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