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.

The oceans and pangea – see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya

June 3, 2011 § 11 Comments

I haven’t written about the 4th Leipziger Wollefest at all, and it’s almost been a week since that particular event of the year. Truth to be told I’m still slightly overwhelmed – I haven’t even gotten around to unpacking and stashing my purchases yet, although that might also be attributed to a distinct lack of space.

I spent an awesome Saturday in the truly packed garden behind the Strickcafé. It was kind of insane – when we got there at 11am, the line to get in went all the way to the street. So many people. Even more yarn.

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Oh, and what yarn! I think apart from Wollmeise, all the major players on the German handdyer scene were there, and honestly, even the Wollmeise couldn’t have improved the yarn selection available. (Also, let’s face it: as breathtaking as her colors are, she isn’t exactly adventurous with her fiber selection. So, yeah.) (I don’t mean to snub her, really, but having Wollmeise available to me on a regular basis has sort of taken the edge off the hysteric fangirling.)

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I swear, the Dibadu stand was crowded all day. I have no idea how I managed to get this photo, but it had probably something to do with it being fairly late.

I was especially delighted to see the gals from DyeForYarn/DyeForWool, whom I’d discovered a couple of days before on Etsy, and one of which, as it turns out, wrote the pattern for the stole I’ve been planning for one of the yarns I bought in Berlin. Go check them out; they’re two separate stores, but they work together and they’re absolutely equally amazing. Both the yarns and the women. One of them was wearing a gorgeous blue shawl, and Saskia and I spent a good half hour debating which pattern it was. It was a good thing the Wollefest is one of those rare places where you can just go up to someone and ask about their clothes, and people are delighted instead of confused or freaked out. It also turns out that Saskia was entirely correct in her ‘Aeolian shawl with narrow edging’ analysis. I’d say that the student has surpassed the master, but I’m too petty for that. Also I’m still the better knitter. Neener-neener.

Anyway, my haul this year, overall a slight departure from my usual color scheme (i.e. no green this time):

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from top to bottom: dibadu BFL roving; DyeForYarn fingering-weight BFL; some dreamy orange alpaca/merino/silk lace yarn (from Kreativmitwolle) that was my first and most impulsive purchase of the day; blue/maroon/rust-colored merino lace yarn from DyeForYarn (again, I left a lot of money there); a gorgeous merino lace yarn from dibadu; four and a half cakes of Jamieson and Smith; and the breathtaking purchase of the day: a 70% cashmere/ 30% silk lace yarn from DyeForWool that I’ve been fondling to a point where I find myself creepy. It’s gorgeous, and smooshy, and most of all DISCONTINUED, which is the most magical quality a yarn can have. (They still have a single skein in a chocolatey brown in their shop. Act fast if you want it!)

What I like about the DfY/DfW crowd is that they give their yarns awesome names: they had an ‘Ex-Peacock’ that was named for the Dead Parrot Sketch (I asked); the merino lace is called Trauriger Harlekin (sad harlequin) and there’s a Death of a Harlequin colorway too; the cashmere’s called ‘fading lichen on a graveyard’ (I had to pull it out to verify. Excuse me while I go fondle my yarn. Again. Did I mention it’s discontinued?) and the BFL’s name is ‘Shadowstorm at dusk.’

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(in the background: Saskia’s Malabrigo shawl. It’s really soft. How I know? Well, let’s just say she does this thing where she comes up to you and very subtly announces ‘oh wow, this shawl I’m knitting is really, really soft TOUCH IT.’)

That one, by the way, was one of the two skeins Saskia and I wound to balls right there and then, chilling out next to the spinning wheels while Annelie was producing some wacky art yarn or other. People seemed to be confused by the fact that we were winding manually instead of using one of the winder/swift combos that were set up all over the place, but I like winding by hand. Although in retrospect it might have been advisable to wind at least some of my yarn with some mechanical support instead of insisting on winding three skeins of very, very thin lace yarn by hand. I kind of went on a lace rage there. Saskia also went crazy, albeit not quite as crazy as I did.

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But still fairly crazy. Wollum is never far away, no, he isn’t, my precioussssss…

Speaking of crazy. They had this awesome friendship spinning wheel there which I kind of want? Except let’s not kid ourselves, what would I ever do with it. Except brag about it to everyone I know, and some people I don’t, and land myself in a mental institution two months later. So, uh… maybe next year.

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It’s this ingenious contraption where one person treadles, but three people can spin at the same time. I don’t know how that would work out in reality – my passing acquaintance with a wheel has shown that regular stopping and seeing what the hell you’re doing is of utmost importance at least for a beginner – but apparently there are also wedding wheels, where the spinners sit next to each other, and that’s just too adorable for words.

But yes. I got to show off my Armada…

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… Annelie got to show off her mad spinning skillz and baby belly due to an evidently miscalculated due date…

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… and it turns out that as opposed to the Wollefest two years ago, where I had to cajole and threaten Saskia into going there to bring me more money, and she was bored out of her mind, this year she got to show off some lace knitting of her own and also do wacky yarn stuff with me.

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It turns out that if you don’t have any knitting friends, a little yarny bribery goes a long way in creating some brand new ones. In your own home! With items commonly found around the house! Go try it today.

Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and nice red uniforms – Oh damn!

March 24, 2011 § 4 Comments

I’ve been taking full advantage of the beautiful spring weather. It’s been a balmy 15°C with lots of sun and barely a cloud in the sky, so yesterday while I had the Armada pinned out on my bed I went to the park with Saskia, to soak up sun and eat delicious Middle Eastern snacks while wearing a skirt, a t-shirt and ballerinas. After we had enough of the park we had coffee in front of our favorite café just around the corner from our house, and I didn’t even mind going back home because this is what greeted me when I stepped into my room.

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Turned out it blocked out to slightly bigger than 1.20m, but I could pin the slack down on the side of the mattress. Thank god for the aluminum rods! Using them on all four sides would’ve been too fiddly (not to mention the injuries I probably would’ve suffered from tripping over the two protruding bits) but two sides was perfect.

What I love about lace, apart from the general and obvious gorgeousness, is how small it folds. Even hairsprayed into oblivion (I’m paranoid when it comes to blocking and like to fixate with a bit – or half a can – of hairspray before pulling out the pins), it was still barely bigger than my Moleskine calender.

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And then today, I grabbed Saskia by the hair and dragged her down to the canal and forced her at gunpoint to model the shawl for me. I might have been more of an asking-nicely thing than brutal blackmail, but, y’know. Anything for a dramatic hyperbole.

Anyway, she did a beautiful job, and oh my, I’m so in love with this yarny monstrosity. It’s like the Big Green Monster v.2. I don’t even know how to wear it. But it’s amazing.

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So this is it. Spanish Armada by MMario with an edging by Utlinde (I’d love to link to the PDF, but I got it from her personally and it’s neither in her nor in Mmario’s patterns). This shawl measures approximately 127 cm by 127 cm (about 4’2″ by 4’2″) and was knit in 81 days with an entire skein of Filatura di Crosa Centolavaggi (100% merino, 1400m/100g, color 151), mostly on 3mm bamboo needles. I say mostly because for the last quarter of the edging, I gradually switched down to a 2.25mm DPN and one 3mm tip of the circ because yarn was getting scarce and I was getting scared.

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In the end, I was more than glad I went down a couple of sizes because I finished with nothing at all left over and a half-corner that consists of about half the short rows normally required. ‘Tight squeeze’ doesn’t even come close. I spent about a week frantically weighing and re-weighing the little ball of yarn that got even smaller at an alarming rate, and the adrenaline rush when I just barely made it had me woozy for at least half an hour.

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I cast on with Fleegle’s Cast-On For Circular Shawls, which is insanely difficult if you do it wrong and a revelation once you hold the yarn the way you’re supposed to.

[UPDATE: I saw that people have been searching my blog for a good way to cast on for this, and I’d like to add that while Fleegle’s Cast-On is awesome and I’ve used it many times to great success, TECHknitting has a disappearing loop cast-on that works the same way, only you can cast on an even number of stitches, eliminating the need to sneak an increase in somewhere.]

Modifications: I added one ‘leaf’ repeat to the Print o’ the Wave. I wish the chart had lined up so I could’ve changed some of the k2tog to ssk to get nicely defined lines like in the edging, but spilled milk and all that. I think I added about a repeat and a half to the English Mesh just for the heck of it, and skipped the very last chart in favor of the sideways edging. It was originally for a triangular shawl, so I stared with the middle row of the corner chart after the provisional cast-on. After the first corner was unsatisfyingly loose in the middle, I started to wrap & turn and do a [pick up wrap, k2tog] row instead of the charted middle row for the other corners and they came out much, much better. I had to fudge away a couple of stitches here and there and I’m pretty sure the amount of scallops is different on each side, but there’s enough of them for me not to be too bothered by that. The entire edging took 35g, but with two or three grams more there would’ve been a lot less stress and a much smaller number of shortcuts.

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Now that it’s all nice and blocked, the ratio between the Print o’ the Wave and the English Mesh doesn’t seem as off as it did pre-blocking, for which I am intensely grateful. At times, the only thing that kept me from ripping back half the edging, the Mesh and the extra repeat of the Print o’ the Wave was the fact that I was on an already tight schedule, and it turns out it works just fine like this.

I think this has been my most challenging project to date. This was partly due to the pattern being difficult to grasp intuitively, so that I had to work each row with intense concentration and even more intense counting. But although I’d knit lightweight lace before, I’d never worked with yarn that fine before: my usual lace yarns run somewhere around 600m/100g, and even Misti Alpaca Lace is only 800m/100g, which is still 600m less than the Centolavaggi. The thing that had worried me most, the >800-stitch-long rows towards the end, ended up being the least of my concerns. I’m not a patient person by nature, but with lace I can scrounge up a surprising amount of the stuff. Also Centolavaggi is a thoroughly enjoyable yarn to work with, I’m intensely glad I have another skein (apple green this time) in my stash. I guess since lace shawls are relatively impractical by nature (compared to, say, socks), I turn into somewhat of a process knitter when working on them, whereas with socks I have the biggest trouble psyching myself up for the heel because it takes so long.

Now, after all this serious!knitter stuff, for the most famous reindeer of all:

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These lines of lightening

August 5, 2010 § 2 Comments

I’m at my parents’, and to counteract the slow, slippery slide towards absolutely bonkers, I thought I’d sit down and blog a bit, even if I don’t have a camera to show my impressive progress with the socks or the Thistle shawl or anything.

Because, oh boy, have I made progress! One of the Rhubarb Tweed Waffle socks is done, the other is almost down to the heel – it’s kind of a long shaft, plus I’ve pretty much only touched them when I needed something for waiting rooms, that kind of thing. I’ve even offered my mother to knit on them for a bit, since she can’t do much more than sit around all day due to knee surgery, but she declined. Strange woman.

But the Thistle shawl… oh man. Last Saturday, I was up to row 110, just after the start of the zig-zag-y edging, and I realized I’d made a colossal mistake in doing the whole daffodil blooms (or whatever those triangles are) on the edges. To demonstrate:

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(Photo not mine)

Doing the whole daffodils on the edges of a semicircular shawl would’ve meant two things: a slight bend in the otherwise straight line – I could’ve dealt with that. In fact, that was kind of what I was counting on making the decision. But the other thing, which I didn’t realize until I started the edging, was that it would’ve meant the corners would have been one of the low points of the stockinette parts, and that would’ve just looked plain silly.

And so I ripped back. 40 rows. Forty. Rows. Of lace. With a fluffy-ish yarn that meant it took well over 2 hours to ravel down due to the stitches sticking together. My heart bled, people. Bled as I was sitting in the sunshine.

But you know what the amazing thing is? Three days later, I was back to row 110, and right now, I’m on 133, and there’s a total of 138. Which means I’m almost done knitting, and then I’ll put off the endless crochet bind-off until I’m home, where I have hooks small enough for that kind of thing. I’m a busy, busy bee. Especially considering one row takes about 15 minutes. I’ve been watching a lot of QI.

So yeah, mentally insert a picture of a thistle segment pinned out to my bed, all pretty and clever and brilliant, and I’ll show you the finished thing in a couple of days.

On another note, I went to Zitron on Monday, found out that my extra-long 160 cm circular needle had not in fact been forgotten, and bought some extra-special, tremendously exciting yarn coming out in October or so which I can’t show you until then, but rest assured, it really is pretty exciting.

Be proud of me. It’s only August and I’m starting on Christmas presents already.

(To remedy the lack of photos in this post, a panorama pic of our new and improved kitchen, with the shelf (on the right) Saskia and I built ourselves, from scratch! Click photo to embiggen slightly, or here for an enormous version)

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High may your proud standards gloriously wave

July 27, 2010 § 3 Comments

I love Scotland.

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I’m not ashamed to admit it, either. The Highlands are gorgeous, Edinburgh is an entirely charming city, and Scottish accents set my heart on fire. I’ve had a single-bagpipe version of  ‘Scotland the Brave’ as the world’s most annoying ringtone since August 2007, which has led to frantic episodes of digging for my cell phone in all kinds of places (most notably on Westminster Bridge, where I didn’t spot the lone bagpiper in time).

I’ve also been coveting Marianne Kinzel’s Thistle Design ‘Balmoral’ at least since January – that’s when I queued it, though I’m pretty sure I’ve had it in my favorites longer than that, it’s just that I got the book around that time. It’s an outstanding design, timeless, gorgeous, Scottish – and it doesn’t repeat. Well, the background pattern does, but the rest? Mostly line-by-line work of pre-computer charts.

The most surprising thing of all? I’m making ridiculous progress. I’ve been at it for five days, and I’m almost done with the second chart, i.e. the tops of the thistles. Granted, I’m doing half the design, cause I have little to no use for a circular shawl (not that I have too much use for other shawls, mind. ahem), but I’ve still put in a lot of hours, and it shows.

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I’m thinking it might also be due to the yarn. It’s the white Zitron Filigran No. 1, but unlike the skeins I made Haruni out of, it’s the second generation. Filigran No. 1.2, so to speak. Apparently it’s steamed at 1°C higher than the previous incarnation, which astonishingly enough results in an amazing increase of softness. It feels at bit fluffier, too, but what’s most remarkable is that it’s softer than butter. It almost feels like baby alpaca, that’s how soft it is.

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I had to take some leaps of faith – especially the asymmetrical-seeming kfb increases, which turned out to be perfectly symmetrical after all – but on the whole, I find it perfectly charming. The thistles are remarkably thistle-like, I love the wide mesh in the middle of the thistle-heads, the background is very textured yet just airy enough, and I have yet to figure out where exactly the row increases are hidden.

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All in all, it’s quite marvelous.

And also, I’ve been watching entirely too much QI to be unaffected by the brilliant Stephen Fry’s speech patterns. Oh dear.

Now excuse me, I need to tink back two rows to fix the background in the last panel. And also refurbish the kitchen.

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Back in… Beige!

June 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

Guess what I just finished with spot-on gauge?

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That’s right, the back of my Girl Friday cardigan. I wanted to start the first front piece down at the canal, but I forgot to pack the yarn after making sure that I had the pattern page. Still, go me.

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It’s still a lot of fun – granted, I said that about the miles-of-stockinette Weasley Sweater at this point, but having finished a third is still a pretty good feeling regardless. Plus all nice and pinned out, the pattern is almost hypnotic… or like one of those Magic Eye things. Autostereograms?

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Anyway. I come bearing recipe recs, cause it’s summer and it’s nice and finally not as terribly humid yet still sunny and…

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That’s Buttermilk Biscuits (which are the best I’ve ever made, three times in a row in about a week) and pearl oat salad with tomatoes and scallions, and a nice light vinaigrette. Seriously, the biscuits are awesome, but you need to add a little more flour, otherwise they dough is just a tad too runny.

Also, and this is a definitive oh my god, make this, STAT is Chicken Tikka Masala. It’s the British national dish (as mentioned in Robin Cook’s Chicken Tikka Masala Speech) and I’d heard a lot about it but never made it before.

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Oh my god. This is easily the best dish I’ve ever tasted. No kidding. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I’m a pretty decent cook – but this, this just knocked it out of the park. Seriously, I could eat this every single day of the week and not get sick of it. I made my own Garam Masala and everything for it, and oh wow. Everybody should make this at some point. I’ve already invited Christian over for Chicken Tikka Masala next weekend, and I’ll make some Naan to go along with it, too.

So, yeah. Chicken Tikka Masala. In other news, I’m still neglecting my Garden shawl (although I did do about 4 rows this morning during Doctor Who), but at least I’m… photographing cherries.

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Hot blooded

June 8, 2010 § 6 Comments

Summer’s picking up speed, all I do all day long is sweat profusely, and my brain works only sluggishly – which must be the reason for this insanity: worsted weight. merino. cardigan.

Yes, in what must have been a momentary lapse of reason, I started Girl Friday last night, and I already have a good six inches. It’s kind of ridiculous, I’m so used to hundreds of stitches that I laughed out loud when I saw the back was only 107 stitches in the 2XL, which I’m making. 107 stitches! The front parts are slightly smaller than a round of a sock!

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So, thanks lace knitting for putting things in perspective. I guess. Still, the pattern is ridiculously easy to remember, makes for great TV knitting. I basically looked at it, knit the first half repeat, and had committed it to memory. Very nice. TV choice last night: first two or three episodes of ‘Pushing Daisies’ until Chuck annoyed me too much to bear, then as a contrast ‘Shortbus’, which I hadn’t seen in ages.

Also, despite the utter annoyingness that is Chuck, Emerson Cod the PI is hilarious AND awesome. He’s this big, burly, black dude who… knits. Which explains my squee. In stressful times, he apparently finds the stockinette stitch especially calming, and he also freed himself, the Pie Maker and Chuck from a rather precarious situation involving body bags, wrist ties, and a car running on dandelions – with the help of a straight, purple knitting needle. Yay!

He also has a drawer full of money cozies in a lovely shade of light green. And he says things like ‘I’m gonna do XY… once I’ve finished purling this row.’

Working vigorously on the cardi means I’m abandoning the Garden shawl (aka the DicksWithWingsShawl) a bit, but that’s okay, I guess. I still have all summer for that. I should be concentrating on the Swallowtail anyway, that thing’s due in a month and a half.

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Sadly, the warm weather also means the Tilting Tardis Cowl hasn’t seen any action yet apart from me camwhoring a bit.

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And here, exclusive photographs of the socks I cast on the same day as the other pair of socks:

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It’s the old song-and-dance with the SALT line where I’m the only one who can actually read it, plus the dark blue has some lighter spots that make it even more hard to read, but I still find it highly amusing and don’t give a damn if I’m the only one who thinks so.

Now, one of the few good things about summer that I’ve discovered… I can pretty much live off fresh fruit and vegetables. I’ve had this for the past three days:

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Never mind that it was my side for biscuits and gravy today. *facepalm*

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