left it to soak. I am wondering exactly how much of a transformation is going to happen.

The remainder of the fleece is back in its paper sack and waiting in the hallway. Lucy is very interested in it - I am sure she thinks there is a sheep in there.

Update -

Well, a great improvement. I am rather pleased, actually. This is the result after the first soak and rinse.

Then, another soak, and more rinses until the water runs clear -

And now it's drying in the sunshine. Lucy is not interested in it, which must be a sign that the smell really has gone.
And yes, I'm still socking. In fact I shall be finishing the first Lilac sock in a few minutes time....

Monday, 22 October 2007

Monday morning

Still not much happening with the knitting. I've finished the gusset on the first sock. Not very impressive progress, but as I mentioned, I've been rather busy.

My husband now has some painkillers with an appropriate degree of authority, and hopefully he will be able to be rather more mobile soon - lying in bed for any length of time is not a good idea. In the meantime I am still running up and down the two flights of stairs all the time. I am sure that it must be doing me some good, at least.

I am going to pull back the Mesh Scarf and make a Swirly Scarf instead. I know these are somewhat old hat nowadays, but they are still lovely things. And this one will be classy, made in fine soft black alpaca, with an edging of beautiful blue Kid Silk Haze. The pattern I am going to use is the Koigu Swirly Scarf pattern. It requires two skeins of Koigu in the main colour, and another skein for the edging - as Koigu has 160 metres to a skein, and I've got 400 metres of the alpaca, plus the Kid Silk Haze which of course has more than 200 metres to the ball, this should be plenty.

I am wondering about which needle size to use. The pattern says 4.5mm and 5mm - but this 4ply alpaca is finer than Koigu. Perhaps 4mm and 4.5mm would be better -although this would mean sacrificing some of the length. Or maybe I should stay with the larger needles for a looser, drapier result, and a good length. I think the decision may be down to which circular needles I have free. I shall have to have a look later this afternoon.

Today my Rowan shade cards arrived. From time to time I treat myself and order a complete set, including the RYC yarns as well. It makes such a difference being able to actually see the colours and feel the yarn, even just a few centimetres of it.

I have found two yarns that I had completely missed - and they are both absolutely luscious. They are RYC Cashmere Tweed and Wool Tweed (scroll down a little). Neither of them is on the RYC website yet. I can't think why not. How else are we to find out about them? I certainly hadn't.

They both work up at standard Aran tension, 4.5 spi - and my goodness they are lovely. The Cashmere Tweed is a long, long way from cheap at nearly £10 for a 25 gram ball of 55 metres length. In fact, just thinking about the possible cost of a pullover in this yarn is faint-making. But so beautiful.... Lovely, classic colours. Chain construction, interestingly, and the fibre content is 90% cashmere and 10% silk.

Well, I can dream.....

But the RYC Wool Tweed is lovely too. Fibre content here is 90% merino, 10% viscose, and it is next-to-the-skin soft. It has lovely flecks of lots of different colours in it, really this is just what you (or I, at any rate) want from a tweed yarn. It reminds me of this, actually. Stephanie has been posting about it, and if you look here you can see all the little coloured flecks - just like this Wool Tweed, although of course a different weight. Lovely stuff, a useful yarn to know about.

I'd be thinking of the Sunrise Circle Jacket too - ok, I am thinking of the Sunrise Circle Jacket - but there would need to be a degree of playing around with the pattern, which is written for a chunky yarn (normally 4spi and 4.5 rpi) worked at a rather firmer tension (18.5 sts and 28 rows to 4"). Right now - I don't think so.

It would be a lovely result though. Maybe in the New Year, who knows. Romney is a beautiful blue.....

Sunday, 21 October 2007

All stop

Well, knitting has not actually stopped completely - but it has certainly slowed right down. I've turned the heel on the first Lilac sock - and I will do the 'how to' for the cast on when I get to the second sock - but I truly haven't had time to do anything more today.

This is because my poor husband put a disc out in his back yesterday evening. It has happened before, but not for the last ten years or so. We got him upstairs to bed - with two flights of stairs, that was interesting, I can tell you. And there he is still, and seems likely to remain for a while yet. Lucy doesn't want to leave him, and has installed herself up there next to him.

In the meantime, I am ferrying meals, cups of tea, and so forth up and down the aforementioned flights of stairs. I am reminded of the appalling Stairmaster at the gym I used to go to ......

I am still thinking about that black alpaca 4ply. It is such lovely stuff, I want to make it into something really pretty. I do have a few ideas - I did manage to get a 2mm metal crochet hook in Trowbridge - thankyou, Fabric Magic - but I don't think I am going to stay with crochet for this after all. The ideas are not firmed up yet - but they involve a long circ and some Kid Silk Haze. I bought a ball of that at Fabric Magic as well, you see, in Trance, which is a beautiful blue.....

A non sequitur, of which there seem to have been a few lately. We've been greatly entertained by the spinning dancer illusion recently. And yes, it seems that we are easily pleased.

My husband can see her going in either direction at will, and can also see her standing in place and swinging from side to side, not actually spinning at all. I can only see her going clockwise. It takes huge amounts of concentration, visualising her going in the other direction, and messing around with the sliding toolbar to freeze and then restart the image, before I can see her going anticlockwise. And then if I focus briefly somewhere else, she's instantly going clockwise again. My daughter sees her going anticlockwise, and with similar effort can see her going clockwise.

All most odd, and also rather strange.

So, we've been wondering how much there actually is to this right brain/left brain idea, and I was interested today to find this explanation of the different interpretations of this illusion. Don't be put off by the first bit - read on.

And now I am wondering why on earth my brain apparently only goes clockwise.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

That's better

It seems that Blogger is on speaking terms with me once again. And so without more ado, here are the Banner socks.

They need a quick encounter with the steam iron, as you can see. The matching is surprisingly good. I rarely manage this.

And this mess is the beginning of the Lilac socks, which are going to have a picot hem.

Here I have just started to unzip my lifeline provisional cast on - I think that you can see the live stitches on their lifeline. I just love this cast on - it is very satisfying to pull the end of the waste yarn and see the whole lot unzip, leaving the stitches magically installed on the lifeline. Nobody ever believes that it is going to work until they have tried it for themselves.

Rather more visible here, perhaps. It would be clearer still if the working yarn and the waste yarn made more of a contrast. Never mind.

And here I have unzipped the crochet completely, and now I am picking up the live stitches onto that red needle. The joy of this cast on is that you don't have to worry about doing all the picking up in one go, not in the slightest. Because of the lifeline you can quite happily set it aside if you need to - for instance, should you wish to take a photograph!

I tend to slip the spare needle into the stitches whilst they are still on the lifeline, and then pull the lifeline out when the needle is full - this is what I have just done here.

This method isn't original, I am sure, but I have yet to find anything about it in print. It does make for stress-free provisional cast ons, definitely, and I think that it deserves to be better known.

Maybe I should put some 'how to' pictures for the actual cast on itself. I could do it when I start the next sock. Anyone interested?

Just quickly...

Blogger is doing strange things this morning. I usually have to add my pictures one at a time, as my broadband connection isn't all that it might be. This morning it won't let me add any pictures at all. It may just be this connection, but I don't think so. Anyway, I will try again later.

I finished the Regia Banner socks last night. I'll post a picture when Blogger lets me, but no surprises there of course.

I've also started another pair, in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock, which is one of my favourite yarns - colourway is Lilac. I'm working these with a picot edge, and I've used the lifeline provisional cast one, which I really like. It is so much easier not to have to release the stitches from the crochet chain one at a time - with this you can just unzip the whole thing and the stitches sit there waiting for you on the lifeline.

And wouldn't it be good if I could post some photos of that?! Later, perhaps.

I am in some doubt as to the future of the Mesh Scarf. It really is not easy to work with this soft yarn and a fine hook - with cotton (for which the pattern was written, of course) it would be much easier.

But I want something to use up this lovely alpaca. I shall have to think about it. What can I do with 400 metres of beautiful fine black alpaca 4 ply?

Friday, 19 October 2007

Friday already

This week has flown past, for some reason.

The current socks are coming along nicely. I was rather annoyed to encounter a knot in the yarn yesterday - the cuffs have been matching well, and I wanted to get the feet matching too. However it doesn't seem to have made any great difference, which is a pleasant surprise.

I've also been slightly sidetracked into starting something else.

I've had a couple of skeins of Tess Dawson's Baby Alpaca 4 ply for a while - this stuff is lovely and soft, and it is a beautifully fine yarn. And I've also had in mind for a while the Mesh Scarf from Classic Knits for Real Women - a simple pattern, written for a cotton 4ply. I was wondering how it would turn out in the fine alpaca yarn - it is actually going to be rather good, I think, although it is very hard on the eyes to work.

Looks like nothing on earth at the moment, of course, but when it is blocked it will improve. That's a 2mm bamboo hook - I have a suspicion that it might be easier with a metal one. I shall see if I can get down to the shop in Trowbridge today and discover whether they have such a thing.

On non-knitting subjects, I've been greatly enjoying reading Suetonius again. This is an excellent translation, by Robert Graves, and Suetonius comes across as being surprisingly chatty, full of little details. The description of the chaotic aftermath of Julius Caesar's death is memorable - he is eventually carried off on a litter by three slave boys, 'with one arm hanging over the side.' Somebody actually saw that, and described it.....

A complete non sequitur - since we moved here, a daily delight has been the constantly changing sky. Because there is a long, wide view from the back of the house, the sky seems huge - and yesterday evening there was one of the most vivid sunsets I think I have ever seen.

Truly, you couldn't invent this.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Thursday morning

Still socking here.

Not the most exciting of photographs - this is another pair of men's socks in progress, in Regia Banner, which seems to have disappeared from the shops recently - at least the shops that I look at, anyway. I'm not sure of the colour name - it is, as you can see, simply shades of grey, and it ought to be acceptable to the intended recipient.

Once again 2.5mm needles and my basic sock pattern. This toe shaping is one that seems to fit better than the usual one for a wedge toe, where you go down to 16 or 18 stitches and kitchener top to bottom. With this one, I go down to just 8 stitches in total, and graft 4 on 4, side to side, so that there seems to be a band of 4 stitches going around the outside edge of the foot. I think this is visible in the photograph, to some extent anyway. It gives a good neat finish with no 'corners'. I work a graduated toe shaping as well - starting with one decrease row in four, then in three, and so on.

There was a comment about the possible pressure of Christmas knitting. I think my mistake this year has been to say 'yes' to rather too many requests for socks - although it doesn't really feel like any sort of pressure, as I know I will get everything done in time with no problem, and socks are quick easy knitting. The problem is that people come to expect the same thing next time round, and so the whole thing can snowball.

Next year - more restraint required, I believe.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Wednesday evening

I had a nice new book delivered this morning - Knitting for Him, by Martin Storey and Wendy Baker. This is actually the same book as Classic Knits for Men - same authors, not surprisingly. I am not sure why there are two different covers and two different titles, but I suppose that one of them is intended for the American market.

I looked through and was somewhat underwhelmed. Nothing there seemed to really catch my imagination, although they would all be interesting to knit. And then I showed the book to my husband.

Now, my husband likes my knitting. He wears handknit socks exclusively these days, but he likes handknit pullovers and slipovers too. However, it is difficult finding knitting patterns that he likes, so he hasn't got very many of them. He likes fair isle, but he doesn't like Aran - although the idea of a textured fabric appeals. I love to work Aran, unfortunately. And he loves colour - that is very important.

So far there has been a warm sweater in Noro Iro - (that's where the leftover Iro came from, that is destined to be a scarf for me) - a simple slipover in Siberian Midnight Peace Fleece, and a Kaffe Fassett pullover worked in Rowan 4 ply cotton and Rowan Cotton Glace - Arizona Stripe. This last did take a while to work - the man has a 48" chest and that is fine yarn. However, it was very much worthwhile.

Here is the image from the magazine -

- and yes, he loves the colours - and yes, he wears it. It is very good for not losing him in Tesco!

Anyway - not enough sweaters.

This will soon change. He immediately picked out four of the patterns - including a cabled jacket! excellent! - and as he looked through again more slowly, several more.

These are indeed knits for men. This is good.

PS - and I now have to get a copy of the new Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts magazine, it seems. I wasn't going to get this - but now I have seen Jared's Koolhaas hat, I just have to.

PPS - I'm still knitting Christmas socks. Just turning the heel on the first sock of another pair. Picture soon........

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Not just Rosamond......

I've actually finished both pairs of socks.

Here are the Rosamond socks, all finished. I very much enjoyed knitting these. This is a good simple lace pattern that looks more complicated than it is, and it is also easy to memorise. And that comes from the person who is the world's worst at memorising lace patterns, believe me. Tess Dawson Merino 4 ply, 2mm Knitpicks dpns.

And they are lovely to wear too, the lace is good and stretchy.

I thought I'd also put up a picture of these socks before I attacked them with sock blockers and steam.

Still pretty, yes? - but the blocking really does make a difference!

I'm particularly taken with the way that the pattern of these socks flows out of the ribbing at the cuff. Somehow very satisfying.

And here is the second pair of socks.

Kaffe Fasset's line of sock yarns for Regia, Caribbean Landscape colourway, 2.5mm needles and my own basic pattern.

Lovely colours, really much nicer that they look here. Once again, excellent fun to knit. And without trying at all, they match. Again, very pleasing.

The reason that I managed to get both pairs finished is the sheer amount of time that I've spent sitting around over the last couple of days. On Sunday, two hours as a passenger in the car going down to Portsmouth - nothing on the way back as I was driving. And yesterday, a quite inordinate amount of time spent sitting in various waiting rooms at the hospital in Bath for a quite routine appointment.

It is interesting to see people's reactions to my knitting. One person said 'Are you actually knitting socks? You must have time on your hands!' - I replied, 'I certainly do at the moment' - I think we'd both been waiting about an hour at that point. Someone else commented that I was doing 'martial arts knitting' and said that it looked very dangerous - ok, 2mm Knitpicks dpns are small, sharp, and shiny, so I can possibly see that one. And someone else - also sitting around for at least an hour and a half at the same time as me - commented that she'd love to knit but didn't have the time. Ok.........