Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Project 365: Week 8

The Chinese have a saying for a week like this: "May you live in interesting times!" Of course, they meant it as a curse for their enemies. It has been a week of upheaval and the beginning of a massive cycle of change in my working environment. One can consider it the beginning of a journey to a Brave New World or the end of life as we know it. I'm going for the bright new future. I'm essentially an optimist.

We'll start this week with Wednesday's photo. I forgot to take a camera with me on Tuesday....
Day 51: Take your child to work day. Only joking... More like bring your child home from work day. The local year 12 students have all been in over the last few days learning how to use our massive instrumentation for Chemistry. Here's my boy on the end closest the camera. I'll treasure this as he didn't even notice I took it and he's concentrating intently on the class.


Day 52: I can still do it. Our senior instructor dropped in unexpectedly and took class for me. Of course that meant I had to train too. And then he made me break boards. This is my first lot in about 4 years. I still got it! Rickety arthritic hips and all.
Day 53: That awkward moment in your working life when your blind-sided by the hit you didn't even see coming when your university decides to give your campus away to another university. It's sort of like an teenage break-up followed by a blind date leading to an arranged marriage in the one day. You know "It's not you, it's me. We've grown apart and we are heading in different directions. But you didn't do anything wrong and you're perfect as you are just not the right one for me. However I know you so well, I know what you need. Here's XXXX, date for a while and make it work 'cos the marriage is in 6 months!" Nothing is ever going to be quite the same again.
Day 54: "What you think you can just leave cuddly knitting lying around over night and expect to get it back again? It's mine now. Thanks" (This is an almost finished new knitted case for my little baby tablet computer I use for teaching).
Day 55: Digging in the knitting drawer on a peaceful Sunday morning to find a needle to sew up said laptop sleeve. Maybe I need to clean up again. It's nearly overflowing.
Day 56: Hot Summer Night. I was trying to put the chooks to bed but they were still yahooing around the yard and in no hurry to go to sleep. These are random streetlights.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

New Techniques for a New Year: A Wish List

I have said on the blog before that I don't do New Year's Resolutions as I'm terrible at keeping them (Though the blog has been known to write it's own list). However, I do have a sort of New Year's List. I have a list of techniques I want to learn and hopefully master in 2013.

1. Learn and use Judy's Magic Cast On. This is most commonly used for starting toe-up socks. However it can be used for beginning any small circular knitted piece such as top down berets.
I used it here at the beginning of the motifs in my Imbolc Pullover to avoid having a hole in the centre of each motif. I did have to do copious watching and re-watching of Judy's informative video tutorial. YouTube is truthfully a wonderful resource for knitters.
I'm going to use it next to knit the Longitudinal Socks from the First Fall 2012 Edition of Knitty. These are knitted from side to side in garter stitch beginning with Judy's Magic Cast On and are finished at the other side by grafting in Kitchener stitch.
Then there's probably a pair of toe up socks somewhere near on my knitting horizon too.

2. Double Knitting: Double knitting is a technique where two pieces of knitted fabric are knitted simultaneously on the same set of needles. It produces an interlocked piece of knitting which is fully reversible with a stockingnette stitch face on both sides. It allows you to produce intricate reversible colourwork. For an extreme example, look at this stunning cardigan coat by M'lou Baber from her book Double Knitting: Reversible Two Colour Designs

I keep looking at getting the Craftsy Class Adventures in Double Knitting with Alisdair Post-Quinn. This is an online video based class to which you have unlimited access complete with question and answer forum monitored by the teacher. They are sort of like doing a face to face session with a fantastic teacher any time you like, at your own pace, where you can watch the tricky bits over and over as long as you like. Fantastic idea.
But then, I look at the regular price of $39.95 US and think maybe when it's on sale.... A girl's got to be careful that the spending on the habit doesn't get totally out of hand. Alistair's Book is awesome too: Extreme Double Knitting.
So this week I raided the shelves at my local library instead and borrowed this book:
Mastering Color Knitting by Melissa Leapman
It covers the basic techniques behind double knitting in really detailed photo tutorials.
I have my first real project picked out too:
Exchequered by Alice Bell from Knitty Spring 2006. It's time to make a boy scarf for a change.
And then maybe a hat:
The His and Hers Reflection Hat from Mastering Colour Knitting.

3. Brioche Knitting: Brioche Knitting is a family of knitting patterns which involve tucked stitches where a yarn over is knitted together with a slipped stitch from the previous row. It produces a sort of double thickness knitting with raised stitches that can be then be manipulated into intricate crossing stitch cables or highlighted in a different colour.
Brioche Fingerless mitts by Sarah's patterns
The reverse side is just as awesome
Again, there's a Crafty Class on my covet list; Explorations in Brioche Knitting with Nancy Marchant. I want to make that leaf scarf!
And she has an awesome book: Knitting Brioche. I played with the online library catalogue as I was writing this and placed a hold on it! Nancy also has a cool website at The Brioche Stitch.

How about another hat? Nancy has a number of free beret patterns on her website. I like the Windmill Beret.
This one is by kniftyred on Ravelry
Do you have a knitting wish list? What new things do you want to do in 2013?

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Project 365: Week 7

Week 7 done and dusted. It was fun if you like inconvenience and unexpected minor catastrophes. This week a suicidal native animal ruined my Valentine's Day. My oven gave up the ghost. And once again I missed immortalising a day in photographic splendour. (Tell me why I don't like Mondays).
Day 43: Peace and quiet on the couch. The cowl I'm knitting almost finished and ready for grafting. Cat snuggling my feet. The cool retro new laptop sleeve I bought for my laptop which my son has sort of stolen.
Day 44: The view from my office window. It's nice to be able to see outside. It makes me feel less like a pod person. However, my window is mirrored on the outside and stupid birds fly into it at extremely random intervals and make me jump with the thumps they make.
Day 45: The Valentine's Day Massacre. A giant obnoxious kangaroo jumped out in front of my car on the way to work. It was instantly fatal for the roo and my car is injured but not terminally. However it did require towing (dead radiators leaking vital fluids are not conducive to long term car health). It is now in car hospital waiting repair and I am driving around the little pink Barbie car.
Day 46: One of Melbourne's Asian inspired suburbs. After yesterday's encounter with the roo, I just had to laugh when I saw the name of this Korean Restaurant whilst waiting for the bus.
Day 47: Arrgh! It's a pirate party. Knitted parrot off to party with a pirate wench in drag.
Day 48: What happens when you are watching MasterChef and the kids feel the urge to make crumble and the oven has a dead element? That's what BBQ's are for. It is a hooded BBQ though.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Project 365: Week 6

Ok, I think I need to yell, "Stop the world, I want to get off". It's Week 6 already. Where did January go? February is fast running away too. At least I'll have a photo record of what did happen because life seems to be cruising by so fast again individual days aren't really registering...
Day 36: I went for a lunchtime walk. As you can see from the photo it was glorious day. This is the mural representing indigenous studies on our campus.
Day 37: Day in Melbourne with my little sis. Melbourne's graffitied laneways always make me smile. This is off Centre Lane. Look even the rubbish skips are painted.
Day 38: Couch computing. Look at the amazing posture demonstrated here.
Day 39: Delivery of nasty boxes in my office on a Friday afternoon. These boxes contain exam papers and they need to be marked over the weekend. How to ruin a weekend?
Day 40: Mass production cooking. Earlier in the day this was overgrown massive zucchinis, squash, pumpkin and potatoes straight from the veggie garden. Also containing fresh chicken eggs. I now have a freezer full of potato and vegetable fritters.
Day 41: Party Penguin comes out to play in celebration. I'm happy today because my next interview with a designer has come together. This is a massive hint of who it is going to be. I got to interview one of my absolute knitting heroes and he was so nice.
Day 42: How a ninja creates kindling. The fruits of the boy's black belt practice this week. Who needs axes when you've got feet, elbows and hands? After some admiration time, they'll go and join the neighbour's woodpile.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Knitting along with cyber friends: Cowl KAL

OK, so on Ravelry I belong to a few groups. One of these is dedicated to the English Women's Weekly one of the few weekly magazines which still has a knitting pattern. They used to be awesome when Alan Dart was their resident toy designer and I have a very precious collection of dog-eared pages with out of print Alan Dart licensed toys such as Thomas the Tank engine and Mr Men collected from the magazine in the 80's and 90's. I mainly play along in here for a heads up on what is in each week's magazine hoping for similar chunks of knitting pattern gold. It's not happening as often these days though.

The group moderator bettyboo, has recently decided to revamp the group to get some more lively chatter going and as she had never knitted a cowl (and they are the trendy winter accessory du jour) she proposed a Cowl KAL (Knit Along) for February. I was happy to jump in as the middle daughter, Mel, has a list of things for me to knit for Mel's and Louise's Awesome-tastic European adventure which is to take place at the end of this year.

This is my first go at a organized KAL. It has been a comedy of errors from Day 1. So here I bring you the diary of a cowl (actually several cowls), complete with false starts, overly ambitious project plans, non-monogamous knitting and a master's degree in extreme frogging.

First I had to choose a pattern: This is part of the fun anticipation of the countdown to the beginning of a KAL. You get to legitimately hunt through the stash of knitting books and magazines (and probably inwardly cringe slightly if you have as many and I do). You can trawl the patterns database on Ravelry for hours on end finding new delights. But you do eventually have to make a decision.
I had three in my little stash of must knit patterns, all free patterns.
The Lava Flow Cowl by Dixie Norton.  This is knitted from a provisional cast on, twisted at the end to form a faux mobieus and then grafted together. Otherwise simple 2 by 2 rib and a single cable every 20 rows. Mel likes this one.
The BFF Cowl by Ysolda Teague and tinyowlknits from Knitty Deep Fall Edition 2012. I loved this one when I first saw it when it went live in Knitty. I love the colours and the sentiment behind the design. I want to make this one for myself. These are also knitted from a provisional cast one and grafted at the end (so a similar skill set required to the Lava Flow Cowl above).
Eleanor Cowl by Audrey Knight from Knitty Deep Fall 2010. This is lace knitted in the round.
The second step is to find the right yarn. I'm being a good girl and am on a bit of a yarn diet at the moment (so no new yarn unless its for specific large project like a jumper or cardigan) and op shop yarn does not count. So I got to commune with the stash and find some likely yarn. Imagine me shoulder deep in the stash boxes, gently squishing yarn for suitability and carrying on a gentle voiced conversation with the rejected yarn to make sure its feelings weren't hurt in the process. Disgruntled yarn makes for a feral stash. So I eventually choose two lots of yarn, one for the Lava Flow Cowl and two different colours for the BFF Cowl.
Then you need to assemble your tools.So I checked I had sufficient knitting needles of the correct size and located my retractable tape measure. It's magnetic so often ends up stuck in some pretty out of the way places. I was already to start. Then it was waiting time: (I'm not good at waiting and I had finished the jumper I was knitting...)
OK, So I admit it, I cast on two days early! The 30th of January I couldn't hack it any more and I cast on for the Lava Flow Cowl. The yarn I chose for this is a op shop find. It is a multi-plyed wool in a creamy brownish colour. I had about 10 roughly 50 gram balls of this originally and it cost me 50 cents at an op shop closing down sale. This is the same yarn as I knitted Mel's Owlishly Warm mitts from and so I know it blooms up beautifully soft after a bath. And matching colour accessories makes sense. I used some waste yarn to crochet a chain for a provisional cast on. I picked up the required number of stitches from the chain (with difficulty) and then re-read the pattern notes and realised I should have been picking up from the purl bumps on the back. So I pulled it out and started again.
So this how far I got after an evening knitting. I was using 4.5 mm needles as suggested by the pattern. I was using a thickish yarn of around the right weight. I was happy with the yarn and how the pattern was coming up but it didn't seem to be quite wide enough. The pattern was vague about required gauge just stating 4.5 stitches to the inch. I sort of had that (if I stretched out the rib). But it looked like it was going to turn out two short if this was 1 and three quarters of a repeat.... Hmm... Solution, put it aside and re-think.
Day 1 (1st February 2013): I was thinking about what to do with the Lava Flow cowl and so decided to cast on for the BFF cowl instead. Started with 4.5 mm needles as suggested by the pattern and completed one full pattern repeat of the cocoon stitch cowl. I am using yarn from the stash that my mother bought me after a trip to the Australian Country Spinner's Woollen mill (the home of Cleckheaton, Patons, Shepherd and Panda Yarns in Australia). The wool is unlabelled seconds in a rough long ball and appears to be basically DK/8ply so it doesn’t meet gauge. Need to frog and redo with larger needles. Oh, and I had a copy of the pattern I dowloaded on the first day it went live and it had errors…. Fixed by getting my boy who was sitting next to me to drag up the the pattern from the Knitty site and change screens from 9GAG whenever I needed to look at it. Bonding time with teenage boy also achieved.
Day 2: Used the lime green yarn and 5.5mm needles and knit up an tension square. Made gauge roughly. Frogged the tension square and the bit of the blue cocoon cowl link I had done. Redid the crochet provisional cast on with a larger hook. Began knitting again did 2 full pattern repeats + 4 rows of the third. Now using my daughter’s metallic purple knitting needles.
Day 3: Lots of car knitting. Moving day for future doctor daughter. Knitted while she drove us to her new house. Knitted while watching TV at night. 8 repeats finished. Just over half way on this loop. A bit worried about how much yarn I have left…. That’s what comes of using a random ball of seconds. Have no idea even how much it weighs.
Day 4: Knitted in the evening while watching MasterChef The Professionals. Have completed 11 full repeats and two rows of the twelfth repeat AND RUN OUT OF YARN. It’s not long enough. I can’t quite decide if I should be ironic now and finish the two repeats I have left to go it a wildly contrasting colour… Or frog it and begin again with new yarn.
Day 5: Tried adding a few rows with a contrasting colour (a deep teal). Just looked weird. So I frogged the lot! (I had fun knitting it in the first place and it will be fun to knit again). But I need a major re-think on what yarn I am going to use... (I may have to buy some).
Day 6: OK I am Back to the original Lava Flow cowl. Began by frogging the lot (You can see why this KAL deserves the awarding of at least a master's degree in extreme frogging) and went up to 5.5 mm needles to make it a little larger. Went with my little sister to Melbourne today so 5 hours combined, train and bus knitting time. Redid crochet provisional cast on on a larger hook. Knitted till I ran out wool on the first ball. 4 full repeats nearly. Much better size this time. This is now going to be called the Buses and Trains Cowl. (I figure Mel will wear it on lots of buses and trains in Europe too).
Day 7: Did a few rows in the evening. Joined on new ball of yarn. Nearly up to 5th Cable row. Happy with how this is turning out now. Dodgy photo of progress though.
Day 8 and 9: More evening and afternoon knitting interspersed with marking of exam papers. Now up to 8 repeats and just finished the 2nd ball of yarn. Going swimmingly.

This is just the first installment of my Cowl KAL diary. Stay tuned for more to come. Will she finish the Buses and Trains Cowl soon? Will she re-start the BFF cowl for the third time?

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Project 365: Week 5

OK, this week we're back into the regular humdrum routine of our lives. Three of us are at work. The boy went back to school for his first day of the last year of  high school on Friday. We moved future Doctor daughter into her first share house. The suburb she has moved too is like falling down the rabbit hole and ending up on vacation in China. However, the yum cha is awesome.And it's walking distance from the hospital.
Day 29: Trainee ninja. The boy is hoping to go for his black belt in June. Training hard and executing his pattern with skill.
Day 30: The kids bought fish. One was looking at the RSPCA website and seeing that you can adopt fish. This was the description for the fish you could adopt: "What can I say about me? I enjoy swimming and blowing bubbles with my fishy friends. When we aren't doing that we spend our time doing.... what were we talking about again?? I've forgotten..." However these are not adopted fish... They are cheap fish.
Day 31: The state of my kitchen at 8pm on a Thursday night. This is typical. Thursday is the night all us ninjas are at class. Cook and run is an awesome skill. However, it has its drawbacks...
Day 32: Tables exist primarily as dumping grounds. The prompt for this month's #a month of home for today was Table. This is a common state of being for my table. In fact this is slightly rare as you can actually see some of the wooden table top.
Day 33: The middle daughter Mel having preliminary motorbike riding lessons. The washing suffered slightly and the chooks weren't impressed but she's clearly having fun.
Day 34: Moving Day. Do you know that it is possible to fit a single bed, a deconstructed desk and chair, a lamp and assorted bedding into the back of a family station wagon? The future Doctor daughter's clothes and textbook library required two whole car trips all by themselves though. Awesome deck on new share house.
Day 35: Getting bored waiting for the school bus. Which was 20 minutes late. Good start to the school year... Glorious day though.