Ze(k)nith

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I would not have made it through so many things in my life without knitting to calm myself. This last month I think I’ve particulary taken advantage of the healing powers of looping bits of thread through other bits of thread. Taking a moment to knit a row amidst the manic shoppers pre-Christmas made the whole process easier. Tinkering away during tense family interactions helped organise my thoughts and kept frustration at bay.
Oh, knitting. You rock.

I won’t dwell on the negativity that surrounded this year’s Christmas season, though there was much. Instead, here are the best bits!

These tea infusers – Mr. Tea and Mana-tea!

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This fabulous hexipuff-holder from my Gran, made by her clever quilter friend…

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She also sculpted the clay beads!

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This perfect gardening tool tray, made by my ever-gorgeous Pa.
So sweet, and holds plenty of seed trays!

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The moment when I found the cat doing this:

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Our dorky table setting, complete with fairylight-ified Van Gogh print!

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A bizarre Skype session with relatives…
(Note my dog’s paw sneaking its way into the frame.)

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And then the brilliance of knitting at this beautiful place:

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Today, my mum and I offered to deliver a Christmas gift (a garden gnome taking a bath) for someone, which entailed a drive into the mountains. Since we’d made the journey we decided to spend the day there. We had lunch in the bush and then a glorious swim (my first in months). Great respite from the madness of the last weeks.

But in all honesty, what I need now is ginger beer and video games. My brain is tired.

Hope you all had great Christmases and are relaxing and recuperating well. x

Catching up

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Over the last year, as you can imagine, I’ve done a hell of a lot of knitting. And for once, the things I was making felt practical and necessary.
I effectively had three winters in a row, leaving for Europe in November last year. Though it was only for five weeks, I knew the cold would be like nothing I’d ever experienced:

I owned but one (short-sleeved) thermal undershirt.
I hadn’t seen snow.
I’d never felt a winter cooler than 5 degrees Celsius.

So I got knitting.

When I first saw the Dimorphous Mittens pattern, months before we left, I knew that I had to make them. And because the mitten flaps are seperable from the inner gloves, I meant that I could still use them during Sydney’s comparatively mild winters.

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I originally chose little adorable cow buttons, but they were too pointy and tricky to get in and out of the button loops using mitten-clad fingers. You can find the Ravelry page here.

I also made two scarves. The crocheted Noro one I didn’t end up taking. The orange one I made to a different pattern, didn’t finish, took it overseas, hated it, frogged it, came back to Australia, and made the one here instead.

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Obligatory Ravelry page links: here and here!

Here’s an awkward photo of this actually quite lovely beanie I made. It is almost impossible to get a good photo of one’s own hat-adorned head!

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Here’s the Ravelry page for the pattern and my project, sans pom-pom.

While I was in Edinburgh, I knew I wanted to visit as many wool shops as possible and get some Shetland wool while I was at it. By far my favourite one was Kathy’s Knits. Kathy was so lovely and helpful, letting me take my own sweet time browsing through her shelves and helping me with anything I needed. I settled on this book and making this lovely tam.

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Apologies for the shocking photography. As aforementioned, it’s is immensely difficult to take a decent photo of such things.

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Through making this tam I learnt a neat little bind-off that is invisible. The tam is worked top-down (first time experience for me, as the holey centre indicates!) and you cast off at the ribbing invisibly using a strange sort of slip-stitch set up and kitchener stitch finish. Tricky at first, but way cool. Definitely using it for my next pair of toe-up socks. I’ll attempt a tutorial one of these days; it’s just that perfect.

I lucked out with this project. Not that I finished it overseas, but I did manage to get it onto my flight from Edinburgh to Amsterdam and knit quite a few rows. Having started it on 2mm dpns I bought from Kathy, I somehow managed to have the matching circs in my luggage and when it got bigger I was able to magic loop it and then work in a full round. Usually with something this fiddly and fair-isle-y I would suffer endlessly, but this tam was surprisingly easygoing. Obligatory Ravelry page link!

Yadda yadda. I’m sure I’ve inundated and overwhelmed you by now.

Until next time! x

I’m back!

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Well, that was quite a break! There’s so much crafting to catch you up on. The fractious fair-isle jumper is complete. The hexipuff quilt is taking shape. I’ve made mittens, socks, hats, scarves and blankets. So, there’s probably going to be quite a bit of show and tell over the next few posts.

Here’s where the quilt is at:

I tried laying out the puffs with all the colours mottled together…

Matching puffs and feet!

Which looked gorgeous! But I found it hard to disperse colours evenly.

So I tried putting them into little clusters of like colours like this…

Hexiflowers

And this…

Hexiflowers 2

It makes them easier to put together and means I can join them as I go. This way I don’t have to wait until the very last puff to see how much I have of each colour and disperse them evenly throughout the quilt
It’s safe to say the quilt is going well. Slowly though, as I only just broke the 200 puff mark earlier this week. (Summer here is brutal and not ideal for hexipuffing!)
Here’s the Ravelry page for it all.

And just for a wee bit more eye-candy, here are some of the yarns…

Green yarns for quilt

Next time I can catch you up on my winter knits from last year. I made a bunch of things for my chilly travels to Europe which I’m pretty proud of :’) I also bought some lovely Shetland wool from the undeniably lovely Kathy’s Knits in Edinburgh and used it to make a traditional fair-isle tam on the teensiest needles imaginable.

Yes.
Next time.
You must hold me to that promise so I don’t neglect this blog for so long again!

Much appreciation to those of you who used to follow this blog, and I hope I continue to post things that interest you again.

timmy and puffs

Over and out.

Self-administered Knitting Therapy

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Enough wallowing, dear reader. Time for me to stop dwelling on my varied and frequent fair isle mistakes and take part in some quick and simple, super gratifying knitting. Time for another self-indulgent post, only this time the message is infinitely more positive!

Yesterday I visited Mosman Needlecraft for the first time. It was 15 minutes to closing time, so I didn’t get to have as good a look at everything as I would have hoped, but it was super fun. And it has provided me with much to show you, and vicariously provided a resurrection of the ‘visual feast’ search tag.

Have I ever told you what my favourite colour is? Here’s a clue…

L to R: Madelinetosh Tosh Sock, Koigu Painter’s Palette Premium Merino, Shibui, and KPPPM again.

(To anyone colourblind, I apologise that I gave a visual clue. The answer was green.)

I realised that the most gratifying project I could undertake was lurking right on my Ravelry queue: The Beekeeper’s Quilt by Tiny Owl Knits (or as it is often quaintly and endearingly typeset, the beekeeper’s quilt by tiny owl knits). You just have to read Stephanie from TOK’s motivational little blurb about how individual hexipuffs are like a satisfying little project in themselves, and that just squishing them makes you feel happy and lovely and wonderful and all things good and nice and… ah.

I started making hexipuffs a few days ago, but I wasn’t that happy with them. I’d seen a few quilts go wrong with poor colour-planning, and I realised that the hexis I’d made didn’t relate in colour, nor through the duplicate stitch embroidery I’d done on them. I’ll take a photo some time and show you what I mean. Individually, the hexis were adorable, but I just didn’t feel that in the end it was going to look very cohesive. Or attractive. At all.

My genius idea was to make the quilt in the loveliest sock yarns I could find in shades of green. Then I would balance that out with other hexis made from my 4-ply stash in shades of brown, cream and green, with maybe a pop of blue. I had a lovely stash-rummaging session and this is what I found to match…

Okay, so not as much green in the stash as I would have liked, but it did give me a use for the stray ball of wrong-dyelot Beluga I introduced you all to last Friday. At work this week we got a new colour in Empire called ‘Absinthe’ that I’ve been searching for an excuse to buy. I think it will tone beautifully with the Tosh Sock. Which, by the way, is called ‘Malachite’. Gah. Malachite. Gorgeous. The photo does not do it any justice.

I then had a glorious time playing around with some colour combinations so that I would have an idea of what my layout will be.

I decided I needed some further knitting gratification. Something I could churn out before embarking on my quilt. A knitting pick-me-up. Something super simple, super easy, super fast, and that made me feel super good about the fact that it was simple, easy and fast. So I bought some cashmere (just casually, for a ridiculous amount of money) and I made a cowl.

I knitted it in the round, doing 5 rows of k1, p1 on 4mm, changing to 6mm and working in what I call “oatmeat stitch” (sort of an extended seed stitch). I weighed it after doing the rib so I knew how many grams to leave for finishing with another 5 rows of rib and for binding off.

My gosh, this cashmere deserves its 5 star rating on Ravelry, for sure. It was worth every single dollar. This was hands down the loveliest, most resilient and compliant yarn I’ve ever had the pleasure to knit. It’s an aran weight by Jade Sapphire in the colourway ‘Rockaway Beach’.

I have finished the cowl, but I took these photos not anticipating I would finish it today. But it did. Like I said, super simple and super fast. Have you got any go-to project you know you can churn out quickly and feel awesome about it?

I read this fabulous post by feelgoodknitting. And you should too. It helped me get out of my knitting-funk, and I reckon it will be open in my browser’s tabs for a good long time yet. So, new yarns acquired, self-confidence boosted, enthusiasm at an all time high.

All is well. Goal achieved. Gold star.

As soon as I hit the publish button, I’m going straight to my needles and yarn to start. I’m having so much trouble focusing to write this because of the anticipation. Unbearably obsessive, I realise, but I hope you can understand that when you’ve got a freshly-balled skein of Tosh Sock in Malachite in your peripheral vision it is very hard to concentrate on anything else.

Here’s some oatmeal stitch to tide you over until tomorrow’s fair isle update…

There’s a party in my shoe…

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So, I had this genius idea to try and make some toe-up socks. I’ve only ever made cuff-down and I always had this fear that to do it the other way would be confusing, difficult, tedious, messy, you get the picture… And despite my manager at work telling me that she could teach me the cast on, and that it’s not really that hard, I’ve just had it stuck in my head that it was always going to be tricky, and frankly a bit traumatic. And I wasn’t kidding myself. It was hard. But I think if I’d taken her up on her offer for help it would have been a lot smoother sailing.

The advantage of toe up socks is because you’re knitting the foot first you don’t have to worry about running out of yarn because you can adjust the leg length last of all. I always fudge the ribbing and have to pick up and re-knit the leg after finishing the foot. I never learn. For example, the Jigsaw socks I started (and have now finished one) feature the same corner-cutting, awkwardly slightly loose ribbing that seems to plague a lot of my socks.

You can’t tell from the photo, so I guess if I’d just not told you about it you wouldn’t have known or cared. Damn. Oh well, I’ll just pick up and re-knit the cuffs. I’ll have to match the part of the colourway though so both socks match.

I also really like the heel of a toe-up sock. No nasty heel-flap or holes to darn around the instep – that’s my kind of sock. My genius plan was to make socks of 107 in a medium grey with fluorescent, neon or just brightly coloured contrast toes and heels. Ever since I got this idea in my head I couldn’t get it out. All I could think about was when I would have the time to sit down and just give it a go. I leave home in the mornings only an hour after it becomes light and I don’t leave work until it’s dark again. That’s just the nature of winter I suppose, but I guess it also explains why I post so infrequently. There’s just very little light to take photos. (I apologise for the crummy use of flash in the one of the photos. Grrr, daylight savings, grumble, grrr, whinge, grumble, sob, complain.)

I found time the other night after work. This is roughly what happened…

17:45 – Leaving work. Gonna make some socks. Gonna make some socks. Gonna make some socks. Gonna make some…

17:50 – … socks. Gonna make some socks. Gonna make some socks. Gonna make some socks. Gonna make some socks.

18:00 – Train is slow, train is slow. Oh CityRail have mercy, why is the train so slow?

18:15 – My leg hurts from so much impatient foot tapping.

19:00 – HOME! YEAH! PUMPED! YEAH! GO TEAM GO! Let’s do this! Gonna make some socks, gonna make some socks!

20:00 – So I’ve watched every video I can find on toe-up socks, read, re-read, and re-re-read the section on toe-up socks in my Vogue Ultimate Sock Book, and I have all my necessary bit and bobs. GO TEAM GO! Let’s really do this! Let’s make some socks!

20:15 – I’ve done my provisional cast-on. Now what?

20:45 – There’s an asterix! What the hell does the asterix mean?!

20:46 – It says to ‘WT’! What the hell does ‘WT’ mean?!

20:47 – Oh… okay. ‘WT’ is creating a wrapped stitch. I think I can do that…

20:48 – I wrapped a stitch!

20:49 – I wrapped another stitch! Go me! Yea-ohhhh no! No, no, no! I dropped it.

20:49:30 –  Wrapped it again! Hail me! Queen of the wraps!

20:55 – Now to work my wraps. I think I can do that…

21:05 – This looks wrong. Very, very wrong.

21:05:30 – I don’t think I’m wrapping the wrong side row properly. That must be it. I’ll look online.

21:20 – It’s all the book’s fault. They’ve only shown how to wrap and work on the right side rows. No wonder it looks funky. Hmm.

21:20:03 – Wait… Nooooooooooooo! That means I have to start again!!!!

22:00 – First toe done. Well, that was the most disheartening knitting experience of my life.

And so, I fell asleep marred by the fact it took me so long to ‘get’ working the short row toe. Really I should have just used Judy’s magic cast-on, but I knew that I was going to have to work a short row heel, so I figured I better get some practice in on the toes before I tried that.

The second toe was much easier and faster. I shouldn’t’ve been so hard on myself about it the first time. I know it’s cliched to say that you learn from your mistakes, but I really think that after messing up my toe the first time I understood it a lot better the second time I did it. I’m knitting a little bit of both of the socks so they get finished together. It also means that I’m really consolidating the action of wrapping and working wraps.
Here’s where I’m up to…

I must say, it’s a nice change making socks in 8ply instead of 4ply.

Once I’ve made these, I’m thinking about mixing it up a bit and making some with the heel and toe different colours from one another, or even coloured cuffs. I’m already planning the next few colour combinations using little bits of Estate 8ply from my stash. Here’s what I’ve got to choose from!

The main foot colour will be Greystone…

The premise, I suppose, is that you can wear socks that look plain and normal to others, but you secretly know that inside your shoe is a sensational colour party for your feet.

I’d love to make different contrast coloured ones for each day of the week and instarsia M, T, W, Th, F, Sa, S (or alternatively 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) onto the soles.
Ambitious, I know. We’ll see how this fares for the moment.

Have you ever made, or wanted to make socks? Are you a toe-up or a cuff-down kinda person?

Just a sporadic mess of everything and anything…

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There are so many things I have to show you! There’s a backlog of photos of new acquisitions, works in progress, finished objects… Should I do this show and tell chronologically? Probably, but I can’t remember the order in which I made them. I’ll just start.

Here’s an earflap hat I concocted for 107, although it’s now been sold.

I knitted the earflaps first, leaving them on stitch holders. Then I cast on the stitches for the front of the brim, knitted the live stitches from one earflap, cast on the stitches for the back, knitted the live stitches from the other earflap and then joined the round.
From there I constructed a basic sort of beanie. A lady at work recommended that when I pull the yarn tail at the top through the last live stitches I should do it twice. I must say it makes the top look a whole lot neater. I can’t believe I’d never considered it before – it seems so obvious now.
I single crocheted around the edge just to even it out a little, hide the holes where I joined in the flaps, and prevent curling. Afterwards I had a look at an earflap hat my grandmother made for me. Turns out she did the same to finish hers off as well. Great minds think alike.

These are some more cotton coasters for 107. The snowflake is loosely based on a motif from a new book I bought called ‘Beyond the Square: Crochet Motifs’ by Edie Eckman. Wisest purchase decision ever.

As a matter of fact, I’ve acquired some really wonderful books lately.

The ‘Simply Crochet’ is incredible. I’ve had problems with Debbie Bliss’s knitting patterns before (right side and wrong side row jumbled, one too many or too few stitches, errata galore…), and I must say that I haven’t actually made anything from this book yet, but I have a feeling that I’m going to have a great time making things from this one. It’s full of really lovely garments, including a stunning white vest, little lacy collars, and a glorious dress (the one on the cover, and the selling point for me because the pattern is called ‘Darcey’ – my name, minus the ‘e’). It’s a shame they are all so summery, but at least I have something to look forward to post-winter.

Then there are these two. Nicky Epstein’s ‘Block by Block’ is just – actually if I try to put this into words I might do it an injustice. It’s one of those books that people tell you is amazing, but you don’t really understand the full wealth of its amazingness until you open it. There’s just so much variety. Every technique you could imagine has been adapted for use in making 6 inch square upon 6 inch square. I can’t wait to make a whole blanket from these blocks. I have made one square square from this book as a present for my godmother. The pattern is called ‘Tree Breeze’ and features cables into the back loop – a tedious but effective process. I used Fibranatura’s sportweight organic cotton.

The book next to ‘Block by Block’ is a gem I found after trawling the shelves of Kinokuniya for hour a few weeks ago. The wonderful thing about Japanese crochet books is if you can read charts you can make anything from them. There are very, very rarely any written pattern instructions, and if there are, fortunately for me, I studied Japanese for a few years and can generally understand them. Anything I don’t understand, I have a mountain of dictionaries to make sense of it. I love the idea of crocheting around the edges of cards and things like that. This book has some really inspiring images of that application of crochet. It’s like an extension of these awesome creations by lutteridyl.

I’m hoping to use the cottons below for this purpose.

Moral: country wool shops are legendary.

Check out my haul! I got these goodies, for ridiculously low prices, from the wool shop in Katoomba. I’ve struggled to find Jigsaw sock yarn for ages. The bonus was finding it so cheap. The Sirdar Escape was an impulse buy. The lovely, vibrant indigo that lurks in the centre of the ball is what caused me to purposefully overlook the high percentage of acrylic. I don’t mean to be a yarn snob, but I know that at heart I am. I’m really sorry. I am however slightly amused by the terminology “Wool Rich”. Is that a subtle way of saying 2% more wool than acrylic? Sorry, sorry, sorry. Yarn snobbery alert. Sorry.

I’ve started a sock with one of the balls of Jigsaw in these rad ’70s colours. I’ll have to take extra precautions against SSS (second sock syndrome). I’ve suffered from SSS and SGS (second glove syndrome) repeatedly in the past. These are working up fairly quickly, so it shouldn’t be too much of problem…

Oh, and I found this little gem lurking in some drawers at work a couple of weeks ago.
A surefire way to use up all those loose scraps of 8ply in our stashes that we all know and love. I now know what I’m making everyone for Christmas this year!

On another note, the back of my Paton’s Classics vest is almost complete. I have a few rows before I start the short row shaping of the neck. I was pretty pleased with how I joined in the second ball. The join is about halfway down the back. It was tricky getting the variegation to match up. Instead of joining at the edges and burying my ends I tried a new method of braiding the end of the old ball around the end of the new one. Sneaky, sneaky. I’ll definitely be using that one again.

Lastly, this is a teacosy I made for Mothers’ Day. I used Noro Kureyon that I got off eBay a year ago before I was seriously into this whole knitting thing and probably before I even understood the awesome power of Noro. I started in the round, divided for the spout and handle, and joined again. I went through four balls to try and find the same part of the colourway to make both sides match. And to no avail. It’s not perfect, but I think it’s charming.

Teacosies are going in the 107 memory bank. Yesiree.

Thanks for looking at all my projects and whatnot. Have a wonderful day friends.