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Ruby Luxury Swap

I don’t do a lot of swaps, but last year I signed up for the Indigo Luxury Swap on the Australian Swappers Board on Ravelry, and that was so much fun that this year I signed up for the Ruby Luxury Swap.

After six weeks or so of planning, ‘stalking’ my swap partner, ordering yarn and making some things, on Wednesday I packaged up the parcel and sent it north. No sneak peeks, I’m afraid, as I didn’t get time to photograph things before I wrapped them. Although I did order two skeins of the luscious yarn, one for her and one for me, so I may get a photo of my skein at some stage. I don’t think my swap partner will receive her parcel today, since it’s going from one regional area to another, and is likely to take some days, despite being ‘express’.

Yesterday, I worked at home, and DH phoned me around 6pm to tell me he’d picked up two parcels for me from the Post Office – one some Bendigo yarn I’d ordered, and the other ‘might be your swap thingy’ he said. So, then I had to wait, bursting with curiosity until he came home about 7.30pm.

When he finally got home, and I opened my parcel, what a wonderful lot of ruby loveliness my swap partner, Heather, sent:

Ruby Luxury Swap parcel

Let’s have a close-up of that yarn:

Sea Sock detail

Yes, that’s a skein of Handmaiden Sea Sock – 51% silk, 29% merino, and 20% Seacell. Soft, scrumptious, with a lovely sheen to it – it’s gorgeous!

In addition to the lovely yarn, Heather knitted a pair of lacy fingerless mitts, and a matching cowl, from Lush Yarn hand-dyed merino. They’re pretty and cosy – and perfect for walking dogs on our chilly mornings! (A frosty -6 this morning!)

In a nice little coincidence, or bit of serendipity, the lace pattern that Heather used for the mitts is very similar to the one I used for my niece’s lacy fingerless mitts – of which, for various reasons, I have knitted her 2.5 pairs. (No, she didn’t lose them. The first pair I stuffed up and one was shorter than the other. I promised her another pair, knitted one on bamboo needles, and discovered my tension was different when I switched to metal dpns. I finally made her the replacement pair for Christmas last year.) Anyway, through that knitting saga, I’ve always wanted a pair myself, but that hasn’t hit the top of the priority list yet – and now I have a pair!

And the extra lovely thing – doesn’t wearing something that someone has gift-knitted for you feel just wonderful? Extra-cosy, extra-special. I have a few things that others have made for me – some angora/merino super-toasty fingerless mitts my Mum made me many years ago; a pair of socks made by my wonderful knitting-author friend Rachael Herron, and now this luscious, lacy ruby-red cosy cowl and mitt set. I’m a lucky, lucky woman! Thank you, Heather!

Not knitting, writing

Things have been quiet on the blog because they haven’t been quiet in my life! Uni work was quite mad there for a while, with almost 200 essays to mark, and teaching to do, and preparing for this semester’s teaching as well. (Yes, I agreed to teach another semester. Darned mortgage has to be paid, and since I haven’t had a book out for almost 2 years, there is nothing in the way of royalties coming in.)

Now the uni work is (mostly) under control and manageable, I’m racing to finish writing my current book before the deadline. So, things will continue to be quiet here!

I only just downloaded the photos I took some weeks ago of a couple of the dyed skeins, rewound and looking good:
Hand-dyed skeins of yarn

The blue-green one I gave to a friend for her birthday. The purple-teal one (which I love!) is becoming socks for me:
Hand knitted sock in progress

They’re just plain socks, easy to knit to keep my hands busy while I’m staring at the screen, thinking of what to write next in the novel. The photo is a little dark, but the colours are coming up beautifully. I’m in love with these socks already.

And in other textile-related news, the long saga of getting the sunroom organised into a proper, workable space for me is one step closer; Gordon decided that he didn’t need the hutches on his desks in his study, so I bought two credenzas – low cupboards – to put the hutches on at the end of the sunroom. They were delivered yesterday, and hopefully this weekend G and I will move the hutches into the sunroom and onto the cupboards – thus creating some more wonderful storage space for textile-related stash and books!

Finished Helmi

I’ve finished my modified Helmi cardigan – and I love it!

Handknitted cardigan. Pattern: modified Helmi. Yarn: Bendigo Rustic 12 ply

(Okay, so I don’t love my over-weight shape, but the cardigan is comfy and warm and should still look fine when I’m skinnier in the tum and butt!)

I didn’t do buttonholes in the front band; for the closures, I’ve used wooden beads I’ve had in the cupboard for years, and crocheted loops. I’m planning to re-space the ‘buttons’ so that they’re closer together and it doesn’t fasten quite so low.

But all in all, I’m regarding this cardigan as a success, and I’m definitely a convert to top-down knitting. This is the first jumper/cardigan I’ve knitted for some years that I actually like as a finished product on me. And since I’ve received four cardigan-lots of wool form Bendigo Woollen Mills recently, and we’re only part-way through a cold winter, I’d better go and cast on another cardigan!

Plodding along

It’s about as neglected and dusty in here on the blog as my house is. In between the more-than-full-time day job, and trying to write a novel, updating the blog has slipped down the list of priorities. G was away for a couple of weeks recently, too, so that meant I had a full load of doggy care, shopping, cooking, fire-lighting, wood fetching etc., on top of my other work.

There has been some knitting – but it does seem like ages since I actually finished something. The Helmi cardigan is gradually progressing – I’ve almost finished the second sleeve, and then I’ll return to knitting the body, now I know I’ll have enough yarn. It might be done by the end of this long weekend – maybe!

I started knitting another top-down cardigan, too, adapting a lace collar pattern from an old magazine for the round yoke. I may end up writing up the pattern. With that in mind, I think I’ll restart the cardigan in a different yarn, as the yarn I was using – Bendigo Woollen Mills Colonial 8 ply – is no longer in production. A new pattern should ideally use an available yarn. How fortunate that I’ve recently received two yarn orders from Bendigo, with yarn enough for four more cardigans/jumpers! I desperately need some new winter woollies – my three round-the-house jumpers have been in constant winter use for quite some years now, and I only have two thick cardigans suitable for going out in public, neither of which are beautiful. They are warm, though, and in the Armidale winter, that counts more than beauty! I do have an assortment of bought cardies etc in (thin) wool, but as my office is cold, they’re not really warm enough, even with a spencer, a long-sleeved t-shirt and a shawl.

What else is on the needles? A pair of socks for my Mum – I’m down to the heel on the first one. I’m using some of the pale pink Cleckheaton Cocoon that I won at the Armidale Show, and Nancy Bush’s Conwy pattern, which I’ve knitted a few times before.

Gordon’s red mittens haven’t progressed much at all – I’m up to the tricky bit of knitting the fingers, and just haven’t had the combination of time and brainspace to tackle that yet. There’s also a pair of 8ply socks for me that I knit a few rows here and there on.

I do really want to get Helmi finished soon. Sadly, I can’t knit while marking assignments – there’s another pile of 90 of them now waiting for me to tackle it. But on the upside, the unit that I’ll be teaching next semester is a film one, on the science fiction genre, so in the next couple of months I’ll be watching a fair few DVDs, and I can knit while I’m doing that! The 1950s version of The Day the Earth Stood Still might be on the agenda for this weekend – so I should get a chunk of Helmi done during that!

Rustic Helmi

There’s a jumper languishing in my cupboard, with the knitting all finished except for the neckband, and only the shoulder seams sewn up. I really, really don’t enjoy picking up stitches for bands, and sewing up seams…

… so I’ve been looking at top-down seamless patterns. As well as the no-seams, they also have the advantage that they can be tried on as one knits, and fitting adjustments made, rather than discovering when all the knitting and sewing is done that the garment doesn’t fit.

There’s a lot of top-down patterns out there, but I’ve been particularly looking for ones with a round, lacey yoke, and they’re nowhere near as numerous as raglan patterns. I’ve found a few, and then had to choose one, based on the cardigan-quantities of yarn in the stash, and what I need most urgently. I narrowed it down to four patterns, but with four patterns and four yarns to choose from, I spent a few days deciding. And swatching.

I finally decided on Helmi
(Rav link), and some russet-coloured 12 ply Rustic yarn from Bendigo Woollen Mills. I am – as usual! – using the pattern as a guide only, and adapting it; a smaller neckline, to start with, and four rows of moss stitch as an edging. I’ve never been keen on reverse stocking stitch, so I’ve set the lace against a plain stocking stitch background instead. The sleeves will be full-length, rather than short.

The try-on as you knit thing? Definitely an advantage:
Helmi cardigan in progress

A long car trip today has added a few more inches to the body – still a fair way to go to the finish, but I’m making progress!

(Oh, and yes, there’s a glimpse of the post-brain-surgery haircut – the shortest my hair has been since I was 9!)

Finally a FO

I’ve been working full-time, teaching at the university this semester, and so there has not been much time for knitting. This morning, I finally finished a pair of socks that I started in early February:

Handdyed Hedera socks

The pattern is the popular Hedera (Rav link) by Cookie A, and this is the second time I’ve knitted it. As my ankle is thicker than Cookie’s, I’ve again used 3mm needles for the leg, and 2.75mm needle for the foot.

The yarn is Bendigo Luxury 4ply which I dyed myself, some months back; I’m very happy with the saturation of the aqua and the touches of deeper purple. In fact, I love the socks!

Now to cast on for my next project – as knitting time is so limited, I think I’ll use some deep blue yarn from Saffron Dyeworks for a pair of plain socks, as I have no dark blue socks in my sock drawer:
Handdyed yarn from Saffron Dyeworks

Plain socks

Handknitted socks

They’re not fancy. There’s no lace, or cables, or other decorative stitches, just simple rib and stocking stitch teamed with a subtly striped yarn. I have another pair like this, in greens, and I love them as much as my fancier socks. The yarn is Trekking XXL, a good hard-wearing yarn with colour schemes that blend into each other. The pattern was a Patons pattern that I have memorised – and possibly adapted – over the years. It works. I added my shaped toe.

Plain socks, perfect socks.

Monkeying around

I managed to drag myself away from playing with sourdough starters and baking bread long enough to finish my latest Monkey socks today. The yarn shade is called Pier, so I call the socks Monkeys on the Pier.

No Purl Monkey Socks

Shaped toes on handknitted socks

Pattern: I’ve used the No-Purl version of Cookie A’s Monkey Socks pattern = although as usual I’ve just done my standard heel, and my new standard shaped toes.
Yarn: Morris Empire 4ply, bought from The Granny Square in Newtown, Sydney (as a little present to myself before I went into the hospital – which is just around the corner from the shop).

So, that’s one pair of socks off the needles. I’ve still got two others on the go – one, a plain pair in brown Trekking yarn, is about 40% done and will be the next to be finished. Probably. Then I might get back to the experimental Brangian socks, although whether they’ll be finished or frogged I’m not sure.

I’m going to be working full-time at the local uni for first semester, starting in February, so my knitting time will decrease, and therefore I’m going to be strategic about what I choose to knit. It’s a interesting challenge, knitting from stash but at the same time making sure I fill up gaps in my wardrobe. I have quite a few hand-knitted socks, but, for example, I only have one pair of red socks, and they’re dark red and lacy. Fortunately, I have some Bendigo Luxury 4ply in my stash, in the beautiful Ruby shade. I have a great pair of plain, basic greenish socks – but a lacy teal pair would be good, too… and I do have more Empire 4ply in a deep teal 🙂 So, I can certainly keeping my fingers productively and strategically employed for a while!

Oh, and about that sourdough… this fruit loaf didn’t rise as much as I’d hoped, but it is still scrumptious (especially toasted with butter and marmalade):
Sourdough Fruit loaf

Now, I’d better go and make a sourdough chocolate cake, as we have visitors coming this afternoon!

Monkeys in the pool

Before I went into hospital, I called into the new yarn shop The Granny Square, a very convenient couple of blocks from the hospital. I decided I deserved a little bit of spoiling, so I bought two balls of Morris Empire yarn for socks – picking a variegated yarn, just for a change.

I didn’t get to cast on the socks until after the surgery. I decided to knit the No-Purl version of Cookie A’s Monkey Socks from Knitty.com, which I have knitted before. Last time, I started them on 3mm needles, as Cookie’s legs are clearly much skinnier than mine. However, I didn’t have 3mm needles with me in Sydney, so I started with 2.75mm, hoping they’d be okay. I got almost as far as the ankle, and tried them on… nope, I definitely need the bigger needle size. So, yesterday I cast on with the second ball of yarn using 3mm needles.

It’s been interesting watching how the variegation in the yarn knits up and pools with the different gauges. Here’s the two socks:

The tighter gauge (2.75mm needles) is on the left, the slightly looser on the right.The pale green shows up more in the first, the blues more in the second. The two balls are from the same dyelot, so it’s probably just the knitting tension creating the differences.

However, I’m quite happy with way the yarn is in the looser tension, so I’ll frog the first one and reknit it after I finish the other sock. I’m up to knitting the heel on it, and I’ll drop down a needle size for the foot. My feet are reasonably slim – it’s my calves that are no longer as graceful as they used to be!

More small achievements

I seem to be managing to cross a few things off my to do list lately – not huge things, but some little ones that nevertheless make me feel good! And those I haven’t yet crossed off, I’m making good progress on.

Since I’ll be in hospital for Christmas and won’t be able to visit my parents, I thought I’d knit another lace doily, this time in colours to match the blue and white linen my mother often uses on the table for Christmas dinner. I rummaged around in the stash and found a cone of pale blue cotton I’ve had for years, and cast on for the a second one of the Little Flower Doily (Rav link) from Bad Cat Designs. It took me a little over 24 hours to knit, and here she is blocking this morning:

Little Flower Doily blocking

So, I can be at Christmas dinner in spirit – or under a nice glass plate of Mum’s fruit mince tarts 🙂

The Christmas knitting – the small amount I am doing – seems reasonably under control. The Binary Cable Hat I started knitting for my nephew before his birthday in August didn’t get finished, as I confused myself with how to set the binary code for his name into the cables, and therefore stuffed it up. However, this morning I finally frogged most of what I’d done, back to the first inch, and have restarted again, getting it right this time! So, it’s now progressing well, and I hope to have it finished if not today, then tomorrow. I have another gift for him, but this will get popped in with it when it’s done:

Binary Cable Hat in progress

There’s another gift I’ve half-finished, but since the recipient sometimes read this blog, I won’t mention it 🙂 (But dear recipient, don’t get TOO excited. It’s just something I have owed you for …ahem ….a while. This year you might actually get it. Fingers crossed. But I have something else for you, as well!)

When those two things are done, then the next project will be finishing my All-Lace Brangian shawl, which is about half-done. I realised this morning that if I want to actually finish the Ravelry 10 Shawls in 2010 challenge, then I’m going to have to finish that shawl (my 1oth for the year) in the next week or so, in order to get it blocked, photographed, and uploaded to the group before I leave for hospital on the 10th Dec. It’s only a small shawl, so that should be doable.

And in pattern news, I have updated the Brangian Progressive Yarn Usage table, and added one for the All-Lace Brangian version, which has slightly different row counts and therefore yarn usage. They can both be downloaded as .pdf files from this page.