Something stirs (a photoless post)

Slowly, subtly, something is shifting.   I am a knitter, a spinner, a sewer, a maker of things.  I've dabbled in weaving, silversmithing, dyeing – all sorts of stuff.  I am viscerally moved by colour and texture and form and shine, but I have a desperate yearning for the functional, too.  I have real difficulty making a 'nothing', rather than a 'thing'.

This gets quite extreme: for me, lace shawls are close to 'nothings', because I rarely wear them.  And I very, very rarely give my knitting away (except to some really special folks, anyway).  I can't stand having multiple projects on the needles, because none of them ever seem to make any progress.  So knitting, for me, can feel like a production-line activity, especially when you are fighting the yarn.

I've been immersed in weaving blogs this week.  Should have been working, have been reading (but then, work are too busy to tell me what to do, so perhaps I can be forgiven for that).  And I feel a spark somewhere deep inside me.  Or an ember, perhaps; a long-banked, almost forgotten seed of a flame, dormant, waiting to be fanned back into life.

I think that little, dormant ember has something to do with play.  With the sheer joy of colour, texture, rhythm.  And weaving may be the breath of life to this wee flame.  Until now, when I weave – even when I spin – I think past the current process to the 'finished item'.  Weaving makes cloth, which is dyed/cut/sewn to make the finished, useful object.  Spinning is even more so: spinning makes yarn, which is knitted or woven, making cloth, which…  Yeah.  I rarely start to spin without a final, ultimately motivating, use for the yarn in mind.  Motivating, but perhaps confining.  I learnt to weave so that I could make 'historically accurate' fabric for re-enactment purposes, which is a little OTT, even for me.  It also means I've stuck with very simple weave structures – just tabby and a couple of simple twills – because they are 'right' for what I'm trying to do, and I've ignored the whole wide world of other possibilities out there.

I think I want to really learn to weave, just for the sake of making beautiful cloth.  It doesn't matter if the cloth is a scarf or a wrap or placemats or a bag or just a sample.  I want to play with colours, see them combine, make gradients, make contrasts.  I want to experience textures, valleys of light and shadow, see the contortions of cloth as it comes off the loom (where it is under tension) and relaxes into its intrinsic form.

I'm playing with the idea of play, of apprenticeship, of learning in a non-project driven fashion, of failure-free experimentation, of fun.

Thank you, Meg and Cally, for your inspirational blogs this week.


And not in the 'good' way, knitters.  I've not been making much progress this last week.  Every twist, every turn, every effort seems to end in a sheer wall – or at least, in a thickening, treacle-like morrass of unprogress.

After Tweedy's ungracious episode, I decided to put that sweater on hold until I'd finished my committments to the Rampton exchange, the dyeing segment of which I realise I've completely failed to blog about at all.  In fact, I haven't blogged about dyeing since last November, which is really exceptionally slack.

But the last week or so, I've been swatching.  For a shawl scarf.  That was a rather wishful, if not precisely Freudian, typo.  A shawl would be *so* much easier.  Unless you count Clapotis, I don't think I've ever knit a scarf.  I don't really wear scarves.  In a lot of ways, I don't really like the wretched, tangly, flappy, strangly things.  But I have to knit one, because that is what this swap is about.

This yarn was spun by someone else, and dyed by another someone else.  I rather like the fact that the white wool was dyed 'sheepy' colours, and thought it might not fare well amongst its brightly coloured brethren at the last phase of the swap, so I picked it out myself when I had to leave the meeting early.  I liked the simplicity of it, the unbusy-ness, the humility of a monochrome approach.  I had visions of knitting it up into a sweet, striking, yet unfussy Feather and Fan shawl scarf (there I go again), but it's really not working.


This photograph shows garter (top) and stockinette (below) versions of the stitch.  The garter one just looks like a mess, frankly; if anything, the photograph looks better than the reality.  The stockinette version is better, but stockinette is not reversible, and I really think a scarf should look equally good on both sides, if not identical.

The best F&F variant for this is the mostly-stockinette one, with one purl row immediately after the lace row, but it's still not great:


So I went looking for other stitch patterns.  Midwest Moonlight (Rav link) was just a total loss:


Entrelac looked *quite* good, though again, I think the camera is being uncharacteristically kind to it here:


And again, entrelac is not reversible.  And it takes **forever**.  I toyed with the idea of making every other row of modules reverse stockinette, which would make the pattern reversible overall, but I haven't gotten round to that yet.  And again: really time consuming.

I've attempted a herringbone stitch three times and frogged it with no photographic evidence.  I've thought of attempting the 'my so-called scarf' stitch, but, for some reason, I haven't.  Swatch burnout, perhaps.

I've come up with an interesting ribbed modular design which looks promising, but is still totally overwhelmed by the yarn:


Must try this one another time, in a plainer yarn.

I think the problem is that there is quite a lot of value (light-dark) variation in this yarn, but the sections of each colour (or intensity of the same colour) are very short.  This leads to a 'bitty' looking fabric, for want of a better word.

So for the past few days, I've been working on a stockinette/reverse stockinette rib shawl scarf (genuine error) worked sideways (i.e. the cast on edge is a long edge).  Five rows stockinette, five rows reverse stockinette.  It's early days yet, but it's deathly boring to knit, and I'm not sure I like it.  Rrrrgh!!!

Lest we forget


Photo of statues at the American Cemetary in Madingley, courtesy of J.

In a year where servicemen have been asked not to wear uniforms in public, due to abuse from the general public, I wanted to mark this armistice day.

It has become so easy to associate the armed forces with unpopular political decisions, with 'hot potato' current events, even with the UK being in America's pocket.  Let's not forget those who, past and present, have given their lives in times of true need.  From anywhere in the world.

P.S. Please do click the photo for bigger; I don't know why it won't show full size.  It's one of my *very* favourites that J has shot, and almost always makes me tear up.


Oh, Tweedy, how could you?


After all we've been through.  That armscye?  These sleeves?  They Do Not Fit.  Not even nearly.  And after I've sewn up the underarm seam, too.

A careful few minutes spent with the schematic, the errant pieces of Tweedy and a ruler show that my stitch gauge is significantly off on the sleeves.  I'm coming in at six stitches per inch, instead of just under five.  It might not seem a lot, but that's a 17% margin of error, and is equivalent to a difference of around 2.5 inches width at the cuff, or over three inches just before the under arm bind-off.  That's a lot in a sleeve.  My row gauge is out, too, at 7.5 rows per inch instead of 6.  Whoah, that's a lot.

Extensive Pythagorean geekery suggests that I should have a total shortfall in length of 3.65" over the whole of the sleeve cap, when compared to the armscye.  Which seems about right.

Ugh.  But why???  Well, one possibility is that my gauge is way different when knitting flat as compared to in the round.  This happens, but I thought not to me.  (Hah! Got arrogance?)  Measuring my sweater body should answer this one; part of it was, after all, knit flat – after the neck/armhole divide.  Hmm.. Nope, no discernable difference between the flat and round gauges.  I see no visible difference in the fabric texture above and below the neckline, either, whereas my tortured and fevered eye does seem to perceive a difference between the body and sleeve fabrics, though by this stage I could be making it up completely.  (Don't bother to try and see it in the above photo; the body is inside out).

I can only think I used the wrong sized needles for the sleeves. Argh.  So it looks like I will get a chance to knit a second second sleeve, after all.  And a third first sleeve.  Oh, the joy.  Maybe I'll take this chance to embrace the Magic Loop?

Sunday morning LOL


Dressing a lady

Heh heh!!  So, no-one spotted what was missing.  Or, if they did, they were too polite to say so.  So here we have a little photo-essay, from a nearly-finished costume point of view, to see if you can spot it this time round.  So!

We start dressing a lady by putting on her shift (shirt/chemise/camisa) – a remarkably persistent part of the wardrobe from early medieval times (or earlier?) until very recently.  Shifts were linen, which is very sturdy and comfortable next to the skin, easy to launder, and difficult to dye or stain.  It allows a clean layer of clothing to be placed next to the skin relatively frequently, and does a very good job of protecting more delicate upper layers of clothign from sweat and other bodily grime.  They also do a bang-up job of protecting the body from the corset, when one is worn.  18th century ones were often trimmed with lace at neckline and cuffs, which shows at the sleeves and neckline of the finished garment:


It feels very weird posting pictures of me in my 18th century skivvies, I can tell you.  So next, the corset:


This one is boned with giant cable ties!  Apart from the front few bones which are steel tape, more usually used for bridal hoop-skirts.

Then we have the false hips.  Mrs. Miggins, anyone??


These are technically pocket hoops; there is a slit in the top of them, and they do have a base, so I could keep quite a few hankies in there, if the spirit moved me.

I've skipped a step for the next photo: Two underskirts have now been donned.  I didn't think photos of each layer were strictly necessary.


After this, the dress is pulled on like a coat and laced up.  This is a temporary lace, and not long enough – the lace should extend to the neckline:


Next… the stomacher should be pinned over the gap, filling in what's left and generally hiding the lacing and being pretty:


This was before the hooks and eyes were added to keep it straight; on the whole, J and I decided that it would look better with the stomacher under the lacing, as shown in the final photographs.

And, after all, who could forget the wig?


I didn't.  Did you spot it?  I forgot – the shirt.  The first layer, the foundation, the one with all the lace.  D'oh!!  I can only think that it's because wandering around in a shirt beats wandering around nekkid (especially with nosy hounds around), so it got left in a different room to the rest of the costume.

Oh, well, I'll have to dress up for an official photoshoot sometime soon, then.

Book meme, courtesy Maredudd

  • Grab the nearest book.
  • Open the book to page 56.
  • Find the fifth sentence.
  • Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
  • Don't dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST

My sentence:
"Weave in loose ends."

This is actually from "Scarf Style", by Pam Allen, published by Interweave Knits.  But let's face it, it could be from any number of books around here.

Hallowe’en costume: Marie Antoinette revisited


I'm afraid I have to show this one off a bit.  I originally made this costume about four and a half years ago, way back when I had a different blog.  It got some blog time, as I was doing everything from the corset upwards (and downwards) in about two weeks, but no finished object photos.  Which is probably fair, because it wasn't, technically, finished.  I had to be sewn into the thing, which took about 45 minutes.

I figured that Hallowe'en was a good time to revisit it and create a posthumous Marie Antoinette – head cut off, and "Let them eat Vampire Cupcakes!".

It didn't take all that much work to get the thing finished, after waiting so long, and the effects were generally worth it, I think.  But – and here' the leading question – can you tell what got left out?? (Apart from the white make up on the forehead, clearly).

Halloween party oct 08 (4)
(this photo stolen from Scarlet's blog.)

Welcome home, Tweedy

I am pleased to announce that a tragedy you didn't even know was unfolding has now resolved peacefully.  Last time we saw the Gathered Tweedy Pullover, the body was complete, and the sleeve was suffering horrible tramlines as a result of my attempts to knit it on a total of four DPNs, in the round.

Since then, the first first sleeve has spent a generous time out in the dusty corner to contemplate its sins, and I have knit the second first sleeve  – flat, thanks – with significant success.  The first first sleeve has been unravelled and reknit flat, with similar success, to yield the first second sleeve.  Confused yet?  Good.

Because this is the point at which I have to tell you that I thought I was going to have to knit a second second sleeve, the first second sleeve having mysteriously disappeared between casting it off at my friend's house and looking for it the next day in my knitting bag.  Arrrrgh!!

Mysteriously, the dogs were walked to and from the friend's house several times in lieu of a more *interesting* route the next day.  And no sleeves were found huddling under the hedgerows for warmth.

Today, the wandering sleeve came home.  I'd presumably dropped it under my friend's dining table, whence it was stolen by said friend's cat and made into ideal nesting material.  It speaks volumes for the properties of Rowan Felted Tweed that, barring a few extra bits of cat-related fibre, the sleeve is completely unharmed.  Although it does smell remarkably good to dogs now, as Kita and Woody will tell you.  See?  Two sleeves:


This is quite possibly my most adventured sweater to date.  Now all I have to do is seam it up and knit the neckband.  Phew!!

PS: Magic loop.  Several folks mentioned that.  How does that help you when your knitted circumference is less than the total length of the rigid bits of your circular needles?? 

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