Monday, May 26, 2008

Monday, Monday

A quickie Monday update (it's the Memorial Day holiday so for once I am not too tired on a Monday to think about posting!) My friend Bonnie gave her sister the fluffy socks I had made for her, and not only did they fit, she loved them! Bonnie kindly sent a photo so I could see the socks on their owner's feet - don't they look happy?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Small pleasures

Sometimes it's the small things that make me smile and keep me going. A sock is a very small knitting project, and yet can give so much pleasure, both in the knitting and then in the wearing of it. I finished the first Loksins sock on Friday, and am very, very happy with it. (As the second one is already underway, I am fairly well assured that the single completed sock will become a pair in the near future.) It fits beautifully, and the Knit Picks Shetland-style yarn is very soft, warm and light on my foot. I don't imagine that these socks will be the sturdiest and longest wearing socks I've ever made, but as I only have 1 or 2 pairs of shoes my hand knit socks fit into they will be worn around the house much more than anywhere else.

I'll wait to block this sock until I have finished the pair, but already the stitches are nice and flat. The lace shows better when on the foot of course, but find that taking pictures of my own feet results in some pretty weird imagery and will decline to exhibit such pictures. The heathery colours in the yarn finally shows up in these photos; the base colour is a royal blue with lots of kelly green and fuschia blended in to make a beautiful rich blue-violet. As I've already said, the lace stitches in the Loksins pattern are very easy to knit and become very intuitive very quickly. For anyone who's nervous about attempting lace on a sock this pattern would be an excellent starting pair. And you'll end up with really wonderful socks at the end of it!

The hexagons on the Hex Coat are continuing apace; I'm almost done with the first side. I haven't yet done the shoulder seams (or any seaming for that matter) as I'm slightly puzzled about the way the hexagons fit across the back neck. I'm not completely convinced that I got the shaping right so once I'm to the point where only the last hexagon at the shoulder remains to be done I will then go to the second front and finish it up to the same point. Then I can hold everything together and take a look to see if that one last hexagon in the center back will really join up with the fronts in a way that will actually fit around the back of my neck. I'm really feeling ready to be done with this project, and I'm convinced that the weather here in the Bay Area will continue to revert to unusually cold temperatures until I have actually finished it.

The new-project-startitis bug really bit me hard a few days ago, and so I also began a really long-term project - the Moderne Log Cabin Blanket from Mason-Dixon Knitting. Instead of lots of small log cabin style knitted patches as in what one usually thinks of with log cabin quilts, this blanket is done in large, asymmetrical blocks for a very graphic, contemporary feel. I've been toying with the idea for some time, as the book's version is knit in Elsbeth Lavold's Silky Wool, and I just happened to have 3 balls remaining after finishing a project that used this yarn. I've picked up a couple other colours of the Silky Wool here and there, and while I don't have as much in total as the pattern calls for I have plenty to get a usable-sized blanket out of. And of course, I can always add more yarn as time goes on. It's a very free form design and will not end up looking like the one in the book, but will have the same feel. The yarn is terrific for a blanket - soft, warm, lightweight, and very comfortable against the skin. I'm guessing this project could run into the years in terms of length of time it will take to complete, and that's just fine with me.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Gardens, Hats, Hexes, and Loksins

What a wonderful day - the Vallejo Naval & Historical Museum's annual Garden Tour was today, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This event is a major fundraiser for the Museum and it was very heartening to see how many people were there. As I have been hoping to have happen for several years now, my mother was able to come up to join me on the tour. She's an avid and very good gardener, while I am more on the hopeful and somewhat bumbling amateur side, so it was terrific to get her input on what I was looking at instead of wandering about on my own. This is, oddly, the only photo I managed to take in the course of 9 lovely gardens, but it gives a taste of what was out there today. Mercifully, the dreadful 100+ degree F weather we have had recently dropped down to a much more manageable high 80s, which felt downright chilly compared to a few days ago.

One of the worst aspects of hot weather (to me, at least) is how unpleasant knitting can become during such high temperatures. Handling wool while dripping with sweat is just not my idea of fun. But the ferry was usually cool enough to knit, and as that's my primary knitting time I did get some good work in this week. My friend Catherine B is very active in 18th-century historical re-creation events, and will be going to Williamsburg, VA for an event in June together with her husband. John will be wearing sailor's gear for the event, and needed a traditional-style hat. Catherine has her hands full hand-sewing loads of garments for both herself and John, so asked me if I would be interested in making a knitted hat for John's outfit. It's very simple; she provided a pattern written from an extant example that is knitted very densely with heavy wool on small needles. I've finished the crown and have just started the brim. As the knitting is unusually tightly done it's a little hard on the hands so I've had to take a break over the weekend to give myself a bit of a rest. I think I can get the knitting done over the next day or two of commutes and will be able to give it to Catherine mid-week, or end of the week at latest.

As I am officially sick of moss stitch by now, I am pleased to report that the body of the Hex Coat is done and blocked, and now I am working on the hexagons around the front edges and neck opening. I am working on the 3rd hexagon along the front ( a sample hexagon is in the background in the photo) and find that they move along at a quick pace. While a tad fiddly, they are quick, interesting to knit, and contain no moss stitch whatsoever. A great combination, in my opinion. And of course, the irony of nearly finishing a wool, knee-length coat in 100+ degree weather is not lost on me.

And lastly, the Loksin socks are not forgotten. They were my commute project until the hat thing came up, which will soon be done and I will then be back to the socks. Sock number one is done through the heel flap; I'm just a row or two away from turning the heel. As with the hat, sock knitting is a little harder on my hands so I don't mind having an excuse to lay off for a day or two, and will pick the Loksins up again with pleasure once the hat is complete.

Once again, a woolly pair of socks in this weather has been somewhat unpalatable, so I don't mind the opportunity to delay a bit. Besides, the lace patterns are a real joy to knit (the 2nd photo shows the leg stretched to show off the lace a bit better). The colour in the 1st photo is much more accurate, by the way.

So I think that's all I am up to right now. I'm in a serious project-start-itis mood these days so am trying to rein myself in from starting everything I am thinking about. I keep having such an urge to start this project, or that project, or maybe ....... I think I'm in trouble.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sock it to me

Sorry for missing my usual Sunday evening post; TW and I had a small party for the print department faculty from the college where TW teaches (and of which we are both alumni) Sunday evening and I was too tired through Monday to even think about posting. It's amazing how tiring yakking with friends and nibbling good food all afternoon can be! But it was a great afternoon and everyone seemed to have a good time. And I am in shock over how much food we have left over.

The Hex Coat had reached a point where it wasn't really portable on the ferry any more, and I suddenly panicked late Monday evening, realizing that therefore I might find myself with 2 hours of ferry travel time without *gasp* anything to do! So I did what any knitter worth her or his wool would do. I delved into the stash, whisked out 2 balls of sock yarn, and threw into my bag the yarn, my trusty KnitPicks sock needle set, and Too Much Wool's Loksins sock pattern, and bright and early Tuesday morning, commenced a new pair of socks.

The yarn is KnitPick's Palette blue/violet/green mix called Blue Note Heather, which I specifically bought for this pattern about a year ago but am only now getting started on. The yarn is really more of a Shetland type than a smooshy sock yarn, and in the ball it seemed more navy blue. Now that I've knit with it a bit the colours are peeking through more. While I love blue I've never warmed up to navy blue, so I'm quite happy to see the increased liveliness of colour as I progress. The lace patterns in Loksins are very simple to knit and easy to remember and I'm enjoying working on them.

The other socks I have been working on are done - it's amazing how quickly socks knit in a bulky yarn get done! My dear friend Bonnie asked for a pair for her sister, who loves bulky, fuzzy socks, so we picked out an alpaca/silk boucle from Artfibers called Mackenzie in an interesting peachy-beige colour. They're almost dry from their post-completion blocking and will be in Bonnie's hands tomorrow.

It's challenging to estimate yarn amounts for bulky socks, and while one ball definitely wasn't enough two was more than plenty. I prefer to have a new ball for each sock, regardless of the yarn, so that I don't have to join a new end in part way through the second sock. This means I end up with two partially used balls instead of 1 larger remaining ball, but especially in a bulky yarn like this having ends woven in would be obtrusive, and less sturdy as well. It appears I have enough left over to perhaps do a pair of fingerless gloves for her as well, if she'd like them.

OK; back to the Hex Coat!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Spinnin' my wheels

A long-term project is finally making discernible progress. I've been working on spinning the 2 kilos (2.2 lbs, approximately) of wool roving my dad brought me from new Zealand a couple years ago. The roving I have been playing around with is a very dark brown Perendale, with medium-length fibres, some grey hairs mixed into the brown, and a pleasantly earthy quality to it. The other kilo, which I haven't started on yet, is a luscious creamy white merino. (By the way, the colour in this first photo is very accurate; the others really got washed out for some reason.)

I am planning on knitting the yarn up into some sort of stranded colourwork that is still to be decided, so in the interest of being able to knit at a fine enough gauge to get plenty of detail I am spinning a fine yarn with much more twist than I usually use - both in the singles and in the plying (It's a 2-ply yarn). Of course, this takes a little longer to spin as the fibre goes a really long way when making a finer yarn, so filling up four bobbins of singles took a longer time than it should have. Having my back get cranky on me when I spin too long hasn't helped either, I must admit.

But I had a really good spell a while back and did indeed finish the 4th bobbin of singles, and commenced with the plying. Even though I have a plying head for my Lendrum folding wheel, it doesn't have small enough whorls for the amount of twist I wanted to use, and with it's very large bobbin and head it is very difficult to treadle. I really wore my back out one Bodega Bay trip a few years ago while using the plying head because I was determined to finish up a batch of yarn, and I really paid for it for a week afterwards. I didn't want to do that again!

So I have been merrily plying away on the standard bobbins, using the same whorl I used to spin the singles (I am terrible with ratios and can never remember what the ratios of any of my whorls are, so my apologies for this very unscientific and imprecise method of describing my process.) I now have three complete bobbins of 2-ply yarn. The last 2 bobbins of singles are close to half-way used up so I anticipate having another full bobbin plus a little more of finished 2-ply. I can hardly wait to see how much yardage I actually have when all is done (I'm guesstimating about 200-250 yards per bobbin, or between 800 - 1,000 yards total) as well as to see how the yarn changes once it gets wet. Given the tighter twist I don't expect a lot of bloom from the yarn, but I have been surprised before in that department.

It will be very exciting to finish this batch of yarn, and then think about starting on the white merino. I won't have used all of the brown roving by any means, but I'm hoping to play around next summer with doing some dying, and am curious to see what might happen with over-dying on the dark brown. In the meanwhile, I'm still spinnin' that wheel..........