Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Jumping ship!

Greetings to any fair readers who have found themselves here.

The bad news: I got restless and started a new blog.

The good news: my new abode is only a click away, so you should come and visit me!
(pretty please?)

This blog has seen good times and bad alike, and I remain fond of it, but for quite a few reasons I felt like it was time for a change of scenery.

And fear not, Blogger buddies - you'll still see me around in your comments box!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mitts, handspun and cupcakes!

Whew - you can't half tell that it's semester time again! Between my lack of regular posting and my comparative lack of knitting progress, it probably goes without saying that life is busy. I'm keeping on top of it rather well though - I've even stopped leaving my assignments until the last minute. Wonders will never cease.

But let's forget about the I'm-so-busy whinge and cut straight to the knitting I have been doing. Behold! I finally finished my long-suffering New Orleans Mitts:

(it only occurred to me after uploading this picture to Ravelry that I'm doing the stereotypical pregnant woman pose with my hands - I assure you all that I am most definitely not pregnant!)

The basic info: Used Classic Elite Inca Alpaca (100% alpaca) yarn knitted on 4mm dpns. Didn't really use a pattern. Cast on 30 stitches and basically just worked a tube, adding a hole for the thumb (I used the thumb hole method from this pattern, since it works a treat). There's ribbing at the start, end and on the thumb, and there's a few increases here and there to improve the fit (I have narrow wrists but comparatively wide hands), but there really wasn't much to these. The stripes are 2 rows long, and I made them jogless by slipping the first stitch of each round on the second row of each colour.

Commentary: These aren't really anything exciting, but I'm happy with them. I love the way that the subdued colours look when striped. I love stripey things, but sometimes they can be a little bit loud - these are much more low key. They're also beautifully warm thanks to the alpaca.

Still, the thing that I like the best about these mitts is the fact that I had to restart them, odd though that sounds. Originally I cast on too many stitches, and was about three inches in by the time I realised that the mitts I was knitting were going to be much looser than I was after. However, the reason why I restarted is inconsequential. The main point is that I was willing to do a little bit of work and restart rather than just push on and ultimately end up with a project I wasn't entirely happy with. I honestly think that I would have taken the latter route a year or so ago, and it makes me pleased that I'm now willing to do what it takes to get something right. Makes me feel as if I've matured as a crafter, as incredibly pretentious as such a sentiment sounds.

In other news, I plied some of the handspun from last post.

If we're being honest, I really have no idea what I'm going to do with this yarn. It's not really my thing. That said, I love it fiercely, so I suppose I'll have to think of something!

And alas, there hasn't been all that much else going on as far as craft goes. I've been working away in fits and starts on my tweedy cardigan, and although it's not coming out exactly how I'd planned, I'm still happy enough with it. Only one sleeve to go, so hopefully you'll be seeing it soon. I've been doing a fair bit of cooking; lots of delicious winter soups, and one day when I was feeling inventive I tried my hand at making chai-flavoured cupcakes. They were lovely!

I'd like to say that I've been doing more knitting than just mentioned, but the truth is that I haven't. Don't get me wrong, I still love the craft - life has just been getting in the way. Partly it's been due to me falling down into the Designer's Void, where I drag my feet because I have to actually - gasp - think to finish my half-completed projects, instead of just looking at someone else's pattern notes. I've also been on a massive creative writing kick the last week or so, and while this is awesome, it does take away from my knitting time. Still, I suspect that once I finally get this cardigan off of the needles I'll be back into knitting with a vengeance! In the mean time, kindly admire my handspun yarn and homemade cupcake:

(Not to be confused with handspun cupcakes. That would be odd.)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Procrastination in all its forms

Apologies for the blog silence. Uni has been busy, my internship has started, and to top it all off, I spent a lot of last week being sick with a rather rotten head-cold. Being sick is never a lot of fun, but at least I got some of my assignments done. For some reason though, I never feel like knitting when I'm ill. I've done a little bit of work on my cardigan, but I've been terribly lazy when it comes to finishing my hand warmers. This is especially deplorable because I know very well that all they really need is an hour or so of work, and then they'll be done. Bad Anna.

On the up side, I have been doing some more spinning!

I bought this a while back, but wanted to go through all of my dodgier 'learning' fibre before I tackled it. And I actually kept this resolution - the last of the plain fibre was dyed with avocado pits and spun up during the week, so I've started on the nicer stuff!

(I know the photo is slightly weird - I am having Camera Issues at the moment). I'm really enjoying learning how to spin. I find it very relaxing, and kind of addictive. And I can do it when my eyes are too tired to knit, which is a plus. And as you can see, I'm gradually improving - the above skein is bordering on respectable! That said, I tried my hand at plying last night and the result is, erm, not quite as impressive. But still, that's what learning is all about, I suppose.

Next post, actual knitting content - I promise! In the mean time, I leave you with a picture of the home brewed beer we bottled a few weeks ago. Still needs a little bit of time to improve, but it's pretty good - the first brew I've been involved in from start to finish. Exciting! (well, I think so)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Learning by Doing is a Grand Thing

Okay, fine, no completed set of hand-warmers just yet, but one thing that I neglected to mention last post is that I have been renewing my assault on the pile of fibre that lives in my craft pile. I did make a few attempts at learning how to spin last year (or was it the year before... jeez, I don't even know), but I then, cleverly, managed to lose my drop spindle. And it was the most frustrating variety of losing something though; the kind where you know that it has to be in your house somewhere, so you refrain from buying a new one because you are quite convinced that the moment that you do, the old one will reappear. So my pretty fibre languished. But then the drop spindle did, in fact, reappear (it had fallen down behind some books on one of my shelves... because this makes perfect sense, right), and recently I finally found the time to use it.

These are the first three results of the renewed attempt to learn how to hand-spin. Three guesses which is the first try. What's that, you say? They're all sad looking skeins of noob yarn? Okay, fine, the blue was the first attempt, the green the second, and the variegated was the third.

Perhaps you can't really see in the photo, but the improvement from the first to the most recent is amazing. This is one of the things that I love the most about knitting, and crafty things in general - you can actually see yourself improve in quite a short time if you only take the time to practice. The above were spun over a period of about a week, and every day that I picked up the spindle, I was better at it. Don't get me wrong, I'm still very much a clumsy, beginner. But seeing yourself make progress is fantastic. I really do think that it's the little things in life that make you happy, and this is definitely one of the little things in my arsenal.

Next time, hand-warmers! Now it's back to what I was doing: drinking tea, eating freshly baked lavender, honey and lemon shortbread, watching the Arcade Fire concert being streamed on You Tube, and knitting with my divinely imperfect hand-spun. It is good to be Anna this afternoon.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Time Travel

Okay, so I can't actually time travel. But the start of another semester of university always makes me feel like I can. Weeks can pass in the blink of an eye - weeks in which I tragically neglect my poor little blog. But here I am, back again.

University started last week, and it looks like it's going to be a good semester, as I've lucked out with teachers and subjects. Very soon I get to start my internship, and that should be a really good experience as well. And I've been catching up with all of the university friends that I missed when I was travelling. One of them gave me some lovely beeswax candles that she had acquired on her own travels - aren't they pretty!

Now, I have actually been managing to fit a surprising amount of knitting into all of this. However, I don't have photos. Partially because I am too lazy and/or busy to take them, but mostly because pictures of half completed projects are just never really that impressive. Or not when I take them anyway. I've seen some lovely shots of works-in-progress on other people's blogs and Ravelry pages, but if there's a knack to taking them, I don't have it, and I don't feel like subjecting people to a blurry shot of my single completed hand-warmer today.

Rest assured, however, that the handwarmers are coming along swimmingly. I've finished one bar the thumb, and the other should follow very quickly since I can just brainlessly copy the first one without having to turn my mind to questions of length, width and ribbing. Hurrah for mindless knitting.

I've also been working on a top down wrap-style cardigan out of some dark blue tweedy yarn that I've had kicking around for a while. The top down style is of course very familiar to me. The wrap style however is not, so it will be interesting to see how that one pans out. It's probably near to half finished, at any rate, so we won't be waiting that much longer.

So while there is indeed knitting progress, unfortunately it doesn't lend itself well to photos. Thankfully, however, other things do! The Boy and I celebrated our anniversary last week; we made celebratory pizzas and had Floor Picnic in front of the television because the weather in Melbourne in July is nothing to write home about. But the pizza was lovely (if a little poorly lit in this photo!).

The cold weather has also brought some of the local wildlife into the house. A recurring guest in my abode is a tiny little gecko, who made his first appearance a few weeks ago in the laundry/toilet area of all places. So it was only logical to christen him Mr Toilet Gecko. Ridiculous name aside, he's a cute wee thing:

Well, I think he's cute anyway - look at that little beady eye!

Next post: finished handwarmers!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Holiday Finished Objects

As previously mention, I did plenty of knitting while I was away. Between the hotels and hostels, cafes, buses, trains, planes, picnics and knit-nights, I managed to squeeze out three different projects in the time I was away.

First off: Annis by Susanna IC, knitted in Wired for Fibre Elizabeth (in the 'Fate' colourway) on a 5mm circular needle.

Climb aboard the ramble-mobile: This is definitely the project I'm the most proud of. For a start, it's pretty: the lace pattern is lovely and the yarn is simply gorgeous. I just wish I had a picture that did the beautiful colour justice - it's a much deeper, richer green than the pictures show. Also, this was the most challenging knit. It's not so much that it was difficult - the pattern is well written, and although the nupps were something new to me, they weren't too tricky - it was more than I had a bit of lapse in sense and brought the single bluntest needle I owned along to knit it with. P7tog is all well and good when you have the right needle, but the one I was using was probably blunt enough that I could have jammed it repeatedly into my eyeball and not sustained any damage. So working the nupps was slow and painstaking. Still, I got there in the end.

I won't lie - I made quite a few mistakes. I had to redo the first few rows, and I worked a portion of the lace pattern while I was feverish and headachey, and it kind of, erm, shows. But thankfully it's not very noticeable in the finished product - the errors are mostly at the ends, which tend to be tied and dangling. And all in all I'm definitely happy with how it came out - I can't wait to wear it out and about. The design is wonderful too - it was fun to watch how the short rows created the shape of the shawl, and I think it would lend itself very well to all kinds of variation. I definitely look forward to finding out!

Project number two was just a basic, stash-busting hat made out of some random scraps of black dk weight wool and some Panda Purla that I've been wanting to use up/get rid of but wasn't sure what to do with. I didn't use a pattern, and I won't bore everyone with talking about it in detail, because it's just the most basic of basic hats (worked in the round, two row stripes, rolled brim), but I'm rather happy with how it turned out. As previously mentioned, I've really been feeling the love for stripes lately, so I'm quite keen on this, even though I look like the grotty student bum that I am when I wear it.

Number Three: Wisp by Cheryl Niamath, knitted from Noro Silk Garden Sock yarn on 5.5mm needles.

Blatherings: This pattern was pleasantly easy, and I'd made it before already, so this was a great travelling knit that I didn't have to think too hard about. I'm quite pleased with how the finish product worked out. I would have appreciated a slightly longer scarf, so in retrospect I probably should have made it narrower in order to accomplish this, but I'm still happy with it. The Silk Garden Sock is very pretty, though I found it a little frustrating to work with at times as it had a tendency to break in the loosely spun sections.

So, there you have it - one month's worth of travel knitting. They were all fun projects, but now I'm home I'm really craving a bigger project. It wasn't really feasible to lug pullover quantities of yarn around the US with me, but now I'm home again, I'm looking forward to getting stuck into garments again. I have so many ideas in my head to play with! If only I had more than three days before uni starts again...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Yarny Acquisitions

...and now to the part where Anna drools over her new yarn. As alluded to in the last post, I picked up quite a bit of new stuff while I was gone. Not a completely over-the-top amount - after all, I did have to worry about how I was going to get it home. But definitely a goodly amount, especially considering that I haven't bought much this year. Actually, that has a lot to do with it - the self-imposed yarn diet of last year let me kick my impulse buying habit, so I've purchased comparatively little by way of yarn lately. As a result, I felt a little more justified in lashing out a bit while I was travelling. And besides, when it comes to yarn the range of what you can get in the US is just so vast compared to what is available here in Australia; I was happy to let myself indulge a bit.

This is not quite all of what I bought - I left out some of the doubles, there's some Malabrigo Twist to the right that you can only see a hint of, and I think there was one ball hiding in parts unknown that didn't make it into the shot. Still, not a bad haul, right? I visited so many lovely yarn shops (including WEBS, thanks to some awesome LSG Ravellers), and I ended up picking up a little something from most of them. Highlights included some discounted Noro and some lovely Misti Chunky Alpaca from WEBS, some gorgeous alpaca from The Quarter Stitch in New Orleans, and some Koigu and Malabrigo Lace from Rebecca's work.

Pretty right? Also, besides showing off my holiday indulgences, these photos are a good idea of where I'm at right now when it comes to colour. I've always loved black and green, and I definitely still do, but over the last year I've found myself thinking more and more of grays, purples and reds as well, and sometimes even blues when the shades were just right. And just look at all of the lovely colours I have to work with now!

Anyway, back to the yarn. Not all of them have been allocated to projects yet, but I'm working on it. I didn't really want any of these to languish in the stash for too long, and I'm off to a cracking start on that front: the Misti Alpaca Chunky (the large skein in that gorgeous shade of dark reddish purple on the right hand side of the picture) has already become a scarf. None too shabby, right? And there were a couple of skeins that I had plans for before I'd even left the store in which I bought them.

The moment I saw these skeins in New Orleans, I knew that I had to stripe them together, and I knew that they were destined to adorn my hands. I have every intention of casting on tonight, so stay tuned for news on that in the near future. However, the next post = holiday projects!

But not tonight. I have knitting to do, tea to drink, and an episode of Skins to watch... Have a nice evening, everyone!