Wednesday, 25 March 2009

The Story of a Shetland Tea Shawl

Once upon a time there was a knitter who couldn't decide what to knit next.

She stared into her stash cupboard for inspiration.

And stared.

Occasionally she would pull out a bag of yarn and stare at it closely. Then she would sigh, put it back and then stare at the cupboard some more.

Eventually she decided this staring approach wasn't going to yield any results so she adopted a 'First in First Out' algorithm and set about finding the oldest yarn in her stash. That turned up this olive green laceweight yarn (Baruffa Cashwool from Lane Borgosesia).

Armed with 1400ish yards of olive green laceweight she turned to her knitting books and realised that despite having owned the book for over a year she had never made anything from A Gathering of Lace.

Flipping through the pages the knitter came across the Shetland Tea Shawl which was a pattern she had admired in the past and it just happened to need 1400ish yards of laceweight.

Hurrah. Pattern selected.

The knitter cast on and the green yarn was slowly turned into a green blob. And the green blob grew and grew. It grew until it was almost a shawl. But wasn't quite a shawl because a shawl needs edging.

In the case of this shawl 1150 rows of edging.

So the knitter began knitting the edge.

And slowly the knitter edged along...

...and along....

....and almost there...

And finally the knitter cast off and inspected her work.

And found a rather uninspiring mess of green noodles trying hard to be a shawl.

But the knitter didn't panic. She knew with a short bath, 115 pins and a few hours drying time these green noodles would become this.

A happy ending!

Shetland Tea Shawl from A Gathering of Lace
Baruffa Cashwool - 1460 yards (I used about 1200 of that)
3.25mm needles

Unblocked size - 29 inches (diameter)
Blocked size - 55 inches (diameter)

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Crochet to While Away the Time

This finished object is largely the result of me having no idea what the heck I wanted to make or why.

I've had this silk dk weight yarn for over a year and have been determined to use it in my next project. I tried a few things both knitted and crocheted before it sort of took on a life of its own and became this little capelet. I had fun experimenting with the different stitches and think I learned a fair bit about crochet design in the process.

The yarn is a dk silk from Colourmart and was to be honest difficult to crochet with at times. Having said that - it was worth the effort as the fabric (I used a 3.5mm crochet hook) drapes beautifully. I added glass beads to the bottom for a little bit of extra glamour.

I would make some small changes to the capelet if I were to make it again, but overall I'm pleased with the effect.

Crochet is great for experimenting. Because there aren't tons of live stitches waiting to cause you grief when you rip back it is much more forgiving when you are trying out ideas. You just drop the last hoop from the hook and rip back with abandon. No heartstopping moments as you try to pick up the stitches without losing one (or two) and watching them drop back 10 intricate rows of lace.

Of course every silver lining has a cloud - and in crochet it is that you can't easily repair a mistake in a previous row WITHOUT ripping back. And I can say from experience that hurts.

11 Years Waiting and 1 Day Sewing

For anyone interested I am happy to report that the replacement bobbincase did arrive. (How cool is the internet? I discover that I've lost the bobbincase to a 15 year old sewing machine do a quick google and 2 days later I've got a replacement. I'm beginning to think this www thing might not just be a fad.)

Anyway - the case arrived and after 11 years of procrastination my kitchen chairs have new (removable)(and therefore washable) seatcovers. Hurrah!

Friday, 13 March 2009

What Happens When I'm Not Knitting...

When last we met I was projectless.

My friends - the projectless state has continued!

Now obviously I haven't stopped knitting altogether. In fact I've made lots of sock progress and I finished up these beauties today.

(All plain stockinette. The first pair Noro Sock Yarn, the second and third are Opal Sock Yarn, and the final pair is Regia 6ply.)

But in the absence of a major project and no inspiration for one to cast on, I found myself at a loose end the other day and decided to declutter the cupboard under the stairs. I managed to throw out a bin bag of rubbish (Christmas decorations that haven't been used since I moved into the house!) and came across some fabric that I bought 11 (11!) years ago to make covers for my kitchen chairs.

Under the fabric I found my sewing machine. This machine is about 18 years old and has moved with me across the ocean twice. So when I say "I found my sewing machine." I mean I found most of my sewing machine. The foot pedal and power cord were conspicuously missing.

But now that I'd found the fabric I realised how grubby my chairs were looking. (11 years they've been waiting for new covers! 11 years!) and so I started a serious search for the power cord and pedal to rectify the problem.

I found the sewing machine instruction manual. I found the thread I bought 11 years ago that matches the fabric. I found the little box of sewing machine accessories (including the little teeny screwdriver). And yesterday in a box on top of the bookcase in the guestroom I found the power and pedal! Wahey!

Even better in that same box (which contained a really odd assortment of stuff) I also found 3 pieces of bobbin lace I made years ago.

I had no idea where they had got to! They were crumpled and one has a little stain but they are otherwise ok.

My sister Kim in particular will be pleased to hear about this discovery as I have long promised to make this piece of lace edging into a frame for her. She reminds me of this annually and was not impressed when my last update was that I'd lost the lace!!

The square pieces are around 5 inches x 5 inches and were made with thread size linen on around 80 bobbins. Each of the pieces represents hours and hours of work. And a bit like the knitted lace I make these days - they were rarely made with a purpose in mind.

Finding these has got me thinking about breaking out the pillow and bobbins again.

Bobbin lacemaking is very meditative - and the sound of the bobbins gently clacking together as you make the fabric is very soothing.

And of course, I just love the challenge.

These pieces are all torchon lace and maybe I'm just imagining it - but I've always seen a strong link between torchon bobbin lace and Shetland knitted lace (or vice versa).

But what happened with the sewing I hear you asking????? (And I expect you are beginning to see why after 11 years I hadn't so much as cut the fabric.)

Well, today I measured the chairs. I cut the fabric. I plugged in the machine, threaded it with my lovely matching thread and went to wind my bobbin thread.

I opened the bottom and there it was - gone!

No bobbin case.

I've found a source for a replacement but the chair covers will have to be put off to another day. With any luck - not 11 years away!

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Look Ma - No Seams!

It hasn't always been an easy relationship -- this Noro Silk Garden and I. Certainly, it started out very well with a bargain price purchase of 14 skeins of the stuff. I don't often hit on good yarn sales so I was very pleased with the score.

I decided almost immediately that a small blanket was the thing. And that's when things started to get a bit rocky.

As I mentioned in January I had a few false starts and couldn't settle on a pattern. I wanted something simple that let the long stripes of colour provide the interest.

I tried some crochet, some knitting, some more crochet.......and some more knitting. And nothing was working for me.

And then one night, just before I fell asleep I had an idea that might work. Miraculously I remembered the idea when I woke up the next day.

Using some 5mm needles I cast on some (not too many) (20ish) stitches and knit in garter stitch for a long time which made pleasing chunks of colour. I slipped the first stitch on each row to give a nice edge for picking up stitches evenly. After a lot of rows and ending with a wrong side row (about 48 inches - 320 rows worth in my case) I cast off all but the last stitch.

Then I picked up a whole lot of stitches along the edge (159 for me - giving me 160 in total) to begin the next section. I knit some long rows in garter stitch which gave equally pleasing long stripy rows.

When I had enough of that I left the 160 stitches' live' on the needle and cast on 16 stitches using a knitted cast on at the end of the last row to begin the next section.

I then began the next stripe of the blanket by knitting those 16 stitches in garter stitch, ending the first and each alternate row by knitting the last stitch together with the next stitch from 'live 160'. You keep knitting these short rows, incorporating an additional 'live' stitch every second row until you have none left.

Cast off all but one stitch and begin the next section by picking up those stitches along the long edge again. Repeat until you have a blanket sized thing. This gives alternating sections of chunky blocks of colour and long stripy rows which make me smile and made me feel very clever.

I went for random section widths and was determined to have as little leftover yarn as possible. To that end I weighed the remaining yarn obsessively.

A Little Knitting Miracle
When I began the last section I was pretty confident that I didn't have enough yarn to finish it. I weighed the remaining yarn about every 40 rows and each time it was clear I was going to be just a wee bit short on the yarn.

And yet, somehow I was sort of surprised when I ran out of yarn with this much knitting left to go. Knitting faster and tighter (I confess I did both) did not overcome the yarn shortage.

I looked in every possible place in my house for a few grams of Noro Silk Garden that might have got separated from the rest of it during one of the earlier attempts. There was none in the stash cupboard, none in the stash basket, none in the drawers of the tv cabinet that occasionally become dumping grounds for works in progress, none behind the tv cabinet where the stuff that overflows the drawers sometimes ends up, none in the box in the guestroom of yarn that for some reason isn't with the rest of the stash....there was in short, NONE.

In order to provide a valuable lesson on the folly of pointless optimism to blogland I decided to take a picture of my almost but not quite finished blanket. And there, in the cabinet I keep the camera in -- where NO YARN EVER IS -- there was this very small ball of the very yarn I needed.

WooHoo! I have no explanation of how it got there or when or why, but I take my miracles where I find them and finished off the blanket. There are now about 5 yarns of the yarn left. Phew.

I like the blanket and I can confirm that Silk Garden softens beautifully with washing and use. Even though it was garter stitch I found that watching the beautiful colours develop in each of the sections kept my interest.

And I was very happy not to have any seams to deal with.

I'd like to make another version (when I next manage to score some cheap Noro Silk Garden!) with regular width sections. The only change I'd make to this blanket is the possible addition of a border. If I ever come across the perfect yarn for it I will probably add one - but for now I'm considering it finished.

And Now for Something Completely Different
(and rather unexpected)

I don't know how to say this - but I am currently PROJECTLESS.

Without project.

Nothing on the needles.

Madness I know - but there it is.

I really fancy tackling some crochet for a change but can't find a pattern that catches my interest. I have a beautiful cone of pistachio DK silk which I'd love to use and I have started a few and abandoned a few things with it -- but so far no joy. I may have to admit defeat for the time being and do a bit of stash browsing tomorrow.