Knitting Progress

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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.

Racing the clock

When I was researching in the UK a few years ago for my Honours thesis (on 18th century British worsted textiles), I came across a newspaper article about a coat made entirely in one day, from raw fleece to finished product. I can’t at present find my notes, but I think that one was earlier than the similar event, described in the following article, which originally appeared in the Leeds Mercury, and was reprinted in the Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser in it’s first edition on January 7, 1843.( Courtesy of the National Library’s Historic Australian Newspapers site.)

MOST EXTRAORDINARY PERFORMANCE IN THE MANUFACTURE OF A COAT.- The somewhat surprising statement which we published on the 2nd instant, of a beautiful brown dress coat having been manu- factured and made in Leeds in the space of 19 hours, can scarcely equal the following as a feat of expedition, one we should think, unparalleled Ă­n the history of coat-making. The late Sir John Trockmorton, Bart., a noble minded gentleman, and one ardently devoted to improvements in agriculture, with a view to encourage the growth of British wool, at five o’clock in the morning of the 25th June, 1811, presented two sheep to Mr. Coxeter, of Greenham Mills, Newbury, Berks, for the purpose of proving that a coat could be made of the wool before night. The sheep were immediately shorn, and the wool sorted, &c., it passed through the usual process of scouring, dyeing, scribbling, spinning (on the jenny,) weaving (by hand,) and a fine kersey cloth was manufactured before four o’clock in the afternoon. The cloth was then put into the hands of tailors, who completed the coat at twenty minutes past six, and Sir John had the pleasure and satisfaction of appearing in it at a public dinner at seven ? Some thousands of persons were present, who at the appearance of Sir John, rent the air with their acclamations. The said coat is now in possession of the nephew of Sir John late member for Berks. We have seen a large painting in the inn at Newbery, representing a view of Mr. Coxeter’s manufactory on the morning of the day, when this extraordinary performance took place at the above mills, also representing Sir John in his celebrated coat, and portraits of the most distinguished persons present at the dinner.-Leeds Mercury.

I suspect that this type of racing-against-the clock challenge was not entirely uncommon at the time, in the days of entrepreneurial gentleman clothiers and manufacturers, prior to the wide-spread introduction of steam-powered machinery. It’s quite an amazing feat though, when you consider all the process that had to take place, and only the spinning done by machine, everything else done by hand. I can only assume that it was a dry day, given that the processes included scouring, dyeing, and presumably at least some wet-finishing of the kersey cloth. I hope Sir John didn’t catch a cold over dinner, if his coat was still slightly damp 🙂

More SpinOffs on eBay

I’ve put some more Spin-Off magazines on e-Bay – but I did it some days ago, and the auctions finish tomorrow night. If you’re interested, the following is what I’ve put up:

4 Spin-Off magazines 1999 Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall
4 Spin-Off magazines 2000 Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall
3 Spin-Off magazines 2001 Spring, Summer, Fall
3 Spin-Off magazines 2003 Spring, Summer, Fall
1 Spin-Off magazine Spring 2002
1 Spin-Off magazine Winter 2004

I’m a bit sad to see them go, but I don’t have a lot of space, and I very rarely refer to them, so it makes sense to sell them. My local guild already has an extensive set.

Spin-Off magazines on eBay

In a tiny attempt to do some decluttering, I’ve listed some Spin-Off magazines on eBay:

3 Spin-Off magazines – Spring, Summer and Winter 1995

4 Spin-Off magazines: Spring, Summer, Fall &Winter 1996

4 Spin-Off magazines-1997 Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

4 Spin-Off magazines-1998 Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

The auctions finish around 7.30ish (AEDT) on Friday 23rd January. There are bids on the first two lots already.

I have some more, 1999-2002 or thereabouts and a few odd ones from other years, so I’ll see how these ones go and perhaps list them, too.

Jaywalking frog

Me and the Jaywalker pattern aren’t having much luck. I didn’t think I had particularly thick ankles, but they’re obviously not as slim anymore as some people’s are, because even knitting the Jaywalker on needles two three sizes larger than those recommended in the pattern, it’s coming out too tight. I can get the sock on, but it’s not the comfy type of sock sizing I like. I phoned my sister in Canberra, asked her to measure her ankle in case hers is a lot smaller then mine, but there’s not that much difference.

So, I’ve decided to frog the merino/cashmere jaywalker sock that I’d almost finished. Sniff.

Jaywalker sock, The Knittery merino/cashmere yarn

To ease the pain, however, I’ve already started using that yarn for some fingerless gloves. I promised my friend Kerry some warm ones last year, but the merino/angora that I spun for the purpose is too fine. So, I’m trying out the merino/cashmere on a glove pattern. I found the free Serpentine mitts pattern, which is the right yarn size, and general style. I wasn’t too keen on the particular cable pattern, so I’ve just used the pattern for proportions and structure, and am doing a different cable pattern. I’m pleased with how it’s coming along so far:

Fingerless mitts, handknitted in The Knittery merino/cashmere yarn

If Kerry doesn’t like these, I’ll be more than happy to keep them myself!!

I’m still planning to use the handspun angora, but think I will knit it along with a strand of 2ply wool. When I dig out the 2ply from the depths of my cupboard, I’ll knit a swatch with the two together and see how that goes. I’m hoping it will knit to the equivalent of a 5ply or thereabouts (light worsted in US terms?) I don’t have a heap of the angora, so there won’t be enough for gauntlet-type gloves, but if it works, there should be enough for a pair of basic fingerless gloves.

Decisions, decisions

Knitting lately seems to be two steps forward, one step back. In particular, I’ve been having trouble deciding on contrast colours for heels and toes for the two pairs of socks I’m currently knitting. I have a selection of 5-ply yarns that I use for contrasts, but none of them really worked very well for either pair. For the blue/green/mauve patonyle socks, I knitted the heel first in the same jade green I used last time I used this yarn, but decided it would be boring having two pairs the same. So, I used a purple yarn and knitted the heel – blerch, too strong a colour and it didn;t really pick up the mauve that’s in the main yarn.

So, I’ve now knitted the heel a third time, using a blue yarn, and I think it works well enough.

Patonlye handknitted socks

The very-colourful jaywalkers have been stalled for a while. My choices of colour for contrast heels for it were a pink that made it almost fluorescent, or a blue, which I used, but I’m pretty ‘meh’ about. There is a very similar shade blue in the main yarn, but I don’t think it’s working well to pick it up as the contrast.

Then I (re)discovered this dark purple in the back of the cupboard. And now I’m wondering if that would work better than the blue?? I think it will, which means frogging the foot and doing the heel and foot again. Opinions, anyone??

jaywalker socks progress

With doing the first sock of the Veronik socks three times, I sure have been frogging a lot lately!

I’m also trying to knit gloves for a friend, but am having trouble with the fact that the angora yarn I spun quite a while back is finer than I need, and there probably isn’t, in reality, quite enough for the gloves. I’ve started a pair, but I’m also mulling over maybe using one of the merino-cashmere yarns from The Knittery instead, and stranding the angora inside for extra warmth, or knitting a lining for the main part of the hand from the angora. My friend’s hands and fingers get very cold in winter, but she needs to be able to draw and work at the computer, so these can’t be too bulky. Hhhmmmmm. I’ve never knitted a lining for gloves, so I’m not sure which way to go.

The exercise-yarn resolution

Inspired by my good friend Theresa over at Knitterary, I’ve decided to put money into a jar for every kilometre I walk on the dreadmill treadmill, and limit my yarn and fibre expenditure to what’s in the jar.

I’m not much good at either exercise or resolutions, (but very good at buying stuff) so to make this workable for me, I’m paying myself more than Theresa’s doing. I decided, at least to start with, that $1 per kilometre will encourage me to exercise. Given the price of yarn here, and my knitting habits, that should be a good balance of discipline/reward.

I did 1.5 kilometres this morning. I’m already feeling like I want to do 2 kms this afternoon. Enough yarn for a pair of socks is around $10 for plain commercial, to $25 for handpainted. Enough Bendigo yarn for a jacket or jumper is around $70, and way more for other yarns. A cone of cottolin for weaving is about $25, likewise a skein of silk. Now, I’m slightly cheating here, because I do have enough in my stash to keep me going for a while, due to recent purchases, but if I stick to this commitment for future yarn purchases, I should build up enough funds for larger projects, as well as the occasional sock yarn purchase.

So, we’ll see how this works out!! To keep me honest, I’ll do a page here on the blog with contributions and ‘deductions’.

Yarn fund jar

(Yes, it really needs a label that has a knitter on a treadmill wrapped in yarn, but I’m not that artistic.)

Stash enrichment – Bendigo and Nundle

We went with friends on a day trip a couple of weeks ago, which included calling in at the Nundle Woollen Mill. We didn’t have a whole lot of time there (the male halves of the party getting restless), but I managed to select some of their 4-ply Retro yarns to play with:

Nundle 4-ply Retro yarns

I also brought home 200g of optim merino wool blended with camel:

Combed sliver - optim merino fibre blended with camel

Some of the Retro yarn is already on its way to becoming a pair of lacy socks:

Lace socks in Nundle’s Retro yarn

The pattern is the Socks for Veronik, on page 46 of Interweave Knit’s Holiday gifts edition, 2007.

The above hasn’t been my only stash enrichment lately, though! I put in an order during the Bendigo Woollen Mills sale, and now have 1.2 kilos each of 8ply Colonial in the Ocean Tweed shade, and the 10-ply Aran in Hemp shade:

Bendigo yarn, Ocean Tweed and Hemp

Then I went to my LYS, WOW, and some more sock yarn insisted on coming home with me, telling me I needed to make pain relief some socks for my sister:

Socj yarns

I haven’t just been enriching the stash; I have been working on depleting it!! The socks I was knitting for my father (see post below) were finished well in time to be sent off for Christmas. I’ve also been working on a jumper (sweater) that I started earlier in the year – I have now finished the back, and have done 5″ of the sleeves.

Jo Sharp Fisherman’s Rib jumper in Bendigo Ming yarn

The back took a little more yarn than I anticipated, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll have enough to finish the jumper. The back is currently quite long, so I can shorten it an inch or so if necessary. I figured if I did the sleeves, I’d then know how much I’ll have left over for the front, and whether I’ll need to shorten the length or not. The pattern is Jo Sharp’s Fisherman’s Gansey, and the yarn is from Bendigo.

Bliss gloves to be

Years ago, my mother made me a pair of fingerless gloves out of an angora and wool blend. They live in the pockets of my padded winter jacket, which makes them easy to find and slip on when I’m walking the dogs or collecting kindling or other tasks in the winter cold. They’ve been going strong for at least 18 years, with no signs of wearing yet, and I still lov pulling them on.

So, when my good friend Kerry mentioned that her hands freeze in winter, I decided to dig out the angora and merino blended fibre I’ve had in the stash for a fair while, and spin yarn to knit her some fingerless mittens. I finished the spinning a little while ago, but with life being somewhat frantic in recent months, it took me a while to get organised to dye it. Yesterday I took the skein into our Spinners’ and Weavers’ meeting, and used the microwave there that we keep for dyeing.

The colour turned out a little paler than I’d hoped, but Kerry likes it, so all is fine! I’m planning to start knitting them today.

And talking of bliss things, I finally uploaded a photo of the completed Bliss Socks:

I also finished another pair of mock fair-isle socks this week. The photo’s not great, but the socks are cosy and comfy!

Brown skeins

While at the Armidale Show last weekend, I was spinning some brown carded fibre I’ve had for quite a few years. We used it for folks to have a go at spinning, and wound off what they’d spun as their momento, but in between I kept spinning it, and filled a bobbin. So, this past week, I’ve spun another bobbin, and I finished plying them tonight while watching the news. Spinning is soooo much quicker when you’re not spinning lace weight!

Brown handspun yarn

These skeins aren’t anything fancy, but since I haven’t spun simple coloured wool for a while, it’s been a nice change. I don’t have a lot more of the carded fibre, so I think these skeins will ultimately be a pair of socks.

Now, I’m off to watch Murphy’s Law and Spooks on TV – I enjoy Friday night British crime shows! – so I’ll be working on the second bliss sock while I’m relaxing. Only another few rows before I start on the heel 🙂