Friday, December 30, 2011

Continental adventures

I've started one of my New Year's resolutions early. Continental knitting is tricky, but I feel like I'm picking it up much faster than the English style I learnt when I first started knitting. I've knitted about 50cm of garter and stocking stitch, just trying to get used to the motion, and keeping the tension right.

At first there were some serious tension issues. And quite a few holes.

Things started to improve after 20 rows, when I figured out that my left index finger had to do some work.

But purling is a completely different matter. I've tried several variations - the standard continental, with the yarn held in front, and that awkward motion you have to do to loop the yarn around the working needle. I also tried the cheaty method, which is easier but then I have to knit all of my stitches through the back loop on the knit rows. I don't know how that would affect certain patterns - what if I have a specific instruction to "knit through back loop" and I'm already doing that? So complex!
Then I tried the Norwegian purl, which I figured out on the first stitch but couldn't do again. Every other time I seemed to get about five different loops of yarn on the right needle, instead of e inone. I think once I figure out a comfortable way to do it, I should be fine, but trying to find a suitable technique is proving difficult. 

I'd like to be able to do colour work with two colours in my left hand - I find two strands on the right very awkward because I don't tension the yarn like any normal English style knitter, and find myself dropping one colour, picking up the next and so on. Too slow and time consuming.

Does anyone have any tricks or styles for continental purl that I should have a look at? I'd be really keen to master this soon before I start on any big stranded projects!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

Since we're almost in 2012, I've been thinking about my new year's resolutions, both for knitting and for life in general. I've got to the point where I need to learn new skills to advance my knitting and make the things I want, as well as giving myself a new challenge.

Knitting goals.

1. Knit my first pair of socks. If anyone can suggest a good beginner sock pattern, it would be appreciated.
2. Learn continental knitting. I figure that since I'm a left-hander, I should pick this up quite well, and it will speed up my stranded knitting attempts.
3. Knit my wedding bouquet. Linda Dawkins' daffodils, snow drops and lilies, as featured on her Natural Suburbia blog, are just what I'm looking for. I was born in Wales, so the daffodils will be a good way to represent that, and snow drops and lilies are just pretty. I have approximately two years to finish it, so I have lots of time to chip away at this project.
4. Knit a snuggly blanket for the couch.
5. Write and publish a pattern. I'm not sure what for yet, but I'll think of something!
6. Get a better stash organisation system happening.

General goals.

1. Stop buying lunch to help the savings account.
2. Make wedding organization as stress-free as possible.
3. Keep the house tidier.
4. Do more sewing.
5. Be healthier. I have a new skipping rope - no excuses.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On holiday

I hope everyone is having a wonderful festive season, eating lots of chocolate and leftovers. As well as it being Christmas and New Year, it's also my summer break, and I have two glorious weeks off. 

I'll be reading Peppermint and Frankie, The Hunger Games, Storyteller: the life of Roald Dahl, and The Prophet. I'll be finishing off the several boxes of chocolates from the Christmas festivities, as well as knitting my Frilly Frilly scarf - the one I started months ago but kept messing up. Between that there will be trips to the beach and some time spent figuring out what to do with my hand dyed blue yarn. It was going to be for my Funchal Moebius, but I'm worried the colour will run...

For most of the last two days, I've been staring at this awesome Christmassy stranded knitting design...

...on this amazing gift box, filled with homemade biscuits from my good friend Denice. She knows me so well. I think for next Christmas I'll try and make her something using the design. It's giving me all sorts of knitterly inspiration.

And I've also been making a lot of these.

Great gifts for family and friends - I used the Basic Biscuits recipe in the Edmonds Cook Book, and added a ton of chocolate chips.

And best of all, I finished the emergency knitted gift for Fiance. Introducing Spidey-Cat. He web-swings with his scarf because I didn't have time to knit arms, but never mind, he is now a very special addition to the action-figure shelf!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Emergency Christmas gift

I did say that this year I wasn't going to knit people presnets. Instead I'm baking, and Christmas Eve is scheduled to be a production day of truffles and cookies.
But I've had a thought. Fiance has already had his Christmas present, a pair of football goalie sport trousers which he's been using over the last couple of weeks to avoid giant cuts and bruises from the artificial indoor turf.

I thought about getting a DVD but he's already getting some from other people. So I've set myself a probably crazy challenge. Superhero version of my Zombie Cat.

I have 1.5 days.
To knit it without him seeing.
This could be a disaster.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Experiments in dyeing part two

I wasn't happy with my blue. I decided round two was absolutely necessary. But I wasn't prepared to try the Dylon again, so instead I decided to cook my yarn in a giant pot of blue food colouring. I've read about this being done, and have spoken to people who've had some good results, but with all my Googling and reading different blogs online, I could not find any information on how much water / vinegar / colouring I needed to dye my 400g of merino. So I sort of made it up as I went along, probably not wise for my first attempt at dyeing some quite expensive yarn.

This is what I started with - pretty pale.

I used 4l of water for 400g, plus about 250ml of white vinegar to set the colour. I used Queens blue food colouring, and a big pot. I soaked the yarn for about half an hour in another bowl of water and vinegar, before adding the dye to my gently simmering pot.

I had no idea how long I'd have to leave it in, without completely boiling my yarn up and ruining $40 of good merino (which, let's be honest, I'd already kind of ruined) so I guessed about 10 minutes, gently simmering.

And this is what I've ended up with. 

It's still not as blue as I was hoping for, but it's a big improvement on the first round. Now to let it dry and to wind it up. It'll probably run all over the cream merino that I'm also using in the same project, but what is experimenting if it goes right all the time?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

An experiment in dyeing yarn

I've dyed stuff before, one cotton jacket and one cotton dress, and both turned out perfectly. I figured dyeing my scrummy merino would be just as easy. So armed with a couple of packets of Dylon Bahama blue and a pair of rubber gloves, I took over the dining room table and started dyeing.

All was going so well until I realized that I had 600 grams of yarn and only enough dye for 500 grams. And that my bowl couldn't fit the required 12 litres of water. So I improvised. And that may have been a bad idea. I decided to halve the water, and only dye two skeins, instead of three. And then I didn't have quite enough salt. But I did it anyway.

For an hour my pretty merino swam around in the turquoise dye, and after a lot of rinsing and surprisingly no tangling, out it came to dry.

It's not as vibrant as I wanted. And I think it's a combination of my not following instructions and that wool dyes a bit lighter than cotton. Once it's dry I'll have another look and see if it's going to contrast enough with the original cream for my next project, the Funchal Moebius. If it's not, I'll dye it navy!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Fiona has sleeves!

Well she has one sleeve, and she fits! It only took me a few hours to add sleeve, so I'm hoping to have it all finished over the weekend - if I can find time around our engagement party. Then I hope to start my next project, the Funchal Moebius, just waiting for the yarn to arrive.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Turning 25

Cupcakes from Alo Alo

Summer fun reading

Summer reading, but a bit more serious

A gift to myself, a handmade camera case

It's just so cool
Not to mention the awesome iPod speakers from the fiancé, by far my favourite gift. Now I can dance even more insanely around the house.
I wasn't really looking forward to turning 25. It seems like such a milestone, and I thought I'd have more done by now. More travel, a better idea of what I want to do with life, maybe would have somehow won a Pulitzer Prize. Twenty-four was a hard year though. There was the job issues, with friends' redundancies, a shrinking of our newsroom and several mentors leaving. Then there was the total change in career direction, from journalism to communications, and the anxiety of not knowing whether it was the right move. I still don't know, but I like my job, so that's the main thing. Then there was the burglary, and annoying things like car trouble, and the cat getting sick.
But 24 was also awesome. I now have a fiancé who is amazing. New challenges with my job, and the amazing friends who got me amazing gifts for my birthday. I have a lot to be grateful for. And 25 will be great, even though it seems like a scary number.

And just for my birthday, here's my mum's cat having a go at my knitting.