Saturday, 15 December 2007

an SOS

Yeah, for all the three people who read this blog. If you actually see a pattern similar to the mustard cardi on the right, email me. Knowing my luck, it will be in a Rebecca magazine with a lace pattern (but they don't seem to have a stocklist in the the UK anymore according to my local yarnshop person).

I do like the cardigan and would even do it in the same mustard colour or a terra cotta colour. I'd probably do it in about 1300m 4ply (fingering) yarn bought from I'm thinking something soft, soft, soft. If I had the money, it would be cashmere, or wool/silk or cotton cashmere. *sighs*

Oh Santa, I've been a good girl all year, I have.

If I can't find the pattern I'm going to have to whip out that Barbara Walker book and bust a move. The stocking stitch might be the death of me, but whatever right? I'm going to have to sketch it, add about +4 -6 inches of ease and find someone with a knitting machine. Trust.

Wish us luck, eh?

Sour times

Damn it. I remember reading on someone' s blog that they always liked Kim Hargreaves' designs but never her patterns. I didn't realize what they meant until now- Phildar's sleeve and armsyce ratio suck! I've even tried backstitch (ugh) and it didn't work. Then I found myself with scissors trying to take the sleeve from the body of the jumper and cut the yarn.

I won't even tell you the issues that leafy and I have had. We may need counseling. A mediator to give us space so that we can tell each other how we feel. I overshot the chart and did five leaves instead of four, but that was pilot error, and now the sleeves DO NOT slot in neatly. I'm not even looking forward to doing the neck, because instead of picking up and knitting around, I'm doing what the instructions say and knitting the band separately.

Normally, when doing a first knit from an unknown entity - I tend to follow the instructions to a T- because I'm mostly a self taught knitter, and differe
nt instructions might teach me something new. Already, I can understand why Phildar wants the band knitted separately and then grafted onto the neck edge, it's to get that sharp cast on edge going on. Oh well, we'll see how it works. I want to wear this baby for Christmas, but we need some space before we go Mr and Mrs Smith on each other's arses.

Oh, the paper underneath my jumper is erm... my nanowrimo work. It's about knitting, blood, guns and a dollop of romance that still makes me scratch my head. How the heck did that get in there? It helps that the guy is cute and Japanese but still... There's a strange scene with a yarn winder and yarn.
Ewww. I am twelve.

So, I'm thinking of knitting up some hand warmers, because I have some Louisa Harding (in pink) in the stash. Or the rainbow coloured Phildar pullover above in its recommended yarn. Because I'm a masochist. But it's just stocking stitch and ribbing, and it has belled sleeves and an open neckline, and it skims the body, and what's the worst that could happen? I rather like that top, it could work with the skirt action or jeans. I could wear it to hot countries and leave my structured jacket at home.

Or should I just do a pair of hand warmers? My fetchings look tatty, and I have some lovely pink dk yarn by Louisa Harding.

Here's hoping that by next week I'll have that bloody jumper on my back. For serious.

Wish us luck.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Phildar jumper :70 percent done

A lovely blogger popped by to see the progress of my jumper! Awww... *blushes*. So, I'll show you where I am. In one week, I did the back and two sleeves (the colour isn't so grey, its more a spruce, like a dark peacock blue, or an intense teal, but its grey and rainy)!

I've never really knitted from a chart before, and I got mixed up. So, I've done colour coding for my charts! Blue is purl stitch, pink is knit stitch and yellow is the miscellaneous stitch manipulations that I need to do (like M1, p2tog, etc.).

For the back and front, I've made the length of the jumper 5mm instead of 1.5m. I need the length. I'm dead pleased about my first leaf and stem, and do hope to be quarter done with the front tonight. It's difficult doing this in front of the TV, so I've had to go back two rows. I might have to do a life line or two as well. But hopefully, I'll be able to do lace knitting with the whole chart reading.

I really think I want to get some knit picks harmony knitting needles though. My tension is a tad tight with the metallic needles. They are also a joy to knit with on the bus. I can keep my elbows tucked in, and if I can't finish a row, I just arrange my needles just so, and I never fear dropped stitches or the like.

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Friday, 7 December 2007

That tears it, I'm learning French!

English is my first and only language. If pressed, I can bumble about in Spanish, because I have no shame if my sentences are right or wrong, I just want to be understood. I have never really had much truck with French, until now.

Phildar has been holding out on us, my limey knit mates (or, I haven't really gone through the back issues until now, yeah... that's it). The catalogues are cheaper (only €5,50 vs €10,50 for the English version. To be fair, it's two copies of the same magazine, but still), and they have scads of back issues, from 2005, y'all.

Look at this cute- as-a button garter stitch hat. Slouchy, yet stylish and tidy. Isn't it just darling? Don't you like this vest, with the alternating garter and stocking stitch texture? The oversize collar can double as a hood if you exaggerated it enough. Along with the ribbed gauntlets (you can't call them fingerless gloves, can you?), the look is rocking without being too matchy matchy and try hard. I like the fact that the vest can carry over from spring to fall (my aim for knit basics 2008). I even like the payne's grey colour and think that it would look fab on me.

The stitch detailing for the red orange pullover is clever. Cunning ribbed patterns add interest to the top of the sleeves and neckine, the shirred ends of the sleeves give the look of volume that will never date, but always look quaint. I must admit, I'm not a fan of the oddly shaped pepums (is that the word?), or the use of i-cord for shaping. I'm too zaftig to leave my shaping to chance.

Really though, what I do admire about Phildar is their attention to stripes. Most designers tend to just do stripey stuff ala Breton, or Where's Waldo/Wally, with the broad swathes of white, broken up by tiny lines of blue, or alternating lines of red and white prison stripes. Not caring about the nod to size or colour placement.

Phildar does stuff better. Look at this top, they use two colours, biscuit and denim to give stripes a lot of interest. I particularly like the bust minimizing blue, and the button detail. It's nice to come across something that can be used for stash busting, as well as something that I'd be pleased to wear (I have teal and biscuit in my stash, rock!). It's also in cotton/acrylic (my stash). I'm thinking of doing it top down, because I only have six balls of teal and four balls of biscuit. Also, I hear the sleeves for this pattern as knitted is long. But I don't know how I'd do the khaki swatches between the bust and the armscye. Any suggestions?

Right! My additional new year's resolution will be to knit a pattern from a Phildar magazine in its original French. There shall be weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. But I heard tell ravelry has a French knitter's group. I shall have a butcher's.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Knitting challenge: knit basics for '08, care to try?

For the past week, I've been looking at my stash, my patterns and the knitting and colour trends for 2008. With my master scheme of stash diving and clearing my knitting decks, so to speak, I thought that we could have a theme going.

First, though, let us take a look at the colour trends for 2008. The colour palette seems relatively cool, rather Scandinavian with its varying tones of grey tinting the greens and blues, and surprisingly, a pink that looks more like a dusky coral. I've read that the materials veer from organic to futuristic, and the clothing is more structured.

Based on the montage of fashions on this page, and the prolonged reading of magazines both online and in hard copy, I've identified four pieces of knitwear that will be a nod to the trends, but will suit me. That's the trick, your knitwear should suit you, and I'm coming to the conclusion that as much as I like my fair isle, and acrobatic patttern designs, my style favours the unobtrusive and stark beauty of the stocking stitch.

Also, just looking through the European knitting pattern books has been a revelation. For example in the Phildar books, the yarn is knit with needles 1 size smaller. It makes the fabric firm, adds structure and the garment is less prone to pilling. A dollop of acrylic to wool and cotton adds to the durability of the knitted garment. Reverse stocking stitch is quite lovely, and doesn't seem to be as prone to pilling as straight stocking stitch.

The criteria for your knitting basics should be as follows:

  • It must fit your wardrobe. Make knit pieces that you will wear. If you suit scoop necks (like yours truly) don't knit crew or v necks. You won't wear the garment, ask me how I know.
  • It must suit your lifestyle. As much as I like structured knit jackets, I won't wear them. I'd rather wear structured cloth jackets. My style seems to be slouchy minimalist, so I can see myself wearing my rendition of the yellow Chloe cardigan above.
  • Try and pick colours that suit you and your wardrobe, but don't play it too safe. I've discovered that I have enough green/teal yarn to make three full garments. I'll do it too, but I'm not buying any more green for now. No more browns, either.
  • The garments must be able to drift across two seasons. This is to make sure that you get as much wear as you can from the knitted garment. For instance, if you make a cardigan, you can wear it on a cool spring or summer's day. If if got chillier, you can pair it with a knitted vest for additional warmth. If you make a vest, you can wear it over a long sleeved garment to keep your back and shoulders warm, but can shuck it off as soon as the weather gets warm or you walk into a heated room.
So, with this in mind, my four key garments/ knit basics for 08 are:

  1. A scoop necked vest. I'm unsure of the colour, to be frank. I'm veering towards the red orange yarn in my stash, because it will give a splash of colour to whatever garment I'm wearing. It will be done in double weight yarn because it won't add bulk to my frame or garments.
  2. A cardigan. Probably two. One is definitely Central Park Hoodie, but I don't have the yarn for that yet. So far, I'm looking at Anna Bell's Cherry, a cardigan from Phildar and a slouchy cardigan ala Chloe. I might have to do evil design math, or ask a fellow raveller for help, but we will see.
  3. A short sleeved vest: This might be in a heavier yarn, but I can wear a long sleeved top underneath and still keep warm.
  4. A summer top. Something simple and pretty, but I haven't stumbled on what I want just yet.

Then, I'm thinking of accessories. Two years ago, I did two pairs of fetching gloves from and I've worn the heck out of them ever since then. I need to add those. So, I am hoping to do:
  • Long arm warmers. They are useful for having warmth under your coats
  • A lace triangular scarf or a long rectangular stole. The scarves are good for traveling and will be lighter than my cloth scarves as well. I can literally stick it in the side of my bag when it gets too hot.
  • A snug cap that's long enough to cover my ears.
That's it, really. I'm toying with making a knit along, for anyone to join in their own time, or do a group on ravelry, but I don't have the discipline to mod or cheer the troops on, so to speak. If anyone gets to do this idea before me, feel free to do so, just give me credit where its due, and please invite me to the knit along!

What do you think?

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Shoot, December already?

I don't have any pictures of my pullover to show as yet... but I'm halfway up the back and my sleeves are already done. Am looking at my yarn stash and something needs to be done. So, I'm stash diving into all my pattern books. So, although it's only December (but Christmas is about three weeks away!) and Jan 2008 is just around the corner, here's my knitting resolutions in 2008.

  • Knit more. Seriously, I need to knit more. I tend to buy yarn, patterns, knitting notations, and do nothing with it. Seriously, I need to knit more.
  • Will attempt my first lace knit. It's about time. I have patterns, and lace yarn in my stash.
  • I need to knit other patterns apart from Rowan. I have Vogue, Knit 1, Phildar and online patterns in my stash. More variety in knitting patterns needed!
  • Expand on my colour choices a bit. Pink, charcoal and buttercup yellow.
  • No new yarn until I've used up two tops worth of the old stash.
That's about it, really.


Friday, 30 November 2007

Everything changes, nothing remains without change

I do understand why people have strong feelings towards change. Why change is regarded with fear and loathing.

I myself know that change isn't always sudden, immediate or shocking. Change is inexoriable, unyeilding and constant. The notion of change should be met with equanimity, even a sort of eagerness.

We grow with change.

This is what I told myself. It was time to break away from Rowan patterns, to see how magazines do it, to add some spice to the knitting. Now that I've taken up with this Phildar pattern, and am totally foxed by these dashed instructions. I'm doing the third size (hello, gauge issues) up and at the end, I should have 13 sts to cast off. My calculations tell me otherwise.

Care to see?

Starting amt of stitches =63

Cast off 3 stitches twice and 2 stitches once. (3+3+3+3+2+2=16)

Then cast off two stitches from each edge of following alt rows.

single decrease 3 times (here, I assume that it means single decrease one stitch at each end of row) 3x2=6


On foll 4th rows, sgl dec 4 times (4x2=8)


On following alternate rows, single decrease 3 times (3x2=6)

29-6=23 sts

Then on each edge of following alt rows cast off 2 sts twice (wherein 2 sts on alt row cast off twice - that's 2+2+2+2=8)

23-8= 15

Cast off 3 sts (on foll alt rows) once (3+3 = 6)

15-6= 9

When work meas 43 cm after ribbing, cast off rem 13 sts.


Ugh. This is why I've taken so long on the sleeves. No one who's done this pattern on ravelry hasn't said anything about the sleeves and the stitch count, so I'm going to assume that it's my fault.

What am I doing wrong? Have I factored in too many decreases? Do you just decrease only once (as in, decrease stitches on one side of the work, leave the other side untouched until the other other)?

What am I doing wrong?

I think I might just leave the sleeves to stew, and then carry on with the back and front. I want to wear this top for Christmas and it's thwarting me! *Is thwarted*

Am I teh dumb?

Right now, I spit on change. Phooey.

ETA: A fellow raveler sent us some instructions. Her math is on point. I, am teh suck who now fears change.

I just went through it and I get 13. Here's what I reckon

(start with 63)

Rows 1, 2, 3 and 4 - cast off 3 Rows 5 and 6 - cast off 2

(16 decreased)

on alternate rows: sgl dec 3 times (-6) every 4th row: sgl dec 4 times (-8) on alternate rows: sgl dec 3 times (-6)

(20 more decreased)

cast off 2 four times (-8) cast off 3 twice (-6)

(13 remain)

Friday, 23 November 2007

Do you pick, or throw

Sung to the tune Do Your Ears Hang Low?

Do you pick or throw when you're finishing a row Is your yarn tied in a knot, is it tied in a bow Do you throw your yarn over (un) like a continental soldier Do you pick or throw?

For the past couple of months I've been trying to come to some peace with continental knitting. I do admire its virtures of being quick and minimal movement (and I have gotten quicker!) but the purl stitches are not as good as the knit stitches in continental. So, I tend to get lines in my knitting and really odd tension. I guess this is why most continental knitters knit in the round - they avoid the purl stitch.

Alas, I need a perfect purl stitch, because I'm doing the sweater (catalogue no. n 460-T6-275) from Phildar, autumn 06. So, I'm doing the old English throw. I think I may do the body in the round, so I can keep an eye on the fitting.

So, because life isn't simple, it seems that my tension for this pattern is wackadoo. It's supposed to be 19sts x 27rows, and I'm at 22sts x 27 rows. So, I'm doing the large size (instead of medium) so that I can get to the medium. I didn't want to go up 4.5mm needles because I like the snug fabric on the 4mm needles. I did a sleeve today and the tension worked out, so yayy.
I do think that my choice of needles (knitpicks options) tends to make my tension tighter, because the needles are slick and metal. I do intend to get the wooden knitpicks needle as soon as I can.

I do like the mods on the sweater that I've just highlighted - the longer body for instance. I'll definately do the 5cm for the waist instead of the 1.5 inch. I'm keeping the orignial neckline though (ravelery link, soz). I love that wide scooped neckline, and will wear a camisole underneath to keep my modesty.

The yarn used is Lana Grossa cool wool. It's a 50 gram ball, 120 metres, worsted (slightly heavier than the English double knit) and goes for £3.95 a ball. Lan Grossa yarn is what I'd call expensive (on par with Debbie Bliss, Louisa Harding, et al) but it's a nice yarn. The colourways are rich, the yarn is sprongy and tactile. In terms of pilling, I've had it bouncing around my knit bag for a couple days and not a fluff.

Wish us luck. This the the most tentative I've been with my knitting.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007


Hee, I'm actually writing a novel for nanowrimo.

Never mind that I'll have to do five thousand words a day (I'm already up to over 5000 words in two day, go me).

Of course, since I'm just writing this by the seat of my pants, it's a lot of nonsense. But the main action takes place around a yarn shop, and there are assasins and guns. But it takes place in a yarn shop and stuff.

So, since I promised you something related to knitting in my blog, behold an excerpt from my Nanowrimo. With a disclaimer and all that - it's not been revised. Also, the work (as scrubby as it is) is mine. Respect mah copyright!

The scene is this: Daniel (one of my main characters) is on the lookout for F, (another character) and he finds himself in a yarn shop.

The colours could thrill, he admitted, his eyes noting the grid of yarn ranging from blues to reds, following the reds as they slid into florid pinks and manic oranges before happily skipping to yellows and soothing into creams.

It was not only colour, but texture; some yarns were balls of the colour of eclipses, deep blacks and blues, so dark that they absorbed light, instead of reflecting it outwards. Other yarns had hints of shimmer in them, and they flirted and flitted with the swings of luminousity and movement, some balls were hazy as half-remembered dreams and others with patterns so sharp, they were a blur on the eye.

Then, there were the – needles- he assumed, looking at pointed plastic sticks as thick as his arm tapered to a point. They were made for knights to joust with for honour and the hand of a fair maiden, not for knitting.

Despite his annoyance, Daniel had to smile.

That's like, the only thing that's close to making sense. I'm actually enjoying the process. I don't think I'd ever see a publisher in this lifetime, but I'm happy.

Are you doing Nanowrimo? Have you ever been tempted?

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

What's your personality type?

I've always avoided this question, but today I didn't. I'm at a loose end right now, so I did the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Keirsey Temperment sorter Test .

It seems I'm an INFJ. I was going to roll my eyes at the description: Introverted Intuitive Feeling Judging, but it's the first time that a test has accurately identified me as an introvert, because I am. Even though I can be sociable, and am interested in the welfare of my work and acquaintance mates, I do like to keep to myself. I think that's why I like knitting, or don't mind going camping with the hubby.

This paragraph is frighteningly accurate:

Usually self-expression comes more easily to INFJs on paper, as they tend to have strong writing skills. <- that's true. I can write myself into an interview, but in real life interviews, I tend to choke and stumble. Many people have actually commented on my writing skills over the years.

Since in addition they often possess a strong personal charisma, INFJs are generally well-suited to the "inspirational" professions such as teaching (especially in higher education) and religious leadership. Psychology and counseling are other obvious choices, but overall, INFJs can be exceptionally difficult to pigeonhole by their career paths. <- that's also true. I'm trying to get out of an 'inspirational' profession, but to quote Michael Corleone in Godfather III, "Just when I thought that I was out, they pull me back in".

Perhaps the best example of this occurs in the technical fields. Many INFJs perceive themselves at a disadvantage when dealing with the mystique and formality of "hard logic", and in academic terms this may cause a tendency to gravitate towards the liberal arts rather than the sciences. <- that's also true. My strong suits were history, literature, philosophy. I always balked at Math, until I started knitting anyway, and seeing how Math follows logic. Dammit, if I'd only known about this fifteen years ago!

Then, if that didn't sweep the rug from under my feet, this bit of prose did:

"They are, in fact, sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so genuinely interested in people -- a product of the Feeling function they most readily show to the world. On the contrary, INFJs are true introverts, who can only be emotionally intimate and fulfilled with a chosen few from among their long-term friends, family, or obvious "soul mates." While instinctively courting the personal and organizational demands continually made upon them by others, at intervals INFJs will suddenly withdraw into themselves, sometimes shutting out even their intimates."

Man, this feature contributed to a lot of broken relationships over the past couple of years. That old chestnut, "It's not you, it's me" got a lot of use over the years. But I really meant it.

Famous INFJs: Goethe, Chaucer, Robert Burns.

So, what's your personality type? Are our blog personalities compatable?

I'll try and have some knitting on this blog soonish.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Everyday above ground is a good day.

Oh man, oh man, oh man, oh man, why did it take me so long to discover Scarface?! Oh, yes, I know why, it's because those nihilistic rappers took the movie and made it their own: doing up their houses in the same lurid red and ivorydecor, with the pool underneath the stairs, and the TV in the bathroom with an ocean of a hot tub.

Calling themselves Tony Montana, and giving their albums names like, "The world is yours" and "Push it to the Limit." I was also put off by the posters, you know, the one with Tony Montana holding the grenade launcher, and screaming, "Say hello to my leettle frien' "

Also, it didn't help that every Italian male in their twenties I know was dressed like they escaped from 1983, pre "Miami Vice", post disco with that white double breasted suit, and the oversized lapels. The imitation of Pacino's Cuban accent didn't help either, especially with, "Who put dis deal together? Me? Who I trust? Me!" (An Italian imitating a fake Cuban accent by an Italian American? Priceless.)

Don't get me wrong, I've always been a fan of Al Pacino. I loved him in The Godfather trilogy, The Devil's Advocate, and Heat. Hell, I saw Oceans 13 because of him (not a fan of Pitt or Clooney, no.). But I'd never seen him in Scarface. Saw posters, heard about that ghastly chainsaw scene, but didn't go beyond that.

So, what brought this about? you may ask, and I'm rather embarassed to admit it. I was reading a particular author's work, and she has a series of books out, about men who serve in the US Navy SEALS. So, she mentions this character's name, Vincent DeInnocentis and how he looks like Al Pacino, and that's why they call him "Godfather"(code name, nothing hokey). So, I'm thinking about Al Pacino as Micheal Corleone in Godfather I (1st photo, the other photos are from Scarface).

You know, that face Al Pacino has then, earlier in the film? Iit's a nice face. Lean, with striking features of hooded eyes, a strong nose, a mobile mouth. But his face is not yet not fully formed, not yet lived in. When he smiles, it's easy, but reserved, because that's how Micheal is. He is stillness, has the core within him to live apart, to distance himself from his family's business, because it doesn't define him - not like it defines his brothers.

Not yet, anyway.

Moving on. So, I read two other books within the series, and Vincent kinda resembles Al Pacino in Scarface. I'm like, "Scarface? As in, "Say 'ello to my leetle fren'?" or, "When you **** with Tony Montana, you ****ing with de bes'?" Scarface? Really? And then, I cocked my head to the side, rather like a puzzled dog and tried to think how Al Pacino looked in that movie, and can only come up with him and the grenade launcher, at the end. Or him sitting in front of that false front of a tropical background, with his coat slung over his shoulders and his arm in a sling. And I'm like, "really?" and felt bummed. Why not Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver, with his whipcord body, tough guy bravado and face creased in sly smiles?

Sighing, because well, although I avoided Scarface despite it being a cult movie, and all the baggage it brings, it seems I must see it, to see what sort of face Al Pacino has in that movie. The one between The Godfathers and Carlito's Way.

Well, wow.

What a face Al Pacino (as Tony Montana) has in this movie! It's tough, and very much lived in. Montana's face is a barometer of his moods: a satanic mask with hellfire eyes when angered at a percieved double cross, almost handsome when happy (because Tony Montana is not handsome, he's striking, yes, but not handsome). His body has a swing to it, sometimes jittery, due to the drugs, but always cocky, always powerful. Montana is shades of charisma and cruelty, which simultaneously makes him atttractive and repellent to his nearest and dearest.

The movie itself is definately a Greek tragedy, with our antihero coming from nothing, seizing chances, making the right choices and getting money, power and his woman, a fey and cold blonde. His pursuit for the whole world and everything in it literally destroys him, but he goes out with a bang; when he's all pumped up with coke, riddled with bullets and literally seeing his burgeoning empire now ashes at his feet, in his mouth and nose, he looks at his assassins and snarls/screams the immortal words, "I'm still standing!" before he's blown away.


So yeah, I'm converted. I love Scarface, for its themes of greed and obsession and impotence. It is truly a cautionary tale and nowhere near as romantic as rappers want it to be. It's a story about a bad man in an even worse business.

What probably appeals, is that although Tony Montana is no hero, he still has his own moral code, and he went down fighting. The story isn't exactly Macbeth (although it has a few key themes in common) but its compelling.

Tony Montana is all passion and no control, all faith and nothing to believe in, and when he finally takes a stand, it gets him killed, in large part because he destroys his own support systems.


And yes, I can understand why the writer used that celluloid image for her character in her story. Vincent DeInnocentis is tough, and has his own moral code, but unlike Montana, he doesn't really have those sociopathic tendencies and a drug habit that could stun an African bull elephant. He's lived (although he's relatively young), and his character is formed, so he deserves a face like Montana's. It really fits, and I think I have a new literary crush, even though he's already gotten his girl. *sighs*

I'm the suck.

On the knitting scene: I was supposed to do a jumper for Nanowrimo - the National Write a Novel Month, wherein you write 50,000 words in 30 days? Instead, you're supposed to do 50,000 stitches in 30 days (about a jumper's worth). I wanted to do central park hoodie in Rowan All Seasons cotton. I've done the gauge stitch and casted on twice, but the yarn isn't for that jumper. Maggie Righetti is right, you need to listen to your yarn.

My all seasons is murmuring sweetnothings for me to turn it into a miltary jacket but with slightly belled sleeves, ala Phildar. It's also telling me in hot whispers that I need to get a calculator, some graph paper and hop to it, because it would be fabulous, but I'm studiously ignoring it. I don't want to start whipping out calculators and Barbara Walker just yet.

At the moment, I'm still crocheting my squares for charity, and trying to talk myself out of doing a short sleeved garment for winter. But winter in my neck of the woods hasn't been winter for a while, with all that global warming.

So, have you discovered something new that you've perhaps dismissed before?

Saturday, 3 November 2007

A Book Review!

Book: Crazy Aunt Purl: Drunk, Divorced and Covered in Cat Hair: The True-Life Misadventures of a 30-Something Who Learned to Knit When He Split (Paperback) Laurie Perry.

For the benefit of those who don't really follow online blog personalities, Crazy Aunt Purl is the moniker undergone by Laurie Perry. A Texican who migrated to California, she got married, invested her selfworth and mental wellbeing in her husband, only for him to split. In despair she started a blog to chart her new life and its progress as it were, and well, her blog just became great. She was nominated for Blog of the year in 2005/6.

In the world of knitting, Crazy Aunt Purl is rather like the yarn Harlot (Stephanie Pearl-McPhee) in the sense that you go to her blog to garner a laugh and get the odd insight be it life or love (for knitting). No patterns there!

The difference is that The Yarn Harlot was born in the land of knitting; she knows the language, has the passport and changes the moods as well as dictating the trends. On the other hand, Crazy Aunt Purl is a new migrant, and her struggles with knitting and subsequent joy in the craft rather mirrors the snags and highs in her new life, post divorce.

If you've read her blog, you'll have an idea about the book: each chapter is like a blog entry, one subject debated at length in short bites. The book is divided into three sections, each showing desperation, a stumble and then recovery. There are patterns in the back, a bit quirky, nothing special (although I like the lace scarf and cap).

To be honest, I think her blog is much better than the book. The blog posts feel spontaneous, quirkier and a bit more complete. In contrast, the book seems to have been edited to the point of stiltedness. The stronger 'entries' in the books are those lifted from her blog (about 15 percent). In the blog, her speech candence comes out more, as well as that Southern sensiblity and sass. In the book... not so much.

If you're not a knitter, don't let it deter you from having a read. It could have been any hobby that gave the author focus and made her find herself, so to speak. There are a few good chapters that make you think, especially the one where the author enters into a relationship with someone and recognises that although he may not be the one, he made her feel special and worthy and notes that although its not love, it means something.

As someone who's gone through a similar patch regarding relationships, it's an important lesson to learn, and something I tell all the girls I meet.

Overall, I'd say relegate this on library loan, and read the blog instead. I can't sell this book on, because I inadvertently ruined it. :/'

Monday, 29 October 2007

Kim Hargreaves has a new pattern book out

It is The Darkhouse collection and you can see an overview of the patterns here. What to say? The designs are classic without being boring, enough gothic to give them an edge.

My PC is bugging, so I can't upload all the pictures I like. Boo. This one Emily suits me to the tee. Look at the scooped neckline, the sweet eyelet details at the cuffs and hem. Look at Storm, a cardigan done in Rowan's big wool. Kim Hargreaves makes bulky sexy, and slimming by adding shaping and eyelet stitches. Oh, I might not be as lithe as that lass to the right, but I know that that shape can work with me. Dammit, I knew I shouldn't have bought those other books on Amazon.

This book is direct from Ms. Hargreaves' website, which is unfortunate, especially since the WearDowney mavens (a far lesser effort) have their book on Amazon.

I can almost hear the platoon of knitters casting on now.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Consumption versus... another view?

Had to go to London to visit my stepdaughter, and it was lovely to see her, although I had to hid my knitting! Also went to Uniqlo to pick up some classic pieces. I bought:
  • a scarf that absorbs solar power to keep me warm!
  • a skinny black cardi (to look smart)
  • two tops.
All for under £30. Not necessarily a bargain, but for the quality, I'm happy. I love Uniqlo clothing: it's well made, doesn't fall apart or loose shape in the washing machine and has a sophisticated colour selection. I don't buy woolen goods from Uniqlo though, after the buttery softness of designer yarns, I find their merino/lambswool blend a tad itchy. I'd rather knit woolen cardigans for myself. Am I wrong?

Anyhoos, had a come to Jesus chat with my stepdaughter over the weekend. She seems to think that I'm letting myself go appearance wise. I don't dress up anymore, or shop, and she finds my hobbies of knitting and inline skating offputting. To be honest, since I've started recycling in earnest a couple of years ago, I've changed my consumption habits, some have been:

  • Not buying glossy magazines: I try and do most of my reading online. So for my gossip fix I'll go to ONTD, and for news, I'll look to BBC World. If I do buy papers, it's the Sunday papers. Then, I recycle them.
  • Buy the best clothes I can afford, and make them last: I've gone off stores like Primark and Topshop - where the clothes may be fashionable but they fall apart so quickly, and especially with Primark, where clothes can be as little as £1, it's really frightening. I'm trying not to buy clothes because I 'want' to be on trend. I'm trying to buy clothes that will last for years. In this regard, I'm following the lead of French women - buy the best clothes I can afford, and just make them last. This means taking control and responsiblity for what I put in my body and how I maintain it by making sure I stay the same size all the time.
  • Finish using whatever products I buy so that I can recycle the containers: I used to be a product gladfy - I'd buy a facecream this week, and one next week - only to have six opened bottles of product in varying stages of use. Earlier this year I've decided to use up the bottles, (and carry them to my local recycling facility) and oh my, I've been a bad girl! Now, I've decided on what my face product is going to be (Neal's yard - organic and the containers are recyclable).
  • I think twice about what I buy before I do: Will I wear this jacket/trousers/shoes everyday or almost everyday? Can this item of clothing go from smart/casual, and vice versa? Can I wear it layered? Alone or not? When I buy a garment, I now expect to wear it until threadbare. Same thing with shoes.
All these thoughts were in my head as I flicked through the magazines that my stepdaughter had. The articles were along the line of: How to get star style with high top swag? The makeup to buy/try NOW! These magazines seem to drive consumption by telling you what to buy and what to wear, all masked in the sly chatty tones. You get the feeling of derision by the fashionistas if you want to dance to your own stylish drum, although they do say otherwise by showing the great and good in the styles du jour instead of the classic and the quirk. Hmmmm.

Also, with the amount of money that you spend on fakes and knockoffs, if you save long and hard, you can have a stylish version that you can keep for years and years.

Anyway, lest our thoughts get serious, I've been knitting. Yayyy. Stuff I've been doing:

  • A charity square. My square was supposed to be 8 inches square. It ended up being 11 inches. Hmmm. I haven't the heart to rip it. Yet.
  • I now know how to knit continental. My tension is loosey gooesy in continental, but I can knit wicked fast. Faster than how I normally knit, and I'm relatively quick. I could see myself doing continental for a moss stitch - going down a few needle sizes.
  • I'm knitting Roza's socks. It's the first patterned sock knitting I've ever done. I've done a pair of socks before, but the basic Opal sock knit version. I can see why people like sock knitting: it's portable, doesn't call for much committment (mismatched socks are cool!), and you can use gorgeous yarn without breaking the bank. I only have 300 m of yarn, and grumperina's socks call for 394m. I might only do one sock with the yarn I have (70 percent wool/30 percent ramie) because it's sturdy and serviceable.
  • I'm waiting on my 3.75mm needles from get knitted. The knitpicks options needles never seem to be in stock. I do wish to start my icarus shawl. Never have done lace before, and my thoughts are of fear and trepidation.
Right! There are more things to say, but will keep schtum for now, for I shan't jinx them.


ETA: Oh my Lord, Kim Hargreaves has a new book coming out. I'm selling on my Weardowney book for this one. Oh yes.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Our love is a ball of yarn

Hello! Been trying to post to my blog from yesterday, but blogger wasn't having it. So, anyway, My Friend Pat came around to my house on Sunday with a suprise! It was an old fashioned ball winder! It's lovely, and although it doesn't have a clamp, and I have to balance it on my knee, it's all good. I've never wound balls of yarn so fast and so neatly!

So, here's what I did over the weekend, I frogged my topdown cardi, because it wasn't working. It was too chunky, and more for a 6mm needle than the 5mm I was working with. So, the balls have been wound, and am thinking of doing Japel's Cropped Ribbed Cardigan. It would be topdown as well as warm and relatively stylish. Then, I wound balls of yarn from wool to mohair.

Right now, I'm at the stage in between the major projects: you know, that stage where you have your tongue tucked in the side of your mouth as you consider what next to take on. Whatever shall I put your resources of time and yarn into? That rugged hooded Central Park Hoodie, or the smart Cherry by Anna Bell. Or, should I step off the ledge with only breezes to cushion me as I grab my needles and first lace pattern?

To be honest, I don't think I'm going to be doing as much knitting as I'd like to, because I'm still looking for jobs. *sighs*

Oh well, whatever next I knit, it will be using up the stash. I have some nice yarn and it's time to show it off. Stay tuned for the swatching sessions!

Friday, 12 October 2007

With me, you get feast or famine.

At last! Kim is done! Just a selection of poses I'm doing with my camera. Now that Kim's done, the day is balmy, almost tropical (despite the cloud cover, but then again, we have cloud cover in the tropics too). I do like the finished article! I think the best thing that works with this piece is proportion. If you must wear this boob tube, try to wear it with a volumious shirt, or something floaty. Also, try for long sleeves, and a T-shirt that is long in torso as well. You want this to have the effect of a cinched waist, or else you'll be sorry. So, I bring you four poses. This is how I'm going to wear my Kim: Cabled boob tube - over my hoodie (which is a lightly woven cotton). This top also works with negative ease. Although the finished size is 32.5inches (42.4cm) and my boob size is 35 inches, the negative ease makes the top stay up. I think I could have taken in the waist a bit more.

Enjoy the view!


Pattern: Kim by Sarah Hatton, from Rowan Studio 1
Needles: 3.25mm and 3.75mm straight bamboo needles + 1 cable needle.
Yarn: x3 balls of Rowan felted tweed in Pine
Time taken: officially? Six months in terms of someone casting on for me. Really? About 4 weeks.
Modifications: None. I am a lemming.
If I knew then, what I know now?: I'd have done it in the round, even though I don't have a 3.25mm circular needle. I probably would have gone down to 3mm.
Gripes: Pattern was awkward at the beginning. Once you get over that hump, it's all good.
Advice for anyone?: If you can, do it in the round. The seaming is important in terms of making sure the sides match. But ignore the palaver and do it in the round. I'd have done it on 4mm needles, since my gauge on knitpicks circulars tends to be a bit tighter.
Next on needles?: Nothing too demanding. Alas, I'm still suffering under the slings and slurs of unemployment, and that needs to change. I need to start contributing to craftser and ravelry, so I need a job, STAT! Will finish that hat.
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Book review: Weardowney's Pattern book

Behold, a post inspired by the Weardowney book I just bought yesterday. It's glizty, artsy, fashionable, flirting with pretension, off kilter and perhaps, to some of you, obnoxious. If you feel this way about the post, you might feel the same way about their book. It's really not for everyone. I will upload some straightforward fashion shoots into my flickr account and give you the link, but bear with me in terms of this post.

A potted history of Weardowney then. Two women: their combined histories include, being a former model, then a knitter to John Galliano, now a 'House' to lauded knitwear, as well as running their own knitting classes, and bringing out a biannual magazine which is a magpie of their influences: music, photography, catwalk fashion, and the environment. So, in retrospect, of course they would have done their book the same way. How silly of us to even think otherwise!

The first thing is, half of the book is devoted to knitwear: its history, new developments and the personae behind the fashionable movement of knitwear. We get essays on John Galliano, Jean Paul Gautier, Vivienne Westwood and Sonia Rykiel and how they changed knitwear. Then, there is a nod to the present new kids on the block like Claire Tough, and an overview on the knitting blogs and how their irreverence has changed the attitude and face of knitting (which is the weakest part of the essay).

Afterwards, there's a short lesson on how one can 'see' the knitting designs take form. On a flyleaf, Downey shows the anatomy of a knitting design - a mini dress/ tunic done in garter stitch scoop neck, vertical eyelet lace with garter stitch bands. Then, you flick over the fly leaf to see the completed design in all its glory. "Gorgeous," the reader breathes, fingers quivering on the edge for more - will we get the pattern? No, we don't. Curses!

In the other half of the book we do get the patterns. Of course, since these women are fashion mavens, the photography is moody. the models contorted into pretzel like shapes to show off a seam, or a particular technique. If you really want to see how the actual designs look on a dress form, go to the back of the book. That's really pragmatic and very forward thinking- a nice touch.

The designs are an interesting and surprising mix. In the Weardowney shows, their knit wear is more to do with a sort of quirk in mind. A bit of tongue in cheek, a kind of raspberry to the fashion establishment. They do knitted bloomers, knitted stockings with and without feet. They offer knitted shawl coats, which you throw over a confectionary of a dress so that you don't freeze. In their shops, they sell kits with funky accessories (scarves and the like). I expected to see more of that in this book. The quirk, the irreverence for the grandmother's knits. Instead, we get the flash of fashion with scoop neck tops and pretty eyelet skirts. There are some pretty striking cardigans, and then surprisingly, some conventional patterns. Two knitted tops for men, and an oversized cabled vest for women. I expected some accessories, like the cape they had on the Amazon cover (which, surprise! Didn't make this cover).

For designers who normally have a 'theme' in their shows, the patterns in the book did not feel so unified. Is it snooty, sexy, carefree, selfconscious or comfortable? I felt all of these things while looking at the patterns.

The patterns come with schematic diagrams (yayy!) a bit on the small side, but there. The patterns are mostly done on 3.25 -4mm needles. I think the cabled patterns were done on slightly bigger needles, but I need to check again. The yarns are mostly Rowan - cotton glace, bamboo soft, 4ply cotton, 4ply soft and Rowan felted tweed. There is a cool tunic dress of 4ply cotton in white, juxtaposed with a pink lurex shimmer. I rather like the effect it gives, and would incorporate it into my own knitting.

So, overall, do I like the book? Yes, yes I did. The essays are something to come back to and to digest accordingly. Would I knit patterns from the book? Again, yes, I've been itching to knit a skirt from hemp, and I think the peacock skirt in Weardowney is just the ticket. Do I recommend the book? Yes, but with reservations: if you want your books to be nothing but the knit patterns, no, don't get this book. If you are a basic jumper and jeans girl, who scoffs at fine gauge materials, look elsewhere. You might want to try before you buy with this one.


Pros: Good essays on knitting designers. Attractive display of images, good overview of the knitting culture as portrayed. The gallery of designs at the back is a nice touch. There are a lovely designs that feel 'dressy' in ways that a majority of the knitting designs don't. This is aided by the (relatively) fine gauge of the yarn used.
Cons: Duplicates of designs in some ways. Like, the waffle jacket is almost the same as the jacket with chevrons. The book could have been more 'tied' to their quirky personalities in terms of less conventional jumpers and such.

Rating: 3/5 stars. For such an enviable catalogue (present and past), the collection could have been stronger.
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Stitching and Knitting show

Helllo! I'm back from the Stitching and Knitting Show, held at Alexandra Palace, home to BBC's first TV arial in the 1930s, and a jolly part of London to visit: attractive, with wide spaces and some hills! Surprisingly (or not!) I didn't buy any yarn. Firstly, there was a lot of alpaca, which is a lovely yarn, but I can't really get on with it against my skin. There was a lot of sock yarn (A LOT of sock yarn), and space dyed yarn. I must say, I do like sock yarn in terms of the jewelled like colours and yardage, but enough withthe space dyed yarn already. Most times it looks terrible when knitted up (all. That. Pooling.) . I did not take many pictures because the stall owners didn't like it. A few had signs that discouraged such photography. Fair enough, I guess they wanted to keep their shots exclusive.

I saw the Habu knitting and saw what the hoopla was all about. Knitted steel, silk and figue (a relative of the pineapple plant) make such a lovely drape and fabric! But I didn't like the colours for me (my skin has orange tones, it doesn't get on with muted colourways and the bright ones were too bright). I also felt quivet for the first time. It's so LUSH! Unlike wool, or alapaca or any other animal fibre I've felt. It literally collapses into nothing on your hand but drifts like a fluffy cloud over your shoulders. The trader was Danish, and her quivet gathered from rocks and lichen in Greenland (that's how it's harvested, by gathering the bits of quivet down left on rocks and plants, then spun and dyed). She was selling 100 grams for quivet for £52 (104 US). Too rich for my blood (although I can see why the price is what it is). The quivet is the second picture on the right.

Rowan, Collinette, Get Knitted, Laughing Hens and a lot of other proprieters had stalls. Rowan (third picture) had a stall teaching people how to knit and crochet. So did simply knitting. There were a load of students at the show (quite a few were French) and they got busy with the sticks, to cast on and off.

I also saw a lot of knits on real people from Rowan Studio books 1 and 2. So immensely flattering! Please Rowan Studio books, go back to the fine gauged knits that you started off with. The big, chunky knits by the Royal College of Art and Design people were clumsily executed. I saw the Nora Gaughan knit from VK fall 2007 on a short, rotund woman. I like it! So beautifully skimming the figure and adding length and interest where there wasn't any. It was done in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran however, and as such, it started to pill. Ugh.

The last picture with the glass window is the hall of Alexandra Palace. It will be the last stitching show held there for a while, since the place is due for remodelling. From what I gathered by a stranger (when asking him for the directions of said place), there were plans afoot to tear a part of the building down for a leisure centre. Of course, the local community is in arms, and he thinks that the wolves of overhyped progress will be held at bay. I hope so, I'm all for tradition, it's what gives us identity and keeps us sane in this old world. Why has everything got to be new?

So, what did I buy? Just the Plassard Luminere yarn (reminded me of a Berroco yarn, the same one that Valpuri was done in), and a gauge slash needle sizer slash ruler slash magnifying glass by knit picks from Get I also bought a pattern book by Wear Downey, but that shall be in a different post.

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Thursday, 4 October 2007

The online knitting designer's handbook

So you wanna be an online knitting desinger? If so, you just need a dollop of creativity, and Barbarba G. Walker's Knitting from the top.

If you actually have this book to hand, and a modicum of creativity (or a few fashion magazines with knitwear to inspire you) you've got it made. Just an initial skim of a raglan topdown one button cardigan reminds one of a popular online designer's creation. The only difference is that the latter just throws a rib pattern below the bodice, but it's the basic shape and form (complete with button!)- but with short sleeves instead of long(p. 50, fig. 23).

Or if you want to make a cape/flared jacket, look at pg. 53-54 and you're all set.

It's not cheating per se, because it's a basic shape, but it just goes to show that with this book, you're already quids in on saving money buying the basic topdown patterns online, because Ms. Walker spells it all out for you. Yes, duckie, there is even a way to do topdown set in sleeves and it's very straightforward.

Knitting from the top is only 120 pages long, but oh my, what a lot of information in these pages! There are about 12 chapters, and each chapter covers a basic design element (raglan pullover, cardigan, seamless cape, seamless skirt, sleeves sweaters, pants and caps). Within each chapter, Walker breaks down the principles for you, and doesn't go further than third grade Arithmetic.

Ms. Walker's writing style is straight forward. She doesn't meander as much as Elizabeth Zimmerman, nor is she as overenthusiastic as Maggie Righetti can be at times. As a result, the prose is clean, and relatively uncluttered. In addition, the clean, basic diagrams help to bring her points across.

I'd say, if you had to choose between Knitting from the Top or Righetti's Sweater Design in Plain English, I'd go for the former- more bang for the buck and less Math if you're not that inclined. In addition, there's a simple stitch glossary at the front, about 20 different increases explained on page 20 and a short section on how to chart your own patterns, and how to convert piece knitting into the round.

I can truly see why most (if not all) the popular online designers cite this book (although not Chapter and verse). It really allows you to dictate your knitting. Immediately, I can see myself utilising the set in sleeve method (if I can avoid sewing in a set in sleeve, yayyy), or knitting Kim Hargreaves' Salina from the topdown, so that I can have perfect fitting shoulders!

Drawbacks? Well, the cover is old fashioned, the processes are shown in black and white photographs (when illustrations or coloured photographs would be better), and the typeface and the outlay of the papers are dated, but really, the information gleaned from the pages overshadows the frumpiness.

It's a really good book to have. Highly recommended.

ETA to add images from the book. Thought it would be appreciated. :)

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Book review: knit knit

The pictures are taken from Knit Knit: profiles and projects from knitting's new wave, by Sabrina Gschwandtner (2007): Stewart, Tabori and Chang. The following designs - cover art, Fibreglass Teddy Bear by Dave Cole (the head alone weighs 400lbs), City of Stitches, Isabel Berglund, and Convertible Cardigan by Wenlan Chia.

I guess it had to happen sometime, knitting gets on the ascent, new designers are established, old designers are rediscovered and someone has to come along and document it. To paraphrase Derek Walcott, she's the scribe capturing moods and words while the knitting designers wrap their heads with yarn and draw blood with needles, so to speak.

On one hand, as an English graduate, I appreciate of the power of words, of the fact that paper is the perfect techology: easy to produce, easy to access and short of fire and acid it is relatively sturdy. I'm also aware of the fact that getting studies published is one way to give a hobby validity. On the other hand, I tend to approach such efforts with caution, because such offerings tend to veer on the stuffy and underwhelms one.

With Knit Knit, I'm glad to say that I'm wrong.

What helps is that Ms. Gschwandtner is a knitter, and the maven behind knitknit magazine, so the love for the craft is apparent and makes for easier reading. A caveat however, if you're looking for a knitting book with pretty pretty clothing patterns, this is not the book. You do get a couple of great garments by Anna Bell (Bridie) and Wenlan Chia (see cardi above), but the book isn't focused on garments. You get patterns for a 1000lb teddy bear, a knitted room calling for 150 balls of 50 g cottons (for a start!) and mini sweater earrings (about 1/44 of an inch).

Because I'm pressed for time, I'll just break the comments down into pros and cons.

Pros: Designers all, the great, the good and the quirky. Some designers have I haven't even heard of before (Catherine Lowe, with her 35 page knitting patterns) and other designers that I've seen around the internets, but never really investigated the scope of their work (Dave Cole's ginormous American flag done with earthmovers). There are the populist designers - Norah Gaughn, Teva Durham and Erica Knight - and other designers that you might not necessarily know, but you might know their patterns (the Knitta Please posse). The book is lavishly photographed, the interviews are interesting, and the patterns are inspiational.

Cons: The patterns are quirky, some of the designers probably shouldn't be in there (in terms of influence on knitters or knitting), and it's a book that would be more for the coffee table than the patterns actually being used.

Overall, I do see myself getting this book eventually (this is not my copy, it belongs to my friend, Pat) and I'm torn between giving it 3 or 4 stars out of five. I can't give it a five, because it doesn't seem like a book I could use, but it's really pretty.