Wednesday, June 24, 2015

WIP Wednesday: The Excuses Edition

Hello! I'm back! I've been a bit absent lately, but I promise I have a good excuse. Over the last year, some colleagues and I have been putting together a national postgraduate conference and, after many months of planning, it finally ran last week. Here is me giving the opening address:

This is going to sound stupid but I always forget how really short I am until I see myself in a photo! The conference was a huge success and went really well but I was useless on the weekend. On Saturday I seriously woke up, read a book, had a shower, got into fresh pyjamas, watched a movie and went back to bed. I could not even handle talking to anyone until Sunday. However,  I'm now back to normal (ie avoiding working on my thesis in any way I can while still attempting to meet my deadlines. Not a good plan...).

Given the well-known relaxing properties of knitting, I spent many (stressed!) hours stockinette stitching away during the preparation period. There were many, many different projects, but this is what I've been working on most recently:

In response to this very cold winter, KOGO put out a call for gloves, mitts and hats so I picked up a scarf I had cast on but not done much more. On Sunday, when I was ready for something a bit more challenging I started the matching mitts. Given that timeliness is somewhat of an issue, I should probably have been working on something that's not double-knitted in 5-ply wool but I was not thinking straight. But now I am, and back and ready to blog :)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

FO Friday AKA Let the sock fest begin: Patonyle Colour-block Socks (2015 FO #7)

A few weeks ago, I blogged about a cowl I had made out of leftover 50g balls of Patonlye. I don't know if it came through but I was incredibly pleased with myself. Not only had I used up all the balls that were each too small to make one pair of socks, I had a great, very wearable scarf that is soft and comfortable and warm. Winning! But then, I looked at the leftovers of leftovers (please imagine this stage as I did not take photos because I am a terrible blogger who still does not understand how blogs work) and the balls seemed just a little bit too big to throw away. I pulled out my trusty digital drug dealer scales, and yep...

[picture 10 teeny balls of wool on a digital scale with a display that says "55g"]

..almost enough for a pair of socks. Clearly I couldn't throw away enough wool to make an entire pair of socks! So I grabbed the 7g of Needfood merino sock yarn I had leftover from my Tennis Scarf and started knitting.

Et voila! A pair of socks.

I knitted these toe up, two at a time so I could use up all of the (damn) wool.

I ran into a slight problem when I got to the heel because I couldn't find my copy of Favorite Socks (I use the heel from Priscilla's dream socks)... I just bought another. I know, consumerism, consumption, excess, etc., but still! I'm usually really good about this stuff. I save up my veggie scraps to make stock with, I use an environmental toothbrush (which, btw, I think everyone should use. Not only are they better for the environment than a regular toothbrush, they're cheap and the packaging has pictures of pandas all over it! Pandas are great) - I think on balance, I'm doing okay (I did not realise how guilty I felt about buying a second copy until I started writing this paragraph! The things you learn.)

There were a ton of ends to weave in but it was worth it to get my free, soft, comfy and waste-reducing socks.

As the title of the blog indicates, I've been finishing a lot of socks lately. There are many more sock FO Fridays to come!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Michael Pearson's Traditional Knitting

(This is cross-posted from my other blog, Here I Read. I thought since it was a review of a knitting book, my fellow knitters might find it interesting)

Michael Pearson's Traditional Knitting is an new and expanded edition of a book that was first released in 1984. In this book, Michael Pearson travels through the knitting communities of the British Isles, investigating the knitting traditions of each community. Here is a map of the places he travelled.

Pearson recounts how his method for finding out about the local knitting tradition changed in the researching for this book. Originally, he would arrive at the local tavern, order a pint and then strike up a conversation with a man who was wearing a handknit jumper. He says:

"On spotting a likely candidate, past experience even in those early days had taught me not to blast my way in, tap my chosen target on the shoulder and, by way of introducing myself, explain that I found the pattern on his gansey most intriguing. I also learned never to interrupt that most serious of games—dominoes. Apart from causing the poor fellow to splutter his pint over those dominoes, looking desperately for a way out, this approach somehow reduced the possibility of meeting the knitter, who, of course, was usually his wife. By then, having politely answered my questions (we were, after all, talking about a subject of common interest) it was usually too much for him to continue."

Seriously, what an adorable story! After a few towns, he started phoning ahead to introduce himself to the pub owner, who alerted the gansey-wearing men to Pearson's arrival and created a much more information-sharing friendly environment. And he certainly got a lot of information! Now I know that an entire cottage knitting industry existed, where women and children pumped out incredible amounts of handknitting for sale, and that this knitting industry largely collapsed when knitting machines were invented. I also now know that ganseys were invented because the gansey patterns, which combine knit and purl stitches, used extra wool, hence captured more warmth, which was vitally important for me who were out on a fishing boat all day. These patterns or combinations of stitches were usually family or village specific. Ganseys were knitted in the round on six or eight very long DPNs (which, incidentally, I tried after reading about in this book. I could not do it! I kept stabbing myself with all and could not get into a knitting rhythm.) Sizes were described in terms of how many repeats it would take to go around the torso - so a man might be a "sixteener" or "eighteener" (sixteen or eighteen repeats respectively).

Where possible, Pearson spoke to the knitter or knitter's descendants directly. However, even in the 1980s when this research was conducted, social and cultural changes in these towns meant that the rich local cultures that had previously existed were slowly disintegrating. Houses were being bought by weekenders, who only lived in the towns on the weekends, reducing the vitality of the towns. Additionally, fishing practices had changed, and the hard fishing lifestyle lived by the men and women in these town was often no longer viable. Where there were no knitters remaining, Pearson used archival resources such as local museums and photographs. The photographs of knitters and knitting throughout the book are really fascinating (although only the section on fair isle is in colour).

I like to knit and I like to read but I rarely read books about knitting other than pattern books. Although this book does contain some gansey and fair isle patterns, it is primarily a history rather than a pattern book. Traditional Knitting a fascinating insight into knitting and its history. It was not what I thought it would be when I picked up but I am so pleased to have read it. I know I said I would never knit another jumper but, after finishing this book, I kind of want to knit a gansey... (on a circular needle. I am not completely crazy!)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Baby Gift 1: Teeny tiny booties and a hat (2015 Fos #5 & #6)

Today's post, like the things it features within it, is bite sized. I present here the perfect Tier 2 friend baby gift.

First up, Fleegle's seamless version of Saartje's famous bootie.

So cute!

Paired with a Mandie Harrington swirl hat (88 stitches, 2.75mm needles).

This hat looked alarmingly tiny when I cast off... 

..but fortunately relaxed during blocking to look of appropriately matching size with the booties.

Took about 25g of yarn (Knit One, Crochet Too left over from a Baby Surprise Jacket) and one week relaxed knitting to get done. Paired with a lovely soft Country Road cashmere blend washable baby blanket and a nice card, this is an excellent gift for a new bub on its entry to the world. (I just hope the parents-to-be think so too!)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Friday FO: Colour-block cowl (2015 FO #4)

Today I am sharing one of those projects that is really of interest to noone but the knitter and the recipient. You know, like the plain stockinette socks that will be really appreciated and worn till they have holes all over them but look really really boring in a blog post? (I should know - that's the majority of my output!) Today's finished object is the cowl equivalent of striped stockinette sock - it's a striped sockinette cowl.

I provisionally cast on 80 stitches and then knit in colour blocks of 20cm. Once the scarf was long enough, I flipped it inside-out, wove in the ends, flipped it back the right way and then grafted the two ends together, resulting in a simple tube. (For citation purposes, this project was inspired by the look of Turnstile but all design elements are my own). It used 50g each of the blue and white yarns and about 75 of the beige, thus using up almost all of my Patonyle single ball stash (yippee!).

The only problem I really ran into was grafting the last five stitches. They required a bit of fancy needlework and although blocking fixed most of the problem, it still looks a little bit bit wonky. Fortunately, because of the colour blocking, the wonkiness is almost impossible to notice unless you're looking for it specifically, so I'm not too fussed.

Since I finished it I've worn it almost every day. Although the tube means the scarf is double with, it's knitted with 4ply yarn, so I can leave it open when it's not too cold but also loop it whenever it gets a bit chilly. The colours are neutral enough that they go with most of my wardrobe but still very nice in their own right. I am really really happy with the way this scarf worked out and I know I am going to get a lot of use from it.

Please forgive the lack of modelled shots - it was a windy day and I just couldn't not get my hair to sit right! For your amusement, a collage of my failed attempts:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The 2015 Australasian Quilt Convention

Last weekend I went to the Australasian Quilt Convention. I have huge admiration for quilters, having tried quilting myself in the past and failed dismally (as the two started but never finished quilts sitting in my garage can attest!) and I was super excited about seeing what was produced. I was not disappointed.

It was held at the Royal Exhibition Building which, despite having lived in Melbourne my entire life, I have never visited. I found out that this building is where the first Commonwealth Parliament of Australian was opened and where Australia's current flag was first unveiled. 

It is a gorgeous building. I haven't captured it well here but there were amazing paintings across the ceilings and walls.

The quilts too were absolutely amazing. This is a beginner quilt! 

Colour My World by Gail Scobie

I think it would look fantastic as a knitted blanket...

Some changed my expectations of how quilts should look:

The Definition of Stitch by Sarah Fiekle
Audrey by Andi Herman
There were also more traditional quilts:

Mr Hoffman's Peaches by Robyn Coots

There was a Gallipoli-themed series of quilts as part of the 100-year anniversary of the Gallipoli landing (I don't have the attribution for these - I'm sorry, artist!).

I have only poorly captured a few of the many wonderful quilts that were on display. I was blown away by the quality of work and breadth of creativity on display. It was a really amazing show.

Plus, to make it even better, there was a wool shop there! I was pretty good and only bought one skien of sock yarn but I was very, very tempted.

Look at my wool-buying concentration face...
It was an excellent very enjoyable event.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

WIP Wednesday: A Tale of Two Hats

Babies always seem to come in waves. There's never just one person who's pregnant - it's always three or four due within a month of each other. As a knitter who likes to welcome new babies with something special made just for them, this can be very inconvenient (shout out to the friend who told me at brunch today she was trying to get pregnant so I would have lots of time to get her blanket ready. That's a friend who knows what a knitter wants!).

So, Baby 1 is due in about two weeks. It's for a Tier 2 friend (I like them a lot but we are not very close), so that means a hat and booties. First up is another Swirl Hat made in some leftover sock yarn:

It looks a bit narrow! Hopefully it'll stretch enough to fit a newborn.

Unfortunately, despite the very close deadline for the baby stuff, I was able to get my hands on an ARC of Knit Nordic and I could not hold off from casting on for a new grown-up hat.

The 12 centimetres of 1x1 ribbing was brutal but it was worth it when I got to the colourwork.

I'd forgotten how much fun stranded knitting is! I clearly haven't done it for a while, though - my tension is all over the place. Hopefully blocking will fix it.

The knitting of this hat has not only been marred by baby-knitting-related guilt. Yesterday when was heading out to go to the doctor I reached over to grab my project bag and saw this:

A spider having a nap on the handle! Needless to say I ran out of the room without my knitting and locked the door behind me. When I got home two hours later, the spider was gone.

I hope...