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Semi-surprise

Back in the Christmas/New Year holiday, I unpacked my yarn stash and did a bit of sorting. It left me with an intense desire to knit with everything in my stash as soon as possible, especially some of the yarns that had been there for a while, languishing without being used, denied their purpose.  I spent *ahem* a bit *ahem* of time day dreaming about what each skein was going to become. I may have lost some good knitting time to that day dreaming.

During this day dreaming and stash browsing, I realised that there were a lot of skeins that I hadn’t knit with because I didn’t have a clear idea of what I was going to make with them – just saying “socks” wasn’t good enough, which pair of socks? I started to think about some of the skeins that hadn’t previously had a plan.

While moving boxes around, I’d found a roll of tissue paper and somehow it became obvious to me that the tissue paper, the yarn that had been patiently waiting it’s time on the needles that I’d now thought about patterns for should be combined.

So I paired up a lot of skeins with patterns and then I wrapped them up, with the plan that every time I finished a project, I’d draw one at random from the pile of parcels and that would be my next project.  It started as a sort of personal sock club but rapidly expanded to include scarves and other items too. I think I wrapped up 18 proto-projects in total.

I had a few things that I had to clear off the needles first – socks, the Follow Your Arrow MKAL etc. – but I thought I’d get started on unwrapping my first project pretty quickly.  I was really surprised it took me until half way through March to clear the decks. But finally, the time came and I asked the MatSci to draw out the first package:

Drumroll please….

The first package

Is it everything you thought it would be? Look at the excitment, the possibility all wrapped up in that plain blue exterior. What could it be? Honestly, in the intervening two and a half months, I’d completely forgotten what I’d wrapped up so I had no idea what was inside so I was genuinely excited and surprised to find out.

It was this ball of Mad Tosh Light in the gorgeous blue called Fathom which I bought at the Bendigo Show in 2012.

Ball of MadTosh Merino Light

I just love this colour. The pattern I’d paired it with was the Variance Cowl by Northbound Knitting which I’ve had my eye on for a while and which I thought would look gorgeous in this colour.

Finished Cowl

It turned out to be a super-quick knit (even though I initially cast on using needles 2 sizes too big because I’m a muppet), taking less than a week. It’s very easy and requires very little attention be paid. It also, to my surprise, took less than half a skein.

So then I had to find something else to knit with the yarn and after some thought, thought a pair of fingerless mittens would be nice. After some hunting on Ravelry, I settled on the Knucklebuster Mittens as I’d never knit a pair of mittens from the cuff-down before. These were also super-easy and a fun quick knit, taking a little more than a week because I didn’t work on them much – and I made them a bit shorter than the pattern called for as I wanted a pair of shorter fingerless mittens that wouldn’t interfere with sleeves.

Blue mittens

 

The mittens took about a third of a skein so I was left with about 20g of leftovers which is a much more acceptable quantity than 60g.

I should mention, that the FO pictures for both of these were taken in Bendigo last weekend – it seemed appropriate for the finished items to be photographed where I’d bought the yarn two years ago. We went up to see the Royal Academy exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery, which I throoughly recommend. We had a lovely time and afterward wondered around town for a while before stopping for a quick photo-shoot in the botanical gardens. We accidentally almost photo-bombed some wedding photos but fortunately noticed in time. Pretty though the mitten are, they wouldn’t have fitted with the wedding’s colour theme…

I love the mittens and I think I’ll get a lot of wear out of them, but I’m a bit ambivalent about the cowl. It looks lovely, the colour is, as mentioned, gorgeous, and the variation in the textures does look lovely. But. There’s just something about it that doesn’t work for me. It isn’t the fault of the pattern, its entirely me – I just like bulkier, less floppy neck-wear that covers more than just my neck. I would probably have been better off making the heavier weight version of the cowl, possibly by holding the yarn double since I do love the colour.

This is a conclusion I keep coming up against – I like big scarves, I like scarves made of thicker yarn or voluminous scarves made of lighter weight yarn to get a similar effect – so why do I keep making the same mistake and knitting smaller, fingering weight yarn? I don’t know, I think I just get distracted by the pretty. I think there may be another fingering weight scarfy thing in the box of packages so I may be compelled to give it another go later in the year when I’ve forgotten this lesson again.

I’ve already made a start on the next package out of the box, which I am throughly enjoying and is an older stash dive than this one.

Ball of pink yarn

This picture really has nothing to do with this post but it is quite pretty, don’t you think?

When I moved to Australia I knew I was going to have a period of separation from my stash of several months. I carefully planned what I was going to ship and what I would take with me to knit in the interim before we were reunited. By carefully planned, I largely mean panicked, over packed and forgot that one can actually buy yarn in Melbourne and there’s always the internet. But at least I didn’t run out of knitting.

Cut to three years later.

I moved house somewhere in the early second half of last year. It was all a bit of a scramble, for various reasons which boiled down to us being picky and looking at at least a dozen places over weeks and weeks and then deciding we did actually want to move before a busy period would have forced us to postpone another couple of months. The result was that we packed in a hurry and didn’t do much sorting and then didn’t finish unpacking boxes until the Christmas/New Year holiday. And technically there’s still a box or two waiting to be unpacked while we decide what sort of storage unit we want to put the contents in, but as we’re basically going to move the contents from one form of long term storage to another, I’m calling us unpacked in practice if not in actual fact.

One of the consequences of the move and the busyness that happened after, was a separation of four months from my stash. Yes, this time it was all there, under the same roof as me, but it was packed into boxes under boxes in a cupboard and getting at it was all a bit of an effort. And so I knitted what I had to hand, and what happened to be to hand wasn’t planned in any way, but rather consisted of what I could get at with minimal fuss and which I’d already wound because finding the swift would have involved moving everything. Probably twice.

Then came the holiday and we got our act together and did a lot of sorting out of Stuff. We made bold decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. We asked questions such as “How many whisks do we actually need?” (The answer is fewer than four and prompts the reasonable follow up question of “where did all these whisks come from anyway?”) We bought a shelving unit to go in the spare room cupboard to unpack the stash and my dyeing stuff into. I unpacked my stash, sorted it and revelled in the wooly goodness. It was glorious.

But a funny thing happened. I realised, as I was unpacking and reveling in the wool, that there were a few skeins that I pulled out and looked at and thought “I have no idea what to knit with you, I actually have no desire to knit with you.”

Now, these weren’t horrible skeins of yarn, they weren’t ugly, or squeaky acrylic, they were just skeins I looked at and didn’t feel excited about knitting with anymore. Some were skeins I’d bought a long time ago that I’d since learned weren’t my cup of tea, some were inexplicably just not exciting. I tried to think of things to do with them that old use them and make them worthwhile and it felt like a chore.

This is a terrible thing to say about yarn in your stash. Stash should not be a chore but rather a source of joy and comfort.

So I decided to get rid of these problematic skeins, though “get rid of” is too harsh a term. I took them along to Richmond Knitters the following week and gave them away to good homes where they were wanted and could become beautiful things.

And afterwards, I felt lighter. Everything in my stash now is something I want to knit with, that I’m eager to knit with and mostly that I’m sad I can’t get to knit with sooner. I still don’t necessarily know what it’s all going to become yet (in particular there’s some sort-of-semi-self-striping-almost-variegated sock yarns bought years ago that I know I’ll struggle to find a pattern for) but I’m looking forward to finding out what they’re all going to be.

Followed my Arrow

The Follow Your Arrow Mystery Knit Along finished a couple of weeks ago and I am delighted to report that I did actually finish my shawl within a week of the “deadline” – that is, within two weeks of the 5th and final clue being released. I had a lot going in in February so I’m a bit surprised by that, to be honest.

Here is my Follow Your Arrow experience in pictures.

There was a lot of agonising about colour combinations, and finally a decision:Yarn cakes

There was a false start:first attempt at clue1

And a colour re-arrangement:2nd attempt at clue1

There was a kite!Clue 1

Then a kite with a… wing?End of clue 2

Then there was lace. And some errors, and some tinking and a bit of sulking and… just don’t look too closely at the far end…Clue 3

As the first two clues had non-lacey options I was pretty surprised that the 3rd, 4th and 5th clues were all lace. I might have been the only one this surprised.

Close up of clue 3

Then there was more lace and it started to feel quite big:

Follow Your Arrow after clue4

I started to think it was quite pretty and that maybe lace wasn’t the torment I had always thought:

Clue 4 close up

Clue 5 involved a change of colour that I’m still not totally convinced by. I decided discretion was the better part of valour (ie. I very much wanted to finish) and knit clue a rather than the knitted on edging of clue b, which I’m reliably informed went on forever and ever and ever:

Clue 5 close up

Blocking drastically to stretch out the lace took it from a slightly crumpled heap that had to be photographed on the floor as it no longer conveniently fitted on the kitchen counter:

Follow Your Arrow off the needles

to a more elongated scarfy-shawl:

Obligatory wingspan shawl picture

And proves, yet again, that blocking is magic, and that I put no thought into whether my outfit matched the shawl before taking FO pictures.

Lace!

All in all, this was actually a lot more fun than I was expecting. I really enjoyed seeing the Richmond Knitters variations every week and seeing what all the knitters around the world were making via the ravelry forum. I think the community aspect was the most fun part.

The knitting was a variable experience. Clue 1 was great fun. Clue 2 was intriguing in a ‘where is this going next’ way. I rather loathed clue 3 – I found it surprisingly difficult and not very attractive by itself, but clue 4 redeemed it as flowed into part of a larger pattern. It helped that I found clue 4 much easier as I began to read the lace better. So this was definitely a useful experience from a technical knitting and learning point of view. Clue 5, honestly, was a bit dull and I just wanted to be done so I could move onto other projects that wouldn’t take six weeks to finish (ahem, baby cardigan I cast on 1st February and still have a sleeve to finish…)

I’m still not 100% convinced by the finished item. Worn, it looks rather nice, but stretched out, I still don’t really think the first two non-lace, garter stitch sections really go very well with the rest of the project. I also much prefer the single colour finished objects on the forum – some of them are really lovely – to the two colour projects. In the garter stitch sections I think the two colours look rather nice, but I don’t really like the colour change in the lace section – but then I’ve always thought lace looks better in solid or very subtly variegated solids so that’s probably just a continuation of my draconic lace rules. When it comes right down to it, I’m a garter stitch sort of girl, not a lace sort of girl. So really, it’s amazing that I like it at all, let alone enough to actually wear it.

I’m going to call this project a win since, despite my lingering misgivings and given my control-freak approach to most of my knitting projects, I had surprising amounts of fun with this mystery knit along and produced an item I will wear.

Minor Makeover

A couple of months ago (A few? It was a while ago now, actually) one of the Richmond Knitters produced a cone of silk lace weight she’d been given and asked if I could do something about the colour. She was fairly non-specific about what “something” meant beyond “make it a colour that isn’t so dull”.

Lilac silk laceweight yarn before dyeing

It wasn’t exactly an offensive colour, but it was, how shall we say… insipid. Dull, perhaps. Which is a terrible word to level at a silk yarn.

I’ve never dyed silk before so I was a bit nervous but up for the challenge. it turned out that the hardest part, certainly the dullest, was taking it off the cone into a skein – I did snap it at one point, unfortunately, so it’s ended up in two skeins rather than one. Oops. And reskeining it afterwards was pretty dull – lace weight skeins are quite long school didn’t really occur to me until I was somewhere in the endless middle of the skein.

In an ideal world I’d have played around a bit with small skeins to see what happened but there was only about 90g total so I decided to go for it and adapt a purple recipe I’d already made. How far wrong could you go with turning lilac more purple? I hoped not very.

I’m super-pleased with the result. It’s a little more variegated than I’d expected – and, interestingly, became more so as it dried – and I can’t really tell if the lighter bits are patches that didn’t take up the dye as much or if the lighter bits are areas that took up one layer of dye more than the other. I’ve so much to learn. Being silk, it seems to sort of glow a bit and is awfully, awfully pretty. This photo just doesn’t do it justice.

purple silk laceweight yarn after dyeing

I can’t wait to see what it becomes!

Daffadowndillies

In some hemisphere, notably not the one I find myself living in, daffodils will shortly be seasonally appropriate. I know some people think of them as practically weeds and a bit dull but I think they’re awfully pretty. They were also my Grandmother’s favourite flowers and despite her December birthday, my Grandfather always made sure she had a bouquet of them on her birthday. I cast on this pair of socks on what would have been her 93rd birthday.

Yellow socks

The yarn was a deep stash dive. It’s Vintage Purls from her Winter Warm Up Club in, um, 2007? Her first I think, the start of which happened to coincide with the period I was living in New Zealand for a few months. The colourway is called honey and has lovely shades of yellow, oranges and browns and when I saw this pattern, I knew the two had to be combined. I think the combination of pattern and yarn is practically perfect, I love these.

Close up of socks

Yes, I love them and I mostly enjoyed knitting them a lot, but, I have to say that the right leaning decrease at the beginning of the left foot chart was a swine to knit. Its towards the end of the needle so there’s not a lot of room to manoeuvre and my stitches were quite tight being near the end which made it a bit… difficult. I was so glad that the stitch turned out to be much easier a the closer to the middle it got and also, much neater. It was never as hard on the right foot charts and I’d be tempted to suggest tentative knitters started with those to get used to the stitch before trying it on the left foot but I fear perhaps it was just me being incompetent, especially as I hadn’t used dpns for a while. Whatever the reason, I’ve found my right sock to be a bit neater in its execution than the left. I can spot the errors where I totally forgot how to do one of the decreases for four rounds but I’m pretty sure nobody else would.

I blocked these to try to even out the slightly kinked up purl stitches that formed on the first stitch of a new needle. It wasn’t entirely successful as there is still an obvious column down the centre of the toes where the stitches are different, but it is less obvious than it was previously. I expect a run through the washing machine will sort it out and if it doesn’t, I can live with it.

Yellow sock

I normally knit magic loop and don’t have that problem, but I did these on dpns which I’m less comfortable with. Specifically, I knit them with the rather new Knit Pro Karbonz needles. The needles were, I have to admit, a total impulse buy last year – I saw them, thought they were incredibly good looking in person, and after wanting to try them since I first heard of them, bought them without pausing much for thought. This would doubtless explain why I bought a set of 2mm dpns when I usually knit socks on magic loop on 2.25mm cables. Oh well. This, in turn, explains why I knit the large size of the sock – at that gauge the smaller stitch count would have been too small.

Apart from constantly stabbing myself in the ribs (I have bruises) which appears to be a function of how I hold the needles and not something I can do much about short of changing my whole knitting style, I loved these needles. They’ve got just the right amount of grippiness for me, they feel really comfy in the hands and hey haven’t kinked, which is brilliant given that I can’t use 2mm wooden needles because I break them and all my metal sock needles are curved from use. Also, they just look very cool. I’m probably going to get myself some fixed circulars for sock knitting – all of the benefits, non of the bruising.

~~~~

Daffadowndilly, by A. A. Milne

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbour:
“Winter is dead.”

Well finally

It’s February already and I keep feeling that I don’t have much to show on the knitting front for 2014 so far. However, I have finally managed to produce a finished knitted object. And not just one pair of socks, but two.

An odd-pair of socks

They’re both pairs, honestly.  Both were started in December so I can’t claim them as an entirely 2014 creation but that will come. The first of them I actually finished last month but didn’t get round to getting photos for a while. So I suppose I have been productive. Sort of.

Primavera sock toes

The pattern is actually a very quick knit but I only worked on them in fits and starts. Simple enough to knit on the go without instructions, these were my travel project which is why they’ve taken so long – If I got a seat on the train, I tended to get one repeat done in either direction. When I actually worked on them, they went very fast and I knit the foot from the end of the gusset decreases to the toes in a few hours one evening at knit-night when they were all I had on the needles and I knit most of the leg of the second at a barbecue on New Year’s Eve. Very satisfying.

This is such a great pattern. The stitch pattern is simple but really effective and goes so well with this yarn but I reckon it would look just as good in a solid. I don’t often knit the same pattern more than once but I think I will knit these again, the MatSci is making noises about rather liking them so he might get a pair at some point…

Side View of Primavera Sock

The yarn is a merino/cashmere/nylon blend and I’m still not totally convinced that works for socks. However, a pair I knit in 2012 have stood up really well so perhaps I need to accept the evidence and stop being such a sceptic. These I’ve knit at quite a tight gauge so that may help with any fuzzing and pilling and they could keep my feet nice and warm – while in weeks peaking at 34C+ temperatures the thought is a trifle nauseating I’m sure I shall appreciate it in a few months.

The Yellow Socks will get another post because I love them too and I don’t want to steal either pair’s thunder, as it were.

Inexplicable, I tell you

When you go out to a bar with a group of knitters you may find yourself inexplicably signed up for a mystery knit along shortly afterwards. Inexplicable.

I’ve never done a mystery knitalong. Honestly, I’m really too much of a control freak to be comfortable with trusting that a pattern I haven’t seen and had a chance to compare yarns for will work for me. I’m a wait-until-the-pattern-is-done-then-decide-if-I-want-to-knit-it, type. I’m the sort of person who frogs her works in progress when she doesn’t like the yarn/pattern combination.

So it was with some trepidation that decided I’d do my best to squash my not-so-inner control freak and signed up for Ysolda’s first mystery shawl knitalong. I wouldn’t have for many designers, despite peer pressure, but I do like most of Ysolda’s designs even though I haven’t knit that many, so it seemed a safer bet than some. And I was also intrigued by the premise of multiple choice clues adding up to lots of possible conclusions – intrigued enough to see how it worked. It sounds so clever! Seeing how each clue combination works up has been really interesting so far and I remain deeply intrigued three clues in.

And of course, a lot of my deciding to sign up was due to how many of the Richmond Knitters were already committed. There’s something about knitting the same pattern as your friends in a community that’s really appealing. And while I don’t like to think of myself as super-competitive, it’s also nice to feel that you’re not going to get left behind because the clues are released gradually, giving you time to reach the same point as everyone else before the next bit. It’s been really fun looking at everyone’s different shawls every Monday night and seeing how the different clues have worked up. All the discussions about what colours everyone was going to use in the weeks before hand was really fun too. I agonised a lot and went through several different combinations, switched and changed my mind and finally settled on what I think is a rather lovely, autumnal, combination of two colours I dyed myself and I’m really pleased with how they’re working up together.

Two Balls of Yarn

We’re into week 3 of 5 now, and I’ll start working on the third clue soon. I’ve still no idea what the finished shawl will look like or even if I’ll like it in the end, but for this knitted item, for me, it’s all about trying to let go and enjoying the journey.

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