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Progress

My knitting mojo has returned, but it’s battling for time with the quilting mojo, and the writing and working demands – oh, what lovely things I could make if I didn’t have to work in addition to my writing!

The new shawl design is coming along, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel – and some order coming to the design chart! Here’s a little sneak preview:

Lace shawl detail

The yarn I’m using is my favourite 50/50 silk/merino blend, hand-dyed by Spinning a Yarn. It’s a beautiful heavy lace-weight yarn, about 600 metres per 100grams, with a smooth feel and lovely sheen from the silk. Hopefully I’ll have the border finalised and this sample completed in the next week or two; then I’ll need to write up the pattern (charts and written instructions), work out additional sizes, have it tested knitted, have the pattern tech-edited, photograph the shawl/s… and then it will be ready for publication.

My quilting has taken a slight hiatus; I was away in Canberra & Sydney for 10 days, and now I’m back I have a stack of uni marking to finish this weekend, so no quilting for me until that’s done. My first quilt top is coming along, but I’m looking forward to getting back to it and finishing it:

Nine-patch and snowball quilt top in progress

I have to redo the sashing, piece border strips and sew them on, and am also going to piece a strip in the backing fabric to make it wide enough. Then there’s the actual quilting – I’m thinking about simple machine-sewn diagonals in the 9-patch blocks, and maybe handquilting the snowball blocks – but I could also machine-quilt them, which might give me a chance of actually finishing the project!!

I used as a pattern guide a project from the book ‘Two From One: Jelly Roll Quilts” by Pam and Nikki Lintott (Book depository link) (Goodreads link). I didn’t follow the pattern exactly – I used birth control assorted fat quarters and scraps, not jellyrolls, and made it bigger – but I found the instructions, diagrams and photos clear and helpful for me as a beginner quilter. I do recommend the book; I’ve even bought another book by the Lintotts – Jelly Roll Sampler Quilts. (Book Depository link) (Goodreads link).

Of course, although I am only a beginner quilter, I have adopted very quickly the stashing habit! I have quite enough fat quarters and leftovers from this project to do another in similar shades; I have also stashed sufficient fabrics for at least three other quilts. They’re only in the dreaming/vague planning stages at present, but there is one I’d like to make in the next few months for a special person, and I ordered some fabrics for it from equilter.com when they were on special a couple of weeks ago. I have in mind a relatively simple quilt, highlighting the fabric rather than the patchwork, so it might be doable by the desired date in amongst all the other demands on my time.

In a quick round up of other news, my sourdough baking repertoire now includes cinnamon scrolls:
Sourdough cinnamon scroll

I’m also just baking my second loaf of sourdough chocolate bread, inspired by my niece who loved it when she stayed in France, and who is now a sourdough baker herself. It’s very delicious!

Skye the now 15-month-old ‘puppy’ is still keeping us on our toes – she loves her toys and she’s full-on play, play, play – until she’s ready to sleep for a while!

Oh, and have I mentioned that I have to write my next book by the end of September? No? Needless to say, I shouldn’t be here…! There may not be a whole lot of blogging in the next few months, but I hope to squeeze in some textile creativity, to help inspire the creative writing imagination!

The view from here….

We’re already two days into the new year, and while I’m recovering well from the surgery, I’m taking it easy and enjoying reading others’ blogs about their 2010 achievements, and their plans for 2011.

2010 will probably go down for me as the Year of Knitting Shawls. I did complete the 10 Shawls in 2010 Challenge on Ravelry, with my 10th shawl – an All-Lace Brangian – blocked a few days before I had to go to Sydney last month:
Brangian Shawl All-Lace version

Brangian Shawl bead detail

The yarn is another lovely 50/50 silk/wool from Wooltopia, and I knitted the shawl on 4.5mm needles.

Five days connected to a drip in hospital in Sydney before my surgery gave me the opportunity to finish knitting a couple of Christmas gifts, although I’m sorry I don’t have great photos of them. However, my nephew’s Binary Cable Hat and my niece’s Fingerless Lace Mittens were finished well in time for the family’s Christmas Day celebration. I wasn’t able to go to Canberra to be with them for Christmas, but I was discharged from hospital on Christmas Eve, so Gordon and I were able to enjoy a quiet day together.

My Sydney and hospital knitting has been socks – a plain pair in Zitron Trekking XXL which I love for out-in-the-bush socks:
Hand knitted sock in progress

Because the brown is a little dark for knitting at night, I’ve also started a pair of No-Purl Monkey Socks in Morris Empire 4ply:

I’m not making resolutions for 2011, but there are certainly some ideas/desires/wishes that I’m contemplating and hoping to put into action in the next 12 months or so:

  • keeping the stash under control – I’m not going to stick to a firm work-from-stash commitment, as my stash isn’t HUGE, but I’d like to be thoughtful in my yarn purchases, and use up some of the yarn that’s been idle for some time;
  • get back into weaving – now that I’ve sold my smaller floor loom, and made the decision to keep the large 12-shaft loom, I’m hoping to use some of my weaving yarn stash to make cloth for garments and for household items, and at the same time stretch my weaving skills a little by experimenting with yarns, more shafts and weave structures
  • yarnosophising – I’d like to take time to think and write more about craft and its important role, which will include reading some texts (such as finishing Soetsu Yanagi’s The Unknown Craftsman) and participating in the Slow Cloth movement, as well as exploring some ideas about feminism, feminine strengths, and craft work.
  • clothing – I’d like to make some more of my own clothing, both from knitted and woven cloth
  • designing – with two successful shawl designs completed in 2010, I’d like to further stretch my design experience in 2011, although I’m not sure yet what shape that will take

I think there’s enough there to keep me busy for twelve months!

Christmas Lights Shawl Released

This afternoon, after checking over the pattern again, I created a pattern page on Ravelry for the Christmas Lights Shawl and made it available for sale. I’ve also updated my pattern section here, and added the pattern into the Yarnosophy shop, but I’m sure Ravelry will be the place that most people go! (Which is fine by me, as Jess & Casey have created such an amazing community there that I like to support them as much as possible.)

Here’s some of Tara’s photos of the sample shawls, taken at our photoshoot yesterday:
Christmas Lights Shawl - edge detail

Christmas Lights Shawl - detail

Christmas Lights Shawlette - shawlette size

Christmas Lights Shawl - medium size

So, after months of knitting and calculating and charting and drafting and checking and rechecking and knitting… it’s finally done and out there!

Almost there

I’m getting much closer to releasing the Christmas Lights Shawl pattern. The fantastic group of test-knitters are making great progress, and have provided some valuable feedback on the pattern. I found a tech-editor n Ravelry who is seeking to build up her experience, and she’s done a great job, going through the pattern in detail, and making some thoughtful and sensible suggestions for improving it – and picking up a missed ‘yo’ in the instructions!

On Sunday, after a long day with much knitting, I finished the medium size version of the shawl, and managed to get it all pinned out on the blocking mats before taking the dog to the vet yesterday morning. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and our sunroom where the shawl was pinned out was toasty cosy – great for drying a shawl! So late afternoon I was able to unpin it, and take a few photos – not that any of them are great! I really need a beautiful garden, and/or some attractive garden furniture, to photograph shawls – our straggly wild bushland just doesn’t have anywhere to drape things photogenically. But here it is, hanging on a wall:

Christmas Lights Shawl

Tomorrow my photographer friend and her model friend and I will head out to the pine forest to take the ‘official’ shawl photos for the pattern. Then I just have to rearrange the layout of the pattern to fit the photos in, do a final check… and then it can be released into the wilds of Ravelry!

Oh, and you might want some project details!
Pattern: Christmas Lights (of course!)
Yarn: Saffron Dyeworks Enya Sock yarn in Lt Lockwood; 2 skeins
Beads: 4.5mm silver-lined aquamarine seed beads from Empire Beads
Ravelry Project Page

Now that I’ve finished knitting Christmas Lights (at least for now), I’ve picked up my all-lace Brangian again. It’s nice easy knitting, in a pretty clematis blue-purple silk/merino. I’m also itching to cast on some more socks 🙂

Decisions

I’ve been making decisions lately.

I’d originally planned to call my new shawl design Aurora’s Light, but I kept looking at it:
Knitted shawl - Christmas Lights
… and the Christmas Trees under the Christmas Star pattern just kept leaping out at me, and I finally decided that it couldn’t really be called anything else but Christmas Lights.

The pattern is currently being tested by a small band of enthusiastic testers over on Ravelry. There’s still scope for a couple more testers, so if you’d like to join in, see the discussion thread on the Brangian KAL group – the important info about the pattern is in the first post.

In an earlier post, I mentioned starting another sample of the shawl in lovely silk/merino from Knitabulous in a colourway called Tequila Sunrise – gorgeous pink and peach colours. However, having changed the name, I’m decided to put that one aside for a while, and I’ve started another one, this time for the medium size in a great Christmas green yarn from Saffron Dyeworks:

Christmas Lights Shawl progress

I’m planning to use the Tequila Sunrise yarn for a different pattern, perhaps a new one that may even start with the star, but go quite differently from there…. I’m still thinking about that. And there’s plenty of time, because I have to knit the green Christmas Lights first!

The other decision-making currently occupying my mind relates to the cleaning out and tidying I’m doing in our sunroom. When we designed the house, the plan was that one end of the sunroom would be my craft/office space. However, in between the start of building on the house, and moving in, I acquired a large, 12-shaft countermarche loom – which does fit at the end of the room, but takes up rather a lot of it! I also resigned from my full-time job the week that we moved, back in 2001, and although I’ve had other jobs out at the uni since then, I no longer have an office out there to store all my work-related things. Now I’m working from home, on another career, and it brings its own stack of paperwork, resources, and books. I’ve got bookshelves overflowing in the guest room, and a tiny desk tucked into a corner there, and a stack of paperwork, books, and fibre/yarn things in the sunroom, which is also home to assorted other bits of furniture and aspects of our life – amongst other things, the washing is frequently hanging up to dry there! And for the past year or so, I’ve been basically working at the dining table, moving my laptop when we have guests.

I’ve advertised the large loom for sale a number of times over the past few years, with no luck. I’ve also got a smaller 4-shaft counterbalance loom, and I’d planned to keep it until I could replace both with a smaller 8-shaft loom. Then the thought finally occurred to me the other day – why not keep the large loom, which will weave just about anything I’ll ever want to weave, and sell the smaller loom? If I also find new homes for the rocking chair, the treadmill, & assorted boxes, I could put a desk/table in their place, and shelves/cupboards on the other side of the big loom, rather than trying to work at a desk crammed in there.

Maybe it’s because Spring is in the air, or maybe its just the right time to do it, but I’ve begun the task of decluttering so that I can rearrange things, and although it doesn’t look like it just yet, I have made significant progress! The major ‘if’ of the decision about the looms, though, is that I have to make sure that I can work comfortably at the large loom. In all the years I’ve had it, I’ve only woven about 4 warps on it; when I was trying to sell it I wasn’t weaving on it, but I’m itching to weave again and I’ll wind a warp soon and test out that it will be okay as my only loom. But first I’m going to make apron cloths for the front beams and double back beams, as it doesn’t have any and I’ve always thought it need them. I bought calico for that today… and excavated the sewing machine!

Although there is one decent-sized cupboard in the room, it’s not quite large enough for all my stash and paraphenalia, so I’ve been looking at storage cupboards this week, and think I’ve found a suitable one to put down one end of the room. I just have to decide what else will go into the not-much space between the loom and the wall, and how I’ll configure that. Oh, and how I’ll afford it, as well!

And on top of all those decisions, there are a hundred small ones, as I sort through paperwork and other things. I’ve emptied a filing cabinet, although there’s a pile of files that need to be kept; tax paperwork, and family ephemera such as pictures drawn by my niece and nephew when they were little. I’ve emptied a cane chest, and put an assortment of things into a box to go to the Salvation Army… but there’s a jumper I started making for my nephew, when he was 3-ish – it’s almost finished, but he’s now 16! And a lovely fair-isle cardigan, started 11 yeas ago – for my now 19 year old niece. I’m not sure if I’ll finish them, or pass them on to a knitter with small kids to finish. I did put the almost-finished lacy baby jacket and pattern into the Salvos box – hopefully it will find its way to a knitter who likes baby things. I’ve managed to be firm with decisions about some spinning fibre; bits and pieces of fleece and natural roving are going into my compost bin or will become mulch in the garden. I’ve still got a box and a bag or three of lovely fibres, but the older, not-special fibres are going out.

There’s still a way to go until it’s all sorted, but I’m feeling good about progress, and looking forward to eventually having my own space again.

A round of updates

I’ve been busy with updating and rearranging things, here and there.

I’ve updated the Brangian pattern. There were no errors in the previous version, but the new version has a better (I hope!) layout, and also includes information about varying the pattern, including instructions for the All-Lace version. Here’s my All-Lace one underway:
Brangian Shawl, All Lace version

The updated pattern has been uploaded to Ravelry and to the Yarnosophy shop, and I’ve let Ravelry buyers know to download the new version. I’ll be emailing those who have bought the pattern through Yarnosophy shortly.

I’ve also been doing some updating and reorganising in the Yarnosophy shop. I’ve set up a number of categories for the stitch markers, so it will be easier for people to find the size and style (rings or loops) that they prefer. I’ve also changed the default currency setting to Australian dollars; I originally had it set as US dollars, as I advertise on Ravelry and I know that some US people find non-US currencies discouraging, but as most of my buying customers are from Australia, (the postage costs tend to be off-putting for overseas buyers) it makes more sense to use $AUD. So that’s all now changed over!

I’m also doing an inventory check, and improving my own behind-the-scenes system. It’s not been pretty good and I’m happy with the way they’re packaged, but I’m going through and adding a label to each set of markers with all the pertinent info including the name they’re listed under, needle size, and price code, and cross-checking that with what’s listed – early on, I underestimated the needle sizes that the tigertail loop ones would fit, so I’m updating all of those. This will make it easier for people who buy offline to look arthritis through the box and have the info to hand, and also for me to quickly find the right markers when people buy them through the shop. It all takes time, of course! However, now that I’ve refined the packaging/system/shop catalogue, it will be easier for everyone, including me!

I’ve found a good source of closed rings, so I’ve been making some markers with rings rather than loops – but I still use the tigertail to attach the beads. As there’s no wrapped wire, they’re also snag free. The rings only come in two sizes, so I’m making small markers which fit up to size 3.75mm needles, and medium ones which fit up to 5.5mm needles.

The small ones I’ve made with 6mm pearls are perfect for lace or baby knitting – and I think they’re very sweet!
Small stitch markers

They’re now in the shop, and I’ll have some more medium ring stitch markers in there in the next few days – I’ve got a few made already, but they have to be photographed and entered, which all takes time.

When I’m not updating patterns, making stitch markers, or playing shop keeper and tidying up the stock, I’m knitting while I stare at the screen and trying to write. I’ve started another sample for the new pattern, Aurora’s Light. I’ve still got a few more hours of work on it before the pattern is ready for testing, but hopefully I’ll squeeze that in in the next week or so. Here’s what I’ve knitted so far – the yarn is some of Knitabulous’ fifty-fifty merino/silk fingering. The yarn colour, Tequila Sunrise, is perfect for Aurora’s Light!

Aurora's Light shawl in progress

But right now, I’m going to get back to writing the next book!

Aurora’s Light?

Thank you to everyone who has made suggestions for the name for the new shawl. I’ve been looking up goddesses and heroines of legend, trying to find one connected with the sun, stars, or dawn – one with an easy to spell, and pretty name!

I think I’ve decided on Aurora. In Roman mythology, she is the Goddess of Dawn, and I think the shawl design can be seen to have dawn spreading over forests and streams… However, as there are multiple adhd shawls and other items called ‘Aurora’ on Ravelry, the name needs something extra – so how does Aurora’s Light sound?

And here she is, in the shawlette size:
Aurora's Light Shawlette

I hope to get some better photos soon, but it was a grey, wet day today, so not much photography was happening!

Now I just have to finish writing up the pattern, send it out to testers, and finish knitting a shawl-size one. In all that spare time I have….

Beautiful blues

It’s been a busy few weeks! So, what’s been happening?

The weekend before last, Emily (Rav link) and I set up a couple of indigo dye vats, and had a great afternoon gently dunking yarn, fibre and fabric into them, and watching the magic results as we took the dyed items from the vat, and on exposure to the air they gradually changed from green through lovely blue-green shades to blue. I didn’t dye a lot (I didn’t have a lot prepared), but now I know the process, I’m planning to do it again, very soon. Maybe even tomorrow. I want to re-dip a couple of the skeins I dyed, to get a deeper blue. Plus dye some more things!

It’s impossible to photograph things when you have blue-stained rubber gloves on, but fortunately Tara was there, too, and very handy with her camera. She’s put a set of photos from the day on Flickr.

A couple of days after the indigo-dyeing, I headed down to Sydney for the Romance Writers of Australia conference at Coogee. Very little in the way of knitting was achieved while I was away, other than a handful of rows on a present (now late) for my nephews birthday. More on that when it’s finished! But the conference was, as usual, fantastic, and I’m all energised and motivated to get really cracking with the new book. Although textile work is rewarding, it doesn’t pay the bills, so I’m going to have to put my writing work (mostly) first for a while.

However, now that I’m home again, I did finally take some time today to block the shawlette that I finished knitting two weeks ago. It’s the second prototype for my new design. I’m mostly happy with it, but in the final pattern I will make the ends of the spines deeper and more pointy over a few more rows, taking them down towards/into the border pattern.

Blue shawlette blocking

Knitted shawl - bead detail

The charts are all done; I ‘just’ have to finish the general instructions and do the written lace instructions for those who don’t like charts.

Oh, and come up with a name for her!!

Knit one, make one

I’m trying to get a sample shawl finished quickly so that I can send the new pattern out to test knitters – complete with a picture of what the design looks like, knitted up! The aqua one I started and mentioned in my previous post will be the large size, and have 5 gores, and it’s going to take me a bit of time to knit. So, i decided to put it aside for a short while, and cast on for the small size, with 4 gores for the first sample shawl – which is just over half the number of stitches that the aqua shawl will take!

I’m using a wonderful silk/merino fingering from Lush Yarn for this one, in a gorgeous rich blue colourway called Queen’s Robe. I’m loving it! I’m adding in silver-lined sapphire seed beads, and they’re looking gorgeous as well, so I’m thoroughly enjoying knitting this one! I started it on the 11th July, and I’ve knitted a third of it so far – although only one row in the past two days. I hope it will be finished next week, then I can finalise writing up the pattern and add photographs.

This is how she looked a few days ago – but I’ve knitted more since then:
Blue shawl beginning

Not quite right (yet)

Not quite right sums up a few things in my life lately. I’m sore and a bit tired following a minor surgery in Tamworth yesterday – but I did enjoy the trip down on the train on Monday, and I did manage to visit Spotlight, so it wasn’t all medical stuff!

While on the train, and while waiting around for hours at the hospital between appointments, I finished the ‘prototype’ of my new shawl design. And I blocked it today.

Now, those of you who are lace-knitters know that you really don’t see a design properly until it’s blocked. This is especially true when the item is too large too stretch out while on the needles. So, although I’d charted out the various elements of the design, and knew that technically they fitted together, I wasn’t sure how it would all ‘work’ together in actuality until I pinned out the shawl this morning. Some people can visualise things before they’re knitted – while I can imagine a general sense of how something might look, and I did knit a sample swatch of the last motif and border, I really need the finished item in front of me to really ‘see’ it.

And although it’s okay, and I’m proud enough of it to wear it, I’m not quite satisfied with it yet – so I’ve cast on already for another sample, which will incorporate a few changes.

Here’s the protoype, all pinned out:
Semi-circular shawl

What’s not quite right? The last womans health leaf motif is too close to the inverted ‘V’ lace, and its extra-noticeable because they don’t align exactly to flow from one to the other. And the reversing of the diagonal lines along the spines isn’t ‘neat’ enough; it doesn’t mirror the ones above, and it seems a bit crowded against the inverted ‘V’s.

So, I’m planning to keep the diagonal lines continuing in the same pattern right down the spines until the edging. I’ll also put some extra space between the leaf motifs and the ‘V’ motifs, so that the transition isn’t crowded. I’ve charted it all out… now I just have to knit it! One of the advantages, though, of the changes will be keeping the pattern fairly easy to knit, as the rhythm of the spine pattern will continue until the edging rows, rather than changing part-way through. And since rhythm and relative ease of knitting is one of my design criteria, that is a plus!

I’m using KnitPicks Gloss Lace yarn for the second shawl, in a delicate blue/green, and I’m also beading it. Plus, instead of a semi-octagon, with four gores, I’m knitting a 5/8 octagon, adding an extra gore so that the shawl will drape over the shoulders more securely.

Now, I’d better get back to the knitting! According to the handy excel spreadsheet calculation, I’ve so far knitted only 3792 sts of the total 49570 sts required. (Hmm… 7.65% sounds a little more encouraging!)