I’m blaming the weather

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, sweaters on August 22nd, 2014

I know the blog has forgotten all about this, the last sighting was in the middle of June when all I needed to do was pick up for the collar and add a zip. I finished the collar, ordered the zip and then it turned really warm (hello summer) and I couldn’t face the thought of a pile of wool in my lap. For the last two months the knitting has been living in a bag down the bag of the settee and I assumed foolishly that the zip was in there with it. It’s cooler again now, nearly cool enough for me to be wearing wool, so I thought it was time to finish it up. Needless to say the zip was not in the bag with the knitting, I had an afternoon when I thought I’d have to admit defeat and order another one but the original surfaced from its exciting tour of the dining room floor and all was well. The zip went in right, first time, which shows the value of basting. Note to self – take the time to do it right then you only have to do it once.

This is a rather poor photo of the finished Foro Romano cabled cardigan, I chose this pattern because the cables would add a bit of interest while knitting and the rib would add some shaping without me actually doing any. I realise now that I was probably also influenced by the colour, the grey it’s shown in on the pattern is very like the grey of the yarn that I had. Had I looked more closely at the pattern then I might not have started this, the cables don’t flow from the rib at all, they just start randomly. I’m so used to knitting things where the cables emerge naturally from the rib that it never crossed my mind that this wasn’t a given. My cables do flow from the rib but that’s because I did the bit of design work necessary to make that happen. The yarn is a commercial bfl aran wool that was formerly Rogue, now dyed grey. There was enough left over for me to never worry about running out, the leftovers will make a few hats but there’s not a huge amount left.

What else is there to say – it’s finished, it fits, I wouldn’t knit it again.



Holiday knitting and several surprises

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, sweaters on August 16th, 2014

I thought that there would be enough knitting in the body of a baby sweater to keep me amused on a week’s holiday, I was so sure of this that I didn’t pack the dpns I’d need for the sleeves. I like to have a back up plan so I took another pair of yarns with the idea of putting the first cardigan on waste yarn when I got to the sleeves and using the needle to start a second one. My other back up plan was to buy a set of dpns while I was away but that idea went out of the window when the yarn shop I found had no dpns in any size. It had tea and cake but that’s not terribly helpful for knitting a sleeve in the round. I would have needed the waste yarn if I hadn’t read three books, as it was I made it to the end of the week before joining the shoulder. This is a Butterfly Net cardigan although mine is more of a Brick Wall because of the colours. It’s another in a long line of seamless baby cardigans, it promises to be mindless tv knitting with a bit of picking up at the end. My interest in this is as another sock scrap eater, I could use a variety of leftover sock yarns for the background with a contrasting single yarn for the overlay to tie it all together. The overlay would mean that it didn’t scream “striped”, or at least I think it would. That’s in the future, I didn’t want the fuss of packing a bag of leftovers for a week away, it was much easier to pick up two balls of sock yarn and head for the door.

I packed reserve knitting but no camera, I have exactly two photos for the week courtesy of my new phone and the wonder husband who showed me how to get them from there to here. It’s no surprise that I’m baffled by new gadgets, the surprise is that I ended up with a pair of socks last week. With it being holiday week I turned out my wardrobe in search of my swimming costume and as a result I found the missing Roses sock. I’m so pleased that I had the foresight to make my test spots just on the sole because it means that I have a pair back in rotation. At some point I’ll mend the iffy colour with dye but for now I’m happy to have two that match.

There was another surprise this week when I went to collect my male family members from the station and found their train being brought in by an engine that I’d heard of. I am not a train enthusiast, not by a long way, but even I had heard of this one. Getting off the platform was made difficult by the lines of people (I try for inclusive language but in reality I didn’t see anyone who was not male) standing next to the engine to have their picture taken. The diesel unit that should have been pulling the train broke down and had to be replaced by a steam engine. Oh dear, how sad, never mind. I’m not going to apologise for the quality of the photo, it needed pointy elbows to get it at all as the platform was suddenly alive with men of a certain age with cameras, ipads and anything else capable of taking a photograph.

Would you like to see photos of a mountain of laundry? No, I didn’t think so. In that case, that’s all I have for today.

 



Sample time

Posted by Caroline in Dyeing, Knitting, socks on August 2nd, 2014

This shows why I don’t knit light coloured socks. It might be different if I washed them all by hand but I bundle them all together and stick them on a wool wash, reds, greens, blues and blacks. I manage to separate the lights and darks in the main wash but all the wool goes in together. This pair was originally knitted with undyed yarn but over time they’ve become even more off white and are leaning now towards on-grey. This one has been living in bedsock corner, not so much because of the colour change but because the other half of the pair is in hiding. When I’m fishing around for a sock in the dark the colour is unimportant, as long as it warms my foot it’s fine. Even single grubby looking socks can have a function, this one came out of the bedroom for a star part in a dyeing experiment.

I kept the spots on the sole so that if the other sock magically appears I can still wear them as a pair. Providing that I keep my shoes on no-one will know that one sock has a dotty sole. I wanted to see whether I could dye spots after knitting without the dye running into blotches or penetrating across to the other side of the tube. I could have knitted a sample tube to practise on but it was quicker to use a sock that was already made. The dots stayed round and red, didn’t run, bleed or wash out so this was a success from the start. I know that if I’d gone straight to the real thing I would have had a pink splodgy mess, the time to sample is when there is a high price to pay for failure. My learning points in a nutshell are that if you stick a plastic bag down your sock you prevent bleed through and that if you thicken dye it doesn’t run.

These were released to feet on the Friday before the Tour finished on the Sunday. I dyed enough yarn for another pair because I was expecting a request from Woolforbrains junior as soon as he saw them. That’s not happened yet because the socks were worn and put in the washing basket while junior was away on his course. It’s possible that it might be a few more weeks before he sees them and I might even evade the new-sock detector altogether. If I can manage it I’d like to keep the other ball until next year’s Tour but I think my chances of that are slim. This is my standard 72 stitch sock with King of the mountain polka dots added after knitting.

 This is my current major time suck. The Wensleydale is all washed now and I’ve started to comb it. There was a learning curve with the washing and the combing, the first batch of each wasn’t all that good. Funnily enough once I’d cracked the washing the combing magically improved too. I’m planning to end up with a sweater or two from this and I had initially thought that the Wensleydale might be too harsh around the neck. That’s not all that big a problem, it just needs a neckline that isn’t too close fitting. I’m reconsidering that now seeing as the yarn is obviously not itchy at all. I know this because I stuck the spun sample down my bra to test for itch and surprised myself when it fell on the floor at bedtime.



TdF week three, return to Wensleydale

Posted by Caroline in Spinning, Wensleydale on July 23rd, 2014

Last week I combed the last of the Oxford Down and said that I had no fleece in the garage. At the time that was correct but it isn’t now.  This is Wensleydale, the left hand side is the original chocolate colour, the top right corner is what it will end up as when washed. It’s seasonally hot this week so a good time for wool washing because it dries quickly. I’m still working out the best washing strategy, my first batch had a cold overnight soak, one hot wash and two rinses but that produced a finished product that was still too sheepy. My second batch had a cold overnight soak, two hot washes and two rinses and that resulted in acceptable fibre but I’m going to see if a second cold soak will substitute for one of the later steps. The reason for this is that I have two big water butts full of rainwater that I can run off for soaking and the resulting bucket of very brown water can then go on the border plants. It seems a shame to use lovely drinking water for washing wool and then pull the plug and have it vanish down the drain. This is going to be a long term project and I can guarantee that the blog will be seeing it again at different stages.

The Tour de France is still on and I’m still spinning. I’m now on the third bobbin of what will be a three ply yarn, the last bobbin looks remarkably like the other two which is something that pleases me greatly. The bobbin on the left has more of the burgundy, the right one has more of the green and the third has equal amounts of both. It’s superwash bfl and nylon so will be good for baby things or socks, should it meet my exacting quality control standards it will end up as shop stock but if it’s “too” something then it will have to stay at home. Oh dear, what a shame that would be.

I had a trip out on Monday to deliver the heir to his first summer music course, had I taken a photo it would have been identical to the one I took last year so let’s just run with that. He’s at the same venue, assigned to the same room and he bagged the same bed. This year I had no worries about turning him loose with his peers, last year the pastoral care was excellent, the accommodation was good, the food was good, he enjoyed himself and he wasn’t out of his depth musically. Habits are hard to break, it’s day three and I’m watching for the school bus going past in the afternoon and walking about at night as if he’s in his bed.

 

 



The wheel turns (TdF week two)

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, socks, Spinning, Weaving on July 18th, 2014

Well I’m still keeping up with the Tour De Fleece in that I’ve spun every day apart from rest day. I may not have spun for very long but I’ve added something to a bobbin every day. The pink is Southdown in “dyer’s mistake” which I like as yarn. The white is all there is of the Oxford Down. Last week there was a huge pile of it and I genuinely believed that there was at least 200g there. No, I didn’t go as far as to actually weigh it and yes, I do know that a pile of fluff is mostly air. When I started combing it last summer I pulled out the 4″ locks and I’ve continued cherry picking it on and off through the year. The result was that the remainder was barely long enough to comb and the waste was much higher than with the first batches. I’ve ended up with about 100g of three ply sock yarn which is good enough. As it turned out this was the last fleece in the garage, the other two bags in there turned out to contain combed top. I may have only got enough yarn for a pair of socks but the result is three bags out of the garage. That must mean that it’s time to buy another fleece…

As I anticipated, the first half of the threading took me a week and the second half took no time at all. I’m positive that I’ve been careful and threaded this perfectly with no mistakes but then I think that every time. It’s always such a disappointment to tie on and find out how wrong I was. That will be next week’s treat, I’ll have time to sort out the mistakes with the extra hour I’ll gain each morning. Next week I don’t have to make breakfast, hunt for missing items (this morning it was the bus pass that had gone walkabout) and check that junior has checked that he has everything ready for school. We haven’t quite broken up yet for the summer, school is open for another three days next week but junior is away on a residential music course for all five. I will miss him and I’m sure that the washing machine will pine for him too.

On my to do list this week was “repot bamboo”. This one is a thug and has to be contained or else it would run and take over my garden and my neighbour’s too. Every few years I take it out of the pot, hack it in half and put it back again. Last time I had to call in a husband with a saw, the pot had a fancy strip near the rim and the root had pushed out into the detailing and he had to cut the pot off to get it out. I can learn – this pot has a flat internal face and so I got the bamboo out without any trouble. I knew there were ants in the pot but I didn’t realise the extent to which they had taken over. It’s bad enough trying to cut the roots in half without having hordes of ants running up your limbs while you’re doing it. It’s raining now with more forecast for tomorrow and I’m hoping that will persuade them to move elsewhere.

 



TdF week 1

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, socks, Spinning, Weaving on July 10th, 2014

Last week I said that I was done with socks but clearly I’m not. The last pair have been finished, initialled with duplicate stitch and released into the wild and I started another pair just as soon as this yarn was dry.  I checked and the new ones aren’t the ones that are in the dog basket (don’t ask me why there were socks in the dog basket, I was just pleased that they were a pair) so they could be anywhere. The new ones will be husband socks, he doesn’t have to wear uniform quite as often as the school child so can have colour all the way to the cuff. I usually avoid white in socks because I find that it picks up stray colour in the wash and over time turns to a murky grey but if I need to I can always dye them at some point in the future. I still believe that all colour challenges can be solved with either navy, red or brown dye and with this pair the cure would be navy.

This is my Tour de Fleece spinning for days one to five, it’s pretty underwhelming but although I undertook to spin every day I never said how long for. This is Southdown, probably, and it is a shop reject because I intended it to be a more interesting range of colours. The Tour related project that I have put most time into was the weaving because I added yards to that during Le Tour de Yorkshire. I can’t remember the last time I watched so much television in one day and then I did it all again the next day too. It was a five yard warp, I’ve not measured the final length but I’m certain that there will be enough for whatever I want to do with it. It’s turned a bag full of random handspun into something I can work with although it’s not at all what I set out to make because the bag of random handspun really needed to be twice the size.

Progress here is measured in inches rather than yards, I know from experience that I drag myself across the first half of the warp and then the second half zips along. Threading is not difficult, it doesn’t take as long as I think it does but I find it to be so monumentally boring that I want to run away just as soon as I’ve started. I have started, that’s something at least, but I’m not promising that it will be finished before the next time I post. I can always find something else that needs to be done, even the ironing is more interesting than threading the loom. My target is two inches a day, every day which is nothing at all really but just as much as I can stand.

One of those other things that needs to be done is combing the bag of fleece that I took out of the garage. This is my next TdF spinning project, it’s Oxford Down and I promised a pair of socks out of it. I’m not sure how much there is left but there’s certainly enough for a pair of socks, possibly even three pairs. I’m going to comb until the bag is empty, spin enough for one pair of socks and then take a decision on the rest. Whatever I do with it only the empty bag will be going back into the garage.

Next week is the last week of school and then after that it will be my annual wool week. This year is even more exciting because it’s not going to be wool week but wool fortnight. The first week I’ll be excused from all parenting duties as the child is going away and the second week I’ll be excused all meals because both males will be out of the house for twelve hours a day. Will I have enough wool to see me through?  Watch this space.

 



I’m fresh out of normal

Posted by Caroline in Family, Knitting, socks, Weaving on July 1st, 2014

It would be tempting fate to say that things are back to normal this week, that would be begging for something weird and wonderful to happen. There are only three weeks of “normal” left before the school holidays start so it would be good to have everything dusted and polished before the long slide into summer chaos. Last week was a busy week, the husband was off work so we caught up on all those jobs that need two sets of hands but can’t be accomplished with conscripted child labour. The home office is finished, the carpet taken up, new flooring put down, new blind at the window, trim to the floor – it’s really finished as opposed to our usual nearly finished (I am ignoring the dangling alarm sensor for very valid and earsplitting reasons). It does look more like a woodland retreat than it did before, the mural paper turned out to be cheaper than the paper on the other walls and I’ve put it up so that it can be removed without wrecking the adjoining walls. If in a few years he’d prefer a sea view then we can paste that up instead. We cut off Christmas tree lengths from the top of the hedge and had two runs to the tip household recycling centre. I’d love to see a recycling project involving conifer, pink foam backed carpet and laminate offcuts but don’t think that is ever likely to happen.

This week everyone is back at school/work and I am just about caught up with the washing that I didn’t have time for last week. This is good because I have things to catch up with on the fibre front. The gap on the loom is waiting for me to plan a contrast stripe. I’d originally thought that the whole warp would be solid red but a dig in the cotton box revealed that I had nowhere near enough red but quite a lot of orange. The current plan is for a red and yellow (lime? black?) stripe and a black weft. It needs a bit of planning now so that the pattern is balanced across the full width and the contrast starts at the right point in the pattern. This is rather more planning than I usually do so I’m in foreign territory. I’ve been avoiding it for a couple of days but it’s not going to work itself out, I either have to do some number crunching or accept that the pattern falls as it will.

This is old ground, this is my third pair of socks out of this ball of orange yarn. I think I’m done with socks for a while now, it might be time for some lace. They don’t match but I accepted that they wouldn’t match at the outset when I started knitting from both ends of the ball. This is not a problem seeing as it’s not unusual for him to be wearing one green and one red sock. As long as he keeps his shoes on they are a pair, he doesn’t care and I’m trying not to.

That’s all I have time for today, there’s floors to clean, grass to be cut and I still have a zip to put in a cardigan. The fun just never stops..

 



Plodding along

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, socks, sweaters, Weaving on June 15th, 2014

This has not been one of my better weeks. I have weeks where I fly through my to do list and then others where I don’t seem to accomplish anything at all. Last week was definitely one of the latter. I abandoned the last box bag after I’d done the hard work of sandwiching together the zip and both layers of fabric. I’ll finish that one when I pull out the next length of fabric and start on the next set of not-box bags. I will then be muttering about the inefficiency of working with two colours of thread and wishing I’d done all the turquoise things at the same time. I’m surprised that I managed to get as far as ten bags before being bored with the shape, I didn’t think that I had as much staying power as that.

I managed to sort out the warp where I ran out of yarn. The lack of focus in the photo is down to me having one hand for the camera with the other one fending off the dog who seemed determined to have his toy in this photo. This was originally planned to be a 16″ wide twill sett at 16 epi but my plan didn’t take any account of the yarn that I had and I ran out half way through winding the warp. What can I say, I started with a big pile of yarn and I thought that there would be that magical quantity of “enough”. I thought about it for a while, rummaged through the boxes of yarn for some other candidates and changed tack. It’s now 16″ wide, plain weave, 12 epi and on the rigid heddle loom. At some point I may encounter a new challenge, this was planned for the floor loom and it’s a five yard warp. I can report that you can get a five yard warp onto the back beam of an Ashford rigid heddle loom, whether you can get that amount of fabric onto the front beam remains to be seen. It’s no big deal, I’ll weave until I can wind no more on and then I’ll look the scissors out.

Mr Fluffy helped me to warp it one morning, you can see that he is carefully holding down that piece of paper for me. How do I manage without him? The warp is going from the back of the photo and doubling around the long wooden stretcher under the settee so that I can tension it and inch the loom forward as I wind on. In the afternoon, tired from all that helping, he had a little snooze on the window sill, rolled over, fell off and landed on an instrument case. He managed to rip a claw which needed two trips to the vet and anaesthesia. He’s all mended now but he has learned nothing from his experience because that’s still his favourite snoozing spot.

Even the plain Jane socks tripped me up. I’d grafted the toe on one and was about to start the second when I noticed that it was an inch longer than the first. It was exactly ten rounds longer so it was obviously a counting error but of course I didn’t know whether the first one was too short or the second one too long until the matching feet came home from school. These are the prototype new and improved bigger socks, I only gave him an extra four stitches around because I can’t believe that his feet are really this big. I’m dealing with the recent outbreak of sock hijacking by labelling all future socks, I might go through the older pairs (and I’m using the word “pair” very loosely here) and mark those up too. As he has two out of three initials in common with his father I’ve settled for using the one that is different although they could also stand for “junior”.

The sweater sleeves turned out to be about the right length, I think they are fractionally too long but they are close enough to do. I managed to avoid obvious joins in the yarn right up to the last ball. It wasn’t so much that the colour was darker but there were no light flashes in the last ball of yarn so it is more solid. I decided to live with it because the alternative was to pull back four inches of both fronts and the back to have enough yarn to alternate rows all the way to the end . I felt better about it after seeing the recent Knitty, I will just take photos under a tree and let the dappled light hide the colour jump seeing as that’s what the professionals do. I’m picking up for the collar now, the zip is on order so it’s nearly done.

It was Whit Friday this week which is probably of no significance unless you live in Tameside or Saddleworth or play in a brass band.  In an attempt to be educational I’ve found you a video (here), I know without looking that I have no family lurking in the background (as much as you can lurk whilst playing a brass instrument) because they didn’t get to Delph until after dark. Can you imagine seeing one band every six minutes for eight and a half hours? I am glad that the classic Monday morning school exercise of “what I did at the weekend” is long gone because it would no doubt result in an eyebrows-into-the-hairline moment.



Too many wips for progress

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, Non-fibre, socks, sweaters, Weaving on June 3rd, 2014

My major work in progress is still the study/smallest bedroom and it’s currently at the stage where it looks worse before (hopefully) it starts to looks better. I’m attempting to make it into a woodland retreat (yes, really) but I’ll settle for it being more of a woodland retreat than it was before I started. This is setting the bar very low as it was previously pink. Progress is slow, it’s full of furniture that I can’t clear out so I have to work around it all and I am intimidated by all the cabling and black boxes with flashing lights. The internet lives in there and I’d hate to be the one responsible for breaking that. The room is occasionally occupied by a homeworking husband whose at home days mean that decorating is off (although I was so desperate to see some progress that I spent one day working around him). The overdue declutter/redecoration is dragging on and on and so far the ceiling is the only thing that I can say is finished. Please note that Pebble is being a Good Dog in the photo (although he is pushing his luck) because the squeaky pig under his chin is not technically on the wallpaper. I probably couldn’t get a credit card between the pig and the paper but “next to” is not the same as “on”. I’m pretty sure that the pig would have jumped onto the wallpaper as soon as my back was turned which is exactly why I didn’t take my eye off him while reaching for the camera.

The sweater is in a heap waiting to be blocked blocking. It’s done bar the front bands and collar, they are on hold until I see if it fits. I’m not happy with it, the reasons for this are as long as my arm but if it does fit I’ll slap a zip in it and call it good. I’m so prepared for it to be wrong that I’ve not cut the yarns after the cast offs, I want to see the body on a body and the sleeves in place before I do that. If by some miracle the sleeves fit you should be able to hear me cheer from there. I went off it about four inches in when the cables failed to grow from the initial ribbing and after that it would have had to have worked very hard to redeem itself.

My only knitting at the moment is this solitary sock. I’ve set off into the great unknown of a 76 stitch sock in an attempt to fit the ever expanding junior foot. I’m pretty sure that now I won’t be able to get a pair out of a single 50g of black yarn and some scraps without the colours showing above a shoe (these are uniform socks and have to be plain black with shoes on). It’s no big deal, or so I’m telling myself anyway. The point about these was that they used up leftovers so it feels all wrong to now start planning to have some black yarn leftover. I know that plain black isn’t all that exciting but we’ve reached the stage of certain people pinching other people’s socks so someone really needs more socks (possibly with his initials knitted into them).

I fell behind with the bag making this week, I only have three half bags to show. They all have the zips in and the lining attached but are lacking in all other seams. I’d like to blame it on the decorating but it could equally be down to boredom setting in. I’m pretty sure that these will be the last box bags for a while, after making eleven of them I’m fancying another shape. I still can’t get the lid on the fabric bin but it’s getting close now. I think another two lengths of fabric made into bags should mean that I can close the box and maybe think about making more fabric to put in it.



Pushed along the learning curve

Posted by Caroline in Book making on May 28th, 2014

I gave up on bookbinding when I realised that what I wanted to do (using handwoven fabric to make a cover) involved making a case cover. The instructions for that went on for pages and there was much measuring and supplies that I didn’t have. It all looked to be a lot of work and I shelved the idea. Fast forward four years during which time my son has developed into a small Whovian. He was hanging his nose over River Song’s Tardis journal, not the cheapo one with printed covers but the one with embossed leather-look covers. That one is $80 plus transatlantic shipping plus customs charges and it’s not even the right colour. My mouth opened and out came the words “I could make one of those”.

There are lots of things I’d do differently on a second one, the boards are too thick, too small (I added the recommended allowance to the actual paper measurement and it somehow vanished) and the relief on the spine made it a pig to glue on straight. The corners make it look like I’ve never glued leather before (guess what, I haven’t) and some of my straight lines are not entirely parallel. I don’t care, as a first attempt at a case binding it’s a win. This is my first time sewing onto tapes (hem tapes), my first book with a mull (an old linen teatowel) and my first book with endpapers. It’s the right colour, cost very much less than $80 and I have enough leather left for three more. If we were very picky then we should have used cream paper rather than white but white paper is an art store staple and cheap to boot. He is pleased because he got the book he wanted and I am pleased because I learned several useful things.

This means that there is nothing stopping me from going back to my original idea of making notebooks with handwoven fabric covers now that I’ve been forced to get my head around how it is done except that I have to redecorate the spare room first.