There’s a larval real-time marvel to be found

July 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’m sad to say this is not an update on the mittens – as I’m nearing the end of my Bachelor’s thesis, I needed something a little more brainless. So I cast on a blanket. That’s right, it’s July and I’ve started with this year’s Christmas presents, and OF COURSE a blanket in bulky-weight wool yarn is the perfect project for these warm summer days.

Anyway, the point being, I’m using Cascade Ecological Wool and Eco+ (which is the same thing, only dyed), and they come in these HUGE 250 g skeins. Good lord. As I’ve discovered when I split some 400 g sock yarn cones into thirds, 130 g of yarn is really all I can comfortably wind, after that, the ball gets too bulky for me to hold without putting some considerable strain on my hands.

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This discovery was only validated and expanded upon when I wound two of my five Eco skeins into balls, and I figured: there’s gotta be a better way of doing that.

As it turns out, there is. Jacqueline Fee’s yarn cocoon is something I’d tried before with disastrous results in cobweb-weight yarn, but it seems perfect for these big, thick skeins where the yarn sticks together a bit instead of just becoming a big tangled mess of slip-slidey thread. And winding them is really quite relaxing.

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Also, I love the look of them. They really do look like cocoons, don’t they? They are, admittedly, a bit bigger than the balls/ yarn cakes I wind – they end up being around the size of the original skein – but they don’t tend to roll around quite as much, which is always a relief.

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I’ll report back when I’ve knitted up more of them, i.e. how much they collapse when a bit more of the center is gone, and how well they hold up under the stress of being hauled around, but as of right now, I’m thoroughly charmed. Also, my hands hurt way less.

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A Tale of Two Mittens

July 3, 2011 § 2 Comments

With only two weeks to go until I have to hand in my Bachelor’s thesis, I’ve been experiencing a serious case of startitis. And a bit of finish-it-up-itis, which is nice.

In the course of this, I recently finished a pair of Gryffindor mittens, nothing fancy: I did some corrugated ribbing for the wrist, took the chart from the House Bag pattern, and continued the checkerboard pattern on the palm. They’re awesome and I can’t wait to wear them, but I also learned a couple of things from them, and when my roomie and a good friend of mine both asked for a pair of House Mittens, I figured this might be a good opportunity to document my designing process, on the off-chance that others might be able to learn from my mistakes.

So, I present you with the first installment of:

A Tale of Two Mittens

Part One: Gathering wool. And books, and some more ideas, and general information.

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And when the feeling’s right

June 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

It’s that time of the year again.

The sun shines brightly in the clear blue sky, I spend my time having extensive breakfast in cafés and lounging in the sun down by the canal instead of doing homework, Leipzig is overrun by black masses of the Goth persuasion, and I feel an acute case of startitis coming my way.

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Last night I cast on Rock Island last night, I started swatching for my sweater project ‘Phony King of England’ this morning around 7.30, and after an entirely perfect afternoon at Annelie’s, which we spent eating, knitting, talking and cooing over the baby, I’m caving to peer pressure.

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After struggling (for some unfathomable reason) with the technically easy lace for Rock Island and being bored to death by an entirely unexciting sock that I don’t want to finish lest I have to cast on its twin, and after a day of watching my friends zoom happily through the stockinette portion of Gingko… I give up. You hear that, the two of you?  Besides, you’ll need my ~expertise  once our KAL gets to the lace part. Possibly.

Starting now I bat a thousand

May 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Well, it looks like I’m starting to get my mojo back.

I’m sure everybody’s had that phase where all their knitting motivation was being sucked down into a black hole, and where their knitting progress was taking similar dark and dingy roads into nowheresville.

It’s the time where you open your stash cupboards and discover that despite several kilos of yarn lurking behind the harmless wooden façade, you have a big pile of nothing to knit.

Then you look through your pattern books and Ravelry and discover that every pattern in the world is too something: too fussy, too boring, too big, too small, too frumpy, too modern, too intricate, too plain, too triangular, too this-doesn’t-go-with-any-yarn-I-have or worst, too I-have-a-yarn-that-would-go-with-that-but-I-really-don’t-want-to-waste-it-on-that-because-it’s-not-the-perfectest-pattern-I-have-ever-seen-in-my-life.

And so I cast on a sock or two and trudged through my super-secret project – which was technically fun, but to someone who’s usually so meticulous about keeping their Ravelry project page updated, it’s just plain depressing to do so much work without being able to share it. (Because, well, that’s sort of the definition of super-secret.)

But then I finished the SSP on Tuesday morning and went to the pub with Saskia on Tuesday night, and since I didn’t have any pub knitting (because ugggggh, socks), I cast on Multnomah with my ocean-colored handdyed sock yarn. Which was technically not the best idea, because knitting with dark yarn and dark needles in a dark pub produced garter stitch that was positively riddled with mistakes, but on the other hand, I feel like this yarn must have magic properties. No, really.

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Magic. I’m almost done with what has to be the most entertaining garter stitch portion of a shawl in the history of the universe – I’m so charmed by the colors emerging and mingling and I know I’m blowing my own horn to the point where everyone around me (including myself) is starting to turn deaf, but, but… it’s just gorgeous. I’m in love. I have no idea how I did it, except that I dumped a lot (and I mean a LOT) of color on that poor skein of sock yarn, and that the amount of time it spent in the microwave would’ve probably roasted a whole turkey. (Well, almost.) And I can barely wait to start the feather-and-fan section.

So here I am, chilling on my floor since the SSP is currently occupying the sunny spot on my bed, ogling my pretty handdyed, and considering reprising this morning’s Best Breakfast Ever.

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(SpongeBob Squarepants bowl? check. Delicious oatmeal? check. Enough fruit to cover the whole bowl of delicious oatmeal, plus some chocolate? oh, you bet!)

I feel the Earth move under my feet

May 16, 2011 § 2 Comments

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Do you know like we were saying, about the earth revolving? It’s like when you’re a kid, the first time they tell you that the world is turning and you just can’t quite believe it ’cause everything looks like it’s standing still. I can feel it – the turn of the earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles an hour. The entire planet is hurtling around the sun at sixty seven thousand miles an hour. And I can feel it. We’re falling through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny little world. And, if we let go… That’s who I am.

These days I barely realize how fast time flies by, until another week has gone by and I’m going square dancing and barbecuing and doing yarny stuff over at Annelie’s and taking guided tours around my neighborhood and having business lunch with my friends and climbing up church towers and saving our little grill from the sudden downpour. My Ravelry project page certainly reflects that – I just updated it with a shawl I finished on April 4th, but other than that I just have a ton of half-finished projects flying around. I did finish the socks I started when I needed something to knit for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I back in, uh, November, and I’m almost done with a precious little baby set in red and yellow – it’s funny how Elizabeth Zimmerman’s patterns totally work if you actually follow them.

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Also, this week Annelie and I finally got around to dyeing some yarn, with easter egg dyes, Kool-Aid and onion skins. There was a whole rainbow of little skeins of wool that she’d inherited from her great-grandmother, and then five big skeins that we met up to untangle and wind into balls just yesterday.

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(from top to bottom: kool-aid, easter egg dye, onion skins first skein, onion skins second skein. yes, I am aware of the fact that these are only four skeins; Annelie had already started winding one)

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I love winding yarn into balls, or in my case flat yarn cakes that don’t roll around quite so absurdly. It’s a very social thing, absolute teamwork, with one holding the skein and the other one winding the ball, and while you’re connected to thousands of years of history, you have tons and tons of time on your hands to just talk. And with five 130 g skeins of fingering-weight yarn, that’s quite a lot of time. Good times. We split the onion skeins fraternally (or sororically) and are planning on a glove KAL; the blue-and-green skein is mine and mine alone, yes yes my precioussss, and Annelie promptly cast on another Baby Surprise Jacket with the Kool-Aid skein.

I cannot stress how heartbreakingly gorgeous the first onion yarn is. The second, paler one is still quite pretty, but the first one… It’s like spun gold. Which quite frankly I hadn’t expected from onions. Of all things, really.

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And so, life goes on and on. Down from the road where it began. (speaking of which, today is the first day of Sherlock shooting in Cardiff. I can’t wait for the second season!) There are two weeks left until the Wollefest, two months minus one day until I have to hand in my Bachelor’s thesis. And before I’ll know it, summer will be over and done with, and the leaves will turn to gold, and nothing gold can stay. I feel the earth move under my feet…

We’re gonna turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse

February 7, 2011 § 5 Comments

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(We’ve been having some lovely weather lately. I just sat on the Augustusplatz and knit for half an hour today, in the blinding sunlight with my jacket open, just because I could.)

I’d love to pull a Yarn Harlot and proclaim my infection with finish-it-up-itis, but while I don’t maintain it doesn’t exist, it certainly isn’t happening to me. Or I’ve already had it for months, it was just that my projects weren’t as wisely chosen as these days?

First, the purchases of the week:

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That’s a skein of Wollmeise (color: Frosch) on top of the Lucifer Box novels by Mark Gatiss, which really deserve their own post and I could go on and on about them. So I’m just gonna say that they’re brilliant, and fun, and adventure-laden, and the hero is the perfect mix of James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, every single character out of Dorian Gray (no, seriously. every single one of them. Well, maybe not Sibyl Vane. But everyone else.), and Captain Jack Harkness. They’re written in the first person, which isn’t normally my thing but works wonderfully with the wit and sparkle Lucifer Box has, and, you know. Even Stephen Fry couldn’t get enough of them. As of now I’ve finished the first two books, and I loved every page. Mark Gatiss is my new hero. (A brilliant gay sci-fi and adventure writer whose well-written hero is cheerfully bisexual but not utterly defined by some stereotype. What’s there not to love?)

Seriously. I’ve been recommending it all over the place for a week, and I’ll do it here as well: If you only discover one author this year, let it be Mark Gatiss. At least read Vesuvius Club. You won’t be able to stop there, anyway.

Second, I finished the Kai-Mei socks! I admit it’s kind of embarrassing that I’m the first one to finish a design out of Saskia’s birthday present, but, eh. They’re warm and lovely and SO CLEVER, and I think I’m going to knit a couple more socks with that construction, although not necessarily the same lace panel.

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I wore them to Annelie’s to show them off, partly because it’s always nice to show off an FO to real people, and mostly because Annelie had given me the yarn. And once again, it was one of these things that only happen with yarn people.

Annelie: Oooh, you finished the socks!
Me: Yup. *pulls up pants leg a bit* … you can touch them if you want to?
Annelie: Ooooh, they’re so soft!
Me: Yeah, I think there may be some alpaca or something in there.
Annelie: No idea. … Honeeeeey! Honey, come here for a second!
Annelie’s husband: … yes?
Annelie: Remember that yarn I had for the longest time?
Annelie’s husband: … no?
Annelie: you know, the one I got from XY, in Karolinsiel, don’t you remember?
Annelie’s husband: … no?
Annelie: well, Patti knit it up into socks. Here, touch them!

I have to say, he’s very well-trained in terms of yarn-related behavior.

Apart from surprise!sock-fondling, we actually got some work done on Sunday. I was at Annelie’s for six hours and I sat at the wheel for at least 5 of those. I had ~flow, man. But now, along with some gorgeous yarn I finished with only seconds to spare before I had to leave, I’ve also got sore muscles in more expected places.

Yes, I finished my first wheel-spun yarn. And I shall subject you all to a lengthy slideshow of every stage of the process.

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Well, actually I won’t. Kind of. I’ll put the major part of the lengthy slideshow under a break so the tl;dr crowd can’t complain (although, pretty pictures. what’s wrong with you people? have you got no soul?), but here’s some of the most important ones. Because I took this here:

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(Drachenwolle, 130 g BFL, color ‘Stroh zu Gold’, gorgeous but useless)

and turned it into this:

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(~130 g, 226m, still gorgeous, knittable!)

and it only took me two afternoons (and a total of two hours or so of pre-drafting on the Saturdays before). How would you not want to see more of where that came from? (Am I trying to guilt you into clicking that ‘more’ link, just so that I can geek about spinning a bit more? Damn right I am!)

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All I want to do is be more like me

February 1, 2011 § 3 Comments

Now that I’m back on the knitting horse, so to speak, it seems I can’t stop blogging about it.

Seriously, it’s kind of insane how good it feels to start something new, something exciting, something quick. I’m making very good use of my birthday present to Saskia (Cookie A’s ‘Sock Innovation’) and am halfway done with my first Kai-Mei. Or Kei-Mai. Or Mai-Tai. Or… something. I’m almost getting a head rush from the speed. The yarn feels a little thicker than your average sock yarn, which made the leg zoom by extra fast. 66 stitches to a round… paradise.

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I swear, the yarn’s a lot less neon than it looks in this picture. It’s still cheerful though, and works great with the (pretty, inventive, just damn clever) pattern. So. Clever. I’m more and more in awe of Cookie A.; this is the first time I’m knitting one of her socks after two years of admiring them from afar, and I have nothing to complain about at all. Clear chart, solid instructions, unusual but not mindboggling construction, even a photo of the sock worked in a variegated yarn in addition to the solid version.

News of my big projects… oh, phooey. The only big projects I’m touching these days are Watson and Girl Friday, and that’s only because they’re finished and amazing. I rocked my complete Watson outfit again today, plaid shirt and all.

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Oh, Watson… I made the sleeves a bit too long. I keep doing that, by the way. I think I’m just so excited by the fact that I can make sleeves as long as I want, that I can make sleeves that won’t be too short for my (according to the fashion industry) freakishly long arms, that I get kind of carried away every freaking time. With Girl Friday, I redid the cuffs and shortened them and I can still fold over the entire cuffs and have them be long enough.

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With Watson, it’s not quite as bad. I mean, yes, I can still fold over the entire cuff, but the cuffs are a lot shorter than the Girl Friday ones. I’m not sure what I should do about it. I mean, technically, I’m already well-versed in the fiddly art of removing the cuffs, picking up the stitches and reknitting it. I’m still debating whether I will, though. Maybe I’ll snip off the cuff, remove one repeat or so of the sleeve pattern, and graft the old cuff back on. (Even though that would require me to fudge it by a couple of stitches, so it might not be the best method. On the other hand, the cuff wouldn’t be offset by half a stitch.)

Or maybe I’ll just leave it like this. I’ll have to mull it over a bit, but I’m painfully aware I can’t put it off too long. Eventually the stitches will be fulled together as it is, I can’t even imagine doing it after a couple of months. That’s the drawback of Lopi, really.

No deep thoughts, this time, I’m sorry to say. Saskia and I randomly read Oscar Wilde out loud last night, but the thing that’s stuck most in my my mind is the crowning sentence of my translation homework that (unintentionally) set everyone off giggling.

“The heating ducts are everywhere.”

Daleks? Aim for the eyestalk. Sontarans? Back of the neck. Heating ducts? Run.

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