Monday, 24 March 2008

Rowan 43 Mustang finished and errata

I sewed the buttons onto my Rowan 43 Mustang jumper this morning, and am wearing it as I type. It feels more like wearing a sweatshirt than a sweater, in the firm cotton Rowan Denim yarn, but is quite comfortable.

Now for the details (if you aren't interested in knitting the Mustang, then skip to the end of the post now).

I knit the large size apart from the length, where I went for the Medium specifications, using the Memphis colourway. I started with 15 balls but I think I have at least 1 ball left, so likely only used 14 which is the number specified for the Large size. I have a 36 inch bust and no waist to speak of, and I find the sweater is fitting comfortably with some ease (not skin tight like on the model in the magazine). The sleeves are slightly long, but then I often have that problem. I do find that the lace yoke is considerably more stretchy than the stockinette body, giving a tendency for the shoulder to hang lower than it should really, which may be contributing to my problem with the sleeves being a bit too long.

Errata: I believe there are several mistakes in the pattern in reference to knitting the lace yoke and neckline on the front. When I knit the back, it took me 10 lace repeats (40 rows) to reach the specified 26.5cm for the armhole depth. Looking at the photo in the magazine, this seems right as you can also count 10 repeats on the model. However, the front instructions say to work 37 rows less than the back before binding off for the neckline. This would mean the lace pattern was only 3 rows started, which is obviously wrong, as when you look at the photo the lace pattern clearly has about 5 repeats (20 rows) before the neckline bind off. The front instructions go on to give the shaping, then tell you to knit 17 more rows, which wouldn't match the back at all in length. In the end I followed the photo, so I knit 5 lace repeats, bound off for the neckline, followed the neck shaping, by which time I had reached 10 lace repeats so I jumped to the shoulder instructions without knitting any further rows.

Washing: Rowan Denim yarn shrinks in length when you wash it according to the ball band (60 degree wash, tumble dry) and fades. When you have knit the sweater pieces, they all seem much too long and the lace pattern seems too loopy and loose. Chuck the whole thing in the washing machine, and a magical transformation takes place. Out comes a firm ready-blocked piece of knitting, with a well defined lace pattern. I also washed a swatch of knitting at the same time, then unravelled the swatch so as to have pre-shrunk pre-faded yarn for seaming up. The only pressing I did was on seams, plus I pinned out the lace yoke to steam press it flat.

Knitting: I knit the stockinette portions on a Brother 260 chunky knitting machine, on Tension 1-dot. I knit the ribs by hand on 3mm needles, and the lace yoke by hand on 4mm needles.

Right - what else have I been doing? I finished the first Lorna's Lace Shepherd Sock and have started the second. This is a pattern from More Sensational Socks, using the Crosshatch lace six-stitch pattern on page 90. I was fascinated to find the colourway on this sock actually resulting in a swirl of colour down the upper part of the sock, instead of the more usual stripes. The lace pattern is an 8-row repeat, and I have to say that I didn't really enjoy it as I found it too fiddly to keep track of where I was. I had to use a row counter and even then ended up doing lots of reverse knitting. That's why I only knit the pattern on the upper sock, and reverted to plain stockinette for the foot. I haven't blocked the sock yet, so the lace pattern hasn't really opened up yet.

I've got Saturday Sewing club this coming weekend, so I made the next sample for our BOM. It's a plain flying geese block, but due to slightly peculiar measurements (4"x8") I am instructing them to use the foundation method.

Remember the room box I built for my older friend who is recreating the 1930s hair salon where she worked? I've finished the front of it now, working from an old black and white photo that she still had. I'm no carpenter, but it has come out pretty well and she is very pleased with it. The 'glass' is 2mm plexi sold at B&Q.

I will be away for a couple of weeks attending the Tom Bishop Chicago Show, followed by the Chicago International quilt show. If I can get onto a computer, I will blog an update, but otherwise you will have to wait until I get back! I should have lots of goodies and fun things to report.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

A crafty weekend in Bath

[I'm adding this a few days later, but I've just realised that it was my blogiversary on 13th March - one year as a blogger! I don't know how many have been with me since the beginning, besides Swooze, but I appreciate you stopping by and having a read. Having a blog has really helped me to be more disciplined and to finish more things, and it is also a great record to look back upon.]

We just got back from a great weekend away in the historic city of Bath. I’ve been several times before, but not for quite a few years, and it seemed that there were several desirable destinations popping up in various magazines that I take, all in Bath. So we set off early Saturday morning, deposited DS at the grandparents, and carried on towards Bath.

First stop was The Blue and White Show, an exhibition at the Victoria Gallery, right across from the historic Pulteney Bridge with all its little shops. This exhibition had caught my eye because one of the two featured artists was Kaffe Fassett, a well known name to quilters and knitters. He and mosaic artist Candace Bahouth had been invited to display new work inspired by the English tradition of blue and white china. A huge collection of the museum’s blue and white antique china formed the centrepiece of the exhibition, displayed on a giant Georgian-style dresser.

I went to see Kaffe’s work, but it was Candace’s work which kept me looking and looking. Most of her work on display was in mosaic formed from tiny shards of china and pottery, largely blue and white printed antique china to fit the theme of the exhibit. Her mosaics were stunning, displayed on both large objects such as garden benches, large mirror frames and obelisks, down to small beautiful objects such as shoes covered in mosaic. I absolutely fell in love with one shoe, a high-heeled pump, completely covered in small 3-D porcelain flower fragments, and the spiked heel covered in little green china leaves, the inside of the shoe lined in Georgian-style striped fabric and trimmed with ribbon. This was hard patchwork, scraps of history and colour assembled into gorgeous riots of colour.

Kaffe’s work, by contrast, was pretty variable. Despite the exhibition brochure stating that the artists had been invited to do new work, some of Kaffe’s work on display looked distinctly shabby and worn, and not in a good way. A knitted stole had several pulled stitches and loose ends poking out, and was even a bit pilly, and was hung very badly on four screws – while another knitted square featuring a jar didn’t even look like it had been blocked or edge-finished as it was all curling under.. His rice-bowl quilted wallhanging looked similarly worn and perhaps even dirty, like it had been on display at a few too many quilt shows. The quilt next to it, while fresher, had ugly black basting stitches showing through where Velcro had been crudely basted on the back – presumably for some other exhibition as it was not assisting with the hanging at this one – and was crinkled up on its hanging rod. A large Lone Star quilt, from his most recent book I think, while stunning in its colour/fabric choices, was not that well constructed, leading even my non-quilting husband to query some diamonds that didn’t line up in their seam junctions. However, trying to put aside my knitter/quilter perspective, the colour and fabric choices were what made all Kaffe’s work interesting, and presumably the majority of the visitors wouldn’t know any different.

After the exhibition, I went on to Pulteney Bridge to visit Pulteney Gifts, which has a small upstairs room crammed full of dollshouse furniture and accessories. Although most of it is from Dollshouse Emporium or similar, it is really usefully arranged in trays labelled ‘Living Room’ or ‘Kitchen’ so easy to quickly find what you want. They have one unique dollshouse modelled on a typical Georgian Bath crescent house, complete with a curved front and columns, very striking. I bought an Arts and Crafts style sofa for my knitting shop, some sewing accessories, and a lovely Glenowen Chippendale-style fretwork cabinet for my big period house.

The rest of the afternoon was spent visiting secondhand bookstores, two model stores (for dh), and an antiques mall (where I was shown an ‘aimish’ quilt made from ‘seedsacks’ for £220 which was very pretty but I think someone had taken an antique top and made a new quilt out of it as the edges of the top were simply turned to the back and stitched down, lopping about a half-inch off points. I wonder where they got it from.) that had a lot of antique toys including old dollshouse stuff, and a whole stall of antique buttons. Then came the piece de resistance, a trip out to the massive Get Knitted store on the outskirts of Bristol, in Brislington. Following the detailed directions which I found on their website, we easily got parked, and then dh got parked on a pink sofa in the store near the free tea/coffee while I started my tour. This shop is huge, actually American sized which is very rare in Britain. It took me a good 30 minutes just to go around once admiring the absolutely huge range of yarns, including many which I have heard about on American podcasts but never seen, like Lamb’s Pride and Cascade 220. They have a whole wall unit of various Noro yarns, and about 3 big displays of all kinds of sock yarn, what looked like the full Rowan and Debbie Bliss ranges, and all sorts of other yarns from around the globe. There was so much choice that I was actually overwhelmed, and only came away with one skein of Opal sock yarn, two Knit Picks circulars and some stitch markers. You really need to go prepared, with some projects in mind and a supply list.

Sunday we got up early to be at the Roman Baths in Bath for their opening time of 09:00, and spent a couple of hours touring around the rejuvenated exhibit. They have now put in a lot of false walls to give a better impression of the huge spaces from this immense site (all under the streets of Bath), and I got quite a start in one room when what looked like a ghost suddenly walked in from the wall. It turned out to be a clever projection of actors dressed like Romans who had come to use the baths. Very effective, although a bit of a shame that it wasn’t really a ghost! Then we headed over to The Fashion Musueum (formerly the Museum of Costume) for a lovely lunch in their cafĂ©, and a fascinating tour around this similarly rejuvenated facility. Fascinating for me anyway, dh was somewhat less fascinated until we got to the room where ladies can try on a corset and crinoline to see what they were like. Dh quite enjoyed lacing me up until I had a waist, by which time I could only breathe in shallow pants and actually started to feel a bit ill. How on earth ladies used to function in their daily lives with those things on, I do not know. This is a pic that dh snapped with his phone, and is the only time you will ever see me with an actual waistline.

The museum has showcased several gorgeous outfits from their collection against period murals, and had a special display of gloves dating back to the 17thC – the oldest pair were made when Shakespeare was still alive. As someone born in Canada, it is incredibly amazing to me to stand a few feet away from a woven silk costume dating to 1730, which is not only gorgeous but looks like it was just made yesterday. As Bath has associations with Jane Austen, there were several original muslin dresses that looked straight off the film set, but the display included items right up through the 1970s, so there is something for everyone.

Well, I hope this long post has not bored you, it was such a lovely weekend and we will have to do it again. Oh, and we did pick ds up on the way home.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Noro Silk Garden Scarf

Ta Dah!! This is my Noro Silk Garden scarf. I am so thrilled with the gorgeous colour changes in this yarn, it was a really fun knit. My starting point was the Noro Mobius by the Knitty Professors, but I only had two skeins and didn’t want a mobius. So I adapted the pattern as follows:

- two skeins of Noro Silk Garden (I used shade 265)
- US size 10.5 long circular needles (I used my Denise interchangeables with a 40” cord)

Finished measurements approximately 52” long by 6.5” wide

Using a long-tail cast on, cast on 168 stitches.
Knit 2, Purl 2, ribbing x 4 rows

N.B. for body of scarf, always knit first and last two stitches of each row, to give a garter edge.

Commence knitting and purling rows randomly, in groups of 1, 2, or 3, to give variegated ridges of colour along the scarf. Knit to end of first skein, and join in second skein using Russian Joining method, and continue knitting.

When you think you are getting near to the end of your second skein, finish the scarf with 4 rows of knit 2, purl 2 ribbing. I lost my nerve a little earlier than I needed to, I think with what I have left on the second skein, I likely could have knit 1 or 2 more rows.

Cast off loosely. Wash, and dry flat, pulling to shape. My wash water turned really dirty brown, I’m not sure if that was from excess dye or actual dirt, but afterwards the scarf was much softer and the yarn opened up. However, it is still a bit scratchier than I feel happy with against my skin, I can wear it for a short time but wouldn't want to wear it for hours. So for me this is a scarf for wearing outside the coat rather than inside.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Micro Minis, and Miss Lydia Pickett

I did a lot of dollshousing this weekend. It was the Micro Minis online convention (a Yahoo group for people who do very small scales such as 144th scale). This did not have much actual activity over the weekend, but there was a lot of stuff leading up to the weekend such as Roundtable and workshop kits for sale.

I bought three of these lovely 'Room in a Hat Box' kits from Anita McNary Lahue, which came complete with all materials including the laser cut furniture kits. Two friends and I sat down Sunday morning and started these, and I finished it up on Monday morning. I am really pleased with it. I think it looks sort of 'old time Hollywood' glamorous.

On Saturday I made this little sewing room, which is about 3/4 inch high and about one inch square. The furniture is painted metal miniatures (the desk is a piece of ply on top of two nightstands), and the coffee table is a rivet.

Saturday morning we had to drive to Guildford, Surrey, and while there I took the opportunity to visit a craft store called 'Pandora' which a friend had told me about. For a British shop, it has quite a well stocked knitting area, and I enjoyed going around and fondling all the yarns, which included some brands that I had heard about on the internet but not actually seen such as Noro and Mirasol. Of course I had to buy something, and came away with two skeins of Noro Silk Garden, which I have never tried. I am making a scarf out of it, and can't put it down because it is so much fun to see the colour changes. This yarn has a bad reputation for knots and vegetable matter, but I knit through the first skein with only one knot and the vegetable matter is pretty small.

Miss Lydia Pickett

Tonight after work I finished up several Miss Lydia Pickett 1/24th scale kits that I had waiting, from my monthly club run by Judith of In Some Small Way.

The Occasional Table wasn't too hard apart from glueing the whole structure together. I took the advice in the instructions and glued the microscopic filigree trim onto the legs before cutting the legs out of their backing. Stupidly, I managed to throw away the little oval rim for the top of the table, which is why my plexiglass insert is just sitting there and not inserted into anything.

This little box which is about a half-inch square was an extra with the Occasional Table kit, and went together easily. Unlike the last box I tried in this kit range, this time I glued the sides onto the top/bottom, one at a time, rather than following the kit instructions which say to glue the sides first, then add the top/bottom. I found it much easier to handle the tiny pieces this way and to keep it square.

The Wall Shelf with Plates looked like it should go together easily, yet I managed to glue the back too low down on the shelves, by lining it up at the bottom with the lower edge of the side pieces. In fact it should have gone 1/8th inch higher. This meant that I had to trim my top piece of art because my gap wasn't as big. The big disappointment about this kit, for me, was the plates. In the picture, these look lovely, but it turns out that the picture must be from the 1/12th scale kit which apparently comes supplied with Chrysnbon plates and bowls. In 1/24th scale, the advice is to just cut out the art and gild the edges, and glue on. This means that only the plates can be made, and they don't look nearly as realistic. I 'cupped' them by pressing them into a mouse mat, and they look ok if you don't look too closely, but it is still disappointing. I was expecting some laser cut wooden disks at least, to glue the art to.
So that was my weekend, along with all the usual household chores and family peacekeeping. We had a terrible storm last night and when I checked my knitting shed today, it has started to leak again. But it isn't too bad, so my temporary patch must be partially holding. We went to the hardware store and bought more roofing felt, adhesive and nails yesterday, in preparation for an Easter weekend roofing extravaganza.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Suffering from Quilter's Block

I haven't done ANY sewing whatsoever this week. My vintage log cabin strips are sitting next to my sewing machine in my bedroom, so I see them every time I go in there, but they are not calling to me. In fact, as my stress levels have been rather higher than usual the last few months, and in combination with the grey chilly weather outside, all that I seem to feel like doing is snuggling down on the sofa with my knitting. Somehow the textures and tacticality of knitting is much more soothing to me, and the simple mechanical quality of making stitches.

But Spring is with us, although there are still heavy frosts on many mornings, and I have been enjoying daffodils and crocuses (crocii?) in my garden. Even my Rosemary bushes are blooming, and yesterday I saw a bumblebee which seems a bit crazy, I didn't think they were meant to be out this early. Perhaps my quilter instincts will come to life soon too.

So I'm afraid that all that I have to report this week is a lot of knitting, plus I had dollshouse club on Wednesday night (we started making a Bunka rug). This weekend I am registered with the online Micro Minis convention so that should be fun, and I have two friends coming over Sunday morning for a couple of hours of mini making.

Knitting projects:

- Rowan 'Mustang' jumper from Rowan Magazine 43: Last weekend I got my Brother chunky knitting machine set up and did some tension swatches in preparation for knitting the largely stockinette portions of this jumper. I've now knit the back and most of the front, starting and finishing them on waste yarn. Then I pick up stitches at the bottom of the piece to hand knit the ribbing, and will pick up stitches at the top to knit the lacy yoke. The sleeves will be knit entirely on the machine apart from the ribbed cuffs.

- Silver Belle from Vogue Knitting: By last weekend, I had knit four repeats on the sleeve for a total of 80 rows, which was enough to try the sleeve on my arm. I was upset to find out that it is WAY too small, after all that cabling. The cuff is supposed to be 11 inches and mine is more like 9 inches. I tried wet blocking what I've knit so far, and it will block out but it looks over-stretched. Now I have to decide whether to keep going or whether to start over again with a bigger size.

- Bird in the Hand Knit Along: A gorgeous pair of cherry red mittens with white fair isle patterning. This is being run by the Ready Set Knit podcast, using a gorgeous pattern by Kate Gilbert, and I am thinking it will be my plane project for my trip to Chicago. I am going to knit mine in sock yarn, so I may have to tweak the pattern slightly as the original is in worsted yarn. I've invested in two bamboo circular needles in the hopes that airport security won't be bothered by those.

In fact, the only quilty thing I have done this week is writing instructions for the BOM I am running - I'm trying to get all 11 steps written and photocopied before I change jobs and lose access to a semi-private photocopier.

Hope some Spring is coming your way!

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Lovely day in London

I've had a lovely day up in London today. I went up to join a group of London Ravellers (an online knitting group) who met up at the Wellcome Institute in their cafe for three hours of knitting. I took my Silver Belle cable cardigan which is coming along well, and enjoyed great conversation and great knitting. Afterwards I took the Tube to Victoria then walked up past Buckingham Palace and through St. James Park. There were seas of daffodils all nodding in the breeze in the sunshine and lots of Londoners and tourists out enjoying the lovely park. I walked over Westminster Bridge just as Big Ben chimed 3 p.m. overhead, the Thames river glinting in the sunshine. Sometimes I just can't believe how lucky I am to live here - if I had stayed in Canada I am sure I would be a lonely spinster on antidepressants in an apartment that smelled like cats.

Much nicer than getting a bill from DHL for customs duty and sales tax on my Denise needles which I had ordered from I thought I had got away with it when the needles turned up last week, but then the separate bill arrived a few days later for almost 50% of the cost. Grrrr. I am using the Denise needles now on my Silver Belle, having moved up to a 3.75mm needle (the smallest in the Denise package) as the 3.25 mm was giving a stiff fabric. At first the Denise needles felt a little flimsy as they are hollow plastic, and the cable seemed really thick, but I am getting used to them now and appreciating how wonderfully light they are. I also switched to a long length cable by simply unplugging the cable I was using, and plugging in the longer one, which is great.

I also received a nice squishy from Equilter, with some more yards of solid blue fabric (after ordering the wrong one before). It's still not exactly the same shade, so I am going to take a swatch of the original blue over to Chicago with me to match up. Still, I love getting crafty things in the post. I have two online miniatures conventions coming up in March and May, and have started getting some of the kits for those in the post which is fun. I think this may be at the root of my magazine addiction, the joy of getting something in the post. I've just subscribed to another knitting magazine, a British one called 'Yarn Forward'. It's a sickness, what can I say

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