Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Slippery Slope

Conversation with my mother yesterday.

Taph: Mum, do you think any of the ladies over the back would like the cr****t nylon and wooden coat hangers that Nanna gave me?
(retirement village behind my parents' house - I grew up with several hundred grandparents watching my every move through the weld mesh fence and Jejune wonders why I'm good with the over 60s!)

Mum: Yes, I'm sure they'd like them, shall I ask them to make you a couple in return?

Taph: *&$^#%&$!!*&#$.

Mum: OK, so that's a "No, but thank you very much for offering".

Taph: Um, yeah. I'll bring the box up tomorrow night.

Mum: While we're on the subject, do you want my knitting machine?

Taph: Yes, thank you very much for offfering.

Sigh. A knitting machine. It's the top of the slippery slope that will only end in me mugging those women for the cr****t nylon back.

Monday, May 29, 2006

On my way out the door

Ok, so I'm stealth posting. I don't have a night at home until Wednesday week, so I'm squeezing this in between bites of toast (dinner), packing a bag for woodwork class, and doing a load of washing.

In reply to your comments

  • BGK will be at SnB this Thursday - you can all fight over it then. I will give it credit for acknowledging that we are not all proportionate. It has coded the patterns as suitable for big boobs, big bums, or big bellies.
  • I'll also bring my White Lies Designs patterns for those who are interested in looking.
  • I can recommed the new Vogue mag, Knit Simple. The first two issues (all they've done so far) have had good larger sized patterns in them, although the current issue has rather too much cr****t for comfort.
  • Haven't used the drop spindle yet, but will try to remember it Thursday. Maybe even bring some fleece.
  • No secrets on the pattern - it's the knitted curly whirly which I have finally got to work. Just need to finish it and photograph it and the instructions will be up on the blog. Ditto a flower embellishment using the same techniques and maybe some pretty variations on the theme using floppy yarns and beads. If someone can find me a few more hours in a day, that would be nice.
  • Heel of the green opal sock is all fixed, decreases worked and I'm on the homeward stretch.
  • I even worked a fix for the Jenny Occleshaw baby socks and am about to graft the toe of the first one. She never did send the corrected pattern. I got fed up with waiting. It might not be her pattern but it will do.
  • Got so carried away, I've done the heel of the Lacy Ribs sock as well but it's black and picking up black stitches at night just isn't going to happen, so it may be a while before I get that one finished.
  • Finished No. IV of the ex-poncho hats for the homeless. Anyone with knitted donations for the Salvos can take them to Bells Drycleaners in Canberra ATM.

I know, no pictures yet and it isn't good prose, but I'm in a hurry.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Bad Donald

I'm working on a pattern design just now so haven't been doing my usual amount of blogging/blog reading. And because I'm so good a sabotaging myself, I'm procrastinating on the pattern by working on my green opal sock. The poor bloody thing has been knitted to various points and unravelled more than the usual number of times, even for a perfectionist knitter.

As most of you know, I'm a fat chick. I'm a very fat chick - that's right, the picture to your left is not really me (it's Joan Hickson as Miss Marple). This means knitting garments for myself is a major commitment. This is why I thought socks, once I overcame heel hysteria (thanks Spidey), would be the perfect project. You know, wear my normal boring classically elegant black top and trews with something colourful over the top, but have fascinating socks under my boots.

Great plan, I even did the maths and a tension square. Unfortunately the maths for proportionate bodies (measure your ankle circumference, subtract and inch from total circumference, multiply new figure by stitches per inch taken from your beautifully wrought and deeply resented tension square, knit for a bit then do a heel flap that is equal in length to the width of half your stitches) doesn't work for fat legs. I don't need a heel flap that is 5 inches long, for a start.

I knew that all along though, so it doesn't make sense in anyone's reasonable definition of that term that I knitted the full five inch heel flap, turned the heel in a flawless manner, elegantly and without gaps picked up the gusset stitches, and spent two whole evenings knitting the decreases. It is particularly stupid that even though I was pretty sure that this was a silly thing to do right from the off I persisted. Right beside the voice in my head that was saying - "Ya know, Taph, this don't look right" was another one saying "But the instructions said...". I felt like Donald Duck - remember he often had an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other? It's almost enough to make a woman take up that horrible feral cr****t just to shake herself out of the "pattern is always right" mindset, even when the instructions are from the Yarn Harlot herself.

Moral of the story - if you knit like a duck, don't be surprised when you get flippers.

For those who asked, and bless you, of course I didn't take any of the previewed projects to the Celebration of Wool with me. I took 4 entirely different projects and spent most of the day playing with short rows. Photos and a pattern to follow soon.

I spent a fantastic day at the markets followed up with an SnB at Starbucks and came home happier than I've felt in a very long time. Yes, I bought wool (400gm of a 4ply merino - a black strand and a white strand plied together *swoon* and half a kilo of a lovely corriedale cross in natural white to spin with), brand new Ashford hand carders, flick brush and drop spindle, and another Keepsakes from Mothers Table book because I keep giving my copies away.

The book is brilliant. The money goes to the Canberra Mothercraft Society which has been the saviour of generations of new parents and continues to do fantastic work for families. The book contains knitting patterns, some traditional, some not so much, and recipes. It has cheescake and knitting - what more could you want? Buy a copy for yourself and for someone you love - you'll feel better for it. Also, if you're making that cheescake, I'd be prepared to review if for you. ;)

It was more than the stuff I bought that made me so happy - it was fantastic to be able to speak to so many producers and enthusiasts. I saw a lot of people I knew which was lovely. The creative energy in that place was so revitalising.

My copies of the Yarn Harlot's Knitting Rules and Jillian and Amy's Big Girl Knits arrived last week and much time has been spend devouring them. Despite the obvious problems in the sock instructions (see above), Knitting Rules is as brilliant as you would expect. My expectations were not as well met by Big Girl Knits.

BGK is being raved about all over the net. It has it's own blog and it's own Yahoo group (I'm sick of linking - go Google it). It's being lauded as the fat chick's bible. It's pretty good it just didn't meet my expectations. The opening chapters about dressing for your body type and how to measure yourself are very good and accompanied by healthy dollops of self-accpetance talk which I fully support. I applaud their insistence that fat chicks should throw away the bulky and the novel yarns and seek out the finer fibres. I did expect, however, to find a few more patterns that actually went beyond the US 3x (about a 24 here in Aus). There were very few and the sock pattern didn't go up to my ankle measurement either. Yes, the book tells you how to do the maths, but the whole fucking point was that I was buying big girl patterns and wouldn't have to do the maths. My recommendation on this book, read my copy and spend your money on a couple of patterns from White Lies Designs. It isn't a coincidence that Joan McGowan-Michael's patterns in BGK are the ones I like the best. Also, Joan MM is writing a new book - looking forward to that one.

No pictures today - I forgot to borrow a camera.

Friday, May 19, 2006

A little something for the weekend?

Conscious of last nights rather dark photographs, I dragged some yarn into the light of the garden this morning. Look what I found. The month of May is just a tad early for jonquils in this neck of the woods. Don't have the heart to pick this brave little bunch.

This Sunday is the Celebration of Wool at the Old Bus Depot Markets. I am planning to spend the day surrounded by yarn loveliness of all descriptions. Independent yarn producers and fibre creators of all kinds will be selling their wares. Some of our local groups will be there as well. The Spinners and Weavers are always there, I'm told the ACT Knitters, with whom I have been trying to make contact, will be there, and the Canberra Mothercraft knitters will be having a stall with their tea cosies for sale.

It's our normal SnB day, so many of my yarn sisters will be at the Markets and some will go over to Starbucks for SnB at 2pm. I don't know what I'll do at that time. I had intended to stay all day, knitting in public and generally showing the SnB flag, and I don't know if I can be drawn away from all the woolly goodness.

Now the decision has to be made, what will I be working on at the markets? Obviously more than one project will be required. It needs to be an easy enough pattern that I can do it without worrying about interruptions etc, but something a bit more visually appealing than the ex-poncho hats and the porridge watch cap which are my current gifts-a-go-go.

I could take the green Opal socks from their hidey hole (if I can find where that is), but I'm at a crucial stage in the heel on that, so maybe not. The black lacy sock is at a similar stage, and yes there is a pattern forming here. No further sock castonage will happen until at least one of these pairs is finished. So socks get a tick for portability and the green ones get another tick for colour, but they aren't at a stage where they can leave the house yet.

Hmm. What else. The Voodoo wrist warmers, while portable and knitted on dpns which add a certain danger factor, are black and will probably be finished tonight anyway. So they are out.

Obviously the Kiri shawl is far too complicated for general viewing and putting people off SnB by my foul temper and increasingly ripe language may prove counter productive. The cabled tunic is too large for carting around and I've lost interest in the Angelina cardigan which is also a bit heavy for taking out and the excitement factor of endless double rib approaches zero.

Well that means new projects in a zippy yarn, doesn't it?

How about these beauties? Recent op-shop purchases and out of my usual range of all-natural fibre. Both of these have something of the novelty yarn about them, and the Mikado has a silver thread running through it. There's 400g here of a wool/acrylic/metal blend that's just screaming to be a wrap of some sort. Big needles, perhaps on the bias?

This lot is 150g of a wool blend boucle, but aren't the colours pretty? I'm thinking a not too long, not too wide, self-fringed, end to end scarf.

What say all of you?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

In an unguarded moment...

I met one of my teen pin-ups, Steve Kilbey, lead singer of The Church. Unfortunately it was at the funeral of his aunt who was also a family friend of ours. I was cool, shook hands and gave my condolences, but, man, it was freaky! He's aged (while I, of course, remain 17). One of the pieces of music at the funeral was "Under the Milky Way", still a beautiful and moving song after all these years. Steve's eulogy for Irene was his blog entry which he read at the service. Irene's husband and daughter were both strong and dignified.

A little light op-shopping afterwards to take the edge off a bit, and I popped into the National Library for a free screening of Japanese Story. Excellent film, just about in my budget and I managed to knit half a beanie. So that's two completed and one on the needles from the scary 70s poncho. Ooh look - here they are.

In other knitting news, I cast off the bloody loofah this morning. Now to work out some handles for it.

And I'm still doing the hat thing. This is a watch cap, pattern by Sarah Bradberry, in handspun I picked up in an op shop yonks ago. I didn't like it much in the ball, but it was wool and figured it would come in handy for a stripe or something. As it is, I think this watch cap is staying with me for a while. It's super soft knitted up and the porridge colour is not at all boring but has all these fascinating little flecks of brown. Yes, I am easily amused, thanks for asking.

Sound track tonight is Blurred Crusade, The Church.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The scarf, it was (not) apricot...

Reporting in to say that Miss Ann was very happy with her peacock scarf. The selfish urge to keep this item of beauty was very strong but her reaction when she opened the bag and realised it was all her very own chased away any lingering regrets. She wore it all day at work, showing everyone who walked past. This reaction is so gratifying to a knitter, particularly when half my family prefers non-knitterly gifts because knitted stuff is so much work to look after, you know. *sigh*

Despite a variety of avoidance tactics Mum's loofah is 3/4 knitted. What I don't understand is I've reached what should have been the finish mark, based on how much nylon it took to knit the first half and the nylon isn't anywhere near run out. It's cruel and those of you who are reading this and laughing (and I know who you are AND where you live) should stop right now.

What have been my avoidance tactics? Well reading kniting blogs is one of them. I have read the entire Yarn Harlot archive and am most of my way through The Panopticon archive, but I can read those and knit so it's not that effective an avoidance technique.

I went to Tuesday SnB and knitted the loofah some more, then started unpicking a wool cardigan I picked up on Monday for $1. It's destined for a dyebath and then I'll think about a project. This was a more effective avoidance technique, particularly as the creator of the baby-blue-short-sleeved-single-button-at-the-top-cardigan had stitched grosgrain ribbon down both sides of the fronts. There are no bands. It took over an hour to get the ribbon off.

I started another Butch Hat in remant greasy wool but ran out so it's unravelled and waiting for more remants. This hat was destined for one of the local charities which distributes warm clothing to the homeless. I really want to knit a few of these hats so I found the 1970s (and barely worn) poncho picked up at an op-shop on the weekend for $5 and unravelled it. The wool is lovely. Spun thick/thin with two yarns, one cream the other caramel, the poncho was heavily fringed *cack* and the edges cr****ted *retch*. Because it's naturally textured and is being knitted in double rib, there's no need to skein and relax the wool before knitting. I wound it into balls straight from the garment and am a fair way up the first hat. There's enough wool here for 6 or 7 hats. There's no goal here beyond one hat at a time.

Photos later.

Monday, May 08, 2006

And another thing..

I really was convinced it had only been a week between posts, but Kate quite rightly demonstrated this evening, using maths and everything, that it had been two weeks, or a whole 14 days, if, like me, you are chronologically challenged.

I remembered, then, that I had spent last Sunday at the Canberra Spinners and Weavers exhibition, wonderfully titled "Warped and Twisted". A exhibition showing the depth of local spinning, knitting and weaving talent that delighted Mum as well me. I joined the society on the spot and hope to get into the next spinning class intake.

I also met an inspiring woman who has just bought her first loom. She bought it off eBay and had to drive over 1,000km round trip to collect it. She's going to weave leftover textiles from St Vincent de Paul op-shops which would otherwise have to go to landfill. Isn't that wonderful?

You may also have noticed in the sidebar, an additional SnB meets. We were contacted by the lovely Judes this week about our bi-monthly meets. Turns out she was organising her own meet at Woden each week, so we've joined forces. Judes describes herself as a knitphomaniac; so she's definitely another one from the same mothership as the Happy Spider would say.

And if all that wasn't enough, the lovely Judith and I are investigating setting up a branch of the Knitting Guild of NSW here in our fair city. We have to overcome the fact that Canberra is not in New South Wales, but that's a mere technicality. Email me or leave a comment if you're interested in joining or knowing more about a local guild.

Oh, and there was a record 22 knitters at SnB on Thursday and the lovely Beau, our Starbucks boy-manager, loved his hat and wears it home from work to counteract the autumn chill. As they say in the classics, "Noice".

And before I toddle of to sleepy bo-bos, a word about the wheel. We will not be having a wheel-naming competition. Going with the two nominations, Madam Tricoteuse from the Sheep Rustler and Charlotte from Jejune, I've decided on Mlle Charlotte Tricoteuse. From the look of her, Mlle Charlotte has been around the block a time or two (there's a NSW TAFE stamp on her, nuff said), but she retains an innocent quality that doesn't quite match "Madam".

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

Bad blogger; bad, bad blogger. No posts in ages. Many of my bloggy mates seem to be similarly affected so perhaps it's viral.

Use What You Have Month

As some have pointed out, I am constitutionally unsuited to restrictive diets of any kind. I managed not to buy any magazines or books but failed at the "no wool" part.

I did what the month called for in name, though, and used stash to create several items (see previous post) and there are still further stash inspired items on the needles. Also, much agonising, gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair thinking was done about acquisition for the sake of it and consumerism in general. I thought carefully about each purchase and did not go mad at the Royal Easter Show, despite many, many temptations. In fact, the homeward journey was weighed down with only two skeins of yarn to make a single garment, a few sets of dpns bought in op-shops and two lengths of fabric for winter clothes, also bought in op-shops.

(crap photo of black and white herringbone wool for skirt and french navy fine wool and lycra for dress)

I also found items in stash I'd forgotten about, which is better than buying stuff because it's like getting new yarn for free and home-delivered!

So, despite corrupting Jejune's resolve (if I was sinking, someone else was going down with me), UWYH Month was a success in the Taphophile household.

Finished Objects

If thoughtful purchasing and justification of expenditure were the upside to UWYH Month, then a mania for small and quick projects, particularly scarves, may be the downside. There is much to recommend the garter stitch scarf, but knitterly challenge it ain't.

This is for one of my work team. Presenting Ann's Peacock Scarf -

I was knitting it at lunchtime Friday and she fell in love with the colours. Can't blame her - it's a fantastic yarn. Purchased earlier this year in a local op-shop, it's 3 balls of Robin Charade colourway named "Panache". The peacock colours against the black are a knock out and I'm giving it to her tomorrow before I change my mind and keep it. Here's a closeup of the colours. Not quite perfect representation, the green has gone yellow, but it's close, very close.

For the record, it's 15 stitches in garter stitch on 12 mm needles. 132cm long and 18cm wide. That's 52" x 7" in the old money.

The TASDA Shawl, aka the Green Menace

The Textile and Surface Design Association (TASDA) has an annual charity raffle. Members donate an item they have created. Items are displayed at various functions throughout the year, such as craft shows and TASDA's annual exhibition. The raffle is drawn at the exhibition. As many people win as there are donated items. Last year the money raised (over $2,000) went to Stasia Dabrowski for her soup kitchen.

This is a pic, stolen from the TASDA website, of a small section of last year's raffle prizes. More than 80 bags were donated last year. This year, the items must be wraps.

Using Sarah Bradberry's pattern and nearly 10 balls of Shepherd Accent mohair (78% mohair, 13% wool, 9% nylon) from stash, the Taphophile donation is a feather and fan comfort shawl in jade green. I calculated that the yarn would have cost me about $50 new, so that amount has been donated to Medicins Sans Frontieres. As promised, a charity double-bunger for UWYH Month. The remaining 5.5 balls of the yarn will go into the Stitch 'n' Bitch swaps basket and I get to be a Tricoteuse Sans Frontieres. Everyone wins.

The shawl isn't blocked yet - happy to receive advice on blocking mohair - but it doesn't have to be submitted until the end of the month, so no pressure.

Knitted on 6mm bamboo circs, dimensions to be determined by blocking. It's a little small for me, but some of the slim young things tried it on the other night, and it was fine on them. I just got so sick of being covered in jade green mohair that I had to cast off.

On the needles

Motherly Mohair

Mum's birthday came and went and her Kiri shawl still looks like this.

She really loved her Tupperware icecube trays, though!

I'm using some stash Cleckheaton Studio Mohair as a test run before breaching the Rowan Kid Silk Haze. The Cleckheaton is a bluey grey colour - more blue than this picture shows, but it's very grey day here. It's lovely yarn, but a real bugger to unravel. This yarn has been knitted then unpicked so many times that it's starting to get bald patches. The shawl will get done eventually, probably when Mum and Dad make their annual migration north (51 days to go and counting) for the winter. I'll have more time then and more head space.

Loofah, aka This is How Much I Really Love My Mother

Apart from the chronic heart-lung thing and the 24 hour oxygen, Mum's main problem is dry skin and an itchy back. For Mother's Day, she's getting a knitted loofah at her own request. Her requirements were minimum length of 70cm, handles and quick drying. Certainly purchase of such an item is possible, but it was April, I was in the grip of UWYH Month and I have a box full of that abomination, Cr****t Nylon, donated by my grandmother (who knew she hated me that much?) .

I'm 2/3 done knitting a tube out of doubled cr****t nylon. Bet you thought you'd never see such an admission on THIS blog! The colours are mauve and white, but knitted together come out a particlarly interesting lolly pink. Mum loves the colour, btw. It has to be finished in a week. So far it has been knitted at the computer while reading email and knitting blogs and at last Thursday's SnB. I can just about manage it if I don't actually look at it while I'm knitting.

The idea is the tube will be turned inside out so that the seamless reverse garter stitch side will be the working surface. I need to attach handles of some description so it can be used in the shower to scrub her back. The virtues of this object are that it is definitely UWYH, it's creating a useful gift to the specifications of the recipient and the recipient has accepted that this is adequate compensation for the black mohair cardigan I made her knit me, at night, 23 years ago. I will also point out that I am still wearing the black mohair cardigan. I expect she will similarly cherish the loofah.

Here it is about 2/3 done and looks rather like a wind sock.

And finally, socks

This week I have failed to successfully complete two different socks 5 separate times. Note to sock pattern designers - please put ALL stitch numbers for ALL needles and ALL needle positions, particularly after gusset pick ups, EVERY time. Not all of us are experience sock knitters and the instruction 'use your favourite heel' is NOT helpful.

Just to show that I am incapable of learning from past mistakes, I am now most of the way down the leg of a new sock. This one's for me in black Clan 4ply (60% wool, 40% nylon) that I picked up off Ebay for $5 for 12 x 25g balls. I work that out to be less than $1.70 a pair of socks, if when I get them finished.

The pattern is a Lizzie's Lacy Ribs by Fluffy Knitter Deb and goes up to an 11" ankle. Forgive the crap photo - it's hard to stop the flash going off, hold the sock and take the shot.

And as a reward for getting all the way to the very end of this dull post, a shot of the Quality Control Supervisor letting me know what she thinks about knitting in general and knit blogging in particular, on cold, wet and windy days when we could be cuddled up on the couch with chocolate and a good book.