Sunday, 7 December 2014

Brown as....

For the 2014 Ravellenics I boarded the Tardis with needles and yarn in hand and joined the giant crew of knitters and crocheters flying through time and space watching the Sochi Winter Games and crafting all sorts of goodness. Some very wonderful fellow travelers offered prizes for our efforts and the Tardis random number generator chose me to get this free pattern - a gorgeous geometric shawl pattern called Bequin.

I’ve been contemplating making a shawl for a long time but there were too many wonderful patterns to pick from to make my first. This sealed the deal. I had a pattern so I didn’t have to pick one. I have some very old gifted brown yarn from my Aunty that was  perfect for this.

Why Brown? Brown is underrated. I’m a brown kind of person right down to the boring brown hair (with a touch of grey).

When I was naming this project, I thought of my favourite Little Golden Book that I read to my little sister first and then my children over and over…. The Color kittens by Margaret Wise Brown.
”… and that made brown, Brown as a tug boat, Brown as an old goat, Brown as a beaver, Brown. And in all that brown the sun went down”.
Meet Brown as…
Pattern: Bequin by Ydun from The Apple Basket
Needles: 4mm straights and a 100cm 4mm circular needle.
Yarn: Paton's Australia Azalea, Light fingering 3ply, 4 balls of brown (this is a long discontinued yarn. I suspect this is from the 1970s).
Cost: Free - gifted stash from my Aunty.

Despite the fact that this was my first lace shawl, in fact my first shawl of any type, it ended up being the third one off the needles. I got distracted into freeform along the way and made Lacewing and Curly Wurly while I was supposed to be finishing this.... (And a few other things too).

I cast on on the 8th of April and it flowed along quite nicely up until the third section of the shawl. I was still working this on straight needles as the yarn is so fine it still fits on a long straight needle. This is essentially geometrically arranged panels of faggotted lace. Every second row is just purl with a narrow garter stitch edge. The patterning is logical and the use of stitch markers between repeats really helps keep track.

I worked off the minimal written instructions and the charts. I found a mistake in the transition row for the third section of the shawl where the minimal instructions indicated one stitch border on each side of Chart A but the picture and the complete written instructions indicated it should be two stitches. I contacted the designer and she modified the pattern and sent me a new version.
Obligatory shawl pose
I did make the occasional mistake and had to tink back a few rows till I had the correct set up again. I had to redo the last four rows of section II 4 times to get it right. (Took me two days for 4 rows). The pattern is nicely written and quite intuitive but needs patience and I tend to make mistakes when knitting at night.

Knitting a lace shawl taught me patience and not to drop stitches!

Well the shawl got neglected in the push to finish the jumpers for the kids and with me discovering a new playground in IFFF. I made a major push to complete this as part of October WIP wrestling. It was very slow going with the last edge section. Very long rows (400+ stitches) and it was getting to the half an hour a row stage. But slow and steady got there. I really enjoyed the cast off - a new to me technique.
The first finished shot. Indoor lighting really changes the colour of this.
I love the geometry of this and how it curves and hugs the shoulders. Really interesting shape. Cast off, ends sewed in and blocked fairly aggressively to open the lace on 25th October 2014. But it had to wait a while for a real photo shoot. I took it with me on holidays to the Gold Coast in late November, early December 2014 and finally got some finished shots on the balcony of a high rise silhouetted against the amazing view.
I think I'm hooked. What shawl shall I make next....

Friday, 28 November 2014

Diary of a sweater

 
Day 1:
Hey, I'm more than a nebulous idea in a knitter's mind. Today I came into being. The long journey into fully fledged wearable garmenthood has began. They say the journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step. Mine began with a cast of of 114 stitches for my back. A whole ball and a bit of yarn and 7383 stitches later, the rib and the lace pattern and its following rib as well as two rows of the cast on shaping for the batwing sleeves are done. I look pretty bloody impressive. Let me take a selfie....

But before the needles were picked up, my knitter exercised her mathematical brain and ninja spreadsheet skills and calculated how many stitches I would contain. I admit to a slight flutter of nervousness at this stage. After all if I had come out at less than 50,000 stitches my chance at the needles was shot. But I will contain 68,640 stitches! I'm excited to be eligible to play in the prize division - after all a girl always wants a shot a winning and there are no talent contests / slash best in show here. It's random and I like my odds.
Then my knitter showed a bit of forethought given she was playing with some recycled op-shop yarn, unlabelled, unweighed, unmeasured and with a yarn weight only loosely guessed at. She did the maths based on the swatches. There should be enough yarn in the 16 roughly 50 gram balls of dirty latte coloured wool blend yarn I'm to be made off to knit around 80,000 to 85,000 stitches. All systems were go for launch....

Day 2:
My knitter is fond of rainy Sunday mornings. Tea, breakfast and some comfy couch knitting before the rest of the family crawls out of bed. Knitter Bliss. I know the love will be limited today as the marking is piling up around the place and the deadlines are rushing up like a high speed express train on the tracks. (I know my knitter loves me more than that computer and pen and calculator and horrible marking stuff. I'm secure. The marking should realise she only pays it attention cos she is paid to). Today I got to be the reward system for completing a range of tedious tasks for my knitter as she sneaked in a few rows here and there. I had my sleeve increases and 14 rows of the straight stretch of the back of the sleeves done (4914 sts completed). The only issue today is that my knitter doesn't own a 3.75 mm circular needle despite having apparently several thousand needles. So I'm feeling very cramped on the needles at the moment and have to be careful not to slip off.

Day 3:
A few on again / off again straight rows today wedged in between marking, housework and work. (Only 1755 stitches).

Day 4:
I'm officially about a third finished! I have a back now. Today my knitter powered through 7107 stitches for the day and 21,294 over all. I had my ends sewn in. There were lots as I am being made from recycled yarn from unravelled jumpers from a op shop / charity store / thrift shop. I got hand washed (an enjoyable process with nice warm water and shampoo). Then there was the blocking - a slightly torturous process involving lots of pins. I'm not going anywhere for a while. I need to dry first.

Day 5:
Now I get the start of a front. Rib done in a day. 24 rows of monotony. Rib apparently is not thrilling to do. (2256 sts).

Day 6:
Lace begins. There's more lace on the fronts - 5 repeats as opposed to two on the back. Less cursing coming from knitter as she begins to fathom the logic of the lace (and less muttering of "Where the hell have you people put my pattern?" "Cat, get off the pattern, I need to see what comes next!"). Also today, the sixth ball of yarn was liberated from it's storage bag and now gets to join the knitting party. The knitter is quietly happy about how far the yarn is going and is fairly confident of yarn supply meeting stitch demand (or some such nerdy knitterly thing). (2820 sts). The back was removed from the rack having blocked up beautifully....
Day 7:
Knitter is muttering again. No, wait, it's not about me. It's about work and evil marking eating into her knitting time! OK. I'll raise a few complaints in sympathy with her. But it's Friday. Friday night is sacrosanct - it's couch, TV, occasional alcohol, weekly family debrief and knitting time! The weekly unwind sesh. So today progress was two full lace repeats and eight rows of the 5th and last one. (3384 sts).

Day 8:
A few more knitter expletives. My knitter is glad she's no novice as there is an error in the pattern for the left front. Early morning saw the last of the lace patterns polished off and the rib sections and decrease done. It was time to increase for the sleeve. The knitter correctly finished the last row of rib on the right side of the work as the pattern directed and went to start the sleeve increases as written with the wrong side of the work facing. Trouble is that is the front band edge not the side edge with the lace where the sleeve should be. The knitter reread the pattern about 6 times, read the pattern for the right front for good measure, checked her count and placing of the rib rows, threw her hands up and added a plain row before beginning the sleeve cast ons. She also checked the pattern page for Rhodium on Ravelry and discovered she was the first person to knit this on Ravelry and that there was errata listed on The Knitter webpage. However, the errata is about bust measurements not sleeve shaping for the fronts. So she made a comment about the error on the pattern page and went back to knitting.
I also got to pose for my own photographic session this morning. Having my photo taken always makes me feel like I'm semi-famous or something.

Apparently I was deliberately obstructive today. Who, moi??!? The knitter got to the end of the sleeve shaping and the stitch count was out by two. And it was all my fault. The knitter is a perfectionist. I'm not complaining mind you. I think perfection is an admirable trait when you are on the receiving end of it. But it does involve occasional pain. My sleeve shaping got frogged back to the beginning. 14 rows of stitches disappearing off into the ether - the great stash in the sky. But the shaping was successfully re-knit and well as 11 rows of the straight sleeve section. Powering along and almost at the end of my 9th ball of yarn. But oh, the ends!!!! (4620 sts).

Day 9:
Only 18 rows and 2394 sts today. Despite it being a Sunday my knitter went to work for a while today and gave those nasty assignment things more love than me. About 50 assignments uploaded and another 60 or so marked. The knitter is feeling virtuous and her students will be happy to have all their marked work back before the exam. I can't just blame the assignments though. It was hot though. 30 degrees Celsius plus for the second day in a row. My knitter is possibly not the sharpest tool in the shed taking on this challenge heading into an Aussie summer. Apparently knitting wool gets sweaty when it's hot. State the bleeding obvious or what!

But we officially are over half way in the stitch count - 55% done. Oh, and there was a quiet session of half an hour or so of end sewing in today too. I feel a little less messy - I think it's the sweater equivalent of having your hair brushed.

Day 10:
I just had a good look at my front and I'm coming up a little rough. My straight reverse stockingnette sections have some exceptionally wonky stitches. I'm hoping that blocking tidies me up a lot!! 2929 stitches done today. The last three rows of the straight sleeve section and 22 and a half rows of the sleeve shaping cast offs. The knitter laid down the work having just reached the end of the 8th ball of yarn tonight. The knitter is a happy little Mummy today. Future Doctor daughter is home for SWOTVAC cramming before her last major exams. She hasn't been home for months. And the baby boy got his first year Uni results and he passed everything.... (This was by no means a done deal when he went off to University at the beginning of the year). All is love, peace and happiness in the knitter's household today.

Day 11: 
I got to finish my day yesterday with an overnight soak. I could just feel those wonky stitches evening out. I will look professionally even. I have a completed left front. We powered through the last of the shoulder shaping and the collar section. My knitter manfully sewed in ALL THOSE ENDS. I'd applaud her but it's hard to do with only one arm. 2642 sts yesterday (Including 2 rows of rib for the right front) - Overall total so far 42,169 and 64.2% complete...

Day 12: 
I started my morning rolled in a towel shedding a few excess pounds of fluid (water actually) dictating yesterday's sweater dairy to the knitter. (What you thought I was writing this myself? Sweaters can't type! I may have arms but I'm sadly lacking in the finger department. I suspect gloves could write their own diary but not those silly fingerless ones). Then it was stretching time. On the floor, on the mats and all those pins.... I feel like a pin cushion. Not a flattering look. I refuse to take blocking selfies. It's so undignified. And I suspect that fluoro alphabet mats are not the most flattering background for my colouring.

The cat decided to help the knitter with her blocking. Random flying sneak skid attacks - or maybe they were attempts at tacklehugs...?, willfully sitting in the middle of the damp unpinned section and stopping to wash its nether regions and patting the wheel of pearl headed pins under the TV cabinet. I feel the knitter showed great restraint in not blocking the cat as well.

However, only three rows achieved.... (what a paltry effort knitter!)

Day 13:
I swear I'm going to kick the knitter where it hurts for wasted opportunity today. Four whole hours of train trips to the big city for planning meetings and what did she do with all this potential knitting time? She forgot to take another ball of wool with her so wasted nearly three hours of it! Got the rib nearly done (and ran out of yarn and had to twiddle her needles). At home in the evening finished the rib and the lace set up and the first two rows pf the lace panel done. A quite respectable 2068 stitches for the day but it could have been so much more!

Day 14:
I participated in a zen knitting evening (couch knitting and bad teenage chick flicks on TV with the middle daughter). 3 and a bit repeats of lace and 4136 stitches (75% complete now). I could feel all the tension and stresses of the week flow out of the knitter. Good vibes all round.

Day 15:
I'm going on a road trip. The plan for the day is collecting the baby boy home for the year from his University in Geelong and watching the eldest daughter cheer at the Australian championships in the late afternoon. Cheer comps are great knitting venues. Bit much having to drive for my knitters liking today though (about 6 hours or so) but I will still get some love, fresh air and a change of scenery. However, the knitting was paltry as the cheering was too exciting - only 12 rows done.

Day 16:
Today was an exceptionally creative day for the knitter. But all that creativity wasn't focused on me. I am so jealous! It was all about some knitted and crocheted mould of all things. The knitter has been quietly designing patterns for a series of knitted penicillium moulds for a CKAL and today was the day for the instructions to go live. So there was a lot of Photography, primping of the samples and final frantic crochet followed by pattern writing today. I still got slightly over 2000 stitches done on me though in the evening and I'm up to the sleeve shaping on the right front. All the lace bit is done.

Day 17:
You remember that story about the tortoise and the hare? Slow and steady wins the race and all that. That the approach we are taking here. A quiet evening of knitting in between proof reading job applications for the Head of the Household and attempting to mark essays saw the all the casting on for my sleeves finished and about 5 rows of the straight section completed. The knitter is quietly satisfied and tells me she is still loving knitting me. Smug sweater here. (So go on tell me you other NaKniSweMo sweaters, how many of your knitters still love you when they are doing sleeves??)

Day 18:
Today the knitter's brainspace was taken up with dealing with academic marking apprehension - a peculiar affliction common when marking exams. Had her students in fact learned what she thought she taught them? Her mood ebbed and flowed during the day as she came to realize that her first year students were not as disastrous as first feared. They hadn't preformed brilliantly (except for a small group) but most of them had limped to a pass. (They do say Ps get degrees). So I got a cursory row here and there and only 1330 stitches (Almost 85% complete though).

Day 19: 
I'm more than a bit mad with my knitter today. She publicly humiliated me all over Ravelry today. I feel violated. She posted pictures of MY WRONG SIDE in the NaKniSweMo discussion thread, dangly yarn spaghetti of unsewn in ends and all. It's the sweater equivalent of posting pictures of me in my underwear - and daggy underwear at that. She told people it was the ugly side of knitting - no photoshop here. However, 16 rows of the straight section of the sleeves done (2128 stitches). One more row and we are on to the cast offs for the sleeves

Day 20:
Who can't love the sleeve shaping in this pattern? There are less stitches each row. You can knit and watch the numbers of stitches on your needle get progressively smaller. And it means the piece is almost finished!! When the knitter can home from taekwondo last night after a frustrating and messy class wrangling other people's children, she picked up my needles and you here an audible sigh of relief. The needles flew, the stitch count decreased happily to plan. (The exams waited. The knitter marking in a grumpy mood is a recipe for disaster for someone!) And we're on a deadline. The knitter flies off on a very very very much needed holiday on the 27th and I need to be done by then. (And blocked beautifully and photographed).

Day 21:
It's Friday night again. After a hard day of marking exams, the knitter embraced the whole Friday evening combo again, couch, TV and unwind knitting time! (The exam marking today went more smoothly then expected. A student even managed to work a Big Bang Theory reference into an answer about effective science communication and it made the knitter's inner nerd happy for hours. Chocolate and a random serving of gift plum pudding and custard at 11.30am also helped). Productive knitting ensued. Right front finished. The 25 sets of ends sewed in (Yes, there really were 25 sets of ends - that's 50 individual ends for the mathematically challenged among you). I got my warm bath and squeeze and this it was the blocking board torture again.

The knitter started joining the left front to the back by sewing up the upper sleeve seam in order to pick up stitches to complete the cuffs. The knitter picked up 66 stitches along the cuff. My sleeves are apparently a little short (rubbish, her arms are incredibly long!) so the knitter is adding a lace repeat at the bottom of the sleeves before she does the rib cuff. About 10 rows into this….

But the knitter is really not happy about one thing. My pattern is designed so that you leave a a small section in the middle of the centre back to sew in the short collar section. But then the stitch counts on the sleeve shaping don’t match up when you are stitching it up. The edges have have to be gently eased against each other as a they are stitched together. This is a design fault in the knitter's eyes. She had sewn the sleeve seam nearly up to the shoulder before she discovered this…. and had to un-stitch way back to the beginning. It’s gong to be a pain…..

Day 22:
Today I sat in the corner and mocked the knitter. She could feel her knitting fingers itching to pick me up. But exams and 28 essays which have to be done before 9 am Monday!!! A little knitting sneaked in here and there but not a lot. The end of the lace repeat and some tricky decreases to maintain the pattern into the rib. 15 rows of rib done.

Day 23:
I’m inching closer. I have the sleeve cuff on one sleeve finished and blocking. Now for some assembly and then the second cuff. The knitter is running head first in massive brick wall deadlines. She has three days to finish this (+ mark 75 exam papers) before we go on holidays. It’s hard for her to find the discipline to mark papers before knitting! (I'll try not to tease her too much at the moment. It's kind of like kicking a puppy - unnecessarily cruel)
Day 24:
Useful day today on many levels for the knitter. 16 exam papers marked and an excursion for some pre-poll voting for a state election as she is out of the state on holidays on the actual day. The knitter still has about 60 exam papers to mark but they are quick to do now (and they HAVE TO BE DONE by 5 pm tomorrow). I am now a fully assembled cardigan on one side at least and the collar has been set in and sewn down. My second shoulder seam done and stitches picked up and 10 rows of the lace done. The end is in sight. I am officially 95% complete

However, on a down note, the cat did throw up on the magazine which my knitting pattern is in. It is never going to be the same....

Day 25:
And I am finished (the knitting part at least!). I got a very small cuff baths and an overnight pin out to block as well. The knitter sneaked in a lace completion in the morning and the rib in the evening. I've seen a lot of the kitchen table and the couch in my short lifetime of being knitted.

Day 26:
And it did happen. It was the day from hell. Deadlines galore. Marking of final exams, last day at work, packing for holidays. My final seam got completed at about 10 pm at night after all the rest of the important things. I am a finished sweater (actually cardigan). The knitter tried me on and it was good. I am suitably warm fuzzy and cuddly. I fit in all the right places and skim where I should. The knitters family though were less than complimentary. "It's just weird with that short waist length back and long fronts. What a crazy design". But they do agree I am marvelously well knitted and that my lace is awesome. They can criticize my fashion worthiness all they want. I know my knitter will wear me with pride.

Day 27: 
Who looks their best when someone is taking photos of them scrumpled on the couch at 6 am in the morning? You want to take a photo of me now? Really, you can't wait until I've brushed my hair and put my makeup on? (Actually sweater equivalent is a styled outfit for the knitwear model, semi professional photographer, the good camera, etc...) However, I can't complain as it was necessary for the knitter to post a finished sweater shot before she nicks off on holidays in the sunshine for a week (and uncertain internet access). I do want to be eligible to win a prize for all my gorgeousness. And we are officially done. And here endeth my diary.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Mould is fun!

I blame it all on my middle daughter Mel and this photo (and of course the enablers who are the IFFF (International Freeform Forum on Ravelry). Mel is a recently graduated environmental microbiologist with an enduring scientific passion for fungi. She’s now on the long academic journey to becoming a mycologist – a fungi scientist. It’s because of her that I know that mould is essentially just microscopic fungi. When the lovely Loren in IFFF instigated a Fungus Along for October / November and put a call out for DFADs (Designers for a Day), I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to try to write my first patterns and I wanted to do mould.
As part of a project, Mel collected and cultured mould spores collected from the air in houses on petrie dishes. It’s been a long term dream to turn this photo into a knitted cushion for her. Probably a little ambitious for a DFAD gig though. So I concentrated on just one species of mould. See the little blue green colony here? That’s Penicillium – the source of the antibiotic penicillin. (And here I apologise for the Australian spelling – American spelling is mold, Australian spelling is mould).

There are two species names used for the penicillium mould that penicillin the antibiotic is extracted from – Penicillium notatum is the original scientific name but more recently scientists refer to it as Penicillium chyrsogenum. To see penicillium mould’s afinity with mushroom have a look at some pictures of it under a microscope – it’s like a beautiful delicate fringe like flower. But we’re going to make amazing mould colonies.

I made patterns for four penicillium moulds - two knitted flat and two crochet. Here are the pictures of the finished moulds. Firstly the inspiration photos and then the knitted / crocheted versions.

Penicillium notatum

This one is knitted flat using short row shaping to make a circle with a random crochet edge.

Penicillium chrysogenum
(It’s when the mould colonies start to produce spores that they become really amazing – producing bright jewel-like beads of colour).

This one is also knitted flat on two needles. I was aiming for actual wrinkles in the knitted surface with this one and a slightly dome like circle with a flattish edge. (I used acrylic yarn but I suspect you might get crisper wrinkles using something with a lot of cotton in it). The edge yarn does need to be a heavier gauge than the center yarns or the edge will curl up.

Mould colonies
I'm not going to show you the inspiration shot for this one as it is a stock photo and sharing it on my blog would be abusing copyright. Mould grows in circular colonies that clump together with rounded edges. This is my first go at designing a crochet pattern and I admit I was really apprehensive about whether people could follow it. But there are three lovely mould colonies made from this pattern in the IFFF group as I write this and they are all beautiful in their own way.
This could also be a contour map?

Bonus Penicillium Mould
What do you get when you combine a fuzzy green yarn from the 1980s and a collection of beads? Embellished mould. This was just such a gorgeous inspiration picture I had to try to capture it in yarn.
Mould before beading
So my house is filled with mould - and it's not a sign of slack housekeeping.... (Though that is also one of my skills - after all, I'm a knitter!)