Saturday, 7 January 2012

Happy new year (I have to say that, don't I?)

Yes, here we are in 2012 and this is my first post of the year.  I've seen lots of new year's greetings and 2012 resolutions in the web-o-sphere as everybody else releases their first twitter/blog post / podcast / Ravelry post etc.  I haven't made any resolutions, I am a list-maker and have plenty of list entries to get through so I don't need to make resolutions on top of those.  I suppose the closest I have come to a resolution is the realisation that almost none of my clothes fit around the waistline anymore and it really is time to do something before I develop diabetes or high chorestoral or something else horrid.  Easier said than done as office colleagues have been bringing in loads of Christmas goodies to get rid of them so they don't eat them. I am not a dieter so it is a question of eating less junk and trying to exercise more (ha ha ha).  I think the only way I will ever be fit again is if I bought a television that only worked when powered off the self-generated electricity from the treadmill that I am using.  Or if the internet only worked that way - wow, I would be an Olympics contender in that case.

I managed to fix the mess I had made of my Cabled Yoke sleeveless cardigan, finished the yoke, and blocked it right away because I thought it would be easier now than when it was part of a garment.  However, this Drops pattern(119-28) has caused me some problems.  The pattern specifies measuring around the circumference of the long edge and placing markers to pick up stitches while leaving gaps for the armholes.  But even though I spread my yoke out, I couldn't get the outside circumference to match theirs (the inner circumference does).  Also, matching distances were not ending up at matching points in the cable pattern.  Sadly, I realised I would have to break down and actually Knit a Tension Swatch... (gasp!)

So I knit a tension swatch in the round, having decided that I would be steeking the front opening.  Despite having gone down a needlesize, my gauge was still looser than the pattern specification.  Also, having tried the yoke on, it seemed that following their measurements would make for really tight armholes.  I consulted Ravelry and discovered someone else who had had the same problem, had knit their body separately and seamed it on afterwards.  This sounded like a great idea so I cast on and knit about four rows before it dawned on me that I was essentially knitting a cylinder of stocking stitch (because I am not doing the waist shaping due to not actually having a waist).  Like, duh, isn't this why I have knitting machines??

So I went out to the knitting shed and ran off a few tension samples.  My standard gauge Brother 881 as usual did not like the DK weight and struggled with it even on Tension 10.  The Brother 260 chunky knit it happily enough at Tension 0.  I blocked both tension swatches and measured.  My gauge on the chunky is now tighter than the pattern but has an acceptable hand.  However, when I ran the maths, I would need to cast on 130 stitches and the chunky bed only has 110 needles.  So now I am thinking I am going to knit it sideways and add the bands on afterwards.  Meanwhile I got out the ball winder and wound the rest of my yarn into cakes ready for machine knitting.  I will get there.

On the quilting front, I have been handstitching down the binding on my Hawaiaan Kaffe Fassett Potpourri Quilt this week while watching TV.  I also finished quilting the Piece o Cake Applique Vines Quilt and gave it a wash.  It has come up beautifully, all nice and puckery like an antique quilt.  But before I could wash it, I had to take out the basting tacks.

Mini-review:  the Microstitch basting gun
I first heard about this gun in one of Bethany Reynold's newsletters a few years ago.  It's one of those guns that bastes fabric layers together by inserting plastic tacks like those used on clothing price tags.  The Microstitch has a very fine needle and uses very small tacks, so the holes left in the fabric are almost imperceptible.  I bought one in 2008 and used it for two things:

a) I had a quilt, my Piece o Cake applique vines quilt, which was too large to quilt on my old quilting frame because it needed to be quilted longways.  But I could put it on the frame shortways and baste it easily and quickly with the Microstitch. 

b)  I took the gun to a workshop where I was doing two classes of designing (not sewing) quilts on flannel design walls that we brought with us.  At the end of the class, I could easily secure all my pieces to the flannel for transport home (and subsequent hibernation in my UFO closet).

This week I finally removed the tacks from the Vines quilt.  Now this quilt has had a hard life which has been very testing for the tacks:  it has kicked around various storage places in my bedroom, had a variety of stitch in the ditch done on it, been mounted on my Next Generation frame for machine quilting, and then back under the sit-down machine for finishing quilting.  Even after all of that, I was pleased to find that the holes the tacks were making in the fabric were still virtually invisible.  Almost all of the tacks had held, although a minority had worked one end inside the fabric layers.  The tacks were also great for stitching as unlike safety pins, you can stitch right over them and they don't get in the way at all.  The tacks held the layers really well and I didn't get any puckers on the back despite all the different manipulations this quilt has undergone.

On the con side, I had run out of black tacks when I basted this light coloured quilt, and the white tacks I used instead were virtually invisible.  Even sitting by a well-lit window, I had to resort to running my hand over the quilt to find the tacks by touch, and I'm still not convinced I have got them all out.  Overall verdict:  great gadget, but make sure you use a contrasting colour of tack to your fabric colour.


I did a bit of dollshousing on my Willowcrest dollshouse last weekend, and have also started a new knitting project, the Advent Calendar 2010 scarf.  This is a long lace scarf, with 24 different lace patterns.  The original gung ho knitters did it in 24 days leading up to Christmas, and there was a new pattern for 2011. I've decided to try the 2010 pattern and by coincidence stumbled across a knit-along on Ravelry which I have also joined.  I'm using the Valley Yarns Huntingdon (light fingering weight) which I bought at Webs in Massachusetts to use for a lacy pullover.  But I recently saw a FO picture of someone's version of the pattern, posed on a very plump tailor's dummy, and suddenly realised how unflattering this pullover would be on my figure.  So lace scarf it is, and here is the Day One pattern.

Commuter knitting this week has been the plain sock in Harry Potter yarn.  I got as far as turning the heel, and realised that I had once again knit a sock with no negative ease.  I use the Regia leaflet pattern and normally cast on 60 stitches.  So I ripped out and have cast on 52 stitches instead and am just about ready to turn the heel again, so we will see if that fits better.

Our remaining cat, Lucy, is curiously changing her behaviour now that she is on her own.  She is spending more time downstairs than she used to, and here is a picture of her on a quilt.  She's always been a very nervous cat, and we don't normally see much of her, but she has definitely been friendlier the last few weeks.

Pagans walk among us

On 2 January, which was a Bank Holiday here in the UK, the sun finally shone after a few grey rainy days.  We decided to go for a walk in another village called Wraysbury, setting off across fields to arrive at the remnants of the 12th C St Mary's Priory. Nearby is The Ankerwycke Yew tree, reputed to be 2,000 years old.  The trunk is enormous and gnarled, but almost entirely hollow so it seems amazing that it is so large and still alive. It seemed almost otherworldly to stand under its branches, and as we walked around the trunk, we came upon an actual shrine where passersby have been leaving offerings of flowers, holly, berries etc.  Closer inspection of the trunk found several paper notes twisted up and wedged into the crevices.  We looked at one of the more accessible ones, which was a prayer to 'the gods and goddesses' to grant various boons and ameliorate various personality faults in the new year.  Fascinating stuff, and in a site which has likely been sacred for just as long as Christianity has been with us. I am tempted to go back and tuck in a plea for more even knitting stitches...


Marthaamay O_o said...

Hello and happy new year!
This is a very technical post, and I hope you get things sorted, thank goodness for your knitting shed!!

Lucy looks lovely, I'm sure she'll get used to having free reign, all the laps to sit on are hers for the taking!

Your trunk message/prayer things sound a little scary? But asking the knitting gods for a little love can't be missed!

Marthaamay O_o said...

I have not been reading blogs over Christmas and have just been reading down yours to your one about your cat passing away, I assumed that you had had to sell or give away your cat. Now I know why Lucy is timid about having the house to herself. What sad news.
I'm still sure that when she realises all the attention is hers, she'll perk up and purr twice as loudly to make up for her missing sibling.
Give her my hugs x

Daisy said...

The pagans meet in the pub at the end of my road about once a month!

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