Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sock Success and an Opportunity

My first pair of toe-up socks is done. My plan is to try a slightly different technique for my next pair. There was just enough yarn left over to make a little flower brooch.

Meanwhile a friend has asked me to dye some yarn for her to use. That's just the little push I needed to get back to my idea of selling hand-dyed yarns again. So it will be dye pots here soon. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

More of the Same

The toe-up socks are progressing. This morning I knitted the second heel.
Now that I've got the basic process pretty much sorted, I need to work on the little refinements, such as those gaps that appear at the end of the short-row shaping. Meanwhile I will soon have replaced the unfortunate hot-heels socks. Just to be absolutely contrary, I put the accidentally-felted pair through the washing machine cycle one more time--this time on purpose. I want the felting to be so thorough that I can cut the knitted fabric without the stitches unravelling. Then I will have learnt something useful about felting in my front-loader. In my mind that pretty much redeems the loss of my lovely warm socks.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Another New Spindle

The Bendigo finds continue:
I didn't have a turkish drop spindle in my collection. That gap has now been filled. The timber is osage orange which is also used as a natural dye source.
I'm interested in thinking through the folk-engineering of my textile tools. The turkish spindle design is potentially easier to make at home than those that require a turned whorl--though I am yet to test that theory. Meanwhile it's going to take a little bit of getting used to as it handles a bit differently from the others I'm used to. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Another Scarf

I finished this scarf yesterday.
I decided the yarn was just the thing for another go at the ruffles design I made here. The yarn is a mohair blend which turned out to be too soft for its original purpose. There's no such thing as too soft for one of these scarves and the crochet structure adds strength. Now it's in a box on its way to my friend D along with her blanket and other bits and pieces which have been waiting to make the trip north. Whether she's out in the elements or curled up on the couch my friend can have a bit of woolly goodness to keep her warm. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Up and Up

I came across this book while browsing at the Wool Show.
I was actually looking for another sock book by Ann Budd, which I haven't found yet, but this one seems to have all the basics I was looking for. And you can see I've knited another toe. I've included the first completed sock in the picture so you can be sure that I'm not just showing you the same toe over again. I'm also happy to report that the short-row toe process is getting easier. Now I have an easy bit of knitting for my handbag while I knit the foot. When I get up to the heel I'll have to pay attention again. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ethan Jakob

Another Bendigo Sheep and Wool Show has come and gone and another delightful drop spindle has come to live at my house. Meet Ethan Jakob.
The timber is wild olive and red oak. I've tracked it down as coming from Greensleeves Spindles--delightfully named after the maker's grandson. This little spindle weighs only 12 grams. It's become my new handbag companion. I can't believe how light and sweetly balanced it is. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bold and Bright

I didn't get to finish my quilt top at the Charity Sewing Day on Saturday because I somehow managed to mix up the pieces I'd brought along. Now it's done.

Oops, that photo's out of focus--better make that "bold, bright and blurry". I've already put it in the car ready to drop off at GJ's when I'm driving past, so there won't be a better shot.

They were looking to make quilts about a meter square--just enough for a comforting cuddle rather than a bed size--so that's how big it is. Otherwise I might have added a couple of rows of the blue and orange to make it a bit more symmetrical. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Black Sack

On the subject of shrinkage . . . I've been gently losing weight for a few months now. Today I tackled the inevitable mountain of alterations and repairs that builds up even with only one person to cater for here. It's a good way to get to know my new sewing machine with lots of little tasks: different stitches and fabrics. I bought this top early in autumn thinking it would be a staple. I was so sure that I bought two. However it's spent more time in the alterations pile than it ever spent in my active wardrobe. My gentle weight loss has turned it into a black sack.

I like my tops to be simple, but somewhat fitted in the bust. I find it's the best way of dealing with my generous figure. This top featured a nice set in sleeve and a bust dart in a crinkly stretch knit. Add some interesting seam details and it was a good choice for me. Since it had so many aspects that I liked I committed myself to altering it rather than discarding it when I found it was no longer a good fit. I've changed my mind.

If you look carefully at  the not-so-good pic above you should detect a pin on the shoulder seam. That pin marks where the point of my shoulder now falls. It's nearly half of the shoulder seam. That's how much fabric I would need to take out to make the shoulder fit nicely again. I'd need to take a similar amount out of the side seam at the underarm. Doing so would almost obliterate the bust dart. I may as well make an entirely new top for myself. That way at least I'd have a pattern I can use if I like the result. Two black tops are about to make their way out of my house. Next stop, the Opp Shop.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Handwash Only

My hot heels socks have undergone an unplanned transformation.
They went through a regular wash cycle in my washing machine along with my ordinary cotton socks and various other bits and pieces. As you can see they will never fit on my feet again. Is there some-one with a very small foot who could use a pair of felt slippers? Or are there a pair of felt wristies and other original pieces in my future?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Look What I Found

While I was sorting my stash of quilting fabrics the other day I came across this.
It was intended as a cushion cover. I got as far as knitting it and then abandoned it. If I remember correctly I was also demonstrating cables for a class at the time. I've read advice at various times about putting warm colours in the living room in winter time. At this stage of my interior decorating life I'd be happy to have things relatively clean and tidy, let alone having seasonal colour accents. So I'm not going to be using this cushion cover any time soon. There's a picture winging its way through cyberspace as I type. Hopefully a friend of mine will be happy to use it. Otherwise I'll have to choose between ripping it out and re-using the wool or sending it to the Op shop unfinished.

Friday, July 13, 2012

It's a Toe

Here's what I knitted up last night.
The next stage in my sock-knitting adventures is to knit toe-up socks. Unfortunately that's beyond the scope of Ann Budd's Getting Started Knitting Socks book which has been my trusted guide so far.

I don't currently have a knitting group--I'm planning to rectify that deficiency soon--so I turned to the internet for help. Wendy's toe-up sock pattern seems to be a popular go-to guide. With the help of this tutorial I managed the slightly wonky toe you see here. One of the problems with this sort of independent learning is that it's hard to work out which bits of wonkiness are my own beginner's errors and which are inherent deficiencies of the particular method being used.

When I looked at my knitted toe last night I was disappointed with how messy one particular line of stitches looked. If you're into knitting short-row toe-up socks, it's the part where you pick up the wrapped purl stitches while knitting the second half of the toe. I'd never done a short-row toe before. In fact knitting short rows using wrapped stitches is new to me. This morning I hunted around for more information on knitting short rows using "wrap and turn". I discovered this video, "How to INVISIBLY pick up a wrapped stitch on the Purl Side". I learned that the messy appearance of these stitches is not just my problem. And I learned a technique for making it better. Now I'm going to pull out this toe and try again. Hopefully I'll go on to knit the entire sock. I'll get several chances to practise my new skills as the short-row heel is pretty much like the short-row toe except it's at the back of the foot instead of the front. That much I know. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sewing is Easy

I'm going to a party on Saturday. Well, it feels like a  party to me anyway. My local fabric store is hosting a Charity Sewing Day--scroll down to the bottom of the page for the details. Rebecca, one of their staff, is preparing for the Ride to Conquer Cancer. Not only is she training to ride 200 kilometers in two days, but she's also aiming to raise more than $3000 to benefit the Peter Mac Cancer Centre.  The Charity Sewing Day is a fundraiser and we will be making quilts for children with cancer. So it's a double support day, really. Bec has asked for 10 inch blocks for these quilts. That's not a size I often use, so I googled and found this block. I thought it would be nice and easy to make, and a good way to feature a special fabric. My next thought was to try it out and maybe start making a few blocks in advance. If all goes well it would be nice to put together enough for a quilt top.

It's a while since I did much quilting at home. I went out to the studio and looked at the quilting corner. There was a pile of fabrics spilling out of boxes and onto the floor. I started sorting. I did enough sorting to find a feature fabric and to gain access to my cutting table. Then I had to do more sorting to find matching fabrics. I decided to use some of my hand-dyed cottons. They needed ironing. I did that. Next I figured out the instructions and worked out what I needed to cut. After cutting came stitching. That was the easy part. Then a bit of pressing; some more cutting and some more stitching. I'm happy with the result. If my calculations are correct I have enough fabric for 40 blocks. That's more than enough for a quilt top. Now all the hard work is done. Sewing tomorrow should be easy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Craft Combo

I recently bought myself a new sewing machine. Yesterday I sewed with it for the first time. I had to concentrate to keep breathing--I was so excited about it. And I've recently joined the Sisterhood of the Travelling Sock.* What better way to celebrate the occasion than to make a neat little roll to store my sets of double-pointed needles.
My sewing machine behaved beautifully. I got to use my cute sheep fabric for its intended purpose and my life is tidier as a result. That's a happy combination.

*Ummm, that's not an official membership or sisterhood or anything  as far as I know . . .

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Felt Flower Pin

I've just had a happy couple of hours in my studio. First I tidied up a bit. Then I rewarded myself with some making. I've had this tutorial printed out for quite a while. While tidying up I found my misplaced scraps of template plastic. I had some felt handy--nothing flash, but good enough to test a pattern. Here's the result.
I'm sorry now that I wasn't more careful with the pencil lines I used to trace the templates onto the off-white felt. I'm hoping the marks will wear off. And funnily enough, even though this is offered as a no-sew felt flower design, I was much more comfortable stitching it all together than digging out my hot-glue gun. Stitching it also allowed me to shape the petals as I secured all the bits in place. I used an extra layer of felt to cover the back of the flower base. That gave it a bit more substance and covered up all my big messy stitches. I've carefully saved the pattern pieces in a little bag stapled to the tutorial for next time. There will certainly be a next time.
And I made myself another beaded pin to cheer up my black winter coat. It looks small in the picture, but that's only because the felt flower is quite large. That's an A4 page there if you're looking for a reference point. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hand-dyed Happiness

I'm knitting another sock. This is a relatively thoughtless sock. That's not a reflection on its character. Perhaps I should say it's relatively "un-premeditated".  I hadn't really planned for my next carry along project after I finished the hot heels socks. I pretty much just cast these on as I was heading out the door so I would have something to carry with me in my handbag. Now the first of the pair is done and the second cuff is also nearly done, so it won't be long before I have one more opportunity for pretty warm feet.

I wasn't too sure about this particular skein of yarn before I started knitting, but I'm loving how it's coming off the needles.
It's the extra touches of red that confused me while it was in the skein and amuse me as they show up in a few stitches here and there.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hot Heels

Here's my idea of the perfect footwear for a great night in.
The yarns are Bendigo 8-ply--I can't quite remember which one as it's years since I dyed these--on 4mm double pointed needles and 5 stitches per inch. I used the adult medium size from Anne Budd's "Getting Started Knitting Socks". And I'm proud to say I did the Kitchener stitch for the toes without checking the book while talking to a friend over coffee. I am rather pleased with that effort. I've re-established my confidence in my basic sock knitting skills after a little break. Now I need to look for a new challenge, but in the meantime I've cast on another pair in the same yarn, this time using the Spiral Rib pattern for the cuffs. That will be the project I carry around to knit in any spare minutes while I'm out and about. The new challenge--whatever it might be--will be reserved for times when I can concentrate and I'll get on with a new big project for my armchair. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012


The armchair project is finished. All but two ends I need to weave in. The beauty of these projects in my mind is that once the last row is crocheted, there isn't a lot to do. I leave the beginning and end of each row long so I can tie it off and turn it into a fringe.
This time I went for tiny tufts rather than luscious lengths for the fringe. I doubled the ends of yarn back through the edge of the row so that I got three times the thickness, then tied them off with an overhand knot and trimmed it. It's more practical that way for a blanket which I expect to get a fair bit of use in a three-pet household. Speaking of which, I must give this a good brush off before I fold it up and send it off. It's ended up being longer than I am, so there's been a fair bit of it dragging around on the floor recently. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

It's Addictive

I thought I'd nearly finished my most recent armchair project, but I keep adding "just a few more rows".
I've just used the last of the variegated pink yarn. It's one of the alpaca yarns I used for the bushfire blanket. I used them in their natural colours for that project. For this one I've brewed up some great combinations of my landscape dyes to overdye both the cream and the natural grey colours. I think that means I really am about to do the last row, but there are probably enough colours left to keep me going through this evening. Then my next challenge will be to clear off my big table and tie up the fringes. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Armchair Progress

The latest armchair blanket it growing steadily.

I only revived it recently, but a dozen or so rows a day makes for rapid progress. It's designed to be a lap rug, but my friend D, for whom it is intended, is considerably taller than me. And I have it on good authority that enough length to tuck over your feet is a desirable feature, so I'll keep going until I run out of relevant yarns, or until it gets ridiculously long, whichever is occurs first. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Nifty Knitting

I love knitting, and do a lot of it, but there are plenty of tips and tricks I am still learning. Yesterday I tried this for the first time.
I often add a crochet border to my knitting. This time I added a knitted border. That involved picking up stitches around the edge and then increasing at the corners. A little knitted facewasher or dishcloth was perfect as  test piece. And no I haven't woven in the loose ends or blocked it to make it look lovely yet. 

I'm planning to make a blanket or two out of my hand-dyed blue yarns. In fact a lot of the knitting is already done. I'm just working out how to put it all together and finish it off nicely. I think a knitted border will be part of the final design. 

Monday, July 2, 2012


I went for my walk a few times last week and again today, despite the cold.
Really it's perfect weather for reviving my long-neglected armchair project.