Thursday, September 28, 2006

I'm knitting as fast as I can

I'm now up to 7 completed Lizard Squares; the one's pictured being knitted out of colourway 148 (with a small amount of the remaining colourway 139). I still have three balls of colourway 148 but am taking a break knitting the sea blue/green colourway 163.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Trekking socks finished with newly discovered cast-off method.

I have been so enamoured with Lizard Ridge, that I haven't even mentioned that I finished the Trekking toe-up socks some time ago.  No picture yet as I have already worn the socks and they are sitting in my laundry basket awaiting washing.
I've decided that I definitely like the toe-up technique as they make a much neater toe, are easier to fit and somehow even the heels work better.  The downside was working out how to cast-off the top part of the sock without ending up with something too tight to even pull over the foot.  Even casting off with a (much) larger needle didn't seem to help.  I found the solution on the Internet (and will add a link if I ever find it again...) So I'm not claiming this as a personal discovery but do want to share it with any other knitters who are having the problem.
Top-of socks stretchy cast-off
Knit 2 stitches together.  Loosen up the resulting stitch (I found I got the right amount by stretching out the ribs).  Slip the loosened stitch back onto the left needle.  Knit it and the next stitch together.  Loosen up the resulting stitch.  Repeat until one stitch is left and slip the yarn through the final loop. 
The trick is to ensure that the loops are loose enough.
Once I finish Lizard Ridge (or run out of Noro yarn - whichever comes first) I shall return to knitting another pair of socks.  The reality is that although I can buy quality socks much more cheaply in the stores, I genuinely do prefer to wear the ones I've knitted myself.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Noro Kureyon: Knitters' Crack

I've read somewhere that Noro yarn is the knitters' equivalent to heroin or cocaine. Extremely expensive and highly addictive. The four completed lizard ridgesquares previously pictured used up nearly 3 balls of yarn and worked out at about AUD$10 each. They would have been even more expensive if I hadn't bought the yarn on sale. And Lizard Ridge is going to require at least 24 squares. I don't want to even think about that...

My Lizard Ridge will not be as bright as the one pictured as I will be using 3-6 balls of several different colourways instead of 24 different colourways. In Australia it is impossible to buy 24 different colourways locally. While I am scarily aware of how I can order every available colour from Canada, I am determined to knit up all the leftover balls in my stash before buying any moreyarn.

I used up the last of colourway 139 and am now moving onto colourway 148. I finished my fifth lizard ridge square today, sitting in the stairwell of the tram coming home (I told you Noro knitting is addictive). I am envisioning this becoming my 'heirloom' rug. I have a crocheted rug made out of brightly coloured verigated yarn that my mum made in the 1970s (I'm sure she was more sensible than me and used a cheaper albeit completely acceptable yarn) which both I and the cats love.

A job to dye for

According to my now favourite documentary series, wool dying was one of the worst jobs in Tudor England. While the dyers managed to perfect a technique of using a common weed, woad, to colour wool fleece a rich royal blue, they were banished to live outside the main towns because of the truly foul stench of the process.

Royalty, it seemed, loved the product and ordered vast amounts but didn't want to know about the pain involved in producing it. It kind of reminds me of people today wanting the benefits of cheap products but turning a blind eye to the conditions they are made under in China and India. Plus ce change...

Personally I would have far preferred to be a wool dyer in Tudor England than the allegedly more prestigious job of wiping the king's bottom.

Although it might have smelt bad, wool-dying provided almost model OH&S working conditions by Tudor standards. Minimal risk of poisoning or being burnt, reasonable pay and working hours (by Tudor standards) and definitely a lot more interesting and rewarding than many of the jobs of the day. And with the foul stench as a barrier, I suspect one would have been left alone to get on with the job instead of being micro-managed with a boss peering over the shoulder every five minutes!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I see it but I don't believe it

Hard as it might be to believe, all four of these Lizard Ridge squares were knitted out of the same colourway (and in most cases the same balls) of Noro Kureyon 139. It just demonstrates how unusual and unpredictable the yarn is and how difficult it is to plan how a Noro piece will actually look when complete. Only one ball, for instance, how any of the bright grass-green, while another had an almost excessive amount of hot pink. It's just the way it falls.

It's making me feel less stressed about knitting the blanket out of a variety of colourways as it seems pretty clear that each square will be unique.

The most irritating part of the project to date has been sewing in the ends (as I switch balls of yarn every six rows) but I am making myself do this before I start the next square. Sewing together the squares will be bad enough, but dealing with 16 ends of wool to weave in on each square at the end would be unbearable!

Due to the short-row shaping, the squares hardly lie flat so I will have no choice but to block the pieces before sewing up the blanket.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Lizard ridge: One square down, 23 (or more) to go

All these fabulous colours come from just one ball of of Noro Kureyon (colourway 139); how can one not love a yarn that magically (it seems) creates such wonderful patterns?

It's actually much nicer in real life but I gave up trying to adjust the picture - every time I got one shade right, most of the others were a bit off. The green and pink are right in this photo. But the purple is much richer in real life.

I've started the next square from the same ball of yarn and there are even more colours appearing. The short-row pattern is perfect for my level of knitting skill - interesting enough to stop me getting bored but not so difficult that I get frustrated or spend half my time un-knitting.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

How to insult and drive away customers (method 294)

I decided to keep my Trekking sock as a public transport project - I'll probably finish it in the next day or two - and started last night on the Lizard Ridge afghan in the latest Knitty. I'll probably be able to get two squares done a week, so in three months time I should have my afghan. Provided I don't pike as the weather heats up.

In non-knitting news... if you were a shop assistant and a customer came in and said "I'd like to buy this small black leather handbag" would you respond:

a/ Of course, do you want it wrapped? Or
b/ Do you want me to show you some other bags before you make a final decision? Or
c/ That's a real old lady's bag. What about this fashionable beige nylon purse instead?

The oh-so-fashionable middle-aged bleached hair fake-suntanned shop assistant in Camberwell seemed to think 'c' was the way to secure a sale.

I walked out, leaving my jaw on the floor, and eventually made it to a store in a far less fashionable suburb where the shop assistant politely rang up the sale, charging me 20 percent less than I would have had to pay for the identical bag in Camberwell. Maye she also thought the bag was daggy and had discounted it for a quick sale. But unlike her counterpart in the fashionable suburb, she actually made a sale.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Fancy some medievil felting?

I've been entranced in recent weeks by a documentary series The Worst Jobs in History  which paints a less than romantic picture of life in the distant past.  Watching the show you begin to wonder how anyone made it to adulthood and indeed, why they would want to.  Most jobs appear to be a combination of boring, dangerous and physically taxing - as opposed to the mere mental boredom and emotional torment of a job in a modern-day call centre, for example.
Each episode the host, having described some pretty hideous and dangerous jobs, nominates a 'worst' job for a period.  Last night it was being a fuller in medieval Britain; the person who felted woollen cloth by walking up and down on it in a bucket full of stale urine.
While this does sound pretty disgusting, I think it would be a far more pleasant option than collecting leaches or blood-letting or hauling stones or working in a modern-day call centre.  But maybe that is just me.
In knitting news, I am about six inches of ribbing away from finishing my second Trekking sock.  I went to Sunspun on the weekend to take advantage of their 10 percent off sale and buy some more Noro Kureyon to make the Lizard Ridge afghan (yes, I have been sucked in).  I also wanted to buy some more sock yarn but couldn't justify spending the money - nearly AUD$20/ball, even with the discount (I realise this sounds ridiculous from someone who buys Noro Kureyon).  I'm contemplating an overseas order for the sock yarn but will probably wait until I've knitted a bit further into my stash.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

First toe-up sock complete

Honestly and truly my legs are not as skinny as this sock seems to imply. The rib pattern pulls everything in but it expands to about twice the width when worn. I've even started the second sock, as can be seen on the circular needle. It will be a "fraternal" rather than identical twin as this yarn is made from four strands of yarn, each of which is individually dyed, meaning that the colours will never match completely.

I'm very happy with the sock as it fits very well and was quite easy to knit and there is no messy seam at the toe point.

The new Knitty is up and I am seriously contemplating the Diamante socks as my next sock project. I was quite chuffed to discover that a 'proper' designer had also decided that 12 figure-8 loops was the right number for her toe-up socks.

I also fell in love with Lizard Ridge knitted out of my favourite Noro Kureyon, utilising short-row techniques. But 20+ balls will make it a very expensive project. Maybe I will do version 1, knitting one ball at a time so it won't seem so expensive as I go...

There's also an article on Extreme Knitting - two socks at once, one inside the other. It's a bit too extreme for me at this stage.

One of the girls on the Melbourne SnB list is proposing a new meet for those of us in the eastern suburbs. I hope it comes off as I haven't been able to get to too many of the other meets.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Beginning of toe-up socks

After a few false starts, I've started my first pair of toe-up socks and much to my surprise have ended up making up my own pattern. There are lots of excellent instructions on doing the Figure 8 cast-on on the internet (just google 'figure 8 cast-on' for other websites with instructions) and it creates a beautiful, truly smooth with no seem toe. I didn't find it as difficult as I feared or many people suggested, but one thing didn't make sense. Nearly all the instructions suggested starting with only 6 or 8 stitches on each needle, which made a tiny pointed toe that was completely useless for my Hobbit-wide feet. Or maybe I was using thinner yarn than they were?

Remembering that the sock pattern I had previously knitted and had fitted me had ended with 12 stitches on each needle, I decided to ignore the official patterns, cast caution to the wind and start with 12 stitches. And I was pretty happy with the result.

Once I had increased up to 64 stitches, I thought maybe I should start doing a pattern on the top part of the foot. I decided a simple double-rib that would stretch over the wide top of my foot and could be continued up the calf would be appropriate. I haven't yet got to the heel but one pattern suggests a short-row heel (which I already know how to do) - so I'll do that. So somehow I've ended up with my own pattern for my first pair of toe-up socks. If it works I'll write the pattern up and post it.

De-crapping de-stash

Some time ago I went through my stash of yarn, selling off on eBay all the acrylic and novelty yarn that I didn't enjoy knitting with and would probably never use. This morning I decided I needed to do the same thing with my needles.

I have literally an entire tool case filled with needles, most of which I never use. I have discovered that cheap plastic needles are generally worth less than I paid for them and was distressed to find that in many cases I had multiple pairs of poor-quality needles in the same sizes. I also had lots of odd needles where the pair had been lost months or years ago. It was time to de-crap my needle stash.

Poor quality needles make knitting a chore rather than fun. I have recently bought and been given some good quality needles and they make all the difference.

The needles pictured above represent probably only 10 percent of my collection (I'll probably have to do a few rounds of this). I've decided to give them to my local op shop rather than bother trying to flog them on eBay (which is flooded with cheap needles already). If the op shop can get a few dollars for them from someone who would otherwise spend twice as much for them from a national chain store, I think we have a all round win-win situation.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

How knitting has taught me courage

I'm burning my way through the second Magic Loop Trekking sock and will almost certainly finish it this week. No second sock syndrome for me this time. It's only the fourth pair of socks I've ever completed and the first pair made out of 'proper' 4-ply (fingering-weight) sock yarn (the others have been thicker boot socks made out of 6-ply and 8-ply yarn). And while I'm not yet feeling courageous enough to enter Yarnmonkey's Sock War 2006, I'm contemplating that maybe I should try a different pattern next time, perhaps try and learn a toe-up pattern which seems to be a much more sensible way of ensuring that one knits socks that actually fit (as you can try them on as you go enabling you to make a better judgment call as to whether to add a few extra stitches for width). Then there is the Knitting two socks on one needle technique which I think would be the ultimate way of ensuring one ends up with two equally-sized socks without having a heap of yarn left-over (which I will this time - although it is much better than getting towards the end of the second sock and realising there isn't enough yarn ...) Maybe a few socks into the future I'll contemplate that.

Anyway I know there are other knitters who seem to be able to pick up the teeny tiny thin needles and make a perfect 4-ply sock with no strange holes in the ankle and elaborate patterns and calf-shaping down the leg from the word go but I'm not one of them. My first few attempts with 'proper' sock yarn were failures. So I went a step further back and started my first completed pair of socks with thicker yarn and have worked my way up to a 'real' thin-yarn sock. And now here I am mid-way through my eighth completed sock getting maybe just a little bored and contemplating something new.

It would have been a lot easier to say "it's too hard, I can't do it" and not try again after my first failure but I am really proud of myself for perservering. Because the reality is that a year after my first failed attempts I have definitely succeeded, and if it took me longer than for some other people, so be it. There are more non-knitters than knitters out there and none of the non-knitters are making their own socks (the cynical part of me notes they are saving money by spending less money buying the socks from the store than knitters spend on yarn and needles -- but it's not the same).

I still have 20 balls of Jo Sharp yarn which I will one day turn into a jumper. But I want to do it right. This experience with my socks convinces me that that day may be closer than I think.