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.

Ooh, baby it’s cold outside

May 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Yesterday I knit a hat and a pair of socks.

It isn’t every day you get to say that, and this absolutely instant gratification is one of the reasons I’ve been bitten by the baby bug big time. Apart from alliterations, this induces major squee from all sides and even more frantic work that’s resulted in two jacket-hat-bootees outfits that are both as heartbreakingly cute as they are quickly knit. Also, being able to squeeze a whole matching set out of one ball of yarn? Is pretty fantastic, not to mention frugal.

However, before I start showing off my super-cute baby knits at length, I’d like to say a word about casting off. (Not a tutorial though; there are people who do that far better than I ever could, e.g. TECHknitting.)

Now, I’m a relatively loose knitter, which is why it always comes as a surprise to me that I’m a fairly tight binder-offer. This surprise is usually coupled with a tedious undoing of the cast-off edge, which is why I switched to the ssk-bind-off as a standard bind-off, i.e. [k2, * insert left needle into stitches on the right needle, perform the ‘k’ part of ssk, k1, repeat from *], and I’ve never had to worry about a too-tight cast-off ever since. But last night, I came across something I didn’t think I’d ever see in my life.

A cast-off that was too loose.

I was making Saartje’s Booties, which, by the way, are the manifestation of cute – except that the first one didn’t come out quite as cute as the ones in the pictures. Which was a shame, really, because we’re after all talking about bootees that are supposed to look like this:

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Anyway, in a rare moment of maturity I decided not to blame the pattern, but instead wondered whether it was maybe my fault. And also, because these things take two hours at most to whip up, I decided that I could always make three. And it turns out that what I got was this:

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That’s the first bootee on the bottom and the second one on the top. They’re identical except for the cast-off method. It doesn’t look like that big a difference, doesn’t it? Those couple of millimeters the cast-off was looser (and looser is better, right? Right?!) should barely be visible.

Well, let me show you the two of them side-by-side.

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So, what do we learn from this, I wonder? Well, first, trust your instincts. If it looks too loose, it probably is too loose. Second, sometimes the simplest approach is the right one. And third, for  future reference: If a pattern goes to the length to specify a cast-on or cast-off, by god, listen.

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Anyway, so this is what the rest of the outfit looks like:

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That’s the BSJ I made back in March, then a Heartbreakingly Cute Pilot Cap from Knitting Outside The Lines (to keep in lines with the origami theme, albeit not with the garter stitch), and to finish it off, Saartje’s Booties (sans buttons). It’s all very plain, cute in its simplicity and clean lines (or so I like to think), and in a rather dreamy Scottish wool/linen blend I got in Berlin. I still have what feels like 25 g or so left, which is always nice.

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And that’s the other one! I’m not usually one to mix crafts – mostly because I hate crochet with a fiery passion that hasn’t abated much with work on this set, but it was totally worth it. This set’s even tri-craftual, with a bit of (very basic) embroidery thrown in just for kicks.

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Or tetra-craftual, if you count making Dorset buttons. Which, by the way, are super-fun, dirt-cheap, easy to make, always a perfect match for your yarn, and very well explained in this tutorial.

I might have mentioned the Heart Hat that gave me so much trouble – mostly because I’m a dolt who can’t read patterns – but it turned out rather well in the end, and I’m quite enchanted by it. It’s hopelessly anachronistic in its bonnet-style, but at least I didn’t make the one with the hilariously padded ruffle. (Now that I think about it, I might have to make that one though. I already pity the kids I might have someday.)

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And, of course, the wee shoesies. Those are rather ingenious, if I may say so myself – they’re mostly regular socks, except they’re knit flat (because I hate garter stitch in the round) and near- invisibly seamed up along the side.

So, yeah. It’s all slightly ridiculous and probably much too warm for the coming summer months, and by the time the weather will be appropriate, the kid will have almost certainly grown out of them. But I’ve had the pleasure of making them, and oh, what a pleasure it’s been.

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Now excuse me, I have some booties I’d like to cast on like a madwoman.

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.

From the mountain to the air

January 31, 2011 § 6 Comments

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To say my clothing style is a bit hodge-podge may well be the exaggeration of the year.

In other news: I have sore feet. After a good three hours of constant treadling the spinning wheel, I’d expected sore thighs or sore calves or, hell, sore fingers from having a notoriously overplied thread running through them. But no, it’s the tops of my ankles that are kind of sore. What a random place.

Apart from spinning, we also washed yarn, which I guess is a thing you can only do with wool people… Annelie had a bunch of beautifully structured by wonky-smelling skeins of polyester yearn, and we washed a couple of them in the hope that the smell would go. Me agitating the soapy water until my rolled-up sleeves were full of splashes, Annelie rinsing the soapy skeins and hanging them up to dry… it’s moments like this when I feel so connected to history, to long-dead people all over the world, sitting together to wash and card and spin wool, talking and being useful at the same time. Everywhere, all over the world, for hundreds and thousands of years, connected by the red thread of… yarn.

It’s a good thing I don’t have my own spinning wheel (yet), or I’d just sit in front of it today, moodily wishing I could go on but realizing that the fun would last about 10 minutes until I’d crawl back to wherever I started from, tail tucked.

So instead I wound the gorgeous yarn Annelie gave me into a ball, and started on Cookie A.’s Kai-Mei socks. Annelie, if you’re reading this, thank you again. One day soonish I’ll make you a pair of socks in a color you actually like.

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And now someone else is getting all your best

January 9, 2011 § 3 Comments

I think most people have a bit of a soft spot when it comes to babies, and I think most knitters have a bit of a soft spot for knitting baby clothes. And why not? They’re small, which makes them relatively quick and affords you the chance to try new things, and also they’re adorable.

The only problem I had, until now, is that I didn’t know any babies. Or pregnant women. Which is a shame, really, because there are tons of adorable baby things on Ravelry (like the Baby Yoda Sweater, which has been in my queue forever), and I simply didn’t have anyone to give them to, since all my friends, for some reason, refuse to have babies despite my insistent bribery with the promises of baby things.

So when I went to the Strickcafé last Wednesday, I was overjoyed to meet Annelie, who is pregnant, and even more overjoyed when it turned out that she is a terrifically nice person, that we get along swimmingly, and that finally, finally I’d found someone I could knit baby things for.

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Exploding ovaries all around. Seriously, they’re the most adorable thing I’ve ever knit. I think it may be all the garter stitch, and the tweediness, and the folded-over shaft, and the fact that both of them fit into my hand at the same time. Both my roommates went gaga over them as well.

And who can blame them? All the while I was knitting them, I couldn’t stop myself from mumbling ‘oh my god, aren’t they just the cutest things ever? just look at the wee little bootees! most adorable thing ever!’

For those who want to know, they’re Knitgirl’s Mother’s Stay-On Baby Bootees, in an experimental tweed version of Zitron Trekking Handart, color Nepal, on 2.25 mm needles (15 cm DPNs are just long enough). They have a very interesting construction involving short rows, but it’s pretty much necessary to fudge a bit with the seam, as it tends to be a bit on the pointy side. However, due to the garter stitch, you can sew the seam invisibly by sewing through the purl bumps at the edge; I was surprised at how many of the project pictures had bulky seams at the back.

I think I may have to make one to just have one, and to go gaga over whenever I feel like it.

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