Friday, September 26, 2008

Seasonally inappropriate finished objects!

Well, winter finally seems to be over. Melbourne cranked out a toasty warm day today (forecast was for 25 degrees but I think it might even have been warmer). Happily I was out in it - and only about an hour of sunshine was sacrificed to law school servitude! I even raided the bookshop on the way home...

Anyway, to celebrate the warm weather, here are the two latest finished objects - both of them things that I won't be able to wear until it's cool again!

Firstly, yet another pair of Garter Mitts:

I love this pattern to an extent that is truly ridiculous. It's easy and quick, but clever enough that it's immensely satisfying too. This is my third pair, though the first pair that I've made for myself that have actually fit - the last ones were a little too big because I made the large size. Apparently my hands aren't as big as I think they are! This pair were made in the small size (actually, with slightly fewer rows worked than the pattern specified), and they fit perfectly (sitting neatly underneath my sleeves, which was what I was going for).

Reason #8,437 that I love this pattern - it's a really good use for varigated yarn. I have a little bit of a problem with varigated yarn. Nine times out of ten, I don't like the way that it looks when it's knitted up. But for some inexplicable reason, I can't seem to stop buying it... Anyway, this pattern more or less circumvents the whole unpleasant pooling issue, and that is a fine, fine thing. Soon after I bought this yarn (Moda Vera Fun - $2 for the ball, so I couldn't exactly complain), I had one of those "erm, why did I buy this?" moments. But I actually love the way that the colours look together here - kind of rustic. I love these, and I can't wait to wear them.

Anyway, moving right along... to the Mrs Darcy cardigan - finished at last!

I guess "at last" might be a little too strong a phrase, given that this was knitted in a little over two weeks... But it felt like it took forever to block (we've just turned off floor-heating-what-makes-things-block-at-super-speed), so for my attention span, "at last" is appropriate!

I'm very happy with how this turned out. The style isn't one that I normally wear, but it's more flattering than I was expecting it to be, and I Love This Shade of Green. Seriously. If all yarns came in this particular shade, I would be one happy camper. As it was, they don't all come in this shade, so I used Lincraft Merino Crepe 8 ply (about 8 balls of it). Not particularly excited about the yarn, but at least it was cheap (cardigan cost about $25 all up). And did I mention the colour? Mmmmm... bottle-y forest-y green...

Erm, moving right along from salivating over tasty viridian shades - this pattern was great. I made it nearly exactly as written - the only modification I made was to add a few rows to the back/sides, since my row gauge was ever so slightly off, and I'm tall so I wanted to be sure that it would be long enough. I didn't change the number of rows in the sleeves, because everyone on Ravelry seemed to be saying that the sleeves were too long, so I figured that mine would come out about right unaltered (I was actually right for a change!). Oh, and I didn't crochet around the bottom, because I wasn't having the curling issues that the designer had. I did however crochet around the back neckline, because it was curling a little there. Problem seems to be mostly remedied now.

I was very impressed with this pattern all in all - minimal shaping but it didn't end up boxy at all (hurrah for ribbing!). I would definitely recommend this pattern to anyone knitting a garment for the first time - it was ridiculuosly quick and straightforward. As whinged about on Ravelry, the only even slightly difficult part (in my opinion) was seaming the ribbed section - my seaming skills are not particularly impressive, and that combined with the comparatively loose gauge of my fabric meant that there were a few parts that looked a little dippy. I'm not too fussed though - it isn't all that noticeable, and I'm no perfectionist! Some people have had trouble with the sleeve cap, but none of that here - it fitted just fine for me.

And yes, I was roasting when these photos were taken. Double layers, one of them wool, on a warm spring day = an uncomfortably toasty Anna!

So yes, lots of warm clothing that is thoroughly inappropriate for current Melbourne weather. Thankfully, I'm not fussed by this for two reasons:
  1. It's Melbourne we're talking about here. It'll probably be snowing by dinner time.
  2. In a little over two months, I'm off to Europe! Bring on the woolly scarves!

Unfortunately, before I get to gallivant merrily around Germany, Austria, Italy and France there will be exams. Grumble. On that note, I'd best go and tackle the Constitutional Law textbooks. If anyone hears a banging noise, don't worry - that will just be me repeatedly bashing my head against the table in an attempt to euthanize myself in order to avoid the otherwise long, slow and painful death by boredom that awaits me... Or something.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Slow going and retail therapy.

Still beavering away on the Mrs Darcy cardigan - all the knitting is done now, and I should finish seaming it tomorrow. Then I'll just need to procure some suitable buttons, and we'll be in business. So expect a finished cardigan soon...

Things have been a little slow on the knitting front - between working a lot and hurting my hand the other day, there hasn't been a lot going on. A bit of swatching, and a few false starts at experimental projects. I'll get back on the horse soon enough. Or at least I'd better, given the amount of yarn I've bought over the last week.

Still, there's been progress on the, erm, materialistic end of things. This was the result of my little jaunt over to Malvern. I should not be allowed to go to Wondoflex again for quite a while...

(clockwise from top: some Silk Garden in a colourway that I just couldn't resist, some Noro sock yarn, and some more of the Montage 8ply handpainted yarn that I'm so hopelessly addicted to)

Yes, yes, I have a serious Noro problem. I know. At least I can afford it now.

It was the first time I'd been to Wondoflex - the shop was great. I liked the fact that it was a bit more spacious than other places in Melbourne - sometimes I feel a little claustrophobic in the smaller shops. Definitely worth the train trip, anyway.

Anyway, while there hasn't been a great deal going on as far as knitting goes, I've been doing lots of cooking. Seems I've finally gotten my sourdough to work, so I am now officially one of those hippies who bakes their own bread. Behold:

This one was a white/rye mix, and I was very pleased with the way that it turned out. The crust was perfect, and it actually had the texture of bread (as opposed to the scone like/damper texture that some homemade breads often have). Last week I went around to visit some friends and we had a cook up - I instructed them in the ancient art of guacamole, and we all ate so much that we couldn't move afterwards. And tonight I made white chocolate, pecan and cranberry biscuits (from one of my beloved Nigella Lawson cookbooks). They turned out beautifully (the mixture tasted pretty bloody good uncooked as well!). Oh, and I've now tried goat's butter. As in, butter made out of goat's milk. It was really nice actually - snow white in colour and with a very slight savoury taste.

Anyway, that's enough about food... I'll conclude with photographic proof that not only is my venus fly trap still alive and well - it's thriving. Haven't given it a name yet though... must do so.

My knit blog has carnivorous plant life. Does yours?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Carefree and slothful

Eating: salted pistashio nuts by the handful (mmm....)

Listening: this afternoon it's been a few compilations, the Waifs, and Travis

Reading: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch - far too much fun for just one book.

Yeah, I should probably be studying. But it's such a Nice Day... I'm fairly certain that this will continue to be the justification for all my brands of procrastination, at least for the next while anyway. Definitely until the novelty of sun wears off...

Anyway, since it is such a Nice Day, I walked home from my morning class - 3 kilometres of glorious sunshine! - via the market, where I acquired smoothie makings and chocolate biscuits. And now I've spent the afternoon with the television off and the stereo on, full of strawberries, banana, passionfruit, and general feelings of good mood. Hurrah!

Above is said smoothie (tasty!) with the beginnings of a Mrs Darcy cardigan (in my very favourite shade of green - the yarn is cheap and unimpressive, but I love the colour so much that all is forgiven). I started it yesterday, and ended up knitting quite a sizable chunk of it while sitting on the couch with a mug of tea, avoiding reality and watching back to back episodes of Stargate Atlantis (for I, my friends, am a tragic nerd).

I've been thinking the last while that I really want to get back into sewing. Well, "back into" might be more than a little misleading - I was never particularly proficient. I could make skirts, capes, and occasionally ill-fitting pants. But I want to get better. Working against me is the fact that my sewing machine is ancient and the instruction manual that came with it has long since been lost, but I am nothing if not determined... I've been reading a book on how to make skirts, and if I can learn how to do that, then I will be a happy camper indeed. I like wearing skirts, but I am not really shaped correctly for lots of shop bought ones to be flattering. One simple thing keeps thwarting me: my widest part is not my hips - it's my thighs (surely I'm not the only woman out there with this problem?). So if I can learn to make clothes to accomodate this I shall be happy indeed...

Oh, and speaking of happy, I have lovely yarn from Live 2 Knit. Figured it was about time I tried some of their yarn - supporting the locals and all that. So I acquired some 4ply 100% silk in the 'Seaglass' colourway and some 10ply merino in "Tidal". They're both so beautiful I don't even want to take them out of the skein. Behold my photo that totally fails to do justice to the beautiful colours (both skeins are much darker in real life):

I have no idea what I'm going to do with them (a few hazy ideas for the silk, but nothing too specific yet)... They're so beautiful that frankly I'm happy enough just to know that they exist and that they're mine...
Anyway, off to enjoy the rest of my afternoon. Tonight I need to go up and do the final clean of my old place. I've conscripted my Dad to help (well, by conscripted I mean he very nicely volunteered), so hopefully the cleaning won't take too long. Though it's not the cleaning I'm fussed about - it's being there. Too many bad memories now. Oh well, I'll just have to remember the good ones. After all - a whole lot of knitting took place in that lounge room too!

Friday, September 5, 2008

As promised...

Once again, the might of the Internet coerces me into actually doing the stuff I've been meaning to.

Exhibit A:

Finished the Luna Moth shawl (used total of 5.5 balls of Naturally Merino et Soie yarn). I was pretty chuffed with how this one came out, and it was pleasantly straightforward as well - not a single bit of weirdness in the pattern. Nice and easy to knit too, and the only markers I ended up using were to mark the centre stitch. I think that I'm now definitely quite firmly ensconced in the lace-with-thicker-yarn camp - I love the look of it. I've gushed about this a little on the Ravelry page for this project, but the thicker yarn gives this project a more substantial, more organic look that I think works really well. So in summary, still love the yarn, and highly recommend the pattern, especially if you're like me and haven't had very much experience with larger lace projects.

Exhibit B:

Please excuse the armpit weirdness - for all that it did end up fitting, and I'm happy enough with the way I look in it, it was disproportionately difficult to get a flattering photo of myself in this top. I think it might just be one of those garments that looks better in motion..

Anyway, this is the finished Askew tank (used about 2.7 balls of Noro Silk Garden - yes, you heard that quantity correctly). And yeah, it fits, but it was a bloody close run thing. I'm just glad I didn't end up making my usual size for this one - there's no way it would have fitted me. As it was, I eyed the ease recommended for the pattern, eyed the number of cast on stitches, and promptly made it bigger than I would have normally. I'm not sure why the fit issues were there - and Ravelry informs me that I'm not the only one to have them. If my gauge was off, it definitely wasn't that off... Might just come down to body shape, as well as size... Oh well, I'll take it on board for next time.

I ended up making it a halter style top instead of a tank - mainly for practicality reasons, and yes, for a few superficial ones as well. For a start, I think it might have been a struggle to sew the straps to the back and actually have them stay on. For some reason this batch of Silk Garden was breaking more than I'd experienced with any other batch (I really was at my wits end with this - and I don't even want to remember how many ends I had to weave in because of this), and I didn't want to put as much strain on the yarn as it would have taken for those straps to work as a tank. So, I'm didn't sew them at all (Anna = lazy bum). Instead I'm just tying them behind my neck.

Normally this wouldn't work of course, or at least not if you like your clothing to actually stay on, but the tightness of the top actually works in my favour for this. It's so tight that there is no danger whatsoever of this falling down by itself - I need to peel the thing off like a banana skin. So I think halter was definitely the way to go. And on superficial grounds, well... frankly the tightness of this top does my comparatively limited, erm, endowments no favours at all. It's simply not flattering. So the halter's emphasis on the shoulders takes the attention away from the fact that it squashes my chest into Silk Gardened oblivion...

All in all, I was happy enough with the way this one turned out - not ecstatic, but happy enough. I think next time (and there definitely will be a next time because my fit issues aside, this pattern has heaps going for it - insanely quick, easy, and a really interesting shape/design) I'll make a size with a lot more ease.

And, while this isn't part of the WIP purge, I love it anyway, so here's a picture...

That's my new hat! I made it to kill time while I waited for nice men to deliver my new bed. They didn't end up coming, which makes it all the better that I had a hat to console me! The pattern is Foliage (chunky version), which every man and his dog seems to have made, and I used a little over half of a skein of Noro Iro (yes, I'm very much feeling the Noro love lately now that I can afford to do so). This is a great pattern - though I had a bastard of a time knitting it, due mainly to needle woes. I had to start over three times because I just couldn't wrangle eight stitches over five needles. In the end I resorted to numbering the needles (embarrassing...). This was a bit dopey really - as was pointed out to me at SnB last night, I could have just started with fewer needles and then added them in. But you see, I have no common sense, and sensible things like that just don't occur to me (Anna = all kinds of dill).

I deliberately knitted the brim very loose. As you can see in the above picture, I have a lot of somewhat exuberant hair, and when I wear tight hats it, well... becomes very clear why I had the nickname of "lampshade" in the first few years of high school (kids can be so hilariously cruel). I was concerned that this would come out too tight, but thankfully there were no issues on that front. I love how this turned out. The pattern is a little lost in the thick yarn and colour changes, but who cares - look at those colours! I've been wearing it every chance I get.

I also frogged a bunch of stuff as part of aforementioned WIP purge. Among the casualties were a bamboo tank I'd abandoned a while ago, and the Honeymoon cardigan - both self designed things. I was a little bummed about the cardigan - it was actually finished bar sewing the zip in, but gauge issues and weight loss conspired against me, and the thing just ended up too big, and not in a good way. Also, I had to tackle the ridiculous irony of the fact that even though the Honeymoon cardigan didn't last, it lasted longer than the marriage that the honeymoon in question was following did...

Yep. The reason for the sudden total change in FO photo locations becomes clear. In a nutshell - stuff kind of went to hell in a handbasket: I wasn't being treated well at all, and as a result of this I stopped being able to handle even basic things like work and uni, and generally crashed and burned a lot. Attempts to rectify these things were not met constructively. So, I left. The last few months have NOT been fun to say the least - there were some very, very bad patches. But I believe I made the right choice (as do my friends, family, and the counsellor I've been seeing to try and get my head on straight again), and even though it's still incredibly difficult and ugly at times, I don't regret leaving.

Oh - this possibly helps to explain why I've suddenly turned into a one-woman knitwear factory (escapism anyone?). Anyway, that's all there'll be on that particular topic on this blog - I have other places to rant. But yeah, I'm just trying to get it all clear in all areas of my life, and since I had made reference to my marriage/husband here, I thought it was worth a mention. And here's the part where I am inappropriately flippant to dispel the melancholy of the last paragraph or so: Now I can knit more - he never liked the knitting, got annoyed when I tried to talk to him about it, and usually complained whenever I knitted when he was around. So, there shall be no more of that...

Anyway, I've blathered on for long enough. In conclusion, my Yarn and Fibre Company package came, so now I have more Noro than you can poke a stick at. This pleases me greatly. But I have to finish my bag before I can start knitting with it. Those are the rules...