Saturday, February 24, 2007

Candles flaming brightly

Not long ago, I bought a couple of cones of 100% silk 2/28 lace weight yarn from ColourMart's new website. The price was particularly good at the time ($US12 per 150 g cone, including shipping anywhere in the world) as Richard was testing out the new website and was keen for people to test it out. The colour of the yarn turned out to be a bit less red and quite a bit more pink than I'd originally hoped it would be when it arrived on my doorstep -- one of the joys of buying yarn like this over the internet ;) -- but it was a really fabulous colour anyway, so I went searching for a project that would bring out its best.

And then Knitabulous, temptress that she is, posted about the 'Candle Flame Shawl' she has been working on using Debbie Bliss 'Pure Silk' and I was sold.

Now, Knitabulous can't be expected to take any of the blame for what follows, as it's really not everyone who would look at the work in progress photos of her lovely shawl, read about her safe, slow, languid knit which gets worked on when there is a need to meditate, and then immediately leap to the conclusion that a pattern originally designed to be knit with Lambs Pride Bulky yarn on US 10 knitting needles would be just perfect for some 2/28 lace weight silk yarn. That requires a very special way of thinking that most people would quite rightly refer to as madness.

So, out came the two cones of lace weight silk yarn, my 2 mm Addi circular needles, and the pattern for the aforementioned Candle Flame Shawl, and not too long afterwards I had produced this...

Just in case it's not obvious from the photos, I'm knitting with two threads of the yarn held together...

... which is producing just the right fabric density on the 2 mm needles.

And after a few more days work, my shawl looked like this...

... and I can definitely say that the cone spindles were one of my better knitting accessory purchases, as they are making it really easy to knit the yarn straight off the two separate cones.

To show some of the stitch detail better, here is a close up photo of the front of the shawl...

And of the back of the shawl...

Even though it isn't strictly speaking reversible, I think the reverse side of the candle flame stitch pattern used in this shawl is actually quite attractive too.

After quite a bit more work, my shawl had grown considerably.

Here is the front view...

And the back view...

It's entirely possible that this shawl is another one of the distractions which has kept me from posting to this blog over the past few weeks. ;)

At the point shown in the last two photographs, I estimated that I'd knit about 25% of the final shawl, and the rows were already 433 stitches long, which means there will probably be double that number of stitches on the needles by the time the shawl is finished. Eek!

I still have to decide upon the edging to use along the top edge of my shawl, as I really don't think the original 10 stitch garter stitch border is going to work well for this much lighter weight version of the shawl.

I've actually done a couple more pattern repeats over the past few days and there are now 467 little, tiny stitches sitting on my needles.

And I definitely need to wear my glasses when I'm working on this project. ;)

I'm really enjoying working with this yarn, and I'm so impressed with the way the knitted fabric is turning out -- it has a fabulous drape, and is as silky soft as lingerie fabric -- that I've gone ahead and bought some more of it for future projects. At $US16 for a 150 g cone with 2,300 yards of yarn on it, and with such stunning colours currently available, it really was impossible to resist. :)

And just in case anyone is wondering what has happened to my 'Swallowtail Shawl', it is now off the needles but is still waiting for me to clear enough space somewhere in the house so it can be blocked...

And yes, those black threads visible in the photograph are the life lines still in place -- I'm a bit of a wuss when it comes to removing safety nets. ;)

For anyone who has been keeping track -- The last row before the shawl was cast off was 503 stitches long, and I had around 17 g of the 'Sea Silk' left by the time I finished. Unblocked, the shawl is approximately 74 cm long measured down the centre spine, and 152 cm wide measured across the whole top edge. I'm feeling quite confident now that it will block out quite nicely to the size I've been dreaming of.

I actually knit the final row and the cast off of my 'Swallowtail Shawl' after I had started work on the 'Candle Flame Shawl', and was surprised at how much like logs the 4 mm needles felt after the 2 mm needles, even though I'd only been working with them for a very short time at that stage.

There has also been some re-stocking at Purl Yarns, which prompted me to buy these...

Two hanks of Lorna's Laces 'Shepherd Sock' in the 'Lakeview' colourway, and two hanks in 'Blackberry', both of which I have been looking out for for a while now.

I also took the opportunity to order some balls of Kaalund 'Enchanté' in the 'Wisteria' colourway for myself when I placed the telephone order for Lois' yarn at Kaalund.

This is another of those colourways that my digital camera doesn't appear to be able to do full justice to, but I hope the photo gives at least some idea of what the yarn looks like in person.

While I was putting together Lois' final Secret Pal 9 package, I paid a visit to The Wool Inn at Penrith.

While I was there, I found some balls of Kaalund 'ClassicTwo' in the 'Tropical Berries' colourway, which I have earmarked to be used for knitting one of the shawls featured in Issue 2 of Yarn magazine. I was also shown some Mi Inca 100% Baby Alpaca yarn in a fabulous teal colour, which insisted on following me home down the motorway. And of course I had to buy a couple of the Colonial rosewood circular needles (a 4.5 mm and a 5 mm, both in the 24" length) to try out for myself too.

Just in case it isn't obvious already, I don't believe in the whole yarn diet thing which appears to be so popular at the moment. Call me crazy, but I'd actually like for there still to be some yarn stores around by this time next year. ;)

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Valentine's Day

Look what Michael gave me for Valentine's Day this year.

A pair of fabulous silver Cicada Wing earrings.

Even though the photo doesn't show it all that well, the beads are actually really sparkly -- I think Michael said they were made of ironstone? For anyone who is interested, I've included the little card with all the details about the artist that accompanied the earrings in the photograph too.

And yes, my blog postings really are lagging this far behind at the moment...


Presents from Singapore

Michael and the girls went to Singapore for a holiday for nine days at the beginning of the month -- I didn't go with them as I don't handle high humidity levels at all well.

They did bring me back some souvenirs and presents though.

A plush dolphin and Singapore's Merlion mascot, and a fat cat that Amanda chose for me because she really liked the fish it's carrying under its arm. The black and white cat has a little solar cell which powers its tail and makes it wag whenever sunlight falls upon it. And the little pack contains three Lego 'Star Wars' magnets.

They also brought back these for me.

Some photos of the three of them together which they had taken on Sentosa Island in and around the giant Merlion, and the picture in the middle which features each of our Chinese zodiac animals -- the rat is me, by the way. :)

Michael is planning a trip for the two of us to New Zealand later this year, where the climate will be much more compatible with me not collapsing and dying. If anyone has any suggestions as to places we really must be sure to visit while we're there, please let me know. :)

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Monday, February 19, 2007

As Secret Pal 9 winds down...

... look what arrived in the mail, just for me.

I love the hand made stitch markers my pal made for me! :) There are five glass bead markers and five 'Family Guy' markers -- the 'Family Guy' ones are just the cutest little shrinky dinks. :) And to think I was originally worried about using the Stewie SP9 button in my sidebar... ;)

My Pal still hasn't revealed herself -- there has been a whisper that there may be one final package coming my way in the not too distant future, which is just amazing as I've already been totally spoiled by my Canadian pal. :) Apologies to my pal for the delay in posting this -- I've had a few problems and distractions.

And now it's time for me to reveal who I have been secretly sending packages to for the past few months.

The pal I've been sending to is Lois, who has a blog called appropriately enough Get It Knitted. And Lois certainly does Get It Knitted, as while the swap was in progress she completed, amongst other things, several beautiful lace shawls. As Lois lives in Singapore, I avoided heavy, chunky yarns and tried to choose lighter weight things which would suit the climate where she lives.

During Secret Pal 9, I sent Lois two packages.

This is the first...

... A hank of Handmaiden 'Sea Silk' in the 'Rose Garden' colourway, along with the 'Storm Water Scarf' pattern, a 4 mm Susanne's ebony circular knitting needle, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's 'Knitting Rules' book, Issue 2 of Jo Sharp's 'Knit' magazine, Issue 4 of 'Yarn' magazine, a block of Villar's Chocolat Noir, and a postcard featuring some of the cute native animals we regularly see around our house of a night.

Amazingly, Lois has already turned this...

... into the 'Shetland Triangle' from 'Wrap Style' -- check out how beautifully the 'Sea Silk' knit up in Lois' hands here and here.

And this is the final package I sent Lois...

... Four balls of Kaalund 'Enchanté' silk yarn in the 'Pacific' colourway, a 3.75 mm Colonial rosewood circular knitting needle, Issue 5 of 'Yarn' magazine, a cute echidna plush toy, a block of Australian organic dark chocolate, and a postcard with an evening view over Sydney Harbour.

I was really happy to read on Lois' blog that she has secretly been dreaming of Kaalund yarn...

... which was especially fitting as this was exactly how I felt about the hand painted Virginia van Santen yarn my pal sent me. :) I chose the 'Pacific' colourway for Lois as I thought it would compliment things she has knit in the past and would look fabulous in the Singapore sunlight.

While I'm not planning to sign up for Secret Pal 10, I'm sure I will take part in more of these swaps in the future. :)

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Sunday, February 18, 2007


I was sad to hear recently that Marta Cantos of Marta's Yarn had passed away on Thursday, 18th January, after battling cancer for some time.

A few months back, I posted about a couple of items I had knit with her stunning hand painted yarn, and I think now would be a good time to share some images and details of the yarn I have yet to knit.

Left rear: Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't even consider purchasing a yarn with a bright orange colour component, but the way all the colours in the large ball of slubby yarn work together caught my attention the moment I spotted it on the shelf in Marta's Elizabeth Street store. It was a large purchase for me -- the Elizabeth Street store wasn't selling partial balls at the time, so I had to take all 484 g -- but leaving it behind that day would have been unthinkable. I think this yarn will eventually be used to do some more of the arm knitting Marta took the time to teach me -- a version of the large wrap she had displayed in her East Malvern shop, and another scarf perhaps.

Right rear: A 256 g ball of a hand painted 8 ply wool in shades of dark, rich burgundy and black. This one was so unusual and stunning that it easily won out over the other colourways I considered.

Left front: A 247 g hank of hand painted 12 ply wool in aubergine, shades of blue and green, and some pale pink highlights.

Centre front: A 95 g ball of hand painted 8 ply wool in purple and blue shades. I would have liked more of this one, but this was all that was left on the day I visited the East Malvern store. Seeing how much I loved this yarn, Marta pulled a book from the shelf behind her and showed me a pattern that she reassured me I would easily be able to make with this quantity of yarn, and I was sold.

Right front: A 123 g hank of a chunky, hand spun silky yarn in a combination of dark teal and pewter colours.

Unfortunately, my photo doesn't even come close to conveying the variation and depth of colour in these yarns -- none more so than my much loved large ball of slubby yarn -- but it was the best I could do. Thank you, Marta, for sharing your talent with us all. :)

We miss you already.

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