Sunday, September 30, 2007

I hate mohair

It's official. After about 8 starts of the so-called simple lace mohair scarf where I managed to stuff up by the sixth row each time, I decided to abandon the pattern. At the same time I decided that mohair was the most irritating yarn to knit with (well, except for feathers novelty yarn), it wasn't that soft and what the hell was I thinking when I knitted an entire jumper out of double-12-ply mohair.

So, back to my stash to examine the options. My ISE 5 partner loves natural fibres, soft yarns & purples. I have four balls of a lovely bright purple 8-ply Cleckheaton Country. I cast on the Midwest Moonlight scarf. I've done one repeat and it is looking OK. My only worry is whether 4 skeins is enough (it is a very wide pattern). Do I have another skein buried somewhere?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

ISE 5 contact made and stash thoughts

ISE 5 - contact made

I've made contact with my secret pal for ISE 5 and received the very good news that not only does she love purples but she doesn't have a hatred of mohair (so many people do!) This means that with a totally clear conscience I can knit her a scarf out of the purple Naturally 12-ply mohair I have in my stash.


It's a great quality yarn and a gorgeous colour. I originally bought 10 balls(!) to knit a poncho out of. Because nothing looks better on an overweight woman than a bright purple fluffy poncho. My only excuse is that it was early in my knitting career and I had the sense to abandon the project before I wasted all the expensive yarn (probably after I had finished and worn the pink and purple mohair jumper that used $240 worth of yarn and made me look like a giant furry berry...)

Mohair is a bitch to unravel and I'm trying to work out if I can salvage what I've already knitted up to use as a scarf for myself or whether to throw the knitted part away so I no longer have to look at it. But I will use the lovely untouched virgin balls for my secret pal. I'll probably use this pattern, a simple lace. My pal wants a big wide scarf she can wrap over her head so I think a light but warm lace mohair number should do the trick.


Stash-busting

I've joined the Ravelry Stash Busters group. I haven't yet had the courage to catalogue and list my stash but I know it is bigger than I would like to admit. I should photograph and catalogue it because this means I will have a way of keeping track of what I have and can plan appropriate projects.

I've noticed that a lot of knitters have very large stashes; we buy faster than we can knit; we can't resist a bargain or a beautiful yarn; we buy to make ourselves feel better and end up weighing ourselves down with stuff we don't really need.

A classic example for me was recent 'bargain' Clover promotion pack I picked up. It was fabulous value for money if you actually wanted or needed some of the items but so far everything is sitting unwrapped in my knitting case because I don't actually need any of them. I'll probably end up giving away many of the items as part of the various swaps I participate in. Maybe that is the unspoken reason for the popularity of so many secret pal swaps in the knitting universe. It's a way of getting rid of valuable but generally unwanted knitting stuff one's bought and experiencing the joy of getting a present in return.

I never considered myself materialistic but for many years I couldn't resist a 'bargain'. After a while I was surrounded by cheap books I never read (because they just didn't interest me) and clothes I never wore (because they didn't suit me) and yarn I didn't knit (because novelty yarn never looks as good knitted up as in the ball) and I knew I had a problem. I'm proud to say that, barring the odd slip, I've pretty much cured myself of the 'bargain' shopping that cost me so much money and time and space and have donated a lot of my unwanted 'bargains' to charity or the trash. I've cleared out all the cr*p from my yarn stash and given away a fair few of my duplicate pairs of needles (especially the poorer quality ones) but still have a heap of decent quality yarn cluttering up the spare bedroom.

Originally I set myself a goal of having to knit two balls of yarn for every one I bought. And I was only allowed to purchase really good quality yarn in colours I liked no matter what other bargains were around. I haven't been perfect but I've pretty much stuck to my goals. I think I can last out the rest of 2007 without buying any more yarn.


Other de-stashing

In non-yarn de-stashing, I joined the library which has proven to be much better value than buying a new book every week. I decided that after 6 months I could reward myself by buying the latest Jodi Picoult (all her books have a huge waiting list at my library) but it's now been 9 months and I haven't wanted to because I am busy enjoying reading the slightly older sci-fi and detective books that I can get for free.

I haven't bought too much in the way of clothes since I started de-cluttering because I am determined to only buy items that fit me and are comfortable and are better than what I am currently wearing (this is a very depressing part of the project).

I've found that I've actually started to enjoy not buying stuff. I used to buy lots of my books for only a few dollars each second-hand, guilt-free from an Opportunity shop that raises money for charity. It was a way of weaning myself off regular bookstores. But the last few times I have visited, even though there have been books I wouldn't mind reading, I found myself able to resist the bargains. I still have a heap of books I haven't read at home and I really don't want to fill up my place with any more crap. I'll buy the classics or the really good books I'll know I read again. Otherwise I am scarily content using the public library instead.

Recently, three things have convinced me that I am on the right path. One was this article that very eloquently explains why spending is no path to happiness and can lead to more unhappiness (there is no religion or psychological babble in it - it's written by a down-to-earth atheist). I love one of the final lines: Happy is the woman who needs only one pair of good shoes and a library card. That's me today. I don't know if I'm happy but I'm happier than when I always wanted more and more and I get a certain level of contentment knowing there is a hope in hell that my home will be paid off before my retirement.

Another was hearing stories of a girl I know who recently achieved her life's dream of marrying someone who is seriously rich. She dresses her one-year-old in designer outfits that he throws up over and quickly grows out of, spends $500 on a skirt and considers buying a $400 handbag instead of a $2000 one a serious budgeting exercise. But she still feels inadequate because she is the "poorest" person whose child attends a certain exclusive childcare group. And she suffers having to drive a brand new 4WD Honda because a 4WD Lexus is out of her price range. I have no doubt that when she eventually achieves the Lexus she will find something else to lust after.

The final thing was talking with someone who cannot enter into most of the rooms of her home because they are so packed with unnecessary stuff she bought to fill the hole in her heart. She cannot even reach the boxes of stuff that other people have offered to pay good money for - if she can ever get to them.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

ISE 5 underway

I received my emails today from both my upstream and for my downstream pals.

I think they did a great job matching up people because I got a pal who had identical likes and dislikes in terms of colours to me! For a moment I thought they had sent me my own questionnaire back. Obviously we are all in the "Love purples/blues hate orange/yellow" group.

My downstream pal wants a big wide scarf which I can totally relate to. I have some gorgeous pink/purple mohair in my stash, so I sent her an email asking if she likes or loathes mohair. Then I start searching Ravelry and decide I want to knit the Midwest Moonlight Scarf which means choosing another yarn completely. I've decided to save Palindrome and the soft grey Jo Sharp yarn for myself.

Of course, by tomorrow, I may have changed my mind again.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Exchanges, exchanges

I've now signed my self up for two swaps before the end of the year. The Australian Knitters group on Ravelry has decided to do a tea cosy/coffee plunger cosy swap. I think we all got excited at the thought of doing a swap where we would be spending less on postage than on yarn. And then, being Australians, we had to take the p*ss out of the whole thing.

Look at the email invite:

The Swap is to celebrate the cuppa, the short black, that mugo'chino, with or without a squeeze of lemon. The celebration of the cosy will begin on Monday, October 15th, with all swaps to be completed by the end of the year. For the moment your gracious hostesses, webgoddess and zephyrama, would like to you to RSVP your intention to participate. All attendees must have an Australian mailing address and be prepared to sit down with a cup of tea and an iced vovo.

How it works: To sign up, simply leave a reply below with your answers to the following questionnaire. Sign-ups will end on October 12th, at which time we'll get busy assigning swappers and swappees. You'll receive your pal's information that weekend (hopefully!). The swap will officially begin on October 15th, and you've got til the end of 2007 to send off your package.

What you do: Basically, you make them something! Once you've been assigned a pal, check out their questionnaire answers to see what they like. Maybe visit their blog to get a feel for their personality. Then get busy knitting or crocheting them a kitchen item, whether it be a tea or coffee cosy, a potholder, or a washcloth. (Note: Knitting from your stash is highly encouraged!) Please do your best to stick to your pal's preferences. Your package should also include a few small gifts, such as tea or coffee, bikkies (maybe even ones you made yourself!), local yarns, whatever you like. There is no minimum spend, but we suggest a target of $20-30 in total. Then send it off to your pal by the end of the year, revealing your identity to your new friend!

Anonymity/privacy: It's entirely up to you whether you want to keep yourself anonymous til you send off your package. If you're happy to reveal yourself, you can send a message directly to your pal to get his/her mailing address. If you'd prefer to build some mystery, you can contact webgoddess or zephyrama and we can ask them for you.

Questionnaire:

  1. Do you have a teapot or coffee plunger? Would you like a cosy for it? If so, please tell us the dimensions of your pot. Coffee plunger. Height 22cm; circumference - excluding handle 32cm; with handle 42cm. Handle is 2cm from the bottom and 8cm from the top (if you want to include a slit for it to poke out from). Please add a cm or two of ease!
  2. Other than a cosy, what other knitted/crocheted kitchen items would you like? A nice thick pot holder that one can use to pull hot items out of the oven safely would be nice (if you make this please do not use acrylic yarn). Whatever you feel like knitting.
  3. Theme/Style: Do you celebrate Christmas/ Hanukkah/ Yule/ hatever? Would you like your pal to knit you something in that theme? I'm a Hanukkah girl but anything that isn't Christmas-theme is fine.
  4. What colour is your kitchen? Do you like tacky kitsch, classic styles, or something more modern? I don't mind Australiana kitsch but please hold the fun fur. General preference for blues and greys as the base colour.
  5. What is your favourite blend of tea (or coffee)? Are you a sophisticated Earl Grey drinker, a hippy-dippy Chai lover, or a no-nonsense espresso addict? Mint tea; hot chocolate. (My husband is very picky over his coffee so I let him buy that on his own).
  6. What's your favourite type of bikkie? Tim Tams
  7. Any weird food allergies or preferences you pal should know about? Hold off on the strawberry tea and/or jam - I'm allergic to strawberries.
  8. Any weird fiber allergies or preferences your pal should know about? I generally prefer natural fibres over acrylics. I'm not a fan of novelty yarns.
  9. What city/state do you live in? Melbourne, Victoria
Looks like it will be a lot of fun.


Meanwhile, over at ISE5 it appears that matches are being sent out. I haven't received any details to date but apparently we don't panic until Wednesday; I'm probably in a group where the hostess hasn't beaten the starters' gun.

Fortunately with all this swap knitting coming up, I am getting to the tail end of my Dark Mark Scarf. I found the middle plain section very tedious - and so, it seems, did the original designer. It was great mindless tv/travelling knitting though. I have less than 80 rows to the end and suspect they will go very fast.

I'm really enjoying making this scarf and I love how it's come out but I have no qualms about handing it over as a gift. I guess I prefer the more pragmatic thick winter scarves to wear for myself.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Spotlight embraces pragmatic necessity

Australian discount craft store Spotlight, which last year decided to employ all new staff under an Australian Workplace Agreement which forced them to trade away penalty payments, overtime and other benefits in exchange for a pay rise of just two cents an hour, has now decided to abandon AWA's in favour of a union collective agreement.

It turns out these AWA's didn't meet the federal government's so-called fairness test (which has more than a few holes in it) that was introduced after an election-threatening public outcry over the new workplace laws which allowed such exploitation. After Spotlight was advised that 460 AWAs were being rejected by the federal government's Workplace Austhority, they decided it made better business sense to negotiate a collective agreement with the employee's union.

No news yet on what's going to happen to those poor sods who signed AWAs prior to the Fairness Test coming in.

"It's our intention to clean up this industrial issue and really move into a more secure future with our employees," Spotlight chief executive Stephen Carter told ABC radio.

"The advice we've had at this stage (is that) some of the (pay) rates have been insufficient.

You could say that again!

I have deliberately avoided shopping at Spotlight ever since the news broke of their attempts to exploit already badly paid staff. And it's good to know that I can now return to shop there with a slightly clearer conscience. But I am not sure that I will.

The company's attitude towards staff (get the cheapest we can get away with) is representative of the sort of products they are now stocking. Australian-made brands have been abandoned in favour of poorer-quality items from China and other Asian countries (which hardly have a good track record when it comes to employee relations). The last time I went there (over a year ago) I was struck by how much novelty yarn there was and how little pure wool. And when you considered the quality of what was on offer, it really wasn't that cheap anyway.

Maybe it is just part of me growing up, trying to de-crap my yarn stash and wardrobe and house and life, but I am at the stage where I really want quality over quantity and substance over style. And I really don't think Spotlight can meet my needs in that area.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dark Mark Scarf - first pattern repeat

Obviously this will look a lot better when it is blocked and the ends are woven in. But how cool in a totally geeky way is this??? I love illusion knitting; it is so much fun.

All kudos to designer Lindsay Henriks aka Storm Moon Knits for making this fabulous pattern available free of charge.

Harry Potter on Ravelry

I hope this screen shot is readable. To me this sums up the glorious knitting geekdom that is Ravelry . I particularly love the "Knitters Who Haven't Read Harry Potter Anonymous' group - although I joined the "Harry-thon KAL/CAL Group".

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Happy 5768

We celebrated the Jewish new year this week in the usual manner - big meal and get together with the family. For me it is the start of the annual retrospective: "What have I done with my life and where am I going?" which tends to last until well into the secular new year.

While I really admire and enjoy reading the soul searching of many writers on the Internet, I am acutely aware of the dangers of exposing myself to all and sundry. A casual comment from someone I only had a work relationship with about a knitting pattern I had put up on the Internet, reinforced the fact that I am not just typing into a cyber black hole.

So moving onto the safe topic of knitting... I'm about 1/4 of the way through the Dark Mark Illusion Scarf. I'm really enjoying this pattern - there is something which makes me want to knit "just one more row" or "one more pair of rows" or "one more set of four rows" every time I pick up the needles. It's not the best quality yarn - some very over-stretched reclaimed black Patons 8-ply wool and a sticky mauve Naturally NZ 8-ply wool from my stash - but this scarf is more for effect than warmth and I think it will wash up OK. And it is great to feel like I'm actually burning some of my stash.

Of course I had to immediately counter all this stash burning by sticking my head in at Sundspun which is having its winter sale (minimum 10% off all winter-weight yarns) and picking up 5 skeins of Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran for the Palindrome scarf - this pattern looks like it eats yarn! The yarn is so gorgeous and I fear I will want to keep the scarf for myself. We'll see how it goes.

I've joined a couple of illusion Knitters group on both Ravelry and Yahoo but alas there seem to be very few illusion patterns out there on the web. One of the Yahoo group knitters says she is drafting up some Jewish-themed patterns which I am looking forward to trying.

I've spent way too much time in Ravelry this week; mainly reading groups in the forum and cyber-stalking other knitters (only joking). The Internet is amazing and brings home the lesson that there are many universal themes - I clicked on the profile of one of the Israeli knitters and ended up on her blog where she was agonising over whether it was ethical to use the ubiquitous green shopping bags that have obviously now infiltrated every Western country. On the one hand we all want to avoid the single-use flimsy plastic bags because of their impact on the environment; on the other hand these green bags have almost certainly been made by exploited workers in Asia using far from environmentally-sound processes. The answer, of course, is to make our own re-usable bags but most of us, including crafters, just don't get around to this.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Dark Mark Illusion scarf

Now that all the Harry Potter hype has died down, I've finally got around to casting on Storm Moon Knits amazing Dark Mark illusion scarf. (As usual, I'm 6 months behind everyone else).

I had no green in my stash, so I decided to use a pale mauve with the black. I also cast on a few extra stitches to ensure the scarf is wide enough as I am using 8ply/DK yarn instead of the American 10ply/worsted.

One of my friends has been begging for an illusion scarf since she saw the pirate illusion scarf I knitted for my brother. It's very fun knitting and gives an amazing effect for surprisingly little work.

In other scarf knitting news, I've joined ISE 5. I met a really nice partner last time around. And I'm dying to try Palindrome, a reversible cable scarf.

Bargain shopping

I've become much better at resisting bargains but I couldn't resist the Clover Promotion Pack at Cleggs today. For just $14.95 I got
  • 2.5mm 20cm bamboo DPNs
  • 3.0mm 16cm bamboo DPNs
  • 4.0mm 23cm bamboo straight needles
  • 4.0mm 33cm bamboo straight needles
  • 4.0mm 80cm bamboo circular needle
  • 4.0mm/F bamboo crochet needle
  • 4.0mm/F metal/soft touch crochet needle
  • 5.5mm metal crochet needle
  • Mini Kacha-Kacha click counter
  • Assorted notions (needle protectors, stitch markers, cable needles, etc)
Until I saw this pack I had no idea I needed all this stuff. And having just recorded my extensive needle collection on Ravelry, I'm still not sure that I do. But it was such a bargain. I couldn't resist.

Just to ensure I wasn't alone, I posted information about the sale on the Australian Knits group to enable my fellow Melbourne knitters in their knitting stash enhancement.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Lost in the inner sanctum


Well I finally made it into Ravelry and have spent a good few hours wandering around, thinking "This is way too much for me to ever comprehend".

The overwhelmed expression on my new icon probably gives a pretty good indication of how I am feeling. Nonetheless, I managed to track down Beth so I have one friend in there. If anyone else wants to find me, I'm theknitaholic (I can't believe no-one else had already used the name).

I fear I will be almost as bad as everyone else in my lack of description of Ravelry. It is a kind of knitters' universe - very big and constantly expanding. If you've spent a reasonable amount of time looking at knitting blogs and forums and websites and knit-a-longs on the Internet, you'll already know there is almost anything imaginable out there (who would have ever imagined we'd have a Knitting Olympics, Tour de Fleece or Sock Wars??? Not to mention specialised groups for people who want theme their knitting with their reading or other obsessions.) Well in Ravelry, all these groups are available in one place. There is a group for people who want to knit or crochet a thong (g-string) - AND they have 13 people signed up already. Seven people have formed a group for knitters with children adopted from China. Someone is trying to start up a group for people with sleep disorders - I have no doubt it will take off. And there are huge groups forming of knitters who are dieting together, fans of a particular designer, discussing their wool allergies and anything else you can imagine. Less than 48 hours after the Modern Quilt Wrap pattern hit the Internet, there was a group discussing yarn substitutes.

I gather one of the big things is keeping track of one's own projects, keeping a record of potential future projects and showing off/viewing others' yarn-stashes. I haven't got this far yet.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Hmm... I can see who doesn't have to pay for her own yarn

Sandi at Knitting Daily has been waxing lyrical about the gorgeous Modern Quilt Wrap. There is no question that it is an effective pattern, particularly when knitted in the 9 selected colours featured. I was tempted. But let me see: 9 skeins of Rowan Kidsilk Haze at AUD$18.60/skein comes to $167.40 for a scarf!

Yes it is gorgeous and probably an heirloom item. Yes I did spend (mumble mumble) on Noro Kureyon yarn ($14.50/skein) for my Lizard Ridge afghan.

Today, however, I must be more fiscally responsible and admire from afar. And remind myself that I have a stash full of yarn to satisfy my knitting urge.

Monday, September 03, 2007

BSJ convert

OK, now I get it.
Look how this:

Becomes this!


And now (with buttons) this!




What I would do differently next time.
1/ Use a finer yarn (10-ply is way too heavy for a baby)
2/ As described in the excellent KnitWiki, change the pattern to avoid picking up stitches on the wrong side.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

21 people from Ravelry invite

Found you!
  • You signed up on June 25, 2007

  • You are #10970 on the list.

  • 21 people are ahead of you in line.

  • 19095 people are behind you in line.

  • 36% of the list has been invited so far

By the time you read this I will probably have finally received my long awaited Ravelry invite and will have made it into the inner-sanctum.

I have no idea what it is all about, how it is supposed to work and the little cynical inner core of me is wandering "Is this some kind of virtual cult for knitters?" and "How can anything live up to this level of hype?"

There is nothing in Wikipedia yet which is a bit disconcerting, however I found an intriguing description on Talullah's blog.

I think Ravelry is meant to be a kind of MySpace for knitters, but as I don't know how MySpace works, that isn't very helpful. I really will try and do my best to explain what Ravelry is, once I'm in there. Providing I haven't been taken over by a Stepford-style cyberbot that is only capable of saying "Ravelry is the coolest best thing ever for knitters and you are so out of things if you are not in there".

My husband has assured me that if I am sucked into some kind of knitters' cult he will send his troops from World of Warcraft (which of course is not an addictive cyber-cult) in to rescue me.