Monster Post III – Rav Rave!

This is me, wearing my February Lady cardi, ensconced in the First Class carriage, crocheting a mobile phone sock, on my way to UK Ravelry Day 2009! It’s a bit fuzzy because the train was vibrating with speed, but it’s the best of six or eight that I took, including a charmingly smeared one of my bum as a particularly sharp jolt knocked the camera out of my hand. Nonetheless, it is proof, if such were needed, of my attendance.

I abandoned Tiny Husband and the Mighty Offspring at silly o’clock for a Saturday morning, and tore off determined to arrive for the opening. Sadly, it was not to be. The bus to the centre arrived later and took longer to travel than I had allowed for, so all was in full swing when I arrived.

It was actually a little intimidating walking into the hall knowing it was full of fibre enthusiasts. I didn’t dare take my rain coat off at first, for fear of people throwing tomatoes at me for my February Lady blasphemy. Or something equally irrational. I got a coffee and sighed over the lovely cakes I daren’t even breathe around, and checked out the competition. But despite the tight confines of the entrance hall, everyone seemed quite jolly, pushing and shoving their way round very politely. I risked putting the raincoat in my shopping trolley (for, friends, I was on a mission), sucked in a fortifying breath, and tried a little eye contact. No tomatoes. Oh good. Then I saw Rooknits, who organises the knitting meet-up that I, er, occasionally attend, helping hand out programmes, and wearing – yes! – her own FLS. Completely different to mine, barely skimming her hips in a variegated purple Malabrigo, and just looking so much lighter. Mine is, you know, heavy. Cotton. A quick word, and I went to pick up some goodies, including a Rav badge.

I had not scheduled anything for the morning to give me a chance to wander round and soak up the atmosphere. On my way into the main hall, a couple of people stopped me to look at the FLS, and one took a photo. The Knitter magazine, which was sponsoring the event, had a photographer there taking pictures of individual knitters in their finery. I made sure to walk past slowly and ostentatiously, and they totally ignored my orange and black 60s-inspired take on the world’s most popular sweater!! Which didn’t improve my misgivings about it… And as if to add insult to injury, on my final  promenade, the photographer’s assistant – or the fashion director, who knows – dived shrieking towards me – and grabbed the woman behind me. Who was wearing an ill-fitting, sangria-vomit-coloured… sack thing, that she protested she hadn’t even had time to finish seaming or weaving in on (which was very obvious) before coming to the event. It was a shambles, but the PA/FD just would not release the poor woman, dragging her kicking and screaming up on the stage and propping her up with threats and menaces as she tried to hide her face in shame inside the lopsided half-sewn collar… Maybe it was some hellishly expensive yarn – they always seem to look like some variant on puke – or a pattern by some high-flown designer. I clearly don’t have good enough taste or fashion sense to tell. Maybe – no, undoubtedly – it would have looked better properly finished and blocked. Who cares – I was miffed, insulted, ready to throw the bloody FLS in the trolley, certain it was every crappy thing I worried it was (tacky, ugly, unflattering, laughable, grannyish…). Sometimes I am a very small person.

The hall was bustling quietly. Someone was doing a demo of spinning in historical costume, on a very large, very homemade looking wheel. I couldn’t place the era, and don’t know enough about spinning to identify any more than that, and was still feeling too shy to stop her and ask questions. There was a selection of fabulous felted hats, some military, on her stall, but sadly none for sale. The most amazing thing was a set of carders (?) that I didn’t even see until I was leaving the hall later. Instead of bristles, they had large burr seeds attached! That just amazed me. Of course, what would you use before manufacturing gave you the option of inserted-bristle brushes? It’s so obvious and ingenious.

I wandered about for a bit, looked everything, then headed out into the bucketing rain to wander round the stalls. The first thing to see was this adorable pair of alpacas. There were a few people, as I passed back and forth, who bemoaned the terrible conditions the poor little things were suffering in the rain. I inadvertently sniggered the first time I heard one, earning a glare, but really? They come from the Andes (full of alloo-ARRRR!), which is Spanish for ‘some of the most extreme environmental conditions found on this planet’: Coventry must be a cake walk for them. They certainly seemed to be coping with the downpour and the crowds with typical camellid insouciance, though of course they may just have been stoned on the comparatively oxygen-rich atmosphere.

I bought some alpaca fibre at another stall, lovely deep black stuff that I will one day pluck up the nerve to spin. However, I was really after Jameson and Smith’s stall. I wanted to get a colour card (done, and then some – I think I got every colour card there!) and possibly some yarn. So I picked up 10 skeins in a lovely honey green, which I hope to run up in a Japanese pattern from Hitomi Shida’s 250 Couture Knit Stitch Patterns, to which I treated myself on YesAsia. I also somehow accidentally walked off with some 1-ply cobweb in a lace scarf kit. No idea how that happened, or how that huge sack of Shetland spinning fibre came to be in the bag with it – if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that lace and I are not mutually compatible. And my first response to thread is to whip out a steel crochet hook visible only under electron microscope – not big fat knitting needles! And it’s PINK!!! Gooey, sickly, sugar-pink at that. Nonetheless, I cast on Meg Swansen’s talk and did a respectable amount before having to rip back due the inevitable stitch-count issues.

In the afternoon, I attended a natural dyeing workshop, run by Debbie… Barton? Sorry, the name is gone. There, I went a little mental, discovering previously unsuspected enthusiasm for the Madd Colorzz as long as I was in charge of the dye pots. The result is the red and green ball on the right – the ball on the left is some leftover mordanted Jamieson & Smith jumperweight that we were told to take away. I dyed it a lovely deep gold with onion skins – not terribly even but mouthwatering. I mean that btw, I’m dribbling on the keyboard just thinking about it. I call them Rhubarb and Crumble respectively. There might be enough for a faux Fair Isle tam, but I’d probably best knit it from the top/centre down just to be on the safe side.

I also picked up some smaller size KnitPicks (now Knit Pro in the UK) interchangeable tips and longer cables to go with my kit, and some of their multi-coloured Symphonie wooden cable needles – not that I need them, or will ever likely use them, as I think the scoring on them would tear up the yarn, but I can’t say no to a cable needle… Tried to get some Soak, but the only bottles left were scented and didn’t appeal. Was sorely tempted by Poems of Colour, but it was sold out too apart from the stall copy. I did finally settle on The Opinionated Knitter, and got it signed by Meg Swansen!

Meg’s talk was great fun. She read briefly a few extracts from her mother’s books – mostly The Opinionated Knitter, which at this point I hadn’t bought. I’ve always liked Elizabeth Zimmerman’s tongue-in-cheek humour, and it translated well in the talk. Most of the talk was taken up with answering questions from the floor on any and all topics related to Elizabeth, Meg herself, Schoolhouse Press, etc. I hadn’t expected any laugh out loud moments, but there were plenty. At one point, someone asked about the February Lady Sweater, and whether Elizabeth would have approved of this adaptation of the Baby Sweater on Two Needles (Knitter’s Almanac). In her reply, Meg asked for all the people in the hall wearing a FLS to stand up – and at least 20, probably more like 30, stood up! I may have lost my stitch count at this point. All different colours and fibres, on all different sizes and shapes. After the talk, when I queued up to get my new copy of The Opinionated Knitter signed, Meg was very complimentary about my fitted FLS, and asked a lot of questions about how I’d done it (yes, I know I have to put something together about that). So, sucks to the The Knitter! Validation from the foal’s mouth!

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Monster Post II

Let’s see, a good long while ago, the father of the Monstrous Offspring’s playmate at the childminder’s asked me if I could make a replacement blankie for her. He is also the Head of IT at work, so I ain’t gunna be p!ssing HIM off, with the state my laptop’s in! I had a look at the pitiful remnants of her blankie, and there was just enough left for me to make out that it was definitely crochet, three long stitches together and a chain between each group, into which the next row’s three stitches went. The long stitches might have been trebles, the number of stitches in the chain might have been 3 or 4 – the poor thing was too matted to tell. But I had a go at it for her birthday, and she was delighted. I was worried she would feel it was trying to take over, but she wrapped it round herself, twirled with it, was a butterfly, etc. Honour was satisfied.

I should really try to crochet more. It’s starting to be a little ouchy on my hand, and that’s not good. I may even have a project in mind…

Tiny Husband has expressed an interest in tie pins and waistcoats – now that his workplace has made ties optional for all but front of shop staff. Contrary beast that he is. So I made him a 1940s knitted waistcoat! The yarn is from a massive cone of natural 100% wool – Herdwick possibly – that I bought for nothing when I was still leaving the universe of dolly-mixture acrylic – didn’t even know Herdwick was a breed! There’s probably more than enough left for Louhi, once I get the courage together for such a long project – and a decent pair of gardening gloves: that stuff is rough! Currently, I’m making a Noodle Shrug for the bridesmaid, using this wool doubled.

This is all by way of diverting attention from the fact that I went on a big me me me drive recently. I attempted to make this for myself using some no-name chunky wool blend from LIDL. It was a very fast knit – all done, plus other knits, on our two weeks in Ireland – but it was just too. Low-cut. And there’s just no way I was going to add even more bulk by wearing something underneath it to hide Pinky & Perky from a curious world. It awaits frogging and a possible rebirth as Owls. My Ruffled Collar Pullover continued apace, but there’s only so much time I felt like devoting to ribbed mohair. Making considerable progress is my Clarice bag. No photos, but it is almost finished, which I am quite pleased about. I’ve only been able to work on it for short periods, as the multitude of bright bobbins tends to attract cat, son and husband, to the detriment of the work.

Then I saw these, and had to have them for my own. They are Penispoopcakewaffle Socks. Brainchild of one Wendy Moreland, it is a free Rav download, not available elsewhere I’m afraid.

For a time, this was all I had completed for myself to wear to UK Rav Day, and durned if I could find a pair of shoes, among the millions I own, that I could wear them with – even just a pair I could wheek off easily for showing-off purposes (why does that sound dirty now it’s in print…). I had slaved and slogged into the wee hours many a night trying to finish off my Joan Crawford (in a black variant of the mystery yarn mentioned in the previous post) for the day, only to be defeated at the last by the finishing. Sew a hem on a jumper, will ya, Biddy Ann? Aye right. I ask you.

And then, the blindingly obvious hit me. Funny how often that happens. Some time ago, I answered a plea from someone about the infamous February Lady Sweater – or as thee, me and the cat would call it, bed jacket. Cardigan if you’re being charitable. This is viral knitting as its finest. The Susan Boyle Youtube video of knitting. Now That’s What I Call Knitting #6306 (which is the number of times it’s been made so far, according to Ravelry) – you get the idea. It’s the adult version of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Baby Sweater on Two Needles. I first came across it a good while ago, being touted as suitable for a maternity cardi, and thought good luck to it. It’s mostly lace, which is not something I’m dying about at the best of times. What with neither being pregnant nor having the prospect of pregnancy, not to mention having a very great hatred of the current fashion for looking pregnant (even though it worked in my favour when I was) I had no interest in the thing. But a plea went forth, and I answered it.

The whys escape me. I mean, it’s not like no one out there had ever made one. Some people have made – well – quite a few. They’re a bit like sock knitters: they’ve found what they were born to knit, and, well, they go to it with a will. Anyway, this is about me me me, so back to your normal service.

Her questions were quite complex, possibly made so by a difference of language, and in the end I had to cast on to check that my reading of the pattern was correct. For handiness, and because it was roughly the right weight, I started off with an apricot cotton – Paccia La Lana Cinzia – which I got in a fire (or possibly bomb) sale in Belfast about 18 years ago. I had tried doing things with it before, but nothing had quite worked. Undaunted, I plugged on with FLS to the point – at the end of the collar/start of the lace – where her questions ended, and was pleased to report that I was correct (as was she, just confused, but then this is about me me me. I don’t know why I have to keep saying it). By then I had invested a substantial amount of time on the project; I thought I might as well use up this stuff after all that time in a box, moving countries with me.

Okay fine, I just couldn’t stand the thought of ripping it out again.

So I continued. I soldiered on with the lace – it wasn’t too hard, especially after I put 15 million stitchmarkers at every repeat. I could even do it without looking, managing half a row or so (there are about 85 giblillion stitches per row…) on the bus. Then I remembered I was doing a maternity tent – sorry, smock effort. Never a good look on one so sumptuously endowed as moi, and thanks to my recent success in vanquishing the Weed, I am packing a smidge more round the waist than I like. So not just huge jugs to make it sit out, but a muffin top to keep it from sneaking back in. By jaze sez I, I’ll need to do something about this.


So I shaped it. Hah! Pheer my madd skillz. I narrowed it in to my waist, then widened it out again for my hips. Then along the way I thought, you know, for ages I’ve been longing for something a bit piratical, a bit Jacobean, something with booty and flounce and that certain Laurence Llewellyn Bowen sensibility – something with oomph and tra la and a fol de rol to set the cat among the curtains. So I SUPER-sized the hip increase for a bouncy little peplum, ha har! Then I added cuffs, collar and hems in a vintage Astrakhan I have about me, and some gold-and-black buttons I found in the market, and voila! The effect is not fitted, but semi-fitted: I can still wear a jumper underneath. Though part of me is tempted to unpick and re-do it, because I feel I didn’t start the decreases early enough. But whatever.

I just about finished it in time to travel to Ireland, where I wore it almost constantly. The photos had to be taken that evening, before it was finished, or blocked or anything – you can see the ball of astrakhan balanced on my shoulder. I’m not sure now why it was so urgent, but it was. One day I’ll get nice pics. Ones where I don’t get exasperated by the photographer’s fear of pressing a button on my very complicated camera phone while panicking over the location of the passports…

Next installment: UK Rav Day!

TTFN
K

I made a new knitter…

And here he is:
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So proud of his work –
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About a fortnight ago, my son, aged 2yrs 8 months, demanding to “do knittings”. I grabbed the camphone, then got out an old pair of needles and my bag of scraps (priorities, m’dears, priorities). He picked the “lello woo” himself because it looked like Josie Jump! He’s still asking for his knittings occasionally, though we’ve moved on to pink wool after an unfortunate potty-related incident with Josie…

DSC00424DSC00441As to my knitting, I have finished yet another couple of pairs of socks for my Blondy Bear. I got a variety of colours of 4-ply Teddy Enriched 25% wool in the Bullring and hope to make as many combinations as possible.

So far, I am tackling the light blue and claret shades, which are coming up at a gauge of about 12st / in. The first is the striped pair: just 4-row stripes, one of which is split across the heel. Both colours are held together on the heel and toe. I’m planning to make two more pairs in this colour combination, one of which is almost finished – again stripes, but in the combination AABAA BBABB. These are the strip colours of Aston Villa, a football club here in our fair city of Birmingham. A few years ago, The Villa were going through a reversal of fortunes – good or bad I can’t say – and there was a slogan about it – again it may have been coming from disappointed fans or enraged supporters of other teams, I don’t know. The slogan was “Sh*t on The Villa”, from which I named this project “Socks on The Villa”. I’m such a wit.

The second pair is in the light blue only, with a little mock cable running down the sides – k through back of 2nd stitch on left needle, k through front of 1st stitch and 2nd stitch and remove from l needle. The next pair will be in claret, and I’m toying with making them ribbed on the leg.

DSC00413I have started a little jacket for him as well, purely because I fell in love with the yarn… And it’s variegated!! Quelle horreur! Teddy Colorama Colour Keyed Chunky. Actually, I fell in love with the DK, then noticed the same colourways were available in chunky. It’s a simply beautiful melange of greens, creams and browns, some long runs and some short giving stripes, spots and chevrons. Of course the gauge is all off. The pattern calls for 10st x 13r on 9mm needles, which would be too large for this yarn, which is on the low end of chunky. The ballband recommends 3.75mm needles (15st x 20r) – ridiculously tiny for chunky yarn. I’m getting 14.5st x 20r on 6mm needles. I also decided to Zimmermann it – knitting seamlessly. Except for the pockets which I didn’t stop to understand – they’re attached at the bottom as per pattern (but there’s a BO edge in the body), and at the top as per a sort-of 3-needle bind-off of mine own devising which isn’t BO but instead melds into the body. If I had taken time to understand the pattern I would probably have done some sort of pick-up and bind off to anchor the side of the pocket, and possibly a Fig-8 cast-on onto a dpn at the bottom to knit the whole pocket attached, which would have the added advantage of not interrupting the striping-ness of the yarn. Sadly, it was all on my snazzy new computer which decided to die, so I’m a little stalled until it’s fixed.

DSC00442Finally, for a colleague who’s going on maternity leave soon, there’s a Presto Chango, one of the cleverest ideas I’ve ever seen for babywear. The body is in blue Robin Bonny Babe Aran, and the insert(s) is (are) a mystery Aranweight cotton found in the Bullring. I just have to knit one more insert, for which I’m checking through my Aran pattern books. She’s expecting a boy, and the pattern’s lace insert looks a bit girly to me… Not that she’s likely to put it on the child – from the sounds of things, the sprog won’t see anything less than Armani. And that’s just the nappies.

I had a clever idea, aka hints n tips, recently. Using i-cord to re-create the effect of Aran barleytwists if you don’t do Aran knitting, or to create your own non-canon shapes and designs. Just make huge quantities of i-cord (a job for a child with a new French Dolly?), lay it out in the shape, then sew to the knitted piece.

Gosh I’m good.

Tra
K

I give you…

… the Glory that is Begotha – the Gothic Aran!

Also known as a black mystery-yarn sweater with a bit of cabling and moss-stitch. Still, TH is happy. He’s had it on a few times since, but usually whips it off as soon as he comes indoors because “it’s so warm”, so even when I’ve had the camphone there’s been no opportunity to snap it. Yesterday, though, he came home early and I cornered him in the back garden and wouldn’t let him in till I got the pics.

And here it is, photographing well for black thanks to our wintery sunshine – the stitch detail shows up beautifully. The turtleneck collar is 2×2 rib, over about 76st I think. Clumping a little at the sides because of TH’s simian posture and his habit of mugging for the camera, but otherwise a lovely fit for a nine-stone hank of string.

Sadly, TH is not looking his lovely best. His workplace organised the staff flu jabs yesterday, and he had a bad reaction – hence the early homecoming. We were supposed to be going out to a work do of mine last night, babysitter organised and everything, but in the end I went alone, leaving him with his head down the loo, loving spouse that I am.

Apropos of space-filling, and pointedly ignoring a certain 2yr-old putting in some practice for the Toddler Olympics (All-Out Tantrum event), here’s the Bob the Builder sweater thus far. There’s only 3 or 4 rows of ‘face’ left before I get into the helmet, and the first 4 rows of the logo on the back are in place – not enough to photograph though. And yes, those are nappy pins – I use them to hold the nyims* of yarn not in play. TH’s aversion to washables – odd given he’s happy to be coated in all manner of shite from disintegrating disposables – left me with a surplus. The hair is done in a knit version of bullion stitch for a curly look … that was the plan, but we shall see.

The second pic shows the reverse: all in all, quite neat; most of the tails are on the (inside) left, due to the way I am knitting on the colours (i.e., leaving a long tail to be knitted on the next row). Hopefully this will be tidier in the making-up stage. I really do not enjoy putting garments together, and tbh I would not be dying about picture-knitting/intarsia if it wasn’t for seeing the picture appear row by row. Such a pity knitting in the round and intarsia don’t go together…

WOOT! TG4 is on the Idirlíon!! Ros na Rún here we come!!!

T’ra
K
Oh for Pete’s sake – Aran? Irish? black? Begorra? Begotha? Catch up peeps…

* – a mangled anglicisation of the Irish mion (m-YUNN), meaning a very small amount, what can be held in the palm of the hand with the top finger-knuckles straight and fingertips touching the mid-palm.

 

Hurrah!

The Gothic Aran is finished!

Apart from one thread inexplicably left hanging from a sleeve, it is done, laundered, and tried on by a very chuffed hubby. Back-to-front at first, being himself, but ye gods what a fine fit when it was on. I short-rowed the back of the collar as prescribed in EZ, which was rather nasty with the moss-stitch panels, but what a difference it makes. Fits him like a glove. Pics later, once my camphone is recharged.

IBC’s Bob the Builder sweater is well under way. I’m putting the face on the front – it’s up to the mouth atm – and the logo on the back, which I haven’t got to yet. The sweater shape is reversible (front same as back, not inside-out reversible), so it would be nice to have a different view on each side. I’m knitting in the round again. I read somewhere that intarsia couldn’t be done in the round, but didn’t get why, since Fair Isle is traditionally knitted in the round. Now I do. Duh. Wool ends up at the wrong end of the knitting. I’ve got a partial solution which cuts down on the bitties of yarn hanging at the sides: leave a long tail when starting a new colour, that can then be used to knit the next row. In the case of the outlining black yarn, the tail may be enough to complete all stitches required.

And I’ve started a little something for Halloween – rush job, special request from TH. Fingers crossed…

Update

Not a lot to say, nothing completed.

TH’s Gothic Aran proved trickier than anticipated – not disastrously so, not even challenging really, just fiddly around the collar. It worked in the round, which is good, but TH’s broad shoulders and slender frame mean that while the front and back are completed to the base of the neck, I need to knit up the shoulders another inch/inch-and-a-half to reach the same point, nibbling off stitches from the front and back as I go. Oh yes – I decided late on to go for EZ’s fake raglan method of reducing the yoke, which looks well, despite some very awkward fudging when the decreases started cutting into the moss-stitch panels. Now this shoulder problem is turning it into a combined EZ raglan/saddle sweater.

But this is what comes of taking a pattern for an aran, running it according to another intended for Fair Isle, then changing mind 3/4 of the way through and finishing via a third for a plain sweater, discovering that the final bit needs to be fudged via a fourth (also plain), all the while using an unidentifiable yarn and a needle size not recommended in any of the patterns – and therefore a totally different number of stitches. Hey ho – at least I did swatches this time. I do get TH to try it every so often on to check the fit (so far, perfect).

I do feel that I’m working in the true EZ spirit though, winging it and not being scared. And occasionally lying down in a darkened room to recover.

I have also made it through the ribbing and into the body of IBC’s Bob the Builder sweater, and have done the charts – modified one of Bob’s face to fit better on the sweater, and made another of the Bob logo, though I think some surface embroidery is going to be necessary to get the detail in on it. I’m also very taken with the idea of a knit or crotchet BtB ‘hard’ hat… Hmm. When am I going to get my stockings made, I ask you?

The Drops that broke the SIL’s streak

This is the little set I made for my nephew. The only negative point my SIL made was that it was a pity it wasn’t bigger because he’d grow out of it too fast. But look at the folds at the waist, and the cuffs are rolled up. Mind you, look at the socks. They must be four-year-old’s socks, poor kid.

In the second photo, it looks like the collar’s loose enough to go over his head without opening the buttons. The hat I made in a hurry, so I didn’t put the pattern on it. I was already in Ireland, and had to make it overnight. It’d have taken a couple of days if I had put the pattern in. It’s a long rectangle, seamed up the back and across the top. It should have pom-poms, but I made i-cord horns at the corners instead.

He’s such a sweet child. He’s very interactive – tries to get your attention and then burbles and babbles at you with a serious little expression on his face as if he’s trying to hold a conversation. Mum says if you sing to him, he yodels and crows along until you stop!

Tiny Husband’s sweater continues to knit up fast. The body and one sleeve are complete, and on a long circular needle ready for the EZ finish, and the second sleeve is well underway – 23r in, 100r to go. I laundered the two swatches I made from the yarn, one wash at 30deg only, one wash at 30 deg and tumble dry at 90deg. No effect, except maybe a very slight felting at the cast-off edge on the second, without shrinkage. Unfortunately this leaves me none the wiser as to fibre content. I was veering towards thinking it was wool again, as I read somewhere about one-plied wool that was intended for felting, but I doubt even superwash wool would survive being tumble-dried until, well, dry. Hey ho. So it is probably synthetic.

I just had another great idea for a sweater for my son. When I was pregnant we called him Ickle Baby Cthulhu (Destroyer of Waists, Bringer of the Nappies of the Elder Gods, etc.) or IBC for short. It was quite a theme. We even found a little line-drawing of a Cthulhu in a nappy, which I used as an icon on my pregnancy blog, and a plushie Cthulhu was the first toy we bought for him. So I spent most of the day making a Cthulhu chart for a little sweater… To add to the Bob the Builder (yarn purchased) and the Thomas the Tank Engine sweaters already planned.

And sod the baby socks. I want THESE. I’ve already fed my numbers through the Hourglass Knee-length Sockulator – though I’d rather have over the knee, maybe stockings? Something to scare the kids at school with…