Friday, 22 June 2012

Life list - tick!

You know, I don't normally mention stuff like this, but I feel moved to share my joy with you.

I kind of have a life list of people I'd feel proud to piss off. Some of them have become, through the intervention of time, impossible.

I really don't like this guy.
Ernest Hemingway's one - jeez, I hate that guy. I read one sentence and I become inflamed with the need to punch him on the nose; nasty, violent, misogynist...anyway.

My point is some of the items on that list are kind of out of reach. But when I learnt yesterday that I, in my humble way, managed to really piss off the Olympic Organising Committee of America I became radiant and suffused with joy.

You see, any organisation with historical links of eugenics and fascism, hostility towards the disabled, sexism and just their level of greed and human callousness - they're fairly high up my list.

Any organisation that celebrates and lionises genetic predisposition over character and human kindness deserves to be permanently hacked off by people like us. Good people. Nice people, who no matter how fast their damn feet go make beautiful stuff, do kind, good things, and make sure everyone is included.

To coin a phrase, I want to be judged by the content of my character, not whether I can run dead fast.

So, Olympic Organising Committee of America, thanks, I can tick you off my list.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Lunar yarn club : (

I meant to have an update on my Lunar Yarn Club yarn this week, but the postal service in the UK has decided to eat all parcels. I'm imagining a sort of cookie monster in a basement somewhere, with postmen feeding it parcels from a safe distance.

So updates on that shortly - I've got my fingers crossed it makes it through to me all safe and sound becuase God, do I need some more sock yarn right now. I must be down to my last, like, ten skeins and five perma-stash untouchable glorious skeins. This cannot continue! Luckily, Yarnscape and Lunar shipments co-incide this month so it should be double joy when the postmen finally wake up from their enchanted sleep or defeat the postal cookie monster, whichever is assailing them currently.

Travel knitting

I don't know if you use public transport, or if you have 'travel knitting' with you a lot. I can check 'yes' to both of those. I have a huge commute every day (three hours in total, and yes, I'm begging for your sympathy) which takes me from my home in a village to my job in a city.

Of course as a knitter I see that amount of travel and I think of all the socks I could make during the journey. As many people have remarked, socks are ideal for knitting on the go - small, portable, interesting, and you can get to the point where you don't always need the whole pattern book on the go. I often take a picture on my phone of charts I'm using and refer to them instead of paper copies, which is really handy.

Anyway, I cast on some Rose Rugbinosa socks from Knitter's Curiosity Cabinet - they've really cute and simple with a nice reticulated lace that fades into a plain toe, just the sort of thing for travelling with. it's on normal sock yarn, on my usual size needles but for some reason I have ripped through them in the journey to and from work. Two days, and I'm on the toe of the left sock already! Have I suddenly got sock-knitting super-powers? Is it resting from knitting - like athletes resting before a race - that's made me so super-speedy?

Here's a slightly blurry picture of the sock on my desk as we speak;

Pretty aren't they? The little lace chevrons look so neat, especially in this yarn. This is one of my hand-dyes from a few months back that I love with all my heart but which has been a pain to match to a pattern. The decreases for the diamonds create just enough disturbance, I think, and the pattern is clearcut enough to stand a bit of colour-shifting. I've been swatching in this yarn for a long, long time - it's a nice base of cashmere/merino/nylon - and not found anything that matches quite as well.

If I carry on at this pace, perhaps I'll have a whole new pair of socks by Saturday. Unheard of in my house. I also have a jumper on my needles (of which more at the weekend, I hope. It's a great raglan.) which is sidling round the house after me trying to make me feel guilty. I've left it for handspinning and socks. It's got one sleeve and a bit of body to go...but the socks! The rapid socks! The drop spindle! The need to eat and bathe! All cutting into my jumper-time!

By the way, after the post the other day I dropped a line to Hunter Hammersen on Ravelry to say how much I liked her book, and whether there would be a reprint of Silk Road Socks. Strangely Amazon UK are still accepting orders for Silk Road Socks but there's no stock, and no reprinting due.

Very strange co-incidence - Hunter messaged me back to say that, in getting ready for an event, she'd discovered a few copies of Silk Road Socks and was selling them on her blog! I went over there quick-sharp and got a copy before they sold out, which they have done by this morning by the looks of things. I am very, very excited. There's a few weeks and the Atlantic ocean between me and it, but I'm already looking at the patterns and my stash and thinking perhaps it's not up to the task of knitting every single sock in SRS and Knitter's Curiosity as well.

Perhaps the spinning may be useful after all...

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Book review; The Knitter's Curiosity Cabinet

The Knitters Curiosity Cabinet
20 Patterns Inspired by Vintage Botanical Prints - Hunter Hammersen

I first came across this book in a Ravelry thread bemoaning the lack of really original stitch patterns, on socks in particular. We've all done that rib/that lace/that toe, they complained. it's boring. It's frost flower again.

And then someone popped on and said nuh-uh; try this! and linked to the website for this book.
And I followed the link, for lo; that is what I doeth.
And my eyes, lo, they felleth out of my head and I cried with great joy; look here, ye sisters of Zimmerman, ye brethren of Bordhi.
And I spake loudly about my living room and saith, have you seen these?
And I was smitten. 

These are twenty patterns, mostly sock but also mittens, a shawl and a couple of cowls, designed from scratch, from fresh and new, without recourse to a stitch dictionary and drawing their inspiration from beautiful plant forms and botanical illustrations. You look at the delicate print, and then you look at the sock and it makes sense, it's just such a lovely derivation - like a single tune from a beautiful concerto.

Here's a great example; have a look at this mitten and see if you can see the ruffled inner petals of a daffodil;

Or this one, one of my favourites - a pine cone from a scotch fir;

The patterns are exquisite.

The only concern I have - and it's a really small one - is that the patterns can seem complicated. But, you know, that's the thing; they're unfamiliar and new, and you're not going to understand them straight away in the same way as you would perhaps another broken rib men's sock.

I like complicated, personally. If I want restful knitting or a beginner wants something simple, there's hundreds of thousands of patterns to choose from, hundreds of books. This is something a cut above.

I ordered the book online a few months ago when it wasn't in print yet, at, where there's a good offer to get the e-book in advance of issue, and then a print copy when it became available. Now of course you can choose between print or e-book. I received the e-book almost immediately in my Rav library and whilst I was still smitten, you just don't get a feel of how gorgeous these patterns are until you have a print copy. The production values are as good as the patterns, with lots of attention to detail and a lovely finish and size to the book, not too big to carry in your lap. My one gripe would be the number of patterns spread over several pages - but then they would look crowded if they were on one page, and I have heard of bookmarks. I can see myself getting used to the pattern style quickly, partly because the writing is very clear and direct, and partly because I want to knit all the patterns in there.

Just a note to aficionados - Silk Road Socks, the first book Hunter Hammerson wrote, is now a collector's edition retailing at somewhere in the region of $200 in the US. I expect this book to do the same.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

I wish I was....

For my mum, who'se having a crappy time with her new flat.

Sing along, mum! You know I am...."a woooo-oooo, a wild west HEEEEEEEeeeero!"

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Stop me before I spin again!

Well, that happened.

There I was, idly thinking "Hey, what's yarn related that I haven't done?" And then I remembered the fleece and the pine spindle I'd bought in Knit Nottingham (Wouldn't it be cool if it was Knit Knottingham? Sorry. Off-topic.) So I picked them up and had a bit of a twirl.

A couple of weeks later and I'm now the proud owner of several bags of roving, another spindle, a helpful book and an exciting new obsession!

I don't know what happened. Really I don't. It's like my brain went on its own little spree, hungry for more time-sucking wool-related crafts I could try and get terribly good at. It's like Awakenings but, one hopes, without the depressing ending and with more wool fumes

So, here's what I picked up to feed my new addition;

Sara's Texture Crafts has some lovely fibre at what (to a finished-fibre stasher) seem like really good prices. I have 100g to merino/silk in an amazing colourway called 'River', which is a delicious blend of cool blue, dark green-blue, with little streaks of pale yellow and iridescent silver silk. Link to it here - isn't that pretty? I also got a mixed bag of Shetland in natural colours, which include a lovely soft moorit.

Forest Fibres are also very good; I picked up a bag of this roving for a pitiful amount of money.

I've also been watching Abby Franquemont's videos on youtube on using a drop spindle. This one, below, was invaluable and I really recommend it as a good introduction.

I've read a lot of advice, but until you really see someone doing it, it's really difficult to get the 'feel' of it. So much of knitting - and spinning too, it seems - is about feel, and developing an instinct for what seems right and not. In knitting, I don't even think about tension; my hands do it all for me. I'm only just starting to get to a point where my hands have learnt what they need to do to spin, but already they're taking over and doing all these tiny adjustments and gestures that I don't even think about.

Abby also has a book on drop-spindling that I think I may pick up, it seems to be the most recent as well as the most respected on the subject. A lot of spinning blogs and advice touch briefly on the drop-spindle as a method, but don't really explicate - they seem to treat it as an adjunct or starter-kit for a spinning wheel. Not that I have anything against wheels (in fact I'm serious contemplating getting one now) but spindles are a seriously different kettle of fish.

Because I was stuck at home for a couple of days this week with a chest infection which pretty much confines me to sitting-down tasks, I really had a lot of time to get stuck in and really get a feel for the spindle. Having hours in which I could play uninterrupted and really learn from what I was doing helped me get to grips with it. Yesterday I spun the merino 'foxglove' roving from Forest Fibres and produced a good chunky ball of soft yarn. It's about a 5ply or sport weight yarn, with the occasional brief foray into DK!

I was pretty pleased, and it knits up nicely. So this morning, I had another go - having not practised in the meantime - and produced this yarn from the merino/silk roving;

Just so you can see the difference, here they are together;

Isn't that strange? I had in my head that I wanted to make a finer yarn from this one, and whether because it's something about the yarn itself, or thinking that I wanted it finer, or the fact that today I'm doing less park-and-draft and more dropping, it came out somewhere around light sock-weight.

I am enchanted! What the hell is going on? I don't fully understand it and it makes yarn, what's not to love about a craft like that?

On the subject of spinning, I've started furtively looking at spinning wheels. My favourite is this, the Ashford Joy - doesn't the name say it all?

Look at that bad boy! It folds up! Have you seen it spin? Inexplicably fascinating!

At nigh on £500 though it's a bit out of my range, though, so I've been looking at a second-hand one of these; Herring wheels. A large part of me just wants to say "I have a Herring wheel" but they are lovely, and seem to do everything well and sturdily.They also look a bit 70's Scandinavian which doesn't hurt.

Can't you just see someone earnest and bearded in Tromso using that?  I really need a living-room like this to fit in with the wheel;

Anyway, my cup of tea is finished, and I have lots of tiny pieces of roving to pick off the floor. I'm secretly wondering if perhaps that blue yarn was my last hurrah, and now I'll have inexplicably lost the ability to spin, so I might go and reassure myself on that front. So I'll leave you for the moment - why not go and obsess over roving and spinning-wheels? It's what I'm going to do!