Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The rainbow connection

Have you ever wanted to walk into a wool shop and say "I'll have one of every colour"?

In a brilliant piece of marketing, Marta's Yarns have put together a rainbow shawl kit that includes every shade of colour in boulce mohair - 24 hues spanning blue to greens to yellow to oranges to red to pinks to purples for $49.95. I haven't weighed the yarn but I estimte there is about 10 grams of each hue. To buy a 50 gram ball in each shade would cost $240.

I'm still sh*tty that I was charged an extra dollar for a very simple shawl pattern that is available free on her site. But the yarn is far better than her customer service. I decided to forgo the crappy shawl to knit up a hat and matching scarf - I do 3 rounds of each hue for the hat (I cast on about 92 stitches on a 5mm circular) and then knit the remaining of each hue into a simple garter-stitch scarf (25 stitches on 5mm straight bamboos).

According to the girls at work, it looks like I'm knitting up a Muppet Scarf. But at least it is proper mohair, not polyester fug fur.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Knitting quiz results

Well I have to entertain myself somehow while resting my knitting wrsits...

Granny knitter

You may not be a granny, but you've got the mentality. Hard work and artistic vision lead to your beautiful knitted results.

Are you a knitter?

Knitting Purist

You appear to be a Knitting Purist.You are an accomplished knitter producing beautiful pieces with a classic feel. You sometimes lament losing half of your local yarn shop to garish novelty yarns. Perhaps you consider fun fur scarves the bane of knitting society and prefer to steer new knitters towards the wool and cotton blends. Some might call you a bit of an elitist but you know that you've been doing this craft long enough to respect the history behind it and honor it with beautiful piece that can last a lifetime.

What Kind of Knitter Are You?


You are interchangeable.Fun, free, and into everything, you've got every eventuality covered and every opportunity just has to be taken. Every fiber is wonderful, and every day is a new beginning. You are good at so many things, it's amazing, but you can easily lose your place and forget to show up. They have row counters for people like you!

What kind of knitting needles are you?

You're the 'classic' brands. You use lots of 'just
wool'. Technique may be very important to
you, as opposed to a yarn that does all the

I hate racist Australians

I am so p*ssed off at racists. Not just because they are dumb and stupid and cringe-worthy and dangerous and pointless. But because they have stopped me being able to enjoy my own little bit of daggy kitsch Australiana fashion.

As you may know, I have a collection of Australiana knitting patterns, mostly from the 1980s. I also have a few Australiana knitting tote bags and a bandana in the colours of the Australian flag. I love going into tacky souvenir shops and selecting Australian-themed pens and notepads and erasers and tea-towels and caps and t-shirts to send my long-suffering inlaws in America. A few months ago all this meant was that I was a certified dag. Harmless.

But ever-since those racist moronic thugs in Cronulla (beach in NSW) decided to adopt the Australian flag to wear as an emblem in their intimidation of the Lebanese and other immigrants, wearing or carrying the Australian flag has become a political statement I do not want to be associated with. The reality of this struck me when I was in a souvenir shop last week contemplating a tote bag with a giant Australian flag last week. It would have made a perfect knitting bag. It cost $5.95. But I couldn't buy it because if I was seen carrying it around the streets, people who didn't know me would see me as politically supporting the racist anti-immigrant morons instead of being a daggy patriot. In fact I now have to be really careful not to carry around bags with giant Australian flags on it. Which is really really annoying.

I wonder if there was anyone in Germany in the 1930s who really liked the design of the swastika and was dismayed at how it was being used politically?

If only I could approach my life like I approach my knitting

I've noticed that when it comes to knitting, I really have it all together. Many of my non-knitting friends think I am so talented whereas it's more a case that I've learnt how to not set myself up for failure. For instance, the socks I just knitted; I deliberately went out and found a pattern for 8-ply wool because it would be much quicker than knitting 4-ply. I will attempt to make socks out of traditional (much thinner) sock yarn AFTER I've learnt how to make a basic sock. So everyone is impressed that I've made a pair of socks - they don't see me as having "cheated" by using thick wool; all they notice is that I'm not one of these people walking around with half an unfinished sock on the needles because it is just too slow and frustrating to get anywhere. I've learnt to utilise yarn that enables me to knit simple patterns that look OK (I love Noro!). I take "baby steps" learning one skill at a time on a project. And if a project fails, I can chuck it in saying "it just didn't work" rather than berate myself for being a failure in life because I couldn't manage a complex project.

Now if only I could transfer this healthy approach to the rest of my life, I might just get somewhere.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A knitter's greatest fear

Wrist injury.

Is it the start of the dreaded carpal tunnel syndrome (also known as occupational overuse syndrome - OOS - or RSI - Repetitive Strain Injury).

Or had I merely banged my hand against something without noticing?

I feared the former but my husband (aka Dr Jeff) suspected the latter, especially as it had come on quite suddenly. It actually felt like my hand had gone to sleep but the usual hand-shaking and rubbing wasn't getting the circulation going again. The only pain was around my wrist; it didn't extend up the forearm. What scared me was that I had lost strength to grip in my right-hand.

Dr Jeff prescribed ibuprofen and an ice-pack and things are better today - I've got the strength back in my hand but it is still quite sore around the wrist.

Maybe I just banged my hand after all.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Another hat/scarf set

The weather hit 35 degrees Celcius today so of course I chose to finish the Noro ribbed hat today. This is my third Noro hat/scarf set for winter...

I'm now working with the over-priced rainbow boulce mohair. I had forgotten what a bitch loopy mohair is to knit. I decided to make (surprise surprise) another hat/scarf set. I am knitting three rounds of each colour for the hat and then knitting up the remainder of each ball for the scarf. I'm using 5mm needles - a Birch circular and the new bamboo straights that were a gift. I have to admit I am beginning to see the attraction of the bamboo needles - they do feel very smooth and nice to knit with. But I will try and refrain from buying any of these needles myself. Five tiny bamboo DPNs cost $14.95 at Cleggs. WTF??? Even more than the Addis!!! I am terrified to think what my birthday gift of 8 pairs cost.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

First socks finished!

And they are so warm I don't want to take them off.

I've learnt so much through this process; I'm sure my next pair will be much cleaner because I won't be unravelling and re-knitting as much next time.

Yes, I said next pair. Now I understand how people can get addicted to making socks; the shaping means you don't get bored and they don;t take too long to make.

I really like the ribbing; it makes them very comfortable.

My husband is teasing me and calling them Hobbit socks. He then has the gall to want to know where his pair is!

I'm making a brightly patterned pair next so I think they'll be safe from him.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Seven inches into second sock

Since posting this picture I have actually completed the full 8 inches of ribbing, 10 rounds of stocking stitch for the ankle and A COMPLETE heel-turn... I reckon I will have finished these socks completely witin the next day or two.

Observant people may notice that the top of my sock has changed. I re-worked the sock so that the cast-off seam was on the top of my foot, not under the sole where it may have interfered with walking.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

First sock!!!

I don't believe it! I have actually finished my first ever sock and it fits! It is also VERY warm (which one would hope given it is 100 percent wool). I rolled the ribbed cuff down.

I've read a lot about second sock syndrome but I'm actually looking forward to making the next one as I want a pair of these babies to keep me warm in winter. I don't think they are the most practical socks for wearing with shoes in winter but they will be perfect for keeping my toesies warm. As I'm knitting in 8-ply (DK for any Brit readers) it is a much faster knit than if I was doing it in 4-ply or 6-ply (traditional sock thickness).

One of my friends (Jackie) asked me if this would be my first and last pair of socks given the time it takes to knit and the cost of the wool compared with the cost of just buying a pair of socks from the store. I can see her point but I'm beginning to think hand-knitted socks are for something other than wearing every day under one's jeans and hence I may continue knitting them. To begin with, you cannot compare the quality (and warmth) of the pure wool knitted fabric compared with store-bought socks (yes, even if they are made from 100 percent wool). The other thing is that they are so easy to knit to my weird foot shape. And though I had a lot of difficulty initially doing the heal turn, I used the same technique for the toes with minimal problems. So I think now I know what I am doing they should be a much faster knit.

Things I have learnt.

It is MUCH easier to knit socks on 5 DPNs than 4 DPNs. Adding an extra needle one size down doesn't seem to cause any problems.

Having now used three different brands of needles for this project, I feel well-qualified to make some judgment statements.

I used metal (I think aluminum) Birch 3.75 mm DPNs. They cost $3.99 at Spotlight and worked very well. I'd definitely recommend them as a good value, user-friendly needle. Please note I am only saying this for the smaller metal DPNs - Birch plastic DPNs (and in fact Birch plastic straight needles) are disgusting to use and I have even thrown out some of them.

I used Morgan Lustre 3.25mm needles that I bought from a small wool shop that no longer exists for about $5-$6. They are really good needles that I would recommend but they are extremely slippery. They are great to knit with once you have a few rounds of knitting but an absolute bitch for the first couple of rounds.

I also picked up a pack of 5 metal Addi 3.00 DPNs that cost $9.50 from a boutique yarn store that I will not be returning to (because I was over-charged on the over-priced merchandise). $9.50 is not a bad price for Addis in Australia but it is double the price you pay for most other brands. So you would hope they would be very good. The plus side is that you get five of them, which is good for sock knitting. The minus side is that I felt that the wool stuck to the needle - it didn't knit easily. For someone who hates slippery DPNs, they would be wonderful. But I've discovered I would rather have a slightly slippery needle.

So my verdict is that for value and comfort, you can't beat the Birch metal DPNs. But I would recommend buying two packs so you have the benefit of the extra needles as spares and so you can do a five-needle sock round. You'll still be spending less than if you bought the famous Addis.

Oh dear, she's got distracted

OK, so there I am having got past the hardest point of my Olympics project, the heal turn, and then I get distracted by some leftover Noro Kureyon sitting on the table which is just begging to be made into a ribbed hat to match my latest scarf... I'm probably about 1/3 of the way through the hat; the safe percentage I am through my pair of Olympics sock.

It's kind of like Steve Bradbury pausing in the middle of his speed skating to go for a snowboard down the mountain.

Speaking of which, the Chaser boys had their 'War on Everything' show on ABC TV last night. It was a very unusual piece of television in that it was a totally intense 25 minutes without a single bit of filler - others would have stretched that much material into a four-part series -- and an absolute pisser. I hope they were joking when they said it was the last in the series (it was the first show).

My DH has demonstrated that he still hasn't come to terms with basic maths. I was questioning why he was only taking 2 antibiotics a day when I knew 3 was the usual dose. Finally it came out. The instructions said to take one every 8 hours. I pointed out that there were 3 lots of 8 hours in each day. He replied that he was asleep for 8 hours a day. I explained that the way to get around this was to take one antibiotic as soon as he woke up, one in the middle of the day and one just before he went to sleep... let's hope he hasn't now trained his bacteria to be immune to the antibiotics.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

We have heel turn

I'll start by saying this is the first pair of socks I have ever got so far with. I realise I am coming behind a lot of the other sock knitters in the knitting olympics but us Australians are known to do some sneaky things from behind in the winter games. On my fourth attempt I finally managed a heel turn that I didn't feel needed to be frogged. Yay team Australia/ team first socks/ team dpn, etc, etc . It looks like I may be dumped from team procrastination at this rate.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Currently blogging on Team DPN

So if you want to read about me ripping my hair out as I try to knit a friggin sock (actually two) without unintended holes, click here.

I will resume normal blogging after the Knitting Olympics.

I'm also attempting to put on a slide show of some of the wonderful buttons people have made for the games as there is no way there is room for all of them on my sidebar.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Proof I've started

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In a shocking and rare act of non-procrastination I have actually STARTED one of the socks for the Knitting Olympics. I'm knitting it in 8-ply Cleckheaton Country so it will definitely be one of the thicker and warmer varieties. I figure if it is too thick to wear in my boots, I'll keep them as bedsocks for winter. I've cast on 48 stiches on 3.75mm needles and will be going down to 3.25 mm needles at some stage in the pattern. I'm warping the pattern a fair bit as my feet are so wide - a men's average in width but a woman's average in length.

While I will certainly be striving to do my best, I refuse to set myself up for failure. Plenty of time to knit socks in skinny yarn once I get down the basic tecnique in normal yarn. Particularly when knitting to a deadline.

The pattern called for an "Old Norweigan Cast-On" and much to my surprise I could actually follow the diagrams to loop the wool around my fingers and manipulate the needle to do the cast-on. But the result wasn't terribly even and after several attempts and studyng the 'look' for a bit I worked out that one got exactly the same result with my usual two-needle cast-on method. So although I could see that the Old Norweigen Cast-On would be quicker once one got it down pat, in the end I gave up and reverted to my old habbits. Bite me.

In other knitting news, the baby hat for Sam's new kid was a failure. It just looks terribly uneven and badly handmade, even after ironing. Serves me right for trying to be smart and make it out of recyled wool that had been knitted up in some other garment and shoved in a cupboard for more than 30 years. I had to go to Target today to get some trackpants for myself, so I ended up buying a set of 3 Winnie The Pooh socks in a blue shade that came in a cute little pencil-case style bag.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Team Procrastination here I come!

Ye gawds! If you've been following the Knitting Olympics around blogland, you will see there are some people taking this very very seriously. But there was NO WAY I was getting up at 6am Australian time just so I could cast on during the lighting of the Olympic flame.

Anyway I have to finish off YET ANOTHER baby hat since YET ANOTHER friend produced YET ANOTHER child.

Sam had YET ANOTHER boy making it 3 in total. She was all booked in to have her C-section on Friday when labour kicked in at 4.30am on Thursday. The best laid plans of mice, men and Elsternwick girls. By 10am she decided that natural labour was NOT FUN and she wanted a C-section. NOW. But as she was still reasonably early into a perfectly normal labour and only felt like she was dying than actually doing so, the doctors didn't break any records getting her into the theatre. At 12.30 she gave birth to Aaron Abraham who at 4.1 kg weighed more than her previous twins did together.

Her other two boys are called Ariel and Asher, so they all share the same initials.

I'm at the decreasing stage of the hat, so it shouldn't take too long now.

I'm adding a few more Knitting Olympic buttons on my site. I can't find "Team Procrastination" yet but there is "Team What The Hell Was I Thinking".

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Proof of progress

If you look at the short-row ribbed scarf you can clearly see my progress in knitting skills. The early sections have the odd hole or two (yet to be repaired) and a few obviously mis-sized ribs while the newest sections are almost neat enough to have been done by a machine.

Last night I came to an essential decision-making moment on my scarf as I came towards the end of my third ball of yarn - how long was I going to make this scarf?

I hate too short scarves - they look skimpy and cheap as though you just want to save money by not buying an extra ball of yarn (this does not apply to people responsible for the care of toddlers who are capable of proving a 2 year old can strangle a grown adult to death if they pull hard enough on a scarf wrapped around the adults neck. But I do not have children.) But I've also come to the conclusion after the last two scarves that four-ball scarves are probably a bit on the long side even for me. So it looks like I'll be making this a 3 1/2 ball scarf - probably around 240 cm once it is blocked. Enough to hang down a decent distance even when wrapped around the neck but not so long that I will trip over it.

Yes, I used the word 'I'. I think I may be keeping this one also. I like the pattern too much to give to someone who isn't super special to me. And the colours, although not what I would have initially chosen for myself, seem to go OK. It's about $40 worth of yarn plus god-knows how many hours so it really is the equivalent of a $200 designer scarf. So why shouldn't I be selfish and keep it for me?

In other news, the DLB hat has gone down well with the baby's aunt, which is the main idea. She thinks it may be a bit big for him right now, but I'm cool with that. It means it should fit him perfectly around winter. I don't know how much wear he'd get out of it in our Indian summer.

I also bought another set of Addi DPSs to start swatching the Opal 6-ply for my Knitting Olympics sock challenge. 2 days until kick-off. WTF was I thinking??? I signed up to get Interweave Knits direct from the US (even with postage it will be about 30 percent cheaper than getting it in the shops in Australia - when I can) which also gave me access to their online stuff, including a sock pattern which in theory is suitable for all gauges and sizes.

Here's hoping!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Team Australia...Go yeah!!

This is getting ridiculous. I don't have enough room on my side-bar to post all the buttons already made by other more talented bloggers for Team Australia in the 2006 Knitting Olympics.

So here they are:

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And here are some more:

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And the wombats:

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And a tag as a first-time sock knitter:
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And a tag or two as a member of Team DPN:
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Plus of course the original Knitting Olympics Tag:
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And for the purists:
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The only way to cope:
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Good grief!!!

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Gearing up for the Knitting Olympics

If I was any kind of patriot (and the owner of a blog read by thousands instead of a few), I would be organising a Knit-along for the Commonwealth Games which are being held in Melbourne from March 15 to 26 this year.

The only problem is only a handful of countries (ie: Commonwealth countries) compete in these games and the Australians are expected to wipe the floor against most of them - at least in the swimming. Swimming is possibly the only sport where it is harder for the athletes to make it into the Australian team than to win the international event.

Winter Olympics rates slightly lower on the radar for most Australians as we have very little ice or snow, although no Aussie will ever forget when speed skater Steve Bradbury won a gold by being too far behind the other skaters to get caught up in a collision which took all the other competitors down. As literally the only man left standing, he skated into gold medal place and Australian sporting history. Lest anyone knock Steve for his lucky break, there are very very few people in the world who could qualify on their own merit into a men's Olympic speed-skating final.

Not surprisingly, the Winter Olympics rate more highly in Canada which is why a Canadian blogger who goes by the name Yarn Harlot decided to set up the Knitting Olympics to coincide with the games. Already there are more than 2500 registered knitters for the program, far exceeding the number of athletes registered for the official Winter Olympics. I signed up today as an official Australian participant and I have the cute button on my side-bar.

The idea is to start and finish a challenging project during the life of the Olympics (February 10-26). I selected a pair of socks as I have never yet managed to complete a pair.

For anyone who questions knitting as a winter sport, curling has been included in the Winter Olympics for many years.

As part of my preparation (training) I will attempt to finish the short-row ribbed scarf before the Olympics begin.

For the designer label baby...

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It's amazing how quickly this hat knitted up once I finished the irritating knit-one purl-one rib.

Hopefully it will pass muster with the Designer Label Baby's mother.

One thing about kids is that they are a great leveler. A grumpy toddler having a tantrum is just as annoying whether he is wearing Big W or Gap or Gucci. And kids have no appreciation for labels. In fact, evil bitch that I am, I can't wait to hear about the DLB having his first nappy leak while wearing his Baby Osh Kosh jeans...

Years ago I visited a friend who was living as a single mum with her toddler in one room. The kid happily played with my car keys while his mother and I played with the Fisher Price toy I had brought as a gift. She always felt guilty about how "deprived" he was as a young child. Fortunately things improved for her and last time I visited she had had two more kids and was living in a beautiful suburban house. Her youngest child, surrounded by every modern toy a child could want, spent the afternoon running happily around the house holding a broom and wearing an ice-cream bucket for a helmet.

Hopefully the DLB's mother will allow her son to enjoy such affordable pastimes.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Back to knitting instead of venting

OK, the last two posts were a bit on the long side for a blog but I had some issues to deal with AND they were even related to knitting.

I am going to try for the first time to post pictures using Photobucket as uploading via blogger is at best limited (as to where the pictures will appear) and at worst frustratingly impossible (whenever there are strange server problems).

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So may I present my designer baby hat in progress (Opal 6-ply sock yarn, basic beanie pattern but I am going to make up a tag stating 'Maggie B original' which hopefully will impress the hell out of the mother while giving a good giggle to those people who know what I really mean). I'm really friends with the aunt of this baby; the mother is not quite as awful as she sounds (she's actually quite a decent person) but one of her aims in life is to own a Lexus 4WD to drive between designer boutiques in inner-city Melbourne, so we don't have a lot in common.

I cast on 90 stitches on 3.25mm dpns; the first 6 cms were a royal pain being in single-rib but now I have moved onto the stocking stich (knit around and around and around) it's much quicker. I'll probably finish it early next week as I am only knitting it in the evenings.

And here is part of the short-row ribbed scarf (about half-way done); this is my tram/train/lunchtime project. There are a few mistakes as I have been learning as I go (see Mine is to reason WHY...) but all in all I'm quite happy. I'm confident of patching up any holes but I'm still not sure whether I should try and do something with the mis-sized rib parts (what I don't know) or just ignore them because"they add character and prove it was hand-knitted and not made by a machine or robot". I suspect the latter view will prevail.

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Details: Noro Kureyon Colourway 148 knitted on 6mm needles.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

How not to run a business

Dear XXX,
I just thought you might like to know why I won't be returning to your yarn store or recommending it to any of my friends.
I have to admit the "up to 50 percent off" sign did grab my attention. Not that I was expecting it to actually mean anything. I imagined a basketful of odd-balls and maybe a few multiple balls of yarn in a strange colour that didn't catch on last season. That's what it usually means.
What I didn't expect was a basketful of odd-balls with regular prices inflated far above anything I have seen elsewhere. I guess it is easy to offer 30 percent off Patons Lush, for example, if your regular price is 25 percent higher than the regular price anywhere else. Your discount price worked out to be the regular price I can buy that yarn for at most other stores - although I usually get it for less because they offer genuine 10-20 percent discounts. I didn't even consider any of the other so-called discount yarns once I recognised that anomaly.
I had really come in to check-out the hand-painted yarns that you are famous for, and I have to admit they are beautiful. Despite the high price tag I was still tempted to buy the rainbow shawl kit but I think you demonstrated a poor sense of business by charging me $1.00 for a pattern that I could download for free off your website and which basically amounts to casting on 70 stitches on 20 mm needles and knitting 2 rows of garter stitch in each colour. I'll give you a clue. Most yarn stores give such simple patterns away for FREE when someone buys nearly $50 worth of yarn. Especially since it is only half a page that might have cost you a whole $0.05 to copy at Officeworks.

But the creme de la creme of my whole shopping experience was the way you ripped me off an extra $0.80 on the needles I bought at your store. They were clearly marked $9.50 but you charged $10.30. OK, I should have checked the addition more carefully before signing the credit card charge. My fault. But yours too. Maybe the $9.50 was the pre-GST price and the real price was $10.30 but it is bad business to mislead people that way. I was probably only ripped off about $1.75 in total by you. Less than a cup of coffee. In the greater scheme of things, not that important at all.

But at the end of the day I have an unpleasant memory of visiting your store and I will not be returning. Buying yarn at a local yarn store is more than just a business transaction. It has to be a pleasant experience or else we might as well all stay home and purchase via the internet.

Yours sincerely,

Maggie B

PS: I have decided to use the rainbow yarn for something more exciting and deserving than a stupid garter shawl.