Saturday, December 29, 2007

Pottering about

lilypad washcloths 2

We're right in the middle of those weird few days between Christmas and New Year. It's not a public holiday, but half the country seems to have shut up shop. There is an air of not-working everywhere.

I have work to do. I need to write an overview of my thesis - a paragraph for each chapter which succinctly states what I will be arguing. It's a short enough document, but tricky in its brevity. Pottering about while the overview mulls through the back of my mind seems to be the way to go. This sort of work is an iterative process which requires a lot of mental distance, so it's nice to have some relatively quiet time to space my thoughts out.

Over the last few days I've entertained myself filling in YouGov surveys, (re)reading Phillip Pullman novels and watching bad kid's movies (the latter two do sort of count as research for me). I gave my mother a sock-knitting lesson, did a pile of hand-washing, played with a pattern write-up, sewed some buttons, visited the winter sales, hoovered the hall and scrubbed the bath, every now and again returning to my thesis overview. Having spent the last couple of hours typing up my latest set of notes, I think a break to blog a so-far-secret Christmas FO is in order.

Pattern: Reverse-Bloom Washcloth (free!).
Yarn: Euroflax Linen sportweight, leftover from my bottoms-up top. I managed three washcloths with a bit over half a ball.
Needles: 2.5mm circular (smaller lily), 3.25mm (larger two).
Notes: It's a reasonably quick project, though not as quick as you might think. I wasn't sure if I had enough yarn for a third, so I fudged the design slightly to make it smaller - it's very easily adaptable. An excellent stash-buster and, finished-off with a tiny bar of violet-scented soap, made fantastic stocking-fillers.

lilypad washcloths 1

Sunday, December 23, 2007



I know it's early, but yesterday was Christmas-with-friends, before we all end up having our Christmas-with-families.

As it turned out, our pile was entirely fabric and yarny goodness. Plus, we manged to solve that ever-so-tricky question: what does one knit for a knitter? Turns out the simple answer is you make stuff they won't knit themselves. Just because you have the skills doesn't mean you'll have the time or inclination.

For example, flatmate-Kirsty won't knit socks. She could. In fact I suspect she'd really enjoy it. I also know she likes wearing hand-knit socks because she's still not given me back the wonderland pair I lent her after the photoshoot back in September. Every time sock-knitting is mentioned she shakes her head in incredulity and mutters something about jumpers. So, I made her these:

stripy socks

I said she could keep the wonderlands too. It being the season of giving and all (and it didn't look like I was going to get them back). I'd also been saving some Japanese cotton for her, covered in cartoons of little animals in various forms of peril (burning, drowning - they're cute but also somewhat disturbing). In fact, we both did pretty well for fabrics walking the macabre/ beautiful line - Kirsty's cousin brought us back some amazing Day of the Dead prints from LA.

And Kirsty's gift to me? This gorgeous alpaca hot-water-bottle-cover. I've been meaning to make one or myself since I did one for my mother last year. But just haven't got around to it (kept getting distracted by socks...)

hotwaterbottle cover

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ever increasing circles

I have turned into a spiral-producing machine. I'm not saying what these are for (it's that time of year...). Simply that they are driving me ever-so-slightly looney.

wip crochet

However, I have mastered the art of an adjustable-ring cast-on. In boucle yarn. On a number 52 bus. Which is an achievement at least. And I'm nearly finished. Maybe four more spirals to do, which equates to roughly two commutes back and forth to work. If I tell you my standard commute is up to 90 minutes each way, you'll see this is slo-oo-ow work.


The yarn is from the Tokyo branch of Avril (aka Habu). And I have no idea what its called or what its made of because I don't read Japanese and long-ago lost the ball band. I suspect a synthetic mix with a bit of wool thrown in. There is 250g of the bleeding stuff though.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

FO: Drops Jacket

I keep trying to get a decent photo of this. And I keep failing. Considering my previous bad luck with the jumper I think I should just blog on and be done with it.

drops - open

Pattern: The snappily titled "103-1 Jacket in Eskimo or Silke-Alpaca with A-shape and ¾-long or long sleeves", more commonly known as Drops Jacket. I added a slipped stitch at the start of each row - this gives a really nice neat edge. A Zimmerman trick, well worth applying. I also added a button because I felt it needed it.
Needles: 5.0 mm 80cm circ.
Yarn: Jaeger Extra Fine Merino Chunky very cheap from sale page. The pattern is written in two guages, but I fell in between the two, so worked as if it were aran but cast on for a slightly bigger size (I've noticed lots people who've knitted this jacket fudging this way). It's 100% wool - and even the extra fine merino itches my neck slightly, but as a cardigan I obviously have something underneath. I can't really wear it with short sleeves for long though - get ikky rash on my elbows. Grrr for wool allergy because I love this yarn - so squishy and warm.
Buttons: Bought at John Lewis in a rush at a weekend, so I can't remember any details. I really like the dark wood with the deep red yarn.

Bad luck and photos aside, it's a great piece. Warm, a quick knit, reasonably smart. And I promise it doesn't it doesn't normally cut my chest in quite such an unflattering manner when done up. Neither to I tend to hide behind my hair when wearing it. So much for winter photography.

drops neck hiding

Monday, November 26, 2007

Two FOs: red hats and purple scarf

I thought I'd knit my mum red hat and purple scarf for her 60th birthday (a reference to this poem). I chose my yarn and patterns, and planned to complete the projects during my trip to the USA.

But knitting doesn't always go to plan.

For the red hat, I planned fair-isle, mixing some red 4ply soft with opal uni in a chocolate brown. I designed a chart, cast on at Gatwick airport and, as the plane made its way to the other side of the Atlantic, got about half way through. But as we landed, I decided I didn't like colour combination in fair-isle, and frogged the lot (the brown yarn and chart pattern became these mittens). Stranded in DC with limited internet and a whole ocean away from my pattern book collection (not to mention needles), I was a bit stuck for what to do. I had a 3.25mm circular with me to make the scarf, so did a gauge swatch with the yarn held double, trying out the cable pattern I could do from memory (I'd just used it in this sock).

red hat side

It worked pretty well, and the double-held soft yarn made for a lovely warm and squishy hat. I'm particularly proud of the the in-pattern crown decreases. I don't know if I could write out the pattern, as the whole project was pretty free-form, but I'll maybe have a go if I have time before Christmas.

red hat - crown

This half of the project completed, I cast-on for a lace scarf. Swallowtail in a soysilk laceweight which I planned to dye purple once knitted-up. I worked out how to add pattern repeats to make it big enough, and got most of the way through. But the p5tog's in the boarder were my undoing. I mis-placed one (knitting lace while gossiping...) so frogged a few rows back to re-do them. But the p5tog's acted as a knot, and I literally had to rip it apart, cutting the yarn to bits. As I did this, a load more unravelled in a way I couldn't possible pick back up (and I'm pretty good at using a crochet hook to re-knit a few rows down). More ripping. So much that I lost more yarn than I could spare - I wasn't going to have enough left to re-knit the ripped bit and finish the thing.

Bye bye soy-swallowtail. You can see a picture here. It is the only thing I've knitted that has actually ended up in the bin.

By then I'd got to California, so visited Artfibers in San Francisco hoping to find something special enough to make a replacement with. What a shop! They have the most beautiful, unusual yarn. They also have mini-skeins you can knit with to see if you like it and try out stitch patterns. There are examples of swatches and pictures of finished pieces hanging up all over the place for inspiration. It has a really relaxed and friendly environment too, yet also extremely professional (photos here and here). As soon as I cast on with their Alfabeto, I knew it was perfect - so warm and silky, yet also very light. It has a very dark purple base, almost an oily black, with bits of blue, pink and red shot through (I couldn't get a photo which did it justice). It's 76% silk, 19% mohair, 5% wool - gorgeous stuff.

seafoam bunched

As a variegated yarn, I decided I'd go for a relatively simple garter-stitch based seafoam stitch, which also gives it a nice drape. It took a bus trip from San Francisco to LA, the plane from LAX to JFK and several commutes to and from work once I was home to finish, but I got it done in time for the birthday itself. I'm really pleased with it, though I think the credit goes largely to Artfibers for such delicious yarn.

seafoam hanging

So, neither piece was quite what I was planning, and all improvised on the road. But I was pretty pleased with it in the end.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

FO (sewing):computer case

computer case close

It was my mother's 60th birthday on tuesday. I'll blog about the knitted components of her present later in the week. For now, here are the details of the piece I produced with the aid of a sewing machine. It's a laptop case, if you can't tell without the actual computer inside it.

The patchwork pieces were from a pile of fair trade scraps Kirsty gave me for my birthday last year. It was so much fun going through this big set of ends of fabric and choosing a collection that worked together and I thought Mum would like. Then there's a layer of quilting and a bit of sparkly top thread (sort of necessary to balance the slab of gold from the zip). Two fat quarters of blue cotton make up the lining and edging, with a double layer of foam Kirsty happened to have in her stash (how great is it living with another crafter?). I braved John Lewis on a saturday in the winter (Father Christmas was there and everything) for a giant zip so it could open all the way around, rather than just be an 'envelope' shape, and added a bit of elastic to slip over the screen when the laptop is open.

It took two afternoons - basically a lazy weekend's work, trip to town included. But that was making things up as I went along; it probably could have been done quicker. If I did it again, I'd sew the elastic in before sandwiching everything together, and I've have curved the edges. But it all works with the patchwork look anyway and its strong and unusual-looking, which was what I was going for.

computer case open computer case half open

Thanks for all the nice comments about my mittens WIP. I've finished them and will do a proper photo-shoot once the weather provides us with some light (bah!) and write up the chart in the next week or so.

While on the topic of my patterns, please note I've finally got around to declaring designs published on the blog as creative commons. (Designs held on other websites have their own copyright declarations). You are free to use, modify, share and play with these patterns to your hearts desire, just include a credit to me. However, you can't make money from them. Do not re-publish patterns for sale, or include in sets to sell yarn or for sock clubs, etc. Do not sell the things you make using the pattern. Okey-dokey?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

fingers and toes

7:45am on a Sunday morning is maybe a bit early for blogging, but Marcus had to leave at 7am for a football game. I couldn't get back to sleep, so thought I might as well catch up.

A while ago I knitted a single sock for the ADD knitter. In exchange, I've received a single sock of my own - this beautiful Gothic Spire from Zeitgeistyarns. When swaps work out, they really are wonderful things.
gothic spire close up

The colour, the feel of the yarn and the pattern are all amazing - I can't wait to get started. Her generous package also included the needles - knitpicks circs, which its great to have a try of as they are only just starting to be available in the UK. I've cheated though, and am first using one of them to finish off my current WIP, a pair of mittens.

mittens - wip shot

I was working this on the plane, so was using bamboo dpns for that 'these are really just sticks gov' look when going through security. I find dpns can be neater for colourwork, but generally a lot less comfortable. Now I'm off the plane and with a spanking new 2.5mm circ it was much easier going. They are nearly finished, I only really have the thumbs to do.

It's my own design - would people be interested in the pattern?

EDIT: yarn for mittens is cashmerino baby (pale peach) and opal uni (brown). The cashmerino is thicker than the opal, but that actually helps it 'pop'.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

LA Story

I arrived in LA last night. As the plane circled the city to land, the ash-smog enveloping the area was still pretty obvious. I'm noticing the air quality's pretty bad, even to my London-battered lungs. This morning we went out for proper American breakfast before Alexis went off to class. I pottered around the area she lives in (and found a bookstore to snoop at the new Debbie Stoller). I had two cardigans on, and was pretty amused that it was much colder in LA than it had been in DC.

It was still pretty smoggy, but I went to the local park and sat and knitted for a bit. Then I popped on the metro downtown to MoCA. After finding the gallery (it took a while, seeing as I was on foot rather than LA-usual car) I discovered it was shut on Wednesdays. Darn it. I walked about a bit, visited the public library, and mused that it was a lot warmer now; all sunny and "proper LA". At that point I realised I was only wearing the one cardigan.

Double darn it. I'd left the thicker one in the park in Los Feliz. It was the drops jacket I'd whipped up before leaving for the US. Seeing as it was so warm in DC, I'd hardly worn it. I hadn't taken any picture of it yet - I thought I'd get Alexis to take pictures of me wearing it in some American setting. I went back to the park, hoping that maybe, just maybe it'd still be hanging where I'd left it. Of course, it wasn't. Darn, darn, darn.

Walking dejectedly back down the steps to town, I spotted it! Splayed in a tree, where I gues someone threw/ hung it. You might just be able to make out the Hollywood sign in the background.

jumper in a tree

By this point the smog had cleared a bit and there was a lovely, fresh breeze. I picked the branches out of the jacket and played around taking photos of the view and walked around Los Feliz a bit more. I bought some amazing tacos and generally enjoyed noting how very different the place is from DC.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Capitol Time

US Natural History Museum

I'm in DC. At least for the next coupe of hours, as my flight to LA leaves this evening. The photo above is of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum building (still say ours is prettier). I've really loved DC - for some reason I thought it would be dangerous, unfriendly, ugly and impossible to walk around. I was wrong.

Georgetown st federal building
capitol time 1 white house

Now the conference is over, today I did museums, and geeked over kids science literature in bookstores. But mainly I just wandered about what I've discovered is a really beautiful city. The weather has been great and sun shows off all the autumnal colours. Plus, I followed Lolly's recommendation of Teaism and had the best noodle soup I think I've ever tasted.

What am I knitting in the bottom left picture? That'd be a secret. As I'm uploading photos though, I'll leave you with a few pictures of some beaded icord I've done recently.

beaded icord 3

beaded icord 5

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The real meaning of SSK

SSK: slip, slip, knit? No, sew, sew, knit. Because I have been making tees. (We are going to ignore the stupidity of this in October, ok?). Sew 1, Sew 2:
both tees

Both using Simplicity Pattern 4589 and fabric I bought in Japan. My sewing, as ever, could be better, but they're fine if you don't look too closely. The ladybirds one was way too big, even after taking it in, so I cut a size down for the robots (and made it on the smaller side) and it fits perfectly. The ladybirds one looks fine under a cardigan though, or if you don't mind the super-smock look.

Next up, the knit. The pattern is my own, from the first edition of Yarn Forward. As I've posted before, it was inspired by bubbles in a champagne glass, but the eyelets in this green version are making me think of light coming through tall trees.

tee at college2

I'm really pleased with the result - it's come out exactly as I hoped. I wish I'd charted it though - if anyone's trying the pattern, email me and I'll see what I can do (though I can't promise anything instantaneous). I used Euroflax Linen in emerald. It's strength gives a nice 'tree-like' construction to the sleeves, and it's softening up nicely even if it was pretty rough to knit with. It's sportweight, not the 4ply of the pattern is written for, so I cast on for the smaller size.

tee at college t(r)ee-top tee at college - shoulder

Yet, for me the true meaning of SSK will always be a geeky one: Sociology of Scientific Knowledge. And on that, I'm going to a History of Science conference in DC this week, giving a paper on the Professor Branestawm books. Then I have a week off (last real break before thesis hand-in at Easter). I'll wander around DC for a bit, then I'm visiting a friend in LA, taking a bus trip up to San Fransisco and, as my flight home goes through Newark, finishing off with 24 hours in NYC.

Any tips for things to do, places to go, people to see? Kirsty's given me £10 to bring her back some inspiring craft 'stuff'. Where should I go? (bearing in mind I'll mainly be getting around by foot, though like any Londoner I do enjoy a bit of public transport)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

FO: rambling vine socks

Thanks for all your comments on the last post. I've been tracing through comments on other blogs too, and a few threads on ravelry. All interesting stuff. I was contemplating a follow-up post musing on the politics of fantasy, but I really should be channeling such energies into my thesis. Instead, I'll go with an unexcused celebration of one of my personal indulgences, and show off an FO.
rambling vine socks

It'll be winging its way to a friend as fast as Royal Mail will carry it, along with pattern and yarn for the second sock and some other bobbly-themed goodies (e.g. some beaded icord).

My own, based very loosely on Martin Storey's Rambling Rose ("inspired" I think is the term). The vine motif starts at the toe, and grows as you knit, winding itself up the side of your ankle. I'm thinking of developing it further; making it a bit more complex. If I do it again, I'll use a crisper, lighter yarn so its easier to photograph (in real life it looks lovely, but dark colours, fuzz and blogging are not a good mix).

Yarn: Wensleydale Longwool 4ply. I wanted a very English yarn, as my pal's in the US. It's very warm and soft, and apparently it wears pretty well. The fuzz gives it a really yummy, mossy look - a very sniffable yarn.

close up vine 2

Thursday, October 18, 2007

political point

Erqsome's recent post pointed me to this wonderfully thoughtful review of 'the domestic in drag' (i.e. much of the knit, sewing and baking blogosphere, Nigella...). I think Ashley, in her comment there, has it spot on - its not that craft is a feminist issue, its that celebrations of 'the gentle art of domesticity' raise questions of class.

I stopped reading Yarnstorm a while back because her celebration of a particular form of upper-middle-class life bugged me a bit. Similarly, I start screaming at the telly when Nigella says things like 'If you only have the one oven'. I'm not necessarily judging them, class can largely be a cultural thing - they happened to choose a slightly different life from mine. I do have my personal opinions on recycling, state education and (ahem) use of the British Library which at times various 'domestics in drag' have inflamed. But I tend to choose to keep them relatively personal. This is partly because I tend to think direct confrontation isn't always the best form of political action, but also because I know my craft blog is a heavily filtered version of my life, only really showing parts of me as they mix with knitting (and occasionally baking and sewing, the knitblogosphere having intersected with other domestic crafts). This is a window into my life, as it is to others. But it is just a single perspective. I assume the same is true of Yarnstorm et al, and wouldn't think it fair to criticise directly.

Still, the economics of craft is something we should think about more. Just as Nigella preaches that a little of what you fancy does you good, yet has taken it to a rather sickening degree in her latest series (I don't think compulsive eating is healthy - for you, society and the planet), piles and piles of yarn stash are to me, a symbol of over-consumption. Just because its handmade doesn't mean it isn't capitalism. That doesn't necessarily make it wrong, I'm not preaching anti- or pro- any particular ideology. I just want to emphasise that craft is economic, and therefore political in more ways than one.

I don't think I know the right or true way on any of this though - this post is a mix of things I happen to be thinking and ideas that are at the front of my mind. I'd be interested to know what others think.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

learn from my stupidity

When you leave your handknit socks for the winter, don't just leave them at the bottom of your washing pile thinking "yay, I don't need to wash them for six months". Dirty socks attract moths a lot more easily.

moth hole in my favourite socks

Yeah, that is my middle finger sticking out of the hole - the munching, flying little beasties. I've washed the socks anyway, and once they're dry I'll see if I can darn the hole, but it's pretty big. In my some of my favourite socks, too (the lovemeknots). Next spring, I'll remember to wash them all, carefully fold them and put them away securely. Possibly sealed. For the time being, I'm remaining vigilant, and Kirsty invested in a few anti-moth herb sachets (which are strong-smelling, and I haven't stopped sneezing since she opened them up, but at least won't make the flat stink of mothballs).

Sunday, September 30, 2007

paddle power

On saturday we took the Paddlesteamer from Tower Bridge to Whitstable (my pic here). It went right down the Themes, then out to the sea, via Southend. You could walk around the middle of the boat to see the steam engine at work and take a peak out of portholes to see the paddles go round and round. Plus, I wasn't the only person knitting on deck. All very exciting. Slightly cold too, which allowed some re-discovery of FO's gone by.

knitwear united

One the left side, a slightly better shot of my squirrelly mittens. On the right, Marcus is wearing a pair of mitten-topped gloves I made ages ago, pre-blog (loosely based on the broadstreet pattern). They've lasted really well, he wears them all the time. Marcus also caught me engaging in some sneaky yarn sniffing.

me sniffing yarn

A 'ps' for ravelry users: I'm a stupid person and had "messaging" switched off for a load of last week. So if you messaged me, friended me or left a comment and didn't get a reply, give me a poke.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I'm in

wip-'bottoms up'

I'm on ravelry, my username is slippedstitch if you want to be friends. For those who aren't on it yet, it chiefly a way of combining a super-organised knitting notebook (what you've done, what's in your stash, what you might do next, stuff you've seen you like) with the folksonomies of web2.0. It does this very well.

So, with the prompt to organise myself provided by ravelry, I got around to photographing my current WIP (above) - a top called 'bottoms up'. In contrast to the webiness of ravelry, this is from a 'dead tree' publication: the first edition of Yarn Forward. It's a lightweight, relatively glam top (think Orangina); check out pigwotknits' wip of a long-sleeved one. It's my own design, but I did a smaller size for the magazine and wanted one to fit me. I bought the yarn ages ago (Euroflax linen) and hoped to have it done by summer, but other projects kept coming up.

The pattern starts off in the 1x1 twisted rib shown, then gradually flattens out to more and more stocking stitch, growing further with eyelets around the shoulders (all shaping's done by change in stitch pattern). Originally designed in a light pink cotton, the eyelets emerging from horizontal lines of twisted rib were inspired by bubbles in a champagne cocktail. But in this green, I think it'll be more like light coming through tree-tops. We shall see. I was going to do it in a champagne colour, but fell in love with this emerald.

I also photographed all my currently stashed yarn. All these photos are all links to flickr, where I've made notes on each yarn.

soy silk leftover from lace tablecloth knitpicks essentail leftovers blue wool
black cotton unknown fiber (silk/ linen?) sock yarn

Monday, September 17, 2007

FO - cheshire cat socks

A bit of a 'vintage' FO as I finished it ages ago. It just took a while for the pattern to go up and me to get round to linking to it - here it is (WARNING: links to pdf).

A (cheshire) cat. He hides, you seek. Go on. You know you want to knit some. Because everybody needs a pair of kitty-illusion socks where the feline appears and disappears as you point your toes and the tail twists itself leisurely up your leg.

storytellers 6

For Purlescence's luxurious style, I used cashsoft, so have given them leather patches on the soles (for slipper socks), but the pattern would work just as well in a more hard-wearing sockyarn.

Thanks to Robynn for her great competition which inspired the project and Kirsty for acting as legs model for the pics.

storytellers 1 storytellers 9

Sunday, September 16, 2007

FO: Giant entrelac "Mermaid" scarf

blue scarf 4

Yarn: Four balls of Phildar Horizons in 'Madras'. I bought it very cheap in a summer sale in Paris.

Needles: Two 3mm plastic dpns, made into straights with a couple of end-protectors. I don't like the length of most standard straights, so much preferred this set up as the cable of circs gets in the way for entrelac.

blue scarf close up

Pattern: It didn't start off as Danica. If anything, it's more inspired by Lady Eleanor. I used the instructions for the technique from How to Knit. But I realised, half-way through, that it is exactly the width for it; an MC-only Danica. It wasn't going to be quite so long, but I figured I might as well knit till I finished the stuff. I probably should have done it wider, but didn't think I'd have enough yarn. The lightness of these synthetic yarns *shakes head* I don't know. Entrelac is pretty addictive, so it wasn't too tedious to work that length of scarf, plus I had other projects to play with which broke it up.

Verdict: I love it. I've always wanted a giant Dr Who like scarf (but never had the patience to before). The changes of colours, done in entrelac, remind me of mermaid scales.

Photos, appropriately enough, taken on Brighton Beach this weekend.

bluescarf 1