Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Lattice socks, perhaps?

Although it may not look like it from my recent entries, I have actually been trying to get some knitting done, but for various reasons haven't really made enough progress to justify any update photos. Just imagine things a bit longer than when you last saw them. ;) The 'Basic Black Shawl' is remaining on hold for now until the two cone spindles finally show up here, as these should improve the way the yarn feeds off the two cones of yarn.

The rather bizarre weather here in Sydney over the past week or so hasn't helped either, as 37°C temperatures and mohair really don't go together at all well -- take a quick look at my work in progress bars and spot the problem with my current projects. Despite not really wanting to start another project as I really love the way my current ones are all turning out and desperately want to see them finished, the desire to have something ready to work on on those hot, humid days will probably win out, and I'll wind the wool for either the Contessa Shawl or Melody's Shawl into balls some time over the next few days so I am prepared. Both of these shawls would be useful things to have to have around to use anyway, and ginger-nut having pointed out the version of Melody's Shawl which was recently completed by someone taking part in the International Scarf Exchange has done nothing to dissuade me from this plan. ;)

One of the things I have done over the past few weeks which I should make a note of here is my search for a stitch pattern to eventually use with this yarn from my sock yarn stash...

I really love the combination of colours in this yarn. It's a hand-painted Opal 4 ply sock yarn which I'm fairly certain I don't want to knit into a plain, stocking stitch sock, but obviously don't want to knit something too over-the-top patterned with either.

My first thought was back to a sock I remember seeing on a blog a year or two ago that had been knit in a stitch with a knit-lattice pattern overlayed over a stocking stitch background, which had the effect of both adding a bit of interest to the finished sock and breaking up the pools of colours which had previously been forming in socks knit from that particular hand-dyed yarn. I could have sworn that I'd bookmarked that blog and the relevant entry at the time, but either it doesn't exist any more or I wasn't quite as diligent with my bookmarking as I thought I'd been, as I haven't been able to locate it again anywhere. So, with the image of a stitch pattern in mind, I went searching through my Barbara Walker 'Treasuries' for something similar, and soon came across the 'Knit-Twist Lattice' pattern in her second 'Treasury'. The stitch pattern was for the most part easily adapted to knitting in the round, but I wasn't entirely sure what to do to deal with the jog which would occur at the point where the lattice finally crosses over at the end and start point of a round, so I had a play with a test swatch, and with a bit of slipping of stitches back and forth at the point where the jog would happen, I soon had a version of the stitch pattern which would work...

Apologies for the really 80s shade of purple of this yarn, but it was what I happened to have lying around here in about the right weight, and at least had the advantage of allowing the stitch pattern to be easily seen. I'm not entirely happy with the way the 'Left Twist' (well, 'Right Twist' for me really, as I've knit them mirror image as usual) stitches have turned out, but I've discovered that I'm not alone in having this happen with this version of the stitch pattern, and have since found an alternative method of working the 'Left Twist' described in one of the comments here which I plan to try out to see if it improves the end result at all. I actually have a feeling that the very splitty nature of the yarn I used for my test swatch may have contributed to the problem as I think it made the 'Left Twist' significantly more difficult to work, which may have distorted the stitches more than was strictly necessary.

One thing I have decided after knitting the test swatch though, is that a sock in this stitch pattern would work best knit from the toe up, as this would make it very easy to begin and end the stitch pattern at the points of the lattice and would therefore give a very neat, finished look to the final sock. Not having knit a sock from the toe up so far is also a good argument for using this method.

As a possible alternative to the 'Knit-Twist Lattice', I've also been considering HeartStrings' 'Rainy Day' socks...

... but a few people have pointed out that the predominantly dark colours in my yarn would most likely swamp this pattern.

Thinking on it some more, I have a feeling that this yarn...

... which is co-incidentally some more handpainted Opal 4 ply I have in my sock yarn stash, may well suit this pattern better anyway.

On the knitting magazine front, look what Michael found in Borders yesterday and brought home for me...

I didn't even know this issue had hit the news stands yet! :)

Our rainbow lorikeet has discovered a new trick of his own. One of his favourite toys is a ladder with multicoloured perspex rungs strung together on yellow nylon cord. He's always chewed on the cord, which was quite fuzzy as a result. Well, he finally bit through one of the cords recently, and I took pity on him and bought the last one of these ladders still available at the local pet shop for him. Just four days later, this is what his new ladder looked like...

And believe it or not, it's actually bitten through at exactly the same point as the original one!

So... Has he learnt his lesson now?

Not a chance! *sigh*

Even Tigger is at a loss as to what to do with him...

Katrina -- Yes, I am planning on using 4 balls of the GGH 'Soft Kid' for my version of the 'Lost In Translation' scarf, but then again I do like my scarves to be quite long. As a guide, at the end of the 2nd ball, my scarf measured 115 cm in length, and it is my current intention to cast off at around the 2 metre point.

Kate -- I haven't actually gotten around to watching 'Pom Poko' yet, even though it is sitting on my DVD shelf. I'll have to put that one on the top of the pile to watch next. :) Hmm... I wonder where my copy of 'Grave of the Fireflies' has wandered off to, as it's not with the other Studio Ghibli DVDs.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Surprise package!

Look what arrived here in the mail yesterday...

It's a surprise package from my Secret Pal for Secret Pal 9!

There's a 'Family Guy' DVD -- which I can't wait to watch, and my Secret Pal will be happy to hear that I don't already have -- along with a super-cute Totoro bookmark, and a lovely card. :) Suddenly, I'm really glad that I chose the button I did for my sidebar... ;) And where do people find all these knitting-related greeting cards, BTW? ;)

I also received a lovely animated e-card from my pal today, along with the news that there is something else heading my way in the mail from overseas already. I can hardly believe how fabulous and organized my pal is! :) -- after all, Secret Pal 9 only started a couple of days ago.

I'm off to a somewhat slower start with the pal I'm sending to, but I'm hoping that the things I have in mind for her will be worth the wait once I get everything all together for her here.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Limpets, cranberries, and more

Did I happen to mention a strong desire to knit Alice Starmore's 'Driftnet Wrap' Kit in 'Limpet'? Well, Stage 1 has been accomplished, and the kit has arrived here.

I really love the design of this wrap, as its ocean net appearance evokes memories of my Dad to me, and I've loved the deep, dark purples of the 'Limpet' colourway since I ordered some of it as a gift for a friend last year and saw just how beautiful the colour was when the sunlight played across it. Of course there's loads more hanks of the yarn in the kit than I've shown in the photograph.

I also received a package from Morehouse Farm this week...

... with some Merino Lace Yarn in 'Cranberry' to knit a 'Contessa Shawl', and some Variegated Merino Lace Yarn in 'Aquarius' to make "Melody's Shawl". I'm intrigued with the way "Melody's Shawl" is knit in the round and then cut open once the stitches for the fringe have been unravelled.

And here is some more ColourMart 50% cashmere / 50% silk cobweb weight yarn...

... this time in 'Ocean Blue' and 'Violet', which I had to buy because the colours were exactly what I've been searching for, and the price was just incredible. For some reason, these two colours were really difficult to photograph, and while I'm not entirely sure I've done them justice here, I have done my best.

And look what I found in plentiful supply amongst the other calendars in Borders this year...

At least I won't have to beg and plead with the person running the Calendar Club stand at the local shopping centre to get a copy of it in for me this year. :)

I've also acquired a few more magazines...

... the latest available issues of "Knitter's", 'Simply Knitting', and the US version of 'Creative Knitting'. Finding air freighted copies of 'Creative Knitting' in Borders was quite a surprise, but given the amount of petrol I burnt trying to locate a copy of the last issue due to the interesting way the local magazine distributors randomly scatter their wares around newsagents in this city, maybe the extra cost wasn't quite as expensive as it initially seemed.

The "Knitter's" Fall 2006 issue features a pattern for one of the most bizarre items of clothing I've seen in a long time...

And yes, it's exactly what it looks like. It's a batwing poncho. I've tried to envisage a situation where this garment would be the appropriate thing to wear, but quite frankly I've failed. It appears to combine all the worst aspects of the poncho and the batwing jumper, and while the heavy cabling suggests it is intended to be worn when it's chilly, I really don't understand why you'd then want the cold blasting in through those wide openings? Am I missing something here?

On the plus side though -- and I can't believe I'm saying this -- there is a huge advertorial on Jane Sowerby's upcoming book 'Victorian Lace Today'...

... in the same issue. While advertorials are something I normally avoid like the plague, I've been dying to find out more about this book since Jane Sowerby's 'Persimmon Lace' featured as a teaser in the previous issue. Well, I have to say that this book looks like it will not only have some beautiful patterns in it, but also has the potential to be quite a stunning book in its own right, as the lace looks to have all been rather tastefully photographed in the grounds of British stately homes. This is definitely a book I'll be looking forward to now.

Now if only my order with all the yummy JaggerSpun 'Zephyr' 2/18 Lace yarn and the two cone spindles would finally arrive here. Due to a misunderstanding on my part, and the best intentions of the lady who sent my order out, the order was sent via surface mail instead of airmail. It was supposed to take 4 - 6 weeks to arrive, but that was 9 weeks ago now. Is this delay excessive for a surface mail package sent via USPS, or am I just worrying unnecessarily? I strongly suspect that my package may be travelling here via an eccentric combination of tortoises and directionally impaired fish. :(

Finally, I have a question to ask...

I want to send some postcards to a friend who lives overseas and collects postcards, and one of the ideas I had for possible things to send her is some postcards featuring some of the 'Big' things ('Big Banana', 'Big Pineapple', 'Big Trout', 'Big Penguin', 'Big Merino', 'Big Golden Guitar' and so on) which are scattered around the country, as I think this would be a little out of the ordinary. As I'm not going to be able to travel to all of these places in the length of time I have in mind, would it be worth trying to contact the local tourist centres for as many of them as I can think of and try to arrange to buy some postcards from them and have them sent here, or would the locals all just think I'm way too odd to even contemplate talking to?

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Thursday, October 12, 2006


I've been asked about my anime plushies, so here are a few more photos.

I really love "Kiki's Delivery Service", and one of my favourite characters is Kiki's black cat, Jiji...

You can't see it in the photo, but there's a little pull cord at the back and Jiji bounces around on the table when the cord is pulled.

I also have some 'InuYasha' plushies. From left to right, there is Kagome, InuYasha, Miroku, and Shippo...

The next photo is a random grouping of characters...

... Pingu (OK, so this one is Swiss claymation rather than Japanese anime ;), but he is cute, and he talks when you squeeze his tummy), Asuka from 'Neon Genesis Evangelion', and Clefairy, my favourite Pokémon -- it's pink, round, and has a thing for moonstones, just like me! ;)

In addition to the anime plushies, I have a small collection of Puffkins. From left to right, there is Gus (the moose), Tasha (the white tiger), Grizwald (the brown bear), Zack (the zebra), Moosletoe (the Christmas moose), and Toby (the killer whale).

These were all gifts from Michael, as he used to bring us all back a few each time he went over to the USA for training -- the only place I've ever seen any of them here in Australia was a little collectables shop on the edge of the Brisbane CBD, which I think is really odd as they're way cuter than Beanie Babies (to be honest, I've never understood why people go crazy over Beanie Babies), and you could find those just about everywhere.

And my lovely Gund bear 'Cabearnet' insisted on getting in on the act and posing for a photo too...

Of course, this entry would not be complete without a photo of Katherine in her Cat Bus costume...

... which won the Saturday Cosplay Competition runner up prize for Best Female Costume at the Animania Festival held here in Sydney a few weekends back. There's a photo of her on stage in her costume here. While you can't see it in the photos, Katherine had even rigged up the eyes of the mice so they glowed with illuminating red lights just like they do on the Cat Bus in the film ('My Neighbor Totoro').

When Katherine originally bought the material to make this costume, I thought she was being a bit ambitious attempting something like this, but it was amazing just how quickly and how well it all came together once she started work on it. :)

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Secret Pal 9 questionnaire

1. What is/are your favourite yarn/s to knit with? What fibres do you absolutely *not* like?

I like natural fibres -- wool, silk, cashmere, alpaca, mohair, angora, cotton, linen, soy and bamboo, for example -- yarns which are soft and not scratchy, and preferably ones which don't shed too much as I often wear black, and my favourite place to knit is a velvet covered sofa. I knit with good quality (not necessarily expensive) yarns, as if I'm going to take the time to knit something I want it to look and feel its best. I avoid acrylics and other synthetics as much as possible as for the most part they don't breathe and make me overheat. I don't like boucle yarns, and I'm totally over the whole furry and feathery novelty yarn thing.

By way of explanation -- I chose this 'Secret Pal 9' button...

Secret Pal 9
... for my sidebar because I think it's adorably cute and love the 'Family Guy' series, and not because I have Stewie with his ray gun and an anti-acrylic hit squad lurking in the wings. I'm going to assume that my Secret Pal will have a good sense of humour. :)

I haven't mentioned any specific brand names here as I really don't want to limit the choices of my pal, or rule out any fabulous, local yarns that might be available.

2. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?

My knitting needles, along with the few crochet hooks I have, are stored in cardboard PostPak tubes or boxes (depending on length), sorted by type, length and size and still in their original packaging where possible so it's easy to find matching needles in the correct size for a project. Sets that came in cases are carefully stored in those cases when not in use. Accessories like stitch markers and row counters are stored in small plastic containers. It may not be as pretty as the fabric rolls, cases and pouches a lot of knitters have, or as attractive as a jar or vase of knitting needles on my desk, but it works for me and I wouldn't have it any other way. :)

3. How long have you been knitting & how did you learn? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?

I first learnt to knit when I was 9 years old, so I've been knitting off and on for around 37 years now. There have been substantial periods of time when I haven't knit at all, but I've been knitting fairly consistently since May 2003 this time, and have learnt a lot over the past three and a half years.

My Nana originally tried to teach me to knit, but knitting right-handed just didn't work for me. Of course I didn't know that was what the problem was at the time, but fortunately one of my left-handed aunties showed me how she knit and things got a whole lot better after that. As far as I can recall, my auntie only ever showed me how to do the knit stitch, so I've had to teach myself how to do pretty much everything else, mostly by mentally flipping the instructions in books written for right-handers as there's very little out there beyond the absolute basics for us left-handers.

I'm quite a slow knitter (which I'm mostly resigned to now), but I would consider myself to have intermediate skills for the most part.

4. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?

I have an Amazon wish list here.

5. What's your favourite scent? (for candles, bath products, etc.)

As I'm allergic to pretty much all synthetic fragrances, this is probably an area best avoided. Tobacco smoke smells also make me feel ill.

6. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favourite candy?

My weakness is dark chocolate, the darker the better. If it should happen to have chilli, spices, peppercorns, or espresso coffee blended with it too, all the better. :) I detest anything with mint though, in all of its various forms and guises.

7. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin?

I don't spin, and I don't crochet as I don't like the look, feel or drape of the fabric it produces. I have tried a lot of different crafts over the years, but knitting is the one that I keep coming back to.

8. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)

I like late 60s / early 70s music, especially from the UK as that's where I spent a lot of my school years. Just as a guide, the CDs currently sitting out on my desk are albums recorded by Slade, Sarah McLachlan, Kate Bush, Jane Olivor, Wendy Matthews, Kate Ceberano, and Dar Williams, plus 'The Queen Symphony' CDs. I really can't stand rap, country, or religious music.

I can play MP3s on my PC.

9. What's your favourite colour(s)? Any colours you just can't stand?

I like rich, dark, saturated tones of blues, indigo, purples and greens, true reds without any trace of orange, ink navy, black, charcoal, silver, and pure white. I don't like yellow, orange, olive, brown, cream or beige -- anything which could be described as an autumnal or earth tone tends to make me look sallow. The only browns I like are dark, truffle browns -- the kind that could be worn with black accessories. I dislike neon and fluoro colours, and pastel shades of colours, but love icy tones. And I'm definitely not a pink girl.

10. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?

I've been married to Michael for over 21 years now, and we have two daughters -- Amanda (20) and Katherine (18). Michael and Katherine are allergic to most furry pets, so our choice of pets is a little limited. At the moment, we have a rainbow lorikeet, and Katherine has a budgie.

Due to Michael's and Katherine's allergies, anything exposed to pet hair would be a problem.

11. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?

I wear scarves, and the occasional simple hat. I don't wear mittens, but I do wear fingerless gloves from time to time as they keep my hands warm without restricting the use of my fingers. I will never understand the supposed popularity of ponchos -- I strongly suspect they are a joke inflicted upon us by fashion designers.

12. What is/are your favourite item/s to knit?

I prefer knitting things with texture (cables, lace, etc.) to colour work (fairisle, jacquard, intarsia), and like my projects to have clean, simple lines, without fussy details like frills or lots of buttons. Silly as it probably sounds, I also like for the yarn and design to feel like they were always meant to be together, and not that one was imposed on the other.

13. What are you knitting right now?

I have quite a few things on the needles at the moment, which are listed under 'Currrently in progress' in my sidebar.

14. Do you like to receive handmade gifts?

Yes -- but nothing frilly or fragranced obviously. :)

15. Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Bamboo, aluminium, plastic?

I have a bias towards circular needles as the items I knit tend to be large and/or heavy, but if an individual project will work better on straight needles I use them instead. I have straight needles made from casein, bamboo, birch and faux tortoise shell. I have circular needles made from bamboo, and quite a few Addi Turbo circulars. I'd love to try ebony and rosewood needles, but they're a bit too expensive and hard to come by around here. I don't like knitting with plastic needles (except for the 15 cm metal-reinforced Pony Pearl double pointed needles I often use for socks) or the old style grey metal needles which were popular when I first started knitting -- my Nana always said these were bad for your hands, and that the tortoise shell ones were the best ones to use. I prefer double pointed needles over 'Magic Loop' or two circular needles for knitting socks. I do have a set of 'Denise' interchangeable needles, but I still haven't found the right project for them.

16. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?

I own two yarn winders (a small one and a large one), and an umbrella swift.

17. How old is your oldest UFO?

Hmm...I'm guessing it's about 25 years old now. It's a jumper which would be way too small for me now, but ripping it out and starting something else with the yarn after all this time would be just too painful. I actually remember the trouble I had finding the yarn for that jumper, the number of buses and trains I had to ride to get to the drapery shop that had some in stock, and rummaging around with the shop assistant in the upstairs loft area of the shop to find the actual yarn when I got there. I actually bought the same yarn in a different colour (a dark, denimy blue colour which I really would have preferred for myself over the paler blue one I ended up with) for my sister at the same time, as she wanted to knit the same jumper. I wonder if she ever finished hers...

18. What is your favourite holiday?

One that doesn't involve heat, humidity, sand, or bushfires. I guess that's Christmas out... ;)

19. Is there anything that you collect?

Yarn, knitting books, DVDs, CDs, Japanese anime plushies -- I'm a bit of a hoarder, which is quite a challenge in a house as small as this one. ;)

20. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?

I currently have subscriptions to 'Yarn', 'Rowan International', 'Interweave Knits', and 'Yarn Forward' -- I've got my fingers crossed that this last one will be as good as the hype as I've somewhat recklessly taken out a subscription prior to the arrival of the first issue. I also generally read 'Creative Knitting', 'Simply Knitting', 'Knitters', 'Vogue Knitting', 'Knit Simple', 'InKnitters', 'Knitscene', 'Knit 1', 'Rebecca' (for ideas for my daughters), and the US 'Creative Knitting' (which is ridiculously difficult to obtain here *sigh*). Maybe I should have listed knitting magazines under things I collect... ;)

If my Secret Pal turns out to be from a country KnitPicks will ship to, I'd love to get my hands on some KnitPicks 'Options' interchangeable circular needles, which I can't order for myself as unfortunately they refuse to ship to Australia. The other thing on my wish list from their website is Miriam Felton's 'Adamas Shawl' pattern, and the KnitPicks 'Shadow' yarn to make it (in either 'Vineyard' or 'Jewels' perhaps?). Thanks, Julie! :) And apologies to my Secret Pal for this last minute change to my response to this question. Eek!

21. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn?

Not really. I used to think I'd like to learn fairisle, but Katherine's 'Skull Vest' (which I haven't enjoyed knitting so far), plus a realization that, despite my admiration for the skill involved, I can't really see myself wearing most of the end results, have cured me of that. ;)

22. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?

Yes, I do knit socks.

My foot measurements are:

Foot length - 25 cm
Ankle - 24 cm
Measurement around foot after instep and before toes - 22 cm

23. When is your birthday? (mm/dd)

June 27th

This is the first 'Secret Pal' swap I've taken part in, so I hope my answers to this questionnaire are OK. I've tried to make my answers reasonably detailed as I only started my knitting blog back in February this year, but I've also tried not to cross the line and look too picky. If I've failed in this, please let me know and I'll have another go at it.

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