Sunday, November 30, 2008


Most of my knitting activity this past week has focused on my ongoing stranded-knit project, the Intricate Stag pillow, which since it's intended as a Christmas gift does come with a certain time limit attached to it. Considering that it is also a thank you for my Dad's gift of 2 kilos of beautiful ready to spin roving from New Zealand, and that he gave me this wonderful gift at least 2 years ago it might be mentioned that my timing is already a little off, but that's the way gift giving can be in my family. We all make stuff, and make stuff for other people and each other, and I think it's fair to say that everyone in my family are either poor judges of how much time projects take; procrastinators; involved in too many projects at one time; or simply have no sense of time. Actually, for most of us, it's all of the above all of the time.

But I am pleased to say that my modifications to Norah Gaughans' Intricate Stag Bag (available through the Knitting Daily Pattern Store)have vastly speeded-up the process. I am knitting the pillow in the round rather than back and forth (a real sanity-saver when doing stranded knitting) and adapted the border designs to be something more interesting, and have also adapted them further to make this interesting diamond design on the pillow back. I have just worked past the deer panel in the center of the front and am now winging it on the opening in the back, which will have a buttoned flap to allow the pillow insert to be removed for washing, etc.

The chart is much easier to do than it might appear (assuming that one is knitting in the round as I am; it would be a nightmare to do from the backside in purl if done in rows). I have a handy magnetic chart board from Knit Picks that makes it very easy to follow the chart - I highly recommend this little gadget. It also helps a lot to photocopy the chart, enlarging it too a more easily seen size. The zigzag background is very rhythm, and would have progressed much more quickly if I was actually capable of counting to 2 on a regular basis.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Little things

I've been working on a bunch of small things, mostly as holiday gifts. I downloaded this Snow Man pattern from Knit Picks web site and had a lot of fun making these little things. I used oddments of other yarns left over from other projects, added mismatched vintage pearl buttons and embroidered the features. The hat is felted separately from the bodies and sewn on later. The scarf isn't felted at all.

The felted tree behind this little guy is from the Mason-Dixon Knitting-Between the Lines (the 2nd book). It's knitted as a very simple cone; I changed it to knit form the top down so I could use any amount of yarn as long as I left enough to bind off with.

I sewed some vintage black pearl ball buttons with a rhinestone set into them all around the tree as decorations/lights. The tree gives me no end of delight, as the rhinestones sparkle beautifully in even very low light. More trees are in the works.

I also made Grumperina's new Tretta Hat pattern, with a few minor modifications: I added beads on the cast on (every other stitch) and put three beads on each leaf all around. My alpaca singles yarn was too fragile to handle sliding the beads along all the way through the hat, so I put the beads on one ball of yarn, and only used that ball for the beaded rows. It made for a lot less pushing of beads along the yarn, and made for a break-free knitting experience.

And lastly, I have gotten started on a pillow for my Dad and stepmother, using yarn I spun from the wool he brought me from New Zealand a couple years ago. It's based on Norah Gaughan's Intricate Stag Bag from Knit Scene; it's a simple matter to change it to a pillow. I'm knitting it in the round : i can't imagine knitting the purse in back and forth rows, given the complexity of the stag portion of the design (I'm barely into row 3 of the stag portion, so it doesn't show yet in the photo.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Magical time with friends

What a great way to spend a Sunday - an afternoon with my knitting buddies, along with heaps of yarn, loads of cookies and cake, lots of laughs, and a fun project to work on together. Christy had recently asked me if I would do a little workshop for the gang on the Magic Ball knitting technique, which is what I have used in the 1,000 Petaled Lotus chair seat project. I was happy to oblige, and today was at long last the day to get together and have a blast making up our own personal Magic balls.

(Needless to say, there are endless jokes, insinuations, and other ribaldry that can be had on the subject of magic balls, and in the interest of maintaining a high tone in this blog I will restrain myself from making them. As all of the jokes we could think of were already made during the workshop the fun has pretty much worn off anyway. )

First came the obligatory indulgence in cookies and cake, coffee and tea. The ladies all sat very politely through my lecture on what the Magic Ball technique actually is and while I showed my samples. They had great questions and were an excellent class. The fact that several are former or current schoolteachers might account for their excellent behaviour. They even took notes.

I had a bunch of books out for inspiration - all of my treasured Kaffe Fassett books; books of charted designs for colourwork knitting; colour theory, etc. I can still remember vividly the first time I saw Kaffe Fassett's Glorious Knits - it was in the early 1980s, and I can honestly say that the book changed my knitting - and my life - forever. Stephanie brought some of her own to share as well.

I had asked everyone to bring yarn to contribute to a mutual pile to work from, and clearly, there as a group we must own a lot of yarn if the contents of this pile represents only the oddballs and scraps we were all willing to contribute. We started to consider how much money spent on yarn the pile represented but gave it up quickly; none of us could count that high.

All of us are handspinners, some for many, many years like Christy, Stephanie and Cathi; others of us for less time, but handspun yarns are perfect for this technique. Magic Balls look best best when they have lots of yarns with some subtle mixes of colours, like tweeds and heathered tones, and handspun yarns are so often beautifully irregular and rich in mixed shades. All of us have oddments of early spinning experiments that might not look good on their own but that mix in beautifully in a nicely shaded magic Ball. We had plenty to work with; as Kaffe says himself "If in doubt, add 20 more colours..."

So after a wonderful few hours spent with some of the best people I know, we all had a wonderful Magic Ball to kit with. It's great fun to see how we can recognize each others' Magic Balls just by the colours we each favour and use a lot, and agreed that sometime it would be fun to try this again and have each participant use a colour range deliberately outside of our personal comfort zone. Another workshop for another time.

Thanks, ladies, for spending your day with me! And to those who couldn't make it, you were missed, but we will try it again another time.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Bits, pieces, and other thoughts

At long last the election season is over. While I can easily express my pleasure at the end of this long ordeal I have no words for how I feel about Barak Obama's election. It is the first time I have been genuinely excited and enthusiastic about a president. I'm still trying to take in the enormity of it all, and feeling very emotional about the great shift that has just taken place in the national psyche. Change won't happen overnight, but just in having such an unlikely candidate (as he himself said) prevail shows that change has already occurred.

So what have I been knitting this past week or so while so much was going on in the polls, the news, and elsewhere? In the absence of a big project I have been making scarves using batches of yarn I inherited from my Sew Group friend, Laurel, after her passing a year or so ago. There were lots of different yarns, primarily in the fuchsia/magenta and teal colours she loved so much, and in a variety of textures and fibres (lots of cotton, silk, and rayon blends) and while there was lots of yarn there wasn't any more than a ball or partial ball of any one thing.

I started with the magenta and fuschia batch, and made a lengthwise-striped scarf in seed stitch. I left a long tail at the beginning of each row, knitted across in seed stitch, and then broke off the yarn at the end, leaving another long tail. I did this on every single row, working anywhere from 1-4 rows in any single yarn or colour, and alternating the colours and textures as I wished. I knotted the loose tails together with an overhand knot every time I had 4 tails to secure them. The seed stitch does a wonderful job of blurring the edges between colours so the stripes have more of a woven effect. The scarf is about 65 inches long, not including the fringe, and each row took approximately 7 yards of yarn. Any length of yarn not long enough to go into this scarf went towards scarf #2.......

For scarf #2 I also knitted lengthwise and left long tails for fringe at each end, but used a simple basketweave stitch to play up the woven effect. This scarf is more of a decorative,, scarf in place of jewelry length of about 54 inches long,not including fringe. Once again, I changed colours and textures anywhere from every 1 to 4 rows. I forgot to check how many yards I needed for each row on this one.

By this time I had lots of yarn left, but most of it was in lengths too short to do a lengthwise scarf like the two above. The same was true for the teal yarns. Laurel had used a lot of these yarns for necklaces that she used to make, combining lots yarn into twisted ropes that were embellished with beads and such. Many of the yarns I had from here were already cut into 1 1/2 - 3 yard lengths. So how could I make scarves using such short pieces? I didn't want lots of knots on the back side of the scarf.

My solution was to knit a scarf the short direction as is more usual, but I left long tails at the beginning and end of each row as I did above, creating a fringe along one long edge of the scarf. I knotted the tails for fringe every 2 rows for this one. This scarf used up all of the scraps of magenta and fuchsia and was done in garter stitch, with a single back-and-forth per colour or yarn. I only needed a 1 1/2 yard length to do each garter stitch 2-row ridge. I don't have a detail of it, but in the first photo in this post it's the scarf on the far left.

For the teal yarns I did the same thing but made a slightly wider scarf using seed stitch once again, and once again varying the number of rows with any one yarn either 2 or 4 rows. I still leave a tail on one side at the beginning and end of each row, even if it is the same yarn. I'm knotting the tails every 2 rows for this one, as for the other side-fringed scarf.

mixes, so I repeated stripes of each of those yarns in somewhat regularly spaced intervals (in the In both the magenta and teal side-fringed scarves I am creating a repetition of sorts to help tie all the disparate colours and textures together. In each case, I had some chenille yarns that were fairly noticeable in theteal scarf you can see the dark navy blue chenille and the bulkier turquoise chenille in the photo at left.)

I used size 7 needles for all of these projects, and used up a lot of stash yarns to boot. As a pleasant bonus, I also like the finished scarves! The magenta ones are outside being blocked right now as can be seen in the first photo, but should be ready for action by tonight. I'm hoping to finish the teal one in the next couple of days. This is great sports knitting, needless to say!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Progress and Change

The 1,000 Petal Lotus Chair seat is taking shape at long last. I've completed the main pieces for the backrest and really love how it's looking so far.

While I've shown the lotus pieces just pinned on the chair previously, here's what it looks like now that the slipcover consists of an actual front and back....

... and from the side, with the black and white checkerboard forming the gusset around the edges....

...and from the back with the two back panels completed. There will be some sort of button band joining the backs in the future but that will come much later.

I'm so excited to have this much done, and how it looks! A lot of the decision-making about how the whole thing would be constructed was answered by getting this far. From here, I will be knitting an open tube down from the bottom of the backrest to cover the metal bar which connects the backrest to the seat. From there, I will attach the seat cover and make some sort of skirt from the edges to the floor, design and details of which are still TBD. Once the whole thing is together the button band will be added down the entire back. I've got a slew of vintage mother of pearl buttons that I'll use for the fasteners. So that's my progress so far. The idea and design have changed frequently and probably will continue to until it's done.

Lastly but by no means least - Tuesday is Election Day here in the U.S., so please - VOTE! Whatever leaders, causes, and ideals you care about, just be sure to cast your ballot and make your opinions and your voice count. As for me, I'm sure looking for change.