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Monday, September 26, 2005


This is how far I got with the Starburst Shawl before I frogged it because I wasn't happy with my tension. I purposefully made the yarnovers looser than I would normally because I thought that this would give the diamond shapes more definition. I overdid it at first though and, as a result, there was a bit right at the bottom that was too loose and looked a bit uneven.

At least now I know just how loose I want the yarnovers to achieve the effect I want. The Harvest silk is special so I'd like to get it as near to perfect as I possibly can. I'll have another go at it this evening.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run . . . . .

(Extract from 'To Autumn' - John Keats)

This is me coming over all poetic because, for some reason, the onset of autumn always makes me feel a little bit sad in a nostalgic, poignant sort of way coupled with a sense of awe at the beauty of the autumn foliage when it appears. It's only in nature that we see such an array of sheer and subtle variation in colour: browns going into golds, ochres, coppers, cinnamons; reds merging into burnt oranges and clarety purples; greens with slight hints of the blue about them and so it goes on. When my Hip Knits "harvest" (a close up of which is pictured above) came through the post yesterday, the first thing I thought on opening the parcel was that Kerrie had excelled herself with her dyeing expertise and had managed to instil some of the essence of autumn into this particular batch of silk yarn!

As if this wasn't enough to titillate my senses, also included in the parcel was this!

It's Sari Silk, of course, and it arrived as an extra little something because of a slight delay in delivery which wasn't even Kerrie's fault but was down to the Post Office! How's that for quality service. I was really happy to receive this little bundle because I've often admired the Sari Silk that I've seen in photos but never had the chance to see it "in the flesh" or fondle it until now!

On top of all that, another parcel arrived! It was this - Modular Knits: New Techniques for Today's Knitters by Iris Schreir. This book is amazing or, rather the new techniques described within its pages are amazing and, I have to tell you, totally addictive. Basically, this book teaches you to knit what looks exactly like entrelac or domino knitting without any cutting and joining of yarn or picking up of stitches! There are instructions for lots of different basic shapes and patterns incorporating them. What's really great about it is that you can be knitting away and thinking that what you're knitting doesn't look that impressive and then, all of a sudden, you see these really neat geometrical shapes emerging that look just like you spent hours knitting entrelac! I could hardly put my knitting down to blog this because I'm just so fascinated by the sheer mathematics of it but I didn't want to keep it all to myself.

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that the Harvest Hip Knits Silk is no longer destined to transmogrify into the autumnal clapotis (love that word "transmogrify") because the formula has now become:

Modular Knits book + Harvest Hip Knits Silk = Starburst Shawl

On the left is a photo of the Starburst Shawl taken from the Modular Knits book. It incorporates triangles and diamond shapes framed with an openwork pattern created by yarn overs that are dropped on the following row.

I've made a start on it, shown below. On the needles, it's difficult to appreciate the bit of pattern just knitted because each piece is knitted at an angle by doing short rows. I have, therefore, taken it off the needles to photograph it. Why? Because I feel a bit reckless and devil-may-care today!

I also managed to harvest something in the way of a finished object! It's Ginger from Rowan's Summer Tweed Collection. It's a very simple knit but the beauty of it, to my mind, is the simplicity so that the attention is not distracted from the yarn itself which, personally, I like. There are no edgings or bands knitted on this top at all which means that the edges themselves have to be very neat. This was done by picking up the loop lying between the penultimate and last stitch on each row and slipping the last stitch and then knitting them together on the following row.

The photo on the right shows the front of Ginger and the one on the left shows the back. As you can probably imagine, I won't be wearing it for some time!

Monday, September 19, 2005

All Dressed and Ready to Go

Happy Dance!!! Birch has now been dressed (blocked) and I'm quite pleased with the result.

The photo makes it look a bit like the shawl is draped behind the horizontal bars of the towel rail but this is an illusion created by the sheerness of the Kid Silk Haze and it is actually in front.

This is the first time I've done a full immersion blocking. I was a little bit nervous about doing it at first but it was fine. I didn't have any Lavender Eucalan so I used a few drops of gentle hair conditioner in tepid water. According to Sharon Miller, a minute amount of either ph balanced baby shampoo or hair conditioner are both fine to use for the fashion knitwear but not for the heirloom items when a gentle wool wash like Eucalan is called for. After soaking it for a while, I then rinsed it in the same temperature water and wrapped it in a large towel to gently blot up a lot of the moisture.

I used my dressing wires from Heirloom Knitting for the first time. I found them a bit awkward because the sides of the shawl are of such a length that none of the wires alone were long enough and I needed to thread various combinations of longer and shorter wires through to cover the distances involved. The fact that the wires weren't one continuous length made it a bit difficult to manipulate although the rigidity of them was fantastic for making sure that I ended up with a perfect isosceles triangle! I think, next time, however, I might use fishing line like Kate did with Hyacinth or smooth yarn as per the Yarn Harlot's method. I bought a cheap king sized duvet which I'll keep especially for blocking purposes. The photo below shows Birch in the process of being blocked.

After about four hours, it was dry and I was able to take the pins out and remove the wires. I was really pleased that Birch ended up the exact measurements post blocking as stated in the pattern. It made me feel somewhat better about frogging it and restarting it on the smaller needles!

Now I'm concentrating on trying to finish some of those WIPs lest they become UFOs. I'm also awaiting with eager anticipation the Harvest Hip Knits Silk so that I can begin the autumnal clapotis.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Hot Off The Needles - Birch

Here is Birch - hot off the needles and, boy, am I glad! I got very bored towards the end. The pattern was no longer a challenge and I'm fed up with the sight of Dewberry Kid Silk Haze after making River in the same colour. She looks a little shabby pre-blocking but I'm hoping that, when she's blocked (or dressed, as Sharon Miller would say), she'll scrub up well! Tomorrow will tell . . . . .

I must now finish some of my WIPs or, at least, make some headway on them before I start a clapotis which I'll be knitting in the Harvest Hip Knits silk. The Harvest colourway is purposefully a departure from my normal colour choices which always seem to be from the pink, red, purple spectrum and, as it has lots of autumnal tones in it, should also be very seasonal!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Birch and "Crack Silk Haze"

I restarted Birch on Sunday on 4.5mm needles after having frogged the four or five repeats I'd knitted on the recommended size needles (5mm) as the gauge wasn't working out right. I'm getting on really well with it and have now done ten repeats and, as a result, decreased 100 stitches leaving me with a grand total of 199!

Now that I've got used to the stitch pattern, I don't need to use the stitch markers because I can tell what I need to do next just by looking at it so know if I've done something wrong almost immediately. I think the stitch pattern also looks nicer done on the 4.5mm needles. Here's a close up which looks a completely different colour to the photo above probably due to the flash on the camera!

Frogging it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. Everyone who's tried to unravel Kid Silk Haze must know that it can be a bit of a beastie! However, that doesn't stop some of our friends across the pond referring to it as "Crack Silk Haze" because, apparently, they can't get enough of it! Who was it that first coined that phrase? I've a feeling it was the Yarn Harlot but I may be wrong. If anyone knows, could you please let me know because I want to add the term to the Knitspeak blog.

Anyway, back to the frogging. Some people swear by putting Kid Silk Haze in the freezer for a while before frogging takes place. Apparently, the cold closes the cuticle on the hairs so the fibres don't stick together. However, Sharon Miller, who designed Birch and gives support on the Yahoo Heirloom Knitting Group says she has never had to resort to the freezer yet but has undone heaps of KId Silk Haze using the guidelines below.

Undo one at a time any cast off sts or 'pass slipped st overs". Do not rely on a tug to undo these sts in mohair as, if anything, this tends to knot the yarn.

Use the point of a smaller knitting needle to tease decrease sts undone.

Sit in a good light where you can see what's happening. At any resistance, stop unravelling and needle loose the fibres that are trying to knot.

I followed this method and the only bit that was really troublesome was the cast on row. In the end I discarded the yarn used for this row because I figured the small amount of yarn involved proportionately wasn't worth the time and effort I'd need to spend in trying to undo it.

Another thing I picked up from reading people's blogs is that the yardage can vary quite a bit with Kid Silk Haze to the extent that some people have found that three balls wasn't enough for Birch. It's advisable therefore to definitely get an extra ball of the same dye lot just in case you are one of the unlucky ones. The extra ball can always be returned if it's not needed.

Monday, September 12, 2005

"Give me a toke on that spliff", said Mummy

I like those "Loose Knits" humorous greetings cards and postcards that are based on old knitting patterns from Cath Tate. Have you seen them? Here's one of the greetings cards below.

And here's another.

I bought half a dozen of them yesterday from one of my favourite shops, The Wharf, but they're also available online from Cath Tate Cards NAYY

What do you think of this as an idea? I might get a few of the postcards and mount and frame them as a group for my work room. Not that I've actually got a work room ..... yet!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Two Little Skeins

Two little skeins ..... well, it's a start! This is what DH and I produced today at Hilltop in Lyminge where the art of spinning, weaving and dyeing is taught by Sue Chitty and husband, Bill. Mine's the one at the front and DH's is the bluer one at the rear.

It was a great day but let me start at the beginning. When we got there, after being offered a cuppa, we initially looked at Sue's two spinning wheels and she explained some of the differences and the potential benefits of having a wheel that is portable, etc. We were also shown the loom and were given a description of how to set it up and the process of weaving. Some of the materials that had been woven on it were set out for us to see and we were fascinated by the diversity that was possible.

We then discussed various fleeces and Sue showed us the difference between Badger Face (named so because this sheep literally has a face like a badger) and Wensleydale. The Wensleydale was very different, being long and curly and had to be combed as opposed to merely carded. Sue demonstrated the combing and explained that the dross, grit and any thorns had to be removed. We also had a look at some fleeces in their just shorn state (i.e. not washed or sorted) and some of the different types of tops to spin with. We felt the difference between the various tops (the merino was by far the softest) and we took some Corriedale tops in deep blue and white and some white merino tops to use for spinning. First, though, we had to use some of these.

They're called carders and we used them to blend the deep blue and white tops together to make a paler blue which provided us with some good practice in using the carders! The tops had to be carded in portions called staples which are no longer than a finger length and then formed into rolags (rolls). Spinning then commenced and the first thing was to get used to the treadle so that the wheel spun at just the right speed. We had to concentrate on regulating it with our own heartbeats so that we got into a rhythm which, personally, I found very relaxing.

Sue then commenced to demonstrate the art of spinning and, believe me, it is an art! We had one-to-one tuition from both Sue and Bill. We learnt to pinch the yarn to control where the twisting stopped and, with the other hand, pull out the fibres bit by bit. We learnt a kind of mantra like thing to get into the rhythm of it - something like pinch, pull out, let go, move on; pinch, pull out, let go, move on; pinch, pull out, let go, move on .....

We had to concentrate on not letting the twist go beyond the point where we were pinching or the fibres would then be very difficult to pull out. After spinning our blue/white blend, I then went on to spin some white merino on its own (DH was still spinning the blue/white) and we then plied. DH made two plies of the blend whilst I plied the blend and the white together which, considering also the differences in our blending, explains why DH's is bluer! We used the niddy noddy to wind the fruits of our labours into hanks following which they were washed. We laid them on the dashboard for the drive back and by the time we got home they were dry.

We also brought a bag of goodies home being a couple of books on spinning (one written by Sue), a copy of The Wheel magazine and a catalogue of spinning wheels, looms, etc.

DH seems to have enjoyed it just as much I did. Mmm ..... I can see a spinning wheel coming to stay with us soon .....

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I Should Have Swatched!

I haven't been able to do much knitting since I last posted but I did start Birch in Kid Silk Haze from Rowan 34 shown below.

As you can probably see, initially a LOT of loops are on the needles because the total cast on is 299 stitches! This is followed by gradual decreases until only three stitches are left for casting off. Umm, won't have to worry about the cast off being too tight then!

I apologise for the fact that it's done in exactly the same colourway as the River I knitted (Dewberry) but that's because I mistakenly asked DH to buy three balls of KSH for River (instead of two) and, as I planned to knit Birch as well, I thought it easier just to buy another two balls and do both in the same colourway rather than return the extra ball. Either River or Birch is destined to become a gift anyway but I must admit I'm now getting a bit bored with knitting the same colour. Here's a close up showing the stitch pattern.

The bad news (at least for me) is that I'm going to have to frog the whole thing and start again. You see, I should have swatched! The pattern states that there should be 20 sts and 32 rows to 10cms but I have only 16 sts and 23.5 rows to 10cms. As blocking increases the size, I think I'm in danger of ending up with a garment that will fit my 6 feet 7 inches tall DH rather than me (except I'm sure he probably wouldn't wear it!) The positive side to this sort of thing, as I often remind myself, is that I will learn from it ... hopefully. Any lace knitting gurus reading this blog are welcome to offer advice in the comments section on whether I should next try 4.5mm or 4mm needles! :-)

When knitting Birch initially I kept losing concentration and had to count back from the beginning of the row to ascertain what I should be doing next in the pattern sequence. None of the stitch markers I had were suitable as they were all too big and bulky, even the smallest ones. Then I managed to get some of these tiny elastic bands used for hair braiding from Claire's Accessories and they're great.

Thanks go to Anita of Roxy Knits for recommending these. They may be fantastic for braiding hair (I wouldn't know) but what I do know is that I can't recommend them highly enough as stitch markers!

There are lots of different colours and they come in packs of 100. I've started off with oranges, reds and yellows and blues and greens and another pack of just white ones. The different colours will be useful for some patterns. They are really easy to put on and remove from the needles and don't impede the knitting at all! Obviously, they haven't got a split in them so they can't be moved until you've knitted the loop next to them but that doesn't matter at all. There are ten stitches in each repeat in the pattern rows of Birch but those ten stitches don't stay in the same position because of the decreases at the side. It's no trouble at all to remove my "stitch markers" every wrong side row and then replace them in the right positions every pattern row and at least I don't have to count back from the beginning of every row when I lose track of what comes next!

However, Birch will be frogged and will eventually become Birch of the right gauge so watch this space!

I'm so enamoured with knitting lace that I've now acquired the book shown below left (Heirloom Knitting by Sharon Miller) and await delivery of the dressing wires (pictured below right), both from Heirloom Knitting.

Also, from Heirloom Knitting, I've ordered the pattern below for when I'm a little more experienced.

It's the Wedding Ring Shawl pattern. Isn't it just beautiful! It's a limited edition pattern (only 500 available) until 2010. I'm hoping (no, not hoping, planning) to knit it when I feel ready for the challenge . . . . . before 2010!