Sunday, 29 March 2009

This is what self control looks like...

I went into town yesterday for the first time in weeks and first on my list of shops to visit was Busy Fingers, the local LYS (Local Yarn Shop). I went in specifically for tiny, girly, pink buttons and came out with...

Exactly what I went in for and nothing else.

True, I stroked the yarn and I hovered by the bargain bucket for a good while, but I was good.

These sweet little buttons are intended to embellish a pair of simple mittens I'm working on at the moment. The pattern is Easy Mittens (Ravelry Link) from 101 One Skein Wonders using stash yarn. So far I've made one, minus it's thumb and cast on for the second one.


The mittens were started as a portable and easy project, acting as light relief for the lace shawl, which still lumbers on (21 repeats of the border and counting). They're intended as a Christmas present, which is just as well as while I'm knitting the large size, they're turning out a tad small for my liking. This isn't exactly surprising as I have large hands with long fingers and shop bought gloves never fit. Ladies gloves always being too small and mens gloves always being too big.

The mittens are turning out nicely though and I'm happy with them so far. This is a plain mitten pattern, no fancy bits and all stocking stitch so I thought I'd lift them a bit by adding some little buttons to the cuffs, something like...


Pretty, girly and pink, just what I'm after.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Jaywalkers at last

We've been having a spot of bother with drunks of late at the Town Crier, which is the pub where our Wednesday night knitting group meets up. The past few weeks, we've drawn unwanted attention of one kind or another, almost as if the boozy-er patrons think we're some sort of entertainment the management have laid on.

Last night we had a couple of potential new members to the group and I hate to think what they thought... And of course, dealing with drunks is not exactly something any of us are keen on, most of us being quiet types at heart. This is a recent development and an unwelcome one. I mean, sure, we've had the odd encounter with the tipsy - we are in a pub after all - but they used to be few and far between, now it's beginning to feel like a regular thing.

All of this means it may be time to move again. If we did decide against using a pub again, what are our options? Where can a group of knitters gather of a midweek evening and not be harassed? Our requirements are simple enough, we need light, minimal stairs, toilet facilities and refreshments should be available... Time to put on the thinking cap methinks.

Moving swiftly on, a finished object that I would have posted about last week had I not been locked in a classroom without internet access.

These are my finished Jaywalker Socks (Ravelry Link), designed by Grumperina and knitted in Regia Design Line Kaffe Fassett (colourway 04259).


Aren't they pretty?

I'm very pleased with the way they finally turned out, but it was a long, hard road getting there.

After reading dire warnings about problems with fit on Ravelry, I swatched for this pair of socks before starting. The pattern calls for 2.25mm needles, but I used 2.5mm to meet the stitch guage.

The first sock I knitted was far too big at the cuff and so, it was ripped out and I started again. This time I knit the cuff on 2.25mm needles, using a K1b,P1 rib rather than a K2,P2 rib as specified by the pattern. I switched to a 2.5mm needle for the main body of the sock. My hope was that the smaller needles and the K1b,P1 rib would pull the cuff in a bit so it clung to my calf the way it was supposed to.

As you can see here, it worked a little at least.


What you can't see is that I pulled the rib up just before the photo was taken which is why it's sitting right. Having worn these socks, I can attest to the fact that the rib doesn't stay like that. It falls down... Fortunately, the main pattern itself is clingy and keeps the sock up - meaning that you don't actually need a rib on the cuff and that it's purely decorative rather than functional. If I make these socks again, I'll drop the ribbing from the cuff, other than maybe a few rows just to get the edge stabalised and past that wrestling with a hedgehog stage common to casting on with DPNs.

The rest of the fit wasn't great either. I didn't have problems with the heel being too tight (something which seemed to be an issue for others) and there is no problem putting the sock on. If anything, I'd say the heel flap is marginally too long, but not enough to make the sock unwearable.

The other worry was that I'd run out of yarn. Due to the chevron pattern, you need a good few more stitches per inch than normal which means that the yarn has to travel further to complete each round. This in turn meant that the sock was eating yarn at a prodigious rate and was the other reason I ripped out that first sock... At the rate it was going, I couldn't guarantee I'd have enough yarn for the pair. My second run through, I shortened the leg of the sock by two inches to compensate and finished each sock well within 50g of yarn.

I also reworked the numbers for turning the heel as the numbers didn't work for me, but that was pretty elementary stuff, so all good there.


In all, it's a very pretty sock, I love the chevron affect and I particularly love how it worked out with this yarn/colourway. It's not one I'd say never again to, but I may need a few months recovery before I'd be happy to give it another go.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Quick update

Last week was spent locked away in a little room, absorbing information about the httpd daemon, which didn't really leave much time or brain power for anything else. I did see the internet briefly; twice at lunchtime for a few minutes at a time as a wireless hotspot flickered into being as the wind blew in the right direction and once for about half an hour at home as I dealt with necessary bills.

Incidently, am I the only one who went into shock after receiving her gas bill this quarter? I was so stunned by the sum being demanded I checked gas used against last year, only to find that we've been really good and nearly halved the amount we've used, but the bill was up by approx 75% on the same period last year. Ouch!

But I digress.

Friday, freshly released from training, I packed Dave into the car and headed to Murton Park for the first Ascendancy LRP event of the year.

We were lucky with the weather as it stayed dry throughout, but it was very cold at night and even with my four season sleeping bag and six blankets, I couldn't get warm in bed. The gas cans for the stove were problematic first thing in the morning as it was too cold to get any decent pressure, which meant it took half an hour to boil water for a cup of tea!

Fortunately, once the sun got going the day warmed up nicely to the point where I reached for the sun block.

The hut we stayed in was in the process of being refurbished by the volunteers who maintain Murton's dark age village. They'd already replaced a lot of the boards and added a huge loom, as yet not set up but just leaning on the wall. The couple working on our hut showed up around nine in the morning to work on the fence and garden and didn't go home again until it got dark. They also had the cutest ferrets with them.

The event itself was based around a diplomatic meeting so was relatively low combat, which is always a good thing as Murton Park doesn't lend itself well to full skirmishes. None the less, there were combats, including a dawn raid on a 'neighbouring encampment' or the on site Roman Fort at about 10:30am which equated to dawn in LARPer time! Lots of new plot was introduced, which was good for there were a lot of first time players as well, so they didn't have to rely on a lot of background knowledge.

Which about rounds up the weekend I think.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Spring and new acquisitions

This weekend, spring appears to have arrived and I hope it's here to stay! Brighter mornings, the sound of birds chirping away, the squirrels are risking their lives playing chicken with the cats and the rhubarb is sprouting.

I just had to post a couple of photo's of my favourite felines enjoying the morning sunshine... First up, Missy who is taking in the delicate fragrance of a stick.

And Charlie who as usual has taken a more casual position on the whole spring thing, lazing at the bottom of the steps.

Yesterday we headed over to the Re-enactors Market in Ryton-on-Dunsmore for round two of the fabric hunt. As before, we were on the hunt for a suitable fabric for a bright yellow frock coat and a naval jacket, both to fit Dave. This time, while there was nothing for the frock coat, we did score some nice red wool for the jacket so that's a win.

I also found a wheel on the Mulberry Dyers stand.

Sadly, they'd forgotten to pack the flyer but after thinking about it for a bit, I arranged to go back today and try it out.

The wheel in question is a much travelled (and a bit battered) Ashford Traveller, with a single treadle rather than the two which seem to be standard these days. While she wasn't as smooth to use as the Traditional I'm currently borrowing, I put a lot of that down to being under pressure (I had an audience) and tension issues on the wheel herself. She did spin OK, I just wasn't very good...

To cut a long story short, I bought her and spent a good part of today oiling and then tweaking her tension, before...


By three this afternoon she was spinning fine and with good old familiar Blue Faced Leicester, I was home free. The original tension was way too tight for me and once I'd swapped to a different ratio, she wasn't snatching the fibre faster than I could draft it and we got on soooo much better. I'm a very happy bunny.

I've also been working on the borrowed wheel and have nearly a full bobbin of BFL to show for my efforts...


I'll give it a few weeks to transition across to my wheel and free up the bobbin, then I guess I'll return her with many thanks. She is a good wheel and had I seen a Traditional rather than a Traveller yesterday, I'd have snapped it up there and then.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Slippery needles and cobweb woes

Last night, I headed out to knitting group as usual where we were having a spinning workshop. I took along my ongoing spindle project, the merino I started spinning back in January which has been a bit neglected since the arrival of the borrowed wheel (which is still great, I just need more spare time).

I was wielding the camera, so no pictures to prove I know how to use a spindle, but I was relieved to see that my hands seem to know what they're doing now. In fact, if anything, I'd say my drafting has improved dramatically in the past couple of weeks, possibly due to successful drafting at the wheel.

This weekend is also an anniversary of sorts, with the Re-enactors Market or TORM coming around and marking my first attempts to use a spindle, one year ago!

At home, I'm still working on my lace project. I finally finished the centre panel, comprising the main part of the shawl and I happily started the border, sensing the end was in sight.

Sadly, I'd underestimated how difficult and fiddly it is to knit a border onto a shawl in cobweb weight yarn on fat needles. The pattern isn't difficult, it's just a few stitches but getting the length of the shawl untwisted, preventing the still attached circulars from tangling and stopping the cat from grabbing the whole mess is proving tricky.

Worse, I was sabotaged. After struggling to do the first five repeats of the border, I put the shawl away very carefully, only to get it out the next evening to discover the DPN holding my stitches had somehow detached itself from the shawl...

No lifelines, far too many yarn overs and cobweb yarn made the stitches hard to see... I couldn't even be sure how many stitches had accidentally ripped themselves out, so there was no choice but to frog the whole thing and start again.

The lessons I learnt from this were to continue using lifelines in the border, no matter how silly it might seem. And to implement 'stitch stops' in the form of a couple of hair bands on the DPNs to discourage the live stitches from leaping of the needle while the project is sleeping on a shelf.


A close up of the border pattern as it stands with a little contrast... Here you can clearly see lifelines and hair elastics attached to the DPN.


I'm currently standing at eleven repeats of the border down one side, a week and a half after starting knitting. There are four sides to this shawl, two with twenty eight repeats and two with twelve repeats, plus another six at each of the four corners. Somehow, I don't think this is going to be done any time soon!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Blocking does happen

I've just sat down and updated my work diary, mapping out my life until the end of December and it's scary stuff. Add in personal commitments, such as trips to the Knitting and Crochet Guild, holidays and Woolfest, along with the odd spinning guild meeting and LARP related event and it looks like I'm one very busy lady again this year. I'd made a deliberate effort to free up some time this year, but it seems that as quickly as I make spaces in my diary, other things leap in there to fill the gap. Bizarre.

Saturday, Dave abandonned me for the weekend as he headed off to Nottingham for some ork related fun at Games Workshop, otherwise known in our house as the WAAAGH!!! (already documented by Richard).

Dave, for those who do not know him, is rather ork obsessed and he's spent the past couple of months on a painting marathon requiring me to pass comment on a multitude of shades of green as I've admired ork after ork that has been waved in front of me. I'm hoping the orks are out of his system a bit now, as there are weapons in the shed that need latexing, masks that need painting (and undoubtedly more latex) and plotting that needs to be done!

With Dave off engaged in his war game, I was left to do what seemed to be a huge amount of housework in his absence. I also set to tackling the outstanding pile of paperwork, which I'll admit had got out of hand. I was firm with myself and the chores, plus paper pushing got done... I have a fine collection of papercuts (which sting mightily) to prove it!

All this industriousness on my part meant that I didn't have much time to do fun stuff over the weekend... But I did try to deal with a couple of hurdles to 'finishing' that have been hanging over me.

Weeks ago, in the middle of January, I started to crochet a pair of mittens. I actually finished making up all the pieces a while back, but as the mittens are worked in flat pieces and then sewn together, they've been waiting for me to get my act together.

Before I can sew them together, I need all the pieces to be approximately the same size as it kind of helps to match up the edges, which meant that blocking was essential. I've crocheted the mittens in a superwash wool, but wasn't taking any chances and with the brief showing of the sun on Saturday, decided that now was an ideal time for wet blocking.


This wasn't a particularly onerous task. I filled a wash basin with warm (not in any way hot) soapy water using a liquid wool wash and gently placed the mitten pieces in the water. I left them to soak for about half an hour then removed them from the soapy water, replacing it with similarly tepid clean water. The mitten pieces were left in the clean water for another half an hour, then I put them on a folded towel. The towel got rolled up and I stomped up and down on it for a while (a great stress reliever) to get the water out.

I keep hearing about using the spin cycle on the washing machine for this and when I graduate onto sweaters/jumpers, I may well opt for technology rather than stomping, but for my little mitten pieces, stomping was good.

Once I'd got most the water out, I pinned the mitten pieces out on foam boards stretching them so they were all about the same size. Then I put the boards outside to dry.


Sadly, the sunshine only lasted for Saturday but the pieces were dry by Monday morning. I wasn't taking any chances though and left them pinned to the boards until yesterday morning.

Now I just need to persuade myself to sew them together.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

A not so successful shopping trip

Yesterday we headed over to the Living History Fayre at the Warwick Exhibition Centre and I was very good. I did not buy wool. Nor did I impulse buy an example of every lucet on sale, or pick up any of the spindles I spotted for sale. I even resisted the charms of Wicked Woolens (AKA Sally Pointer), albeit only by pointedly telling myself that I haven't knitted up any of the yarns I picked up from them in November...

I did look at books and was very taken by the range of Janet Arnolds on sale, plus various other primers on how to make historical costume and stage costume.

A few years ago, finding books on costume or with sample patterns was hard going but there seem to be quite a few out there now, even if you only see them at specialist events with very focused booksellers, such as Felicity & Warnes (who incidentally also do a very good range of crochet, knitting, lace, beading, millinery, bags and general needlework books). This was the first time I had seen so many of the Janet Arnolds in one place and were I actively making much costume at the moment, I'm doubtful I would have resisted.

Dave and I were on the look out for fabric. Dave has been after a new frock coat for his Maelstrom character for ages and as we were heading to the fayre, he told me he wanted a new naval jacket for Ascendancy as well.

Sadly we were out of luck.

We did find some pillarbox red fulled wool which would have been perfect for the naval jacket, but with only just over two meters left on the roll, there wasn't enough.

The frock coat was proving to be more difficult. It has to be in exactly the right shade of canary yellow. Not too creamy, not too pale, not too green or too lemony, nope it has to be bright yellow, possibly hinting towards orange but definitely not orange. Can you hear me sighing?

Suffice it to say we looked at yellow fabrics and none of them would do.

Previously, Dave has eyed up a piece in my stash but I didn't have enough of it for the style of coat Dave was asking for. He did spot and try on a yellow frock coat at the Historical Costume Company, but it was too pale and washed out, as well as looking a bit worn for what Dave had in mind. What I did note was the cut and style, which was very different from everything Dave had described as wanting and therefore completely changed how much fabric might be needed. I pointed this out to Dave, saying that we may have enough of the previously eyed up brocade only to be told it was a bit creamy.

Imagine more sighing at this point.

All of this meant that I came away from the fayre without fabric and we'll have to wait for TORM (The Original Re-enactors Market) in a couple of weeks to try again.

I did buy some ginger and whiskey fudge (yum) and some traditional gingerbread from Angela's Pantry. Dave bought some epaulets and that was it! Admittedly he did try to buy other things, but they were either the wrong colour or far too expensive for his budget.

I also helped Richard to buy a hat.