Sunday, 27 January 2008

The Long Slog Along the Forest Path

After the pure pleasure of the Swallowtail I got back to the Forest Path Stole. As I worked on the project it reminded me more and more of the stages I'd go through back in the day when I was training to run my first marathon. (I have since sadly stopped running and would probably keel over at an attempt to run for a bus -- but that's a whole other topic)....

Anyway - when you are training for a marathon the cornerstone of your weekly schedule is the long slow run, which is designed to get your mind and body ready to for the long hours on your feet a marathon will require. (And as I was never a particularly speedy runner -- I was going to be on my feet for a while.)

You start the long slow run feeling pretty motivated and the running feels easy (well, as easy as running feels) as you are starting at at your slowest running pace. And that's how I started on the FPS. Keen ready to tackle the entrelac lace. Confidently working my way through the 3 lace panels.

You plod along, tunes in the iPod making steady progress - and then you start to think, "I've been doing this a while - I must be over halfway now." And you check your crazily complicated running watch/distance monitor which tells you you've almost reached the 1/4 way point. Hmmmm.

This is when you start negotiating with yourself. "Go on, make it to the end and you can join the others in the pub for lunch." Unfortunately as you are on both sides of the negotiating table you reply, "of course you could just head straight to the pub now."

But you plod on. Or, in this case, I knit on. Because this is where I know that if I cast on another project I'll never ever ever come back to the Forest Path Stole.

The Forest Path Stole becomes a bit repetitious. And because of its size it seems to go on an on. And I have found myself once or twice pondering making a shorter version. But I know that I won't do that because I think the 'wow' of the stole comes not from the lace (which is pretty basic) but from the entrelac pattern and its scale of the thing. Completed as written it is a whopping 30 inches by 80 inches.

And on I knit. And, as with running, the closer I get to the end the more my enthusiasm returns. My pleasure at reaching the end keeps me going making the last few miles as fresh (almost) as the first.

It was with great joy this morning that I realised I'm about to begin the final of the 23 Forest Path tiers of lace panels. WooHoo! The finish line.

.....or almost.....

And like one of those cruel cruel runs where you think you are almost at the finish line only to discover that you calculated wrong.....I soon realised I've got a squillion miles of seed stitch edging to follow.


Tuesday, 22 January 2008

How Come Nobody Told Me?

While I was knitting up this pattern I had a moment where I thought – “this is such a lovely pattern – how come nobody ever told me about this pattern?” It is so pleasing to knit, easy enough to do while watching Sense & Sensibility on DVD (the recent BBC version, which seemed to borrow quite a bit from the excellent film with Emma and Kate a few years ago) (so, while it wasn’t bad, it did make me think I should have just watched the film) – anyway, it is easy enough to knit while watching a bit of TV but produces a charming bit of lace.

Really, you’d think someone would have mentioned it to me.

And then a little voice in the back of my head said – “Well, LittleBerry certainly tried to tell you. You’ve watched her make 3 gorgeous versions of it.” “Sure”, I relented, “LittleBerry tried, but others were keeping it quiet.” And then slowly I remembered the many gorgeous version I’d seen over the past year – MissAliceFaye’s, Fleegle’s, LaceFreak’s, ArsUna’s , the Yarn Harlot's...…

Ok – so pretty much everyone tried to tell me. But I think this just proves that you ‘find’ a pattern when you are ready to. Sometimes everyone can be raving about a pattern which is lovely but you don’t really get it, and other times you hear a whisper about a pattern and immediately cast on.

Swallowtail Shawl – Fall 2006 Interweave Knits
Handmaiden SeaSilk on 3.5mm needles
Size - Not very big. It is much more a scarf than a shawl – which is perfect for me. Others have made it larger by adding additional repeats to the body of the shawl (LittleBerry has done some impressive maths!).

I will absolutely be making another one (or two).

Thanks for the messages of support following last week’s attempted break in. I am feeling much better now. The neighbours and I have made a few security enhancements and with any luck the charming criminals won’t be back any time soon.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

It's Been a Long Week.....

....the highlight of which was someone attempting to break into my house last night. I was home at the time, and they did a runner when they realised I was there so no harm to me or my house. But it was unnerving. Add to that a general aura of 'blah' and you will understand why this Wednesday evening finds me munching through a bag of wine gums wondering what's it all about anyway? And how is it that someone thinks they are entitled to damage your house to take your belongings?

I don't have an answers to those questions so instead I'll update you on my quest to reduce the Greenwich sock yarn mountain.

So far in 2008 I have managed to churn out these kiddie socks and a beanie. They are from MiddleEarth Yarns - Davy Jones colourway. Lovely yarn to knit with.

I've also completed 2 pairs of Opal 4 ply socks (Feeling I think). The intended recipients don't like 'matching stripes' so these should be acceptable. I went plain with the blue ones, and a roving rib on the rainbow socks (2 x 2 rib, moving 1 stitch every 6 rows).

However, all finished objects must be balanced with new projects and to keep the earth spinning on its axis the knitting gods today delivered a back issue (Fall 2006) of Interweave Knits magazine to me. I am so in love with my Ene's Scarf (I use it most days) that I decided I wanted to make another similar size/shape scarf and the popular Swallowtail Shawl from this issues was an obvious choice. The current plan is to make it up using some Handmaiden SeaSilk from my stash.

The Forest Path Stole was progressing well but has been stalled by the burned out light bulb in my favourite lamp by my favourite knitting chair. This bulb isn't readily available - so I won't get a replacement until the weekend. I can't seem to bring myself to knit the stole in any other chair. (I'm a freak.)

Well, I've made some serious headway through the packet of wine gums and am now feeling vaguely ill. I think a rubbish DVD is next on my 'wallowing in self pity' list.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Midweek Rambles

Socks for a Brain

You may recall that on Sunday I said that I had "decided I need to attack my sock stash over the next few months as I've got a silly amount of sock yarn." Now I've made some progress in this area. So far this year I've made 3 socks, 1 hat and half a kid sock. Not a huge dent in the mountain (my rough estimate is that I've got 40 pairs worth of yarn here), but a solid start showing commitment and determination.

I was feeling smug.

However, smug overheats my brain and makes me do odd things.

Today, during a quiet moment at work I suddenly found myself looking at a page confirming my order of 2 skeins of sock yarn. (Petal Shower pink and gorgeous Lipstick Lava red Smooshy sock yarn from Socktopus.) I swear I have no recollection of actually deciding to buy more sock yarn.

If the New Year Resolution police turned up I would claim that I bought the yarn because my Mom asked for a pair of socks. But between you and I, I know that I could pick out ANY of the yarns in my possession, knit them up in ANY pattern and my mom would think they were the best socks ever made anywhere.

Cake and Crochet Meet
As some of you know I am fortunate enough to work with the Caked Crusader. The key benefit of this is that every Monday I get to taste whatever amazing cake(s) she baked over the weekend, while the rest of the world just gets to drool over them on her blog. She is as well, very clever and incredibly funny, but it is the cake thing that makes the friendship work.

Anyway, this week the Caked Crusader has decided that she'd like to learn to crochet. I could claim that it was my enthusiasm for fibre arts that inspired her -- but I'd be lying. No, the Caked Crusader decided to take up crochet because I had been sharing with her some of the 'crochet discrimination' tales from Ravelry. To be honest I hadn't previously understood the cloud crocheters live under -- but it's bad. Real bad. One poor women is apparently "regularly insulted by the knitters" in her local yarn shop. Regularly insulted. Rough neighbourhood. Another poster sympathised and wondered why the owners didn't stop the abuse but figured that if they didn't see the abuse themselves it would be difficult to take action.

So the Caked Crusader is going to take on the cause and make granny squares. She may even make a toilet roll cover. She is ready to do whatever it takes to reclaim the hook.

Naturally I've had to distance myself from her since this crochet decision. I bought her a book (Happy Hooker by Debbie Stoller) to facilitate her learning, but have decided to minimise socialising until she sees sense.

(It's ok - I've arranged for someone else to pick up my cake from her office on Monday mornings.)

(And - for my own protection - here is a picture of a finished object from a few years ago proving that knitting isn't my only yarn craft. I've been crocheting for almost as long as I've been knitting. I even spent a couple of hours this week tuturing the Caked Crusader in the art of the hook. But I'll be honest, these crochet discrimination stories - they make me laugh.)

(The pattern is a combination of a couple of projects from an Anna magazine in the 90's. I centre flowers were from a pattern for a table runner, and the lower edge was from a pattern for a piano/mantle cover. I made it using a thicker cotton as a curtain to fit perfectly in my hall window. I've moved 3 times since and it no longer fits any window. It lives in the linen chest, and as this picture shows, it's in need of some blocking.)

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Heading Down the Forest Path

One of the first (if not THE first) lace pattern to catch my eye last year was the Forest Path Stole. In fact, I'd say it was the start of my lace obsession. I came across the pattern on someone's blog (no idea who it was) and immediately decided to make it. I tracked the pattern down at and ordered a copy (the pattern is also now available in Best of Interweave Knits). While waiting for it to arrive I cast on the Sarcelle Stole, and then Hanami, and then.... well, you get the picture.

So here it is 9 months later and I have FINALLY cast on for the Forest Path Stole. I'm using Cinnabar Zephyr WoolSilkand 3.25mm needles.

The needles were my first mistake. Addi Lace needles don't come in 3.25mm (well, at least not anywhere I could find) so I started the stole on regular Addi's. Bad move. The circulars were 30 inches and the cord was crazy coiled. It drove me insane. Obviously the cord could be straightened, but the bigger problem was that the tips were dull. Dull. DULL. Rubbish for lace. And double rubbish for NUPPS. And the pattern has lots of nupps.

Cue much swearing.

A frantic search through the knitting needle bag and I found some 3.25 dpns - KnitPicks metal and KnitPicks harmony. Although the metal needles are lovely and pointy, I find them heavy and was worried they'd be tooooooo slippery. So the harmony needles were called into action.

They are perfect. They are grippy enough that I can leave them as stitch holders on sections I'm not working and pointy enough for nupps. Hurrah.

The pattern itself is clear and well written. The border is seed stitch and each of the panels is one of 3 lace patterns. They are all pretty straightforward and only the nupps are likely to cause much difficulty. Not that nupps are difficult - just that they take some getting used to. My tip is to knit the set up stiches for the nupps crazy loose. That and a pointy needle make the purl 5 together much easier.

I'm just starting the 4th tier of panels. I'm enjoying the knitting but I don't think this will be completed quickly. The entrelac design gives the knitting a sort of stop-start feeling as you move between panels. I never seem to build up much momentum and so I'm easily distracted from it.

In other knitting news I've decided I need to attack my sock stash over the next few months as I've got a silly amount of sock yarn. Happily, my mom asked for some socks today! Being my mom she thinks my socks are tooooooo nice to wear, but she wants some to show off with. How cute is she?

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

The Last of 2007

Happy New Year! I hope you have all enjoyed the holidays as much as I did. I can't believe how quickly they've come and gone though.

After the successful completion of my gift knitting (yippeee!) I celebrated by casting on for what would be come my final knit of 2007. It is Ene's Scarf from Scarf Style and proved to be perfect knitting for the season.

The scarf is knit from the long edge (cast on 375 stitches) and decreases 4 stitches every second row. The advantage of this method is that it keeps your motivation up as the rows get shorter and shorter the closer you get to the end.

The disadvantage is that you have to cast on 375 stitches. And because I managed to mess up the first few rows 3 times before I FINALLY got it right - I got to cast on those 375 stitches 4 times. I was in fact convinced that there was a problem with the pattern and searched frantically for an errata to support me. Alas, there was none. I was just incapable of maintaing my focus on the scarf while David Tennant was saving the earth from destruction (in a tux) (gadzooks that man looks fine in a tux) in the Christmas episode of Dr Who. (The champagne with Christmas lunch probably didn't help either.)

But without the distraction of David Tennant the scarf is pretty straightforward, and once you are in the body of the scarf the pattern is very easy to remember. Perfect knitting to keep my mind occupied while I continued to gorge on Christmas TV. (The finale of Extras and The Old Curiousity Shop were particular favourites.) (Although I think The Old Curiousity Shop was over-abridged as the grandfather character had no redeeming qualities that I could see - but I felt I was supposed to like him. I am going to read the book now to find out what they cut out.)

I used Lucy Neatby Celestial Merino sock weight yarn which feels gorgeous. My only complaint with the yarn was that the dye came off on my hands throughout the knitting -- I had blue fingers for much of the holiday!

The finished scarf is warm and cosy and I expect it will get a lot of wear.

As it is the beginning of a new year I've been doing the usual evaluating of 2007 and planning for 2008.

2007 was a great year for me knitting-wise. Kicked off by finishing (after 18 years) the Kaffe Fasset Chinese Rose Coat. Completing the coat in itself was quite an event, but it was also the thing that led to my discovering the vast www knitting world. A simple search for Kaffe Fasett in google one day led to my discovering the UK knitting forum, Knitty board, the amazing world of knitting blogs, Ravelry and more patterns than I had ever imagined.

I went from total scepticism on the topic of socks to always having a pair of socks on the needles and am the happy owner of over 10 books on the glory of socks!! I've made 17 pairs of socks and demand for them seems to be growing.

Herbert Niebling joined Kaffe Fasset as a knitting god in my eyes. I became obsessed with lace knitting and completed 8 scarves/shawls/stoles and 2 lace table covers.

And for a bit of variety I made a few tea cozies, a couple of felted bags, a comfy throw and a lot of Innocent Smoothy hats. (Oh! and some mittens, hats and a cardigan.)

As for 2008 - well, I won't be surprised if I'm a little less prolific. Surely this mad enthusiasm has to wane at some point! Having said that I have a mountain of yarn and a list of patterns I want to make a mile long -- and every day I seem to find another must have yarn to add to the mountain or another gorgeous/challenging pattern to to add to the list.

Hope your 2008 is everything you want it to be!