Tuesday, November 14, 2006

And, believe it or not, I've been doing some actual knitting too!

In a previous posting, I mentioned that I'd have to find myself a new project for summer, as almost all of my current projects have significant mohair content and are impossible to work on when the weather is humid. Well, the lure of the Hand Maiden 'Sea Silk' combined with Evelyn Clark's 'Swallowtail Shawl' from the 'Interweave Knits' Fall 2006 issue has proved impossible to resist. How I wish I could say that this combination was all my idea, but there are already several completed Sea Silk 'Swallowtail Shawls' out there, and even the choice of the 'Ocean' colourway isn't original. Well, it just happens to be what I have here, and I'm going to go with it as I love the colourway.

So here it is after 9 repeats of the 'Budding Lace 2' chart...

While this may look like the point I was up to when I left the last get together at 'Rubi & Lana', it's actually 'Swallowtail Shawl' Mark II, as I decided the next day that I'd like to go up a needle size to US 6 (4.00 mm) needles, so I frogged what I'd knit up to that point.

And here it is after 13 repeats...

And after 19 repeats...

... which is the point I'm stalled at now. Before I proceed, I have to make a decision, and as you can probably see I've threaded a lifeline through the current row as I'm not sure I trust myself to make the right decision.

The original 'Swallowtail Shawl' is actually more of a scarf than a shawl...

... but what I want is a shawl you can really wrap yourself up in -- I'm knitting it in 'Sea Silk' after all, and I think that's something I'm really going to want to be wrapped in. ;)

I've done the calculations, and to enlarge the shawl and still keep all the patterns correct, you need to work 5 extra repeats of the 'Budding Lace 2' chart (19 repeats in total) and one extra repeat of rows 3 to 12 of the 'Lily of the Valley Border 1' chart after completing the 'Lily of the Valley Border 2' chart (3 'Lily of the Valley Border' repeats in total).

However, now that I've completed the 19 repeats of the 'Budding Lace 2' chart, I'm not entirely convinced that even with the extra rows of the 'Lily of the Valley Border' and the 'Peaked Edging', plus a really good blocking of course, that the shawl is going to attain the dimensions I'm dreaming of. I'm actually tempted to work a further 5 repeats of the 'Budding Lace 2' chart (24 repeats in total) along with an extra repeat of the 'Lily of the Valley Border 2' chart just before working the 'Peaked Edging' chart (4 'Lily of the Valley Border' repeats in total).

So... What do people think? Would I be crazy to do this? Am I under-estimating how much the shawl will increase in size once I work the extra edging rows and block it? Do I even have enough floor space to block the shawl properly once I finish knitting it if I make it this big? ;) The overall smallness of the original shawl really does have me worried though.

Before I move on to talking about the other project I've been working on, I should mention that this is the project I've decided to use to try out my new KnitPicks 'Options' needles. So far, I've been very impressed. I've only had the needles start to unscrew once, and that was because I really hadn't tightened them enough in the first place, and it hasn't happened again since I've made sure to really tightened them properly. The finish on the needle tips I have tried so far (US 5 and US 6) has been every bit as good, if not better, than the finish on my Addi Turbo circular needles, and the needles have had a really nice feel to them as I knit my 'Swallowtail Shawl' with them.

I chose this project to try them out as I'm using a yarn with little or no give to it, and it's a lace project. So far the sharper points of the KnitPicks needles are making this project a much more enjoyable knit than the 'Lace Modular Shawl' I knit a year ago using Artyarns 'Regal Silk' on Addi Turbo needles was. It's even a lot easier to unknit the centred double decreases when I make a mistake, thanks to the points of these needles. Sliding the stitches from the cable to the working area of the needle is also a lot easier than it was for similar sizes of Tulip bamboo circular needles -- which was the reason I was prompted recently to switch to using straight needles for my 'Pacific Ocean Stole', as moving the stitches from the cable to the needle was a major undertaking at the start of each row. As for the cables themselves -- I've tried a few of them out now as I've changed the cables to a longer one a couple of times now. Over all, they've been really nice -- they uncoil without even having to run them through hot water -- and the only problem I've had so far was that one of the cables had some residue on it which needed to be removed to enable the stitches to slide without snagging.

So far, I'd have to say that I'm really happy with this purchase. :) It's been so much better than my experience with the 'Denise Interchangeable Knitting Needles' has been to date.

Which leads me quite neatly to my 'Pacific Ocean Stole'...

... which as you can see has been progressing, albeit quite slowly -- I work on it when the weather permits. I've now completed the 10th pattern repeat, which I think will turn out to be somewhere around the halfway point.

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Marta's Yarns

I was saddened to hear recently that Marta has had to temporarily close the doors of her East Malvern shop due to illness. As a thank you to Marta for creating such beautiful hand-dyed yarns, and to wish her a speedy recovery, I'm posting photographs of a couple of scarves I made using some of the yarn I bought from Marta when I was down in Melbourne last year.

This first scarf is one of my favourites, and gets more use than any other scarf I own...

... and believe it or not the colours are even better in real life than they appear here. The scarf was made from a small ball of Marta's hand-dyed slubby yarn in a colourway that always makes me think of gum trees, and was knit using her arm knitting technique. The truly special thing, though, was that Marta herself took the time to demonstrate the technique for me as she wanted to be sure I understood it before I left the store, and when I told her that she'd have to go slowly as I knit left-handed and would have to reverse all her movements, she promptly swapped hands and demonstrated the technique left-handed -- just for me. Truly amazing! :)

A day or so later, I was in the Melbourne CBD on my way to the airport when I decided to pay a visit to the store Marta had in the city at the time. One of my purchases was a stunning hank of 8 ply yarn, which eventually became this scarf...

I love the way the colours subtly evolve along the length of the yarn, which is why I knit this scarf all in one piece and didn't attempt to knit two matched ends and graft them together at the midpoint of the scarf -- the important thing for me with this scarf was to showcase what I had loved most about the yarn in the hank when my eyes first fell upon it.

Get well soon, Marta! You're a very special lady, and we miss you. :)

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Latest arrivals

Just when I'd almost given up on ever receiving this...

... it finally lands on my doorstep. I'm not sure why USPS quotes 4 to 6 weeks for surface mail deliveries -- from what I've been able to discover, the 10 weeks this package took to reach me is actually fairly typical. Anyway, I finally have my cone spindles and the JaggerSpun Zephyr lace weight yarn I ordered back in mid July -- some of the Zephyr yarn was actually originally intended for the 'Mystery Stole 2' knit along, but of course that's long finished now. *sigh* The hanks are in the Marine Blue, Indigo and Ruby colours, and the cones are Peacock and Mahogany.

As KnitPicks continues to refuse to ship to Australia, I'd pretty much given up even hoping I'd ever be able to sample their wares. Then Julie kindly offered to place an order on our behalf during her recent trip to Hawaii -- and who knew that she would have to brave an earthquake in order to do this for us!

As a result, I'm now the proud owner of this...

... some KnitPicks 'Shadow' in the 'vineyard' colourway, along with the pattern for Miriam Felton's 'Adamas Shawl', which I have coveted for quite a while now.

But best of all, I finally have my very own KnitPicks 'Options' Needle Set...

As I wasn't sure if a similar opportunity would ever present itself again, I went ahead and fully optioned up my set with all the extra needle sizes and cable lengths, a needle tags set, and some extra storage pockets...

... and even added in the 'View Sizer'...

... which turned out to be an even more useful addition than I originally thought it would be as it features a magnifier to help you see the stitches more clearly when you're measuring tension squares. And of course I now have a needle sizer for US needle sizes, which I didn't previously have.

Thank you, Julie! :)

I've been using the KnitPicks 'Options' needles on the latest project I've started, but I'll write more about that later.

And finally, the Vogue Knitting Holiday 2006 issue made an appearance at my local Borders store...

... and promptly followed me home. I think I was seduced by the luscious, red braided scarf featured on the cover... ;)

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More cuteness!

I think this may just be one of the cutest things ever...

It's a remote controlled Cat Bus toy which Amanda discovered while she was in Japan, which she brought over with her the other day so we all could have a play with it. I love the unusual way it works too -- the remote control (the brown log shaped object with the green leaf button) projects light on to the floor, and the Cat Bus moves around by following the light spot as you move it around. Loads of fun! :)

And remember the Puffkins I wrote about here? Well, Amanda shares my love for them, and seeing them sitting in my basket on the table next to my desk inspired her to find out which Puffkins might still be available. Several of the Halloween Puffkins caught her eye and were soon topping her list of things she needed to live. ;)

Well, I was lucky enough to locate an online store that happened to still have available for sale the Halloween Puffkins she wanted most. Even more miraculously, they were happy to ship them to Australia! So Amanda is now the proud owner of these...

In the back row, from left to right, there is Brutus the gargoyle, Screech the ghost, Skully the skull, and Ding the bat. And in the front row, there is Smash the pumpkin, Shadow the black cat, and Spinner the spider.

They actually had two Shadows in stock, so I acquired one for myself too. Oddly enough, the two Shadows look very different from one another -- so different I actually had to check the swing tags before I was sure they really were both from the same series. And almost unbelievably, one has just the perfect look for Amanda, while the other was exactly right to join my own little Puffkin family. What are the odds? :)


Friday, November 10, 2006

Achille, I say Goodbye!

I wonder if anyone who reads this blog would recognize the ship featured in this rather idealized artist's rendition of it from an on board postcard as the 'Achille Lauro'.

My family and I travelled from Australia to England on board the 'Achille Lauro' in early 1972 -- a trip that was quite an experience. And not always for the right reasons.

The itinerary for this trip was actually quite interesting, with some unusual ports of call along the way...

Sydney, Australia
A New Zealand port -- I can't remember which one at the moment
Punta Arenas, Chile -- which is on the Straits of Magellan and lays claim to being the world's southernmost city
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Tenerife, Canary Islands
Three? Mediterranean ports -- from memory, a couple of Italian ports and Malta
Lisbon, Portugal
England (Southampton, I think)

Apologies for my less than precise recollection here, but it was nearly 35 years ago, and I was only 11 years old at the time.

Anyway, as it turned out we were informed as soon as we were on board that there had been some changes to this itinerary. The Mediterranean ports -- which I'm fairly certain had been altered and no longer included Malta -- would now be visited after most of the passengers left the ship in England, and Lisbon would be replaced with Vigo, Spain. The person I felt most sorry for was the owner of the luggage I spotted stored in an area out on one of the decks which had a sticker showing the Maltese port as the final destination -- I've always wondered where that passenger ended up.

These changes were bad enough -- most passengers had to cable ahead to their destinations to hurriedly re-organize accommodation due to the changed arrival dates at the various ports of destination -- but the last straw came as the ship approached Rio de Janeiro.

There had been some very rough weather several times during the trip, but not once had the ship's stabilizers been used to help steady the ship and make things even slightly more bearable for the passengers -- apparently the ship's owners weren't prepared to pay for the extra fuel this would have used. However, as we approached Rio de Janeiro on relatively calm seas, the stabilizers were suddenly and noticeably deployed. The passengers soon discovered that the reason for this was that it had been decided to slow the ship down to ensure it wouldn't arrive in Rio until after the Carnival was over -- apparently docking fees would be lower then. As if this wasn't enough, it had also been decided that the ship would only dock in Rio overnight, and that passengers would not be allowed off the ship for sightseeing during the brief time we were going to be in port. Well, the passengers mutinied! At the end of it all, the stay in Rio was extended, and the passengers got their day of sightseeing in one of the most famous cities in the world, even if the city was more than a little subdued and hungover. ;) One of the passengers even had Flotta Lauro (the ship's owners) agree to take him on to the ports which had been moved to the end of the itinerary and then to pay his air fare back to London.

Which leads me finally to the point -- such as it is -- of this somewhat random and rambling posting...

Kerry, my hostess for Secret Pal 9, asked us to post a random, wacky fact about ourselves in our blog, and this is mine...

I nearly drowned in one of the swimming pools on the 'Achille Lauro'.

Remember what I said about the stabilizers not being used? What the brochures fail to tell you is that it doesn't take a lot of side to side rolling of a ship to generate enormous waves in the swimming pools on the upper decks. While I was in the pool (the one closest to the rear of the ship in the photo above, for anyone who is interested), a sudden tsunami-like wave knocked me under the surface, and the waves which followed continued to drag me under as I fought to find a way out of the pool. I was literally going down for the third time when the hands of a stranger appeared from nowhere, grasped my flailing arms, and lifted me from the pool.

While I was searching for information on the 'Achille Lauro' -- I was actually curious to find out if anyone else had written about the 1972 mutiny by the passengers -- I came across the words to the ship's theme song, which most notably used to blast out over the P.A. system while we were waiting for food to arrive in the dining room. Is there anything you can't find on the Internet? ;)

And here they are!

La nave blu
gira per il mondo
scivola sull'onda
come un Delfino fila e va

E'un sogno viaggiare
E'un piacere ritornare
sull' Achille
Re del mar!

La nave blu
dall ' Europa all Australia
per i mari ovunque va
Achille, I say Goodbye

which hopefully translates into English as...

The blue ship
travels around the world
cutting through the waves
Like a dolphin ready to go

It's a dream to travel
It's a pleasure to return
aboard the Achille Lauro
King of the sea

The blue ship
From Europa to Australia
In whatever sea you go
Achille, I say Goodbye

I think I may even have the 'La nave blu' single record they sold on the ship around here somewhere...

And for some reason, the final line of this song was all I could think about the day the 'Achille Lauro' finally sank. A long delayed closure perhaps?

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