Week 3: Busy Bee

Did you know that last Monday was called Blue Monday? Supposedly, the combination of poor January weather, Christmas being a dim and distant memory, credit-card bills arriving showing our pre-Christmas indulgences and dwindling motivation to stick with New Year’s Resolutions all combined to make for the most depressing Monday of the year. Of course it’s all tosh, but last Monday was particularly sweetened for me by reading this tweet from @Puddleduckjam:

blue monday. not here today i have created one whole job. my new employee is officially on the books. happy mondays

Isn’t that fantastic? PuddleDuck Produce, owned by Clare Hamill, is an artisan food maker, making and selling home-made jams, chutnies and much more. She was my down-stream pal in the @Knitmas Swap before Christmas. She has recently opened up her own unit in Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan. So with this news of taking on staff, she seems to be going from strength to strength. I’m delighted for her. I think you’ll agree, this comes under the heading…

Gems from the Web

My resolution this year is not only to blog more regularly (see! three weeks in a row – so far, so good) but also to read more blogs, and more regularly. Under this heading I’ll note anything on d’Internet that tickled my fancy during the week. Such as Limmster’s F*cket List. I love this idea – “Similar to a Bucket List but with an air of ‘Oh f*cket, I’ll just do it’. No humming. No hawing.” All too often we find reasons NOT to just give something a try. It seems like a great way to live your life: stop talking yourself out of things and actually getting stuff done. I especially like her plan to go somewhere every Sunday. I’ll be copying her on that one.

WIPdown

Tomorrow, 23rd January, is Chinese New Year. It’s not looking good for achieving WIPdown by then, I’m afraid.

Heartfelt thanks to all of you who commiserated with me on the Hideous Dress of Wrong in my last post. Of particular note is KnitInc encouragement to let the yarn go. Considering WIPdown is her invention, she gets to set the rules of WIPdown and is quite vehement that ripping a WIP rather than making it a FO is nothing other than “Wimp-down”. So it says a lot that I have her absolution to rip The Hideous Dress of Wrong – if it comes to it…

There is a slim chance for its redemption, that I’ve yet to try. If that doesn’t work out then I’ll put it away until I can face ripping it and restoring all the yarn again.

In the meantime, my Petals Wrap Cardigan has hit (yet another) snag. I started one of the sleeves and it’s just too tight. To remedy this I should either add an extra pattern repeat to the sleeve circumference or I work the sleeves in a larger hook size. I’ve put it down for a little bit because I’m completely obsessed with my project for…

Lacealong2012 and 12in12

Oh my! I’m just soooo in love with my Laminaria. I finished the transition chart at knit-night on Thursday and have started the blossoms. Aren’t they so pretty? It’s just intoxicating watching them emerge.

Laminaria Blossoms

I had a few hiccups along the way but nothing too upsetting thanks to life-lines and being able to read my knitting and tink back. I made a mistake at lunchtime last Thursday and felt really “hardcore” when I was able to sort it out while chatting at knit-night that evening. Lace is so addictive. It’s all I want to do. I hardly want to put it down to eat. I even skipped a run the other day – that’s saying something considering how addictive I find…

Nike+ GPS

I learned about Nike+ GPS from one of my knitting buddies, @OrlaMcGann. I started using the iPhone app last September and it has completely changed my motivation levels. You can just use it to record your runs and it will not only show you a map of the route you took, but also track your pace over that route. For an information junkie like me, that’s really fun in the first place.

But then, you set goals for yourself to run further or faster or harder or more often. When you achieve your goal it gives you a medal. I know it’s not a physical medal but it’s still shiny and makes me feel proud of myself. Better again, you can sign up for challenges. This is where you pitch yourself against other runners using the site to run more kilometers or at a faster pace – depending on the nature of the challenge. When you win one of these, you get a trophy. Ooooooh! 😀

It also has a coaching programme. I signed up for the 5k programme and have improved my pace by 14% since last September. Since running 10k in under an hour – unexpectedly – in the Women’s Mini-Marathon last June I have had this as my target ever since. I’m delighted that I’ve made such great progress over the Winter.

In fact, I can’t believe I kept running through the Winter at all. Granted the weather was in our favour this year, with hardly any snow or frost. But mostly I kept going out in all weathers because of the goals and challenges I set up in Nike Plus.

It’s all to do with the games we play to motivate ourselves and overcome inertia. For example, a woman I met through #Twilting realised she loved her cigarettes as much as she hated doing her laundry, but she wanted to motivate herself to stop smoking. So she used the money she saved by not smoking during the week to pay for her ironing to be done. Getting her freshly ironed laundry back was her weekly reward for staying off the smokes.

Which brings me to talk about…

Twilting

The term “Twilting” was first coined by @MaryLD for the first quilting workshop she gave, which had been organised through Twitter. Yesterday was one of the days on my Twilting course. We’re learning the stages and techniques behind making a quilt and yesterday was all about making up the sandwich – pieced top, wadding or batting, and the back – and then quilting it (the decorative stitching that holds the three layers together) and finishing it off with a binding. I’m really enjoying the course and am getting a lot more out of it than the brief mention here can do justice to. I’ll have to dedicate another post to #Twilting, I think.
Laura Hogan Lace

StashDown

This week my cake of laceweight weighs 91g. Which means I have knit 200m of Ivy Brambles Romantica Merino Lace. So I’m ticking along nicely, though I have been knitting for more than 5 days so obviously I’m not keeping up with my 40m/day target.

Ummm… did I come clean about an aquisition I made since the beginning of the year? It’s LHogan BFL Lace, which I picked up in This Is Knit when I was meeting up with Viola and others in early January. It’s 795.5 m of pure beauty and I’ve already queued Winter thaw by Beata Jezek of Hedgehog fibres to be done in it as part of Lacealong2012 and 12in12. I think I had uploaded this to my Ravelry Stash when I blogged about my totals so, technically, I have not added to stash.

March Round-up 2011

Yet again the last day of the month falls on a blog-post day. Uncanny how that keeps happening.

The opportunity that this serendipity affords cannot be avoided: it’s time for… The Reckoning…

FOs

For the first time this year I have something to report in the FOs section – two things in fact!

  • One of them I can’t show you – I’m such a tease – but I know you’ll still be delighted. I finished the Cardigan / Jacket that I had long-promised for my DD. More than that, I wrote the actual pattern AND sent it off to Knitty. I know, I’m gob-smacked too! This is the reason why you can’t get even so much as a peeksies. I will, of course, let you know whether I get the thumbs-up from the powers / Gods at Knittydotcom.

  • The other FO was the super-fast and satisfying Whimsie golf-club cover in fantabulous Malabrigo. I just love how the striping emerged in the finished item. This was a great knit and very well received by my golfing-mad Mum. It only took a few days and is very portable. I may make more for her.

WIPs

GlenvArgh! is still untouched and is likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile Petals Wrap has been languishing while I was focussed on the pattern-writing. I managed to resolve the mistake I has made without ripping. A neat trick I un-vented that is worthy of a guided-tour blog-post in the future.

I haven’t started the Peaseblossom Tunic by Kirstin Omdahl in Fyberspates Lace yet. I’m was planning on bringing it with me as my in-flight crafting entertainment when I fly to Berlin tomorrow. Though @CathyQTpi made a very good point in my last post so I’ve decided to stick with Petals and resist the shiny-shiny. After all, Petals *is* crochet too so is also acceptable when flying.

However…

Since Petals is not good “chatting-crafting” I’m also casting-on a swatch at knit-night this evening so that I have a go-to project when my attention will be divided. I *may* be setting myself up to further distract myself from my knitting-plan. //insert nonchalant whistling here//

Yarn In

Only a month later than intended, I finally finished my February skein for our skein-a-month spin-along. I’ve only measured the length (purely for the purposes of this post) so it hasn’t been washed, thwacked or measured for WPI yet. It certainly hasn’t been photographed in all it’s daylight glory. So you’ll have to be patient for a future blog-post to see the finished skein.

I didn’t enjoy the yarn as I was spinning it – though I enjoyed spinning the yarn… if you follow me. Let me explain: I enjoyed the process of spinning but I was disappointed with the product. The corriadale seemed rough and hairy.

I was pleasantly surprised by how squishy it all turned out after I plied it. There are several mistakes, breaks and knotted joins throughout this skein. It will be “fun” again when I knit it up. It’s like I’m giving a present to my future self!

One bobbin finished sooner than the other as I was spinning so I toyed with the idea of learning to Navajo-ply it. And I will… but for now I’m adopting BionicLaura’s approach of storing the remaining single on a toilet-roll insert. She is my spinning guru, afterall so who am I to venture off into the unknown.

My March skein… was a non-starter. Too much going on this month. Or, more precisely – one thing going on much more slowly and pain-stakingly than anticipated. Next month I plan to tackle it *and* my April skein which I think will be this deliciousness:

It’s a skein of Falkland, hand-dyed by Laura Hogan that was hand-picked for me by KneeHigh in This Is Knit. I had a little splurge for my big-number birthday – which I cunningly avoided mentioning in my February round-up.

The colourway is called “Joan” and I didn’t see it before it arrived – I trusted KneeHigh’s judgement entirely. And wasn’t I so right to do so? Great colourway that i might not have even noticed in the shop if I’d been left to my own devices.

It was such a treat to unwrap a surprise parcel I’d managed to buy myself!

Another bit of USA arrived unexpectedly from FourBoys, aka @Doogarry. Three skeins of T’ika by Mirasol in a beautiful Spring-y green. She sent it to me as a present for my (big number) birthday so I’m calling it “Spring Chicken” coz I ain’t!

Spring Chicken

The sentiment she wrote in the card was so lovely I keep it on my desk to cheer me up. It’s so nice when people let you know that they think fondly of you; and so important to remind yourself that there are people who do.

Finally Tally

So the up-shot of this month’s activity is…

  • FOs = 2 (whoot! whoot!)
  • WIPs = 2 (and holding…)
  • Frogged = 0
  • Skein-a-month = 1 (February = Northern Lights) 
  • Yarn in = 279(T’ika)+185(Northern Lights) = 464
  • Yarn out = 685(Knitty-unmentionable)+ 129(Malabrigo Golf club cover) = 879
  • Yarn balance c/f = -415m i.e. I used up more than I gained!
  • Darned Socks = 0


February Round-up

I have very little to report for this month. In fact, checking back on my post for my January Round-up, the situation has hardly changed at all!

  • FOs = 0
  • WIPs = 2

GlenvArgh! is languishing while I focus on pattern-writing and knitting my design.
While I don’t have an FO to show for it, pattern-writing has been a fascinating & thoroughly rewarding process. Having read a few timely tweets from other designers, I was prompted to work out the Maths first. I did this as far as I could visualise but then *had* to pick up the needles to test it out. It was just as well I did because I had made some classic, newbie mistakes.

It took at least 3 attempts at the sleeve & shoulder shaping before I got it “right”. I also suffered two needle fatalities: one Denise cable and on of my Knit-pro cables.

  • Frogged = 1… several times!

Meanwhile, I did get a pair of socks into circulation, by darning a hole on one toe. These are my favourite socks, ever! They’re Embossed Leaves from Favorite Socks by InterWeave Press.

There was stash enhancement but it was of the controlled, long-awaited variety; and therefore completely acceptable. It was the first instalment of Janel Laidman’s “Illuminations” sock-club: two skeins of Staccato Sock by ShibuiKnits.

I also didn’t complete my February skein for the SkAM-SpAL. I was reviving a spindle of Louet Northern Top that I had started last Summer. Though I enjoyed the spindling – and became quite good at it after practicing so frequently – it really is much slower.

  • Yarn in = 175(103-Green)+175(105-Blue) = 350m
  • Yarn out = still indeterminate, but probably more than yarn in!… //for once!//
  • Meet ups = one, #twillting aka the Quilting workshop given by @MaryLD at the beginning of February.
  • I had to bow-out of the February Spin-in because I was enjoying a weekend away in Inchydoney Hotel and Spa. It was a treat for my fortieth birthday.

    – Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

    An FO-making extravaganza

    So, regular readers here will have seen my mentions of WIPdown. Today is the day for the big reveal of all the FOs it got me to make:

    In chronological order of finishing during WIPdown – which started on St Stephen’s Day and ran on until The Epiphany:

    Pilates Socks:

    Started these tabi-toe style socks on the plane over to Rhinebeck.  My plan was to have a quick knit that would be done by the end of the month for the Sock-a-Month KAL and I made excellent progress over the Rhinebeck weekend. They’re based on Lickety-Split from Knitty and I worked them according to the that pattern from the toe to the heel.  I thought I’d make a cabled pattern for the legs – just to jazz things up a bit. To my horror, when I was cabling with out a needle – Annie Moddsitt style – the yarn snapped in the row below the one I was working on. They were shelved for a while until I figured out what to do with them. I had picked them up again and was torturing myself with a tedious 1 x 1 rib on the legs when the WIPdown call went out. Being egged-on by other Tweeps is all that made me perservere. 

    Tunisian Hand-warmers:

    These were started after my class with Irene Lundgaard to learn Tunisian Crochet in-the-round. I had finished them and then ripped back the last few rounds of one of them ages ago – I had forgotten to do some decreases on one before casting off. They languished for most of last year and only saw the light of day again, thanks to WIPdown.

    Hamma Hamma Hat:

    This is an experimental try to see if I could convert the Urchin pattern by Ysolda Tegue into Tunisian Crochet. While googling Tunisian words for Urchin (for a word-play name for the hat), I found the story of Hamma Hamma –  a fourteen year-old Tunisian street-child (an urchin) who rocketed to celebrity stardom after appearing in a Ramadan television series. Hamma plays the role of a homeless child in the series entitled “Casting”. source: http://news.meedan.net/index.php?page=events&post_id=305405

    I also started this hat/experiment on the plane to Rhinebeck and ran out of yarn with one section to go. While I was re-organising my stash before Christmas I found to part-balls that I reckoned could work to finish the hat. The power of WIPdown got me back on track and while the additional yarns work very well the overall hat turned out too small. I don’t know if I can consider this WIP truly whupped but as experiments go I learned something even if the result was not a success.

    Chemo Cap#1:

    The story behind this hat is rather sad – it’s for a toddler that was diagnosed with cancer last year. I didn’t enjoy making it, mainly because of the yarn. I didn’t much like the structure of the hat either: you make two rectangles; one in entrelac tunisian crochet and the other in back-loop doubles (single crochet to American readers!) then sew them both together; seam the sides and gather up the top. Actually it worked out very well and I’m delighted that WIPdown came along and made me give this WIP life. Now to send it off in the post and hope the little toddler has had a nice (healthy) Christmas.

    I wasn’t the only person taking part in WIPdown. If you’re on Ravelry and would like to see all the others take a look at  this search for WIPdown2010 or search under #wipdown on Twitter.

    A consequence of WIPdown

    I mentioned #WIPdown in my last post – an “initiative” started on Twitter by @SineadR (a.k.a. Sinead on Ravelry), whereby we finish off all current WIPs so as to start the New Year afresh. A few tweets later and the deadline was extended to January 6th: include the 12 days of Christmas.

    I believe I may have mentioned it in the context of a bandwagon. Knitters seem to be particularly susceptible to band-wagons. Whether it be knitting patterns such as the Clapotis or Jaywalker or Monkeys; or getting their mitts on a skein of Brooklyn Tweed’s “Shelter” or Manos Lace – whatever everyone else is into, we want in too! 

    So the #WIPdown started as a simple enough thing, for me – bit of lip-service to the concept if I’m being perfectly honest: a round or two on a wrist-warmer here… a segment on a side-ways hat there… (frog a few others while no-one was looking…!) I was engaging with the spirit of the occasion without getting carried away.

    Until…

    Until the WIPs themselves started climbing out of the wood-work; calling to me, asking to reach their ultimate destiny as FO.

    First off was a Chemo Cap #1, that I’d long abandoned because the yarn (Wendy Happy) was getting on my wick! I literally had a dream about it and the intended recipients – even the most cold-hearted amongst us couldn’t resist pulling it out of hibernation. But more about that in a future post.

    More surprising still was to hear from a complete blast from the past – GlenvArgh! That long-forgotten UFO – my second attempt (of three!) at a cardigan for DH – was suddenly speaking to me and asking for another chance. Still basking in the delight and glory of successfully finishing the third attempt, I actually listened!!! Even the knitting buddies I met at the Central Hotel – regular readers here, like BionicLaura and Sinead – couldn’t believe their eyes. For fans of Sex in the City (the series), it was like when Carrie has the affair with Big after he gets married: all her friends are worried for her that it’s all going to go horribly wrong and end with her in tears.

    I tried it on at the Central Hotel and some tried to convince me that I should just cast-off right then – that it would make a great bolero top with short-sleeve. I’m thinking it needs to be longer – like, mid-thigh or so. Since it started life as a cardigan, I’m continuing to knit it over and back; but ultimately, my plan is to sew it up the middle – and make a second sleeve (natch!).

    It's the Second Coming!!!

    So folks, save me from myself if you think I need it… but right now I think that me and GlenvArgh! are making beautiful music together – or at least, a short-sleeved tunic-top for me!

    It is accomplished

    Where Oh Where have I been?

    “It is accomplished” – a Death

    On the 24th June last I got some devastating news. A dear friend of mine died suddenly while he was on his holidays in Lanzerote. I’ve been wondering about how to blog about this for ages. I wanted to be able to give you all a feeling of what this man was like and how much he meant to me. But words fail me. I don’t have the eloquence to convey his brilliance. 

    He was a shining light snuffed out too soon and I’m still foundering in the dark. 

    Once I realised that I’m never going to be able to give an adequate impression of him or what his loss has meant for me I realised I just have to blog-on regardless. 

    Why Oh Why am I back?

    “It is accomplished” – an FO!

    It would have to be a biggie that would get me back to my blog again after such a hiatus, wouldn’t it? Yoouuu betcha! 

    One happy customer!

    “It is accomplished” – an Achievement!

    The completion of this cardigan signifies the huge journey that I have made in my knitting knowledge and ability. A journey that started over three years ago. 

    When I knit this cardigan the first time I spent two months knitting; slavishly following the Glenvar pattern as written. The pattern itself posed no challenge: knitting on-the-flat using cables, increases and decreases was very familiar to me. So I spiced things up by learning a few new techniques: 

    • As I came close towards the end of all the knitting I learned about spit-splicing from Lisa in TIK – very effective in the 100% wool Kilcarra I was using.
    • When I had all the pieces ready for sewing, I discovered, through the power of d’Interneh (Knitty’s coffeeshop mainly) a concept I had never come across before: blocking. I did this fastidiously, measuring out all the pieces according to the schematic and waited days for them to dry.
    • When it came to sewing-up all the pieces, I researched widely, bought “Knitting for Dummies” and became adept at invisible seams. I was very impressed with all my attention to detail: you couldn’t tell where the seams were and the sleeve caps melded beautifully in to the armholes.
    • Then when it came to the zip I bought “Domiknitrix – whip your knitting into shape” by Jennifer Stafford and followed her instructions to the letter. Steam it? Check. Pin it? Check. Fit it on again as a double-check? Ah… disaster.

    The Behemoth of Epic Proportions

    I learned the harsh reality that many a knitter learns only the hard-way: pieces knit to the correct dimensions does not guarantee a well-fitting garment. Later I learned why it is that so many patterns are written in pieces rather than maximizing the benefit of construction through knitting: editors of ladies magazines, where patterns were published, had more understanding of sewing-based construction for garments. Hence all the pieces were knit into the fabric shapes rather than the knit stitches being manipulated to mould the fabric.

    Enter: Elizabeth Zimmermann and Barbara G Walker into my life and my knitting. Enter: radical new ideas such as knitting-from-the-top, calculating gauge, charting my own design, customizing my knit to fit. Oh! and with a few short-rows thrown-in – always with the short-rows! 

    The subtle benefit of Short-rows

    This project has tested me at every turn. I have documented before how much more it and my knitting conspired to teach me – whether I wanted to learn or not. Even at the very end, when all the knitting was done and all that was left was the zip, I was very nearly thwarted: the original zips went AWOL and a special trip into Dublin City Centre was made to buy a long-enough zip.

    And I’m still learning. Even now, as DH is giving the cardigan its first outing in public tomorrow, I’m still thinking I might re-do the cast-off on the cuffs because I’ve just learned Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Cast-off  (JSSBO) from my latest Cat Bordhi book. However, Bootie (the Ever-wise) pointed out the more likely explanation is that – after three years – I’m not yet ready “to break-up with the cardigan”. 

    But, let’s face it: The Behemoth has been vanquished. Debbie Bliss’s Glenvar pattern has been conquered. And what’s more: 

    I did it MYYYYYYY Waaaaaaay!

    Sado-Maso-kNit-stick

    Would ya take a look at this…?

    Yup, I’m at it again! Only this time, I’ve got the colour purple juuuuust right. In fact, it was finding the correct colour purple, at the Knitting & Stitching show at the RDS, that started my down this road – yet again. They say, third time’s a charm. They also say that the definition of madness is to do the same thing repeatedly – in the same way – while expecting a different outcome.

    Quick re-cap, shall we?

    First there was the original pattern – Glenvar by Debbie Bliss which looks like this.

    Glenvar by Debbie Bliss

    Then we had what it became in my hands:

    The Behemoth of Epic Proportions

    Then we had the drive to Rip One / Knit One – and GlenvAaaargh!!! came into being.

    Rip One

    Knit One

    Unfortunately this – by a quirk of gauge (a.k.a. a learning experience) – turned out to be of Petite proportions. You can see from the picture, as it lies alongside the left front of The Behemoth. I thought I had learned everything there was to learn with GlenvAaargh!!!.

    But no!

    Did you know that the gauge of knitted items, which have been sitting around and relaxing for a while, is markedly different from what you’ll produce with the same yarn and same needles after it’s been frogged? I do – now!

    I was willing to overlook the fact that GlenvAaaargh!!! only fit DH – at a stretch. I even worked in an extra two inches along the button band. I did this very cleverly too: vertically, row-by-row, in pattern. Elizabeth would have been proud. She might even have apreciated my wish to overlook the small question of completely forgetting to create a neckline! At all costs, even to dignity itself, I was not willing to admit defeat.

    That is, until I encountered the right colour purple. Very quickly – in the time it takes to whip out your wallet and buy 30 more balls of yarn – I decided to give it another go. I also decided that GlenvAaaargh!!! will be mine; afterall, it fits me! I decided that a different neckline – something more crew-neck – will be fine.  Most of all, I decided GlenvAaargh!!! will not be frogged – that much is certain.

    And in the meantime, my new top-down version of Glenvar, using just the right colour purple, is progressing very nicely. As before, I’m using instrutions from the class I took at TIK on Knitting a Set-In Sleeve garment from the top-down. However, the hard lessons I learned while knitting GlenvAaargh have paid off:

    • I didn’t lose track of my short rows;
    • I didn’t forget the neckline;
    • I didn’t rush to complete the underarm increases
    • I worked out the pattern repeats so no fancy cabling is needed underarm.

    I can’t believe how fast this is knitting up… er… down. The best thing about this method is that all the fun and interesting stuff happens at the beginning: first the short-row shapings for the sholders (try saying that quickly!); then increasing for the neck soon afterwards; and then – since I’m trying the version with the Simultaneous Set-in Sleeves – the increases for the sleeves start soon after that. None of these “events” take too long and there’s nice intervals of following the pattern straight for a while. I’m nearly at the point where I separate the sleeves from the body. At that point, all the hard work of figuring things out is over and it should be a straight-forward, enjoyable knit – all the way to the end.

    Here I go again

    So, am I’m a sucker for punishment or am I tenacious? If it fits DH, then all of the trials and tribulations – and all of my perseverence – has been worth it.

    If it doesn’t… let’s just not go there!