Indecision

You may have heard of a little election Scotland is having tomorrow. It’s certainly come up in conversation once or twice. And by once or twice I mean that it was the topic of conversation for pretty much every dinner conversation I had over the two weeks I was at the workshop in Spain. Even the bus driver on the way to the airport chimed in.

At the moment the outcome is far too close to call with any certainty, so tomorrow I and all the other Scottish voters will take to the polls and cast our votes either way. It’s an intimidating decision and while I have a fairly good idea which side I will come down on, I’ll be keeping my eye on the last hours of the campaign.

Of course, all that election coverage will require some electoral knitting. Luckily I have a Shetland shawl from Heirloom Knitting that would fit with the theme. Or perhaps it will be a good time to cast on a Shetland style shawl with some lovely grey Shetland lace.

In other news, I did manage to finish casting off my Undercover blanket.

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The icord edging was a breeze once I got home to that final ball of yarn. For the corners I decided to bind off twice into the corner stitch and into one stitch either side. To do that, I knit two, then did a ssk as usual, but only slipped the stitch from the icord off the left needle. Then I slipped the stitches back, knit two and then did a ssk into the last stitch of the ichord and into the same blanket stitch as the previous row.

I still have to graft the start and end of the bind off together, weave in an end or 8 and then block the blanket, but first I want to knit a large swatch and throw it into the washing machine to see how it fares.

The end of the summer

Summer is officially over, but thanks to a work trip to Spain, I’ve managed to forestall the fall in temperatures. I’m in a small town north of Barcelona with two supermarkets, a conference centre and not. one. single. yarn. shop.

That’s probably for the best though, since I’m hear to do physics, not knit. Plus, I brought some knitting from home, so it’s not like I’m sans needles for the entire time.

My current project is a rare one for me, a baby based knit. Two of our lovely friends will become parents before the end of the year, and I had enough notice to start a blanket.

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Dinosaur for scale.

The pattern is our good friend Undercover and the yarn is James C Brett Marble DK in a nice purple mix. I’m not a fan of traditional pastel colours for babies, and I thought the parents wouldn’t object to a non-traditional colour. Added bonus, more fun for me to knit!

I’m hoping to have it finished by the time I fly home, although having only brought one ball of yarn, I may have to wait to get back.

Knitting Training

My last train project, which took me through the first two months of my job, consisted almost entirely of day after day of stockinette. It was perfect. Before, or after, a long day of remembering new names and figuring out new physics, all I had to do was knit, knit, knit while listening to my audiobook (The Mad Ship, by Robin Hobb).

Of course even long stockinette shawls must come to an end, and when it did, I found myself without any similarly un-taxing knitting for my commute. I don’t fancy the idea of DPNs on a train, for obvious reasons, which rules out socks and gloves unless I go magic looping. And after a nasty bout of startitis I had more than one new lace shawl on the needles, none of which really scream packed commuter train friendly. Particularly with the Commonwealth Games about to descend on one end of my commute, and all the August festivals of Edinburgh on the other.

So naturally I’ve settled on this…

It’s almost simple stockinette, right? The pattern is Ringwraith, from the same designer of the Evenstar shawl, and the yarn is pure silk from colourmart in a lovely deep green. There’s almost no give and lots of splitting in the silk, but it actually knits up a dream as long as you’re careful. I really like the crispness it’s giving this pattern, not a soft, fluffy minion of Sauron.

At first I followed the pattern line for line on my laptop. Then I used my phone to keep me on track. But the lovely thing about so much lace knitting is that once you know the repeat, you can usually just follow the next logical step as the rows go by. Now I don’t need to look at the pattern at all.

Of course, if I had been paying more attention, either to the pattern or just to the knitting in front of me, I may have caught this particular snafu. But I’m calling it character and knitting on.

 

Do you want beads? Cos this is how you get beads!

I’ve just finished my first beady lace project! Woohoo! I’ve knit a couple of things before that had bead options, but I figured it was time to finally take the plunge when I saw the Iznik KAL was starting just after the Rav Games. If you tilt your head and squint, you can imagine that the KAL wasn’t released back in March and all the clues were released within a few weeks. More K, less AL.

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From a distance it’s somewhat sedate looking. I used some of the undyed silk yarn from my wedding shawl for it, which is always a pleasure to work with.

Then you get closer and see the beads!

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Yes, hot pink! When I saw them online I couldn’t resist. I almost wish I had used black yarn instead of white, although black lace is tricky enough without adding more complications.

Overall, I was quite happy with my first trip to beadland. The beads were great, I only found a couple of duds while knitting, and more than that probably ended up on the floor. I used the crochet hook method which seemed handy, or as handy as it could be while juggling two needles, a tiny hook, teeny beads and a fibre that is well known for it’s slipperiness.

The thing that really saved the day for me, though, was my magnetic chart keeper. I printed out the charts because they were too big for my laptop which is what I usually use. Then I discovered that my crochet hook would actually stick to the magnets too, so I was able to fill it with beads, stick it above my chart and it was secure and safe until I needed it.

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Not enough knitting

First, a confession. Or maybe an explanation. A confessplanation?

My big plan for April, my last month of freedom, was to work solidly on my master hand knitter project, and blog about it. That … mostly didn’t happen. I think part of it was the stress of my first day of work looming, but a lot of it boiled down to motivation. When a project becomes so bogged down that I feel like I have to force myself to work on it, and it becomes a source of guilt rather than fun, chances are I’ll frog it. I’ll certainly put it aside for something that doesn’t feel like work.

The master knitter project felt a lot like work.

This, of course, is fine. If it wasn’t a challenge, it wouldn’t be worth it. Plenty of projects have aspects that require perseverance. Usually what gets me through is the desire for the finished item, or even just the desire to move on to the next piece that was more interesting. I wasn’t finding that pull in the master knitter work. I wasn’t loving what I was doing, and I wasn’t feeling draw to the result right at this time.

So, at least for now, the master knitter work is a hibernating project again. Maybe later I’ll find the spark that causes me to pick it up again, but right now there’s no reason for it to be taking up metal knitting space.

In all honesty, though, that was probably for the best. Right now I’m hitting the learning curves hard at work. I’ve been running headlong into a new project that is similar enough to some of my previous work to look accessible, but just different enough to make me feel like an idiot for not getting it. I’m also learning some fancy new numerical techniques which are both awesome, and tricky.

And along with that I’ve been learning how to work with a new boss, a new group, a new department, and learning a new commute. By the time I get home in the evenings, I can barely manage stockinette!

On the plus side, I’ve just discovered that there’s a new yarn shop just ten minutes walk from my office! And tomorrow is payday. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, and it should be enough to knit by.

MHK – Day 25

Sometimes procrastination is good.

I mean, usually it’s bad, or we all think of it as bad, but in the last 24 hours I’ve had a couple of procrastination incidents that have worked out in my favour.

Yesterday I had to go to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. I’d been the day before but thanks to the long weekend it hadn’t arrived yet. So I set myself aside half an hour yesterday just before lunch to go and get it. The time came, but oh, I just wanted to finish this episode of Haven first. And then I’ll just grab a quick lunch. And I just need to …

I actually got to the pharmacy about 90 minutes after I told myself I would. And my punishment for this crime against timeboxing? Discovering that the prescription had arrived mere minutes before I did. If I hadn’t procrastinated I wouldn’t have been able to get the meds.

I promise, this is going somewhere knitting related!

This morning I’ve been procrastinating on a few tasks. One more check of Ravelry. Oh, I’m all behind on my Yarn Harlot blog, I’ll just have a quick look through that first.

Turns out, Ms Harlot has been doing a series on blocking! In which she not only describes how to block, but also posts strong opinions on whether or not one needs to block. Spoilers, she thinks you need to block pretty much everything. This is quite a contrast from Deborah Newton who, in her book Finishing School, is pretty meh about the whole blocking thing. Which is all very useful for the essay on blocking I have to write for Level 1.

So remember kids, always block, never procrastinate. Except when you don’t, and when you do.

 

 

MHK – Day 23

After examining my swatches on Monday, I’ve been doing some research on some of the issues I was having. I mentioned Arenda Holladay’s blog before, but I thought I’d highlight some of the posts I’m finding useful right now.

Her post on seed stitch mostly confirmed for me that the tension on my seed stitch is ok, and I don’t need to go down a needle size. I really love how she points out that we’re doing hand knitting, so we’re not aiming for machine precision. I definitely feel a bit better heading through my second seed stitch swatch after reading this.

When I was looking at my swatches, the edges of my seed stitch and garter looked neat to me, but my stockinette edges were a mess. Of course, Arenda has covered just this issue! And she links to another great blog post here. I think, on reflection now, that I might have been being overly tight at the end of my rows, particularly my purl rows. I was so keen on preventing one problem that I created another. I’ll have to do some experimentation with my stockinette before I tackle my swatch again proper.

Pretty much all of her blog posts have youtube videos to accompany them, and her channel is an amazing resource. Well worth checking out.

MHK – Day 22

Managed a couple of rows on Seed Stitch 2.0 before dashing out the door for the day. Here he is with 1.0.

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Aw, don’t be sad, little swatches, I’ll be back to knit you tomorrow!

MHK – Day 21

Miracle of miracles! I’m posting two consecutive days!

Seed stitch swatch

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All in all, I’m actually reasonably happy with how this turned out. I’m going to reknit it anyway because there are a couple of little tweaks I’d like to do, like slightly neater corners for the cast on. I also want to neated up the very end of the cast off. For my other two swatches I knit the last two stitches together when casting off to keep the final corner tight, but I didn’t here. I think it will make a difference.

Garter Swatch

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Also happier than expected, although there are more things to fix than the seed stitch swatch, partly because this swatch has more parts to go wrong.

Things I like: The garter stitch section is neat, both knit stitches in the ribbing are the same size, (most of) the edges of the garter are neat.

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Oh yes!

Things I don’t like so much: Despite the k2tog trick, the cast off is still a smidge looser than I’d like, the edges of the ribbing are … just no.

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I’ll have to do some reading up on that. I’ll start with the On Your Way To The Masters articles from TKGA, and then check Arenda Holladay’s blog to see what she can recommend. She has an amazing blog full of resources and videos, plus she’s an advisor to the Master Knitter committee and a former committee member, so she’s a bit of a ledge. I’m not sure how much of my problem is knitting, blocking or it’s-just-like-that, so first I need to properly identify that.

Stockinette Stitch Swatch

Ugh.

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I mean, it could be worse. Some of the irregularities have evened out in the blocking. The zigzag ribbing is straighter, although I overblocked the rib so I’m not sure that problem is actually solved.

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The back is mostly ok, reasonably neat, curling a bit like stockinette is wont to do. The big problem I can see is the edging.

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It’s hard to see, but it seems to go big stitch, little stitch, big stitch, little stitch so either my starting or ending stitch is too loose or too tight. I also have a bit of enlargement in the second stitch in, so I’ll have to investigate that.

To sum up…

All three swatches will be reknit, but I have a firmer idea of what it is that needs to be improved. Now to the research! Of course I also need to measure all the swatches as they need to be a certain length post-blocking, so I’ll have a better idea of how many rows I need for swatch 2.0.

I also need to block the next batch when I’m not rushing to catch a train. This does not lend itself well to right angles!

MHK – Day 20?

First three swatches washed, blocked and pinned out. They’re pretty much dry already, but I’ll leave them until tomorrow to unpin them and give them a solid once over.

One thing I have to remember for this, and some other blocking tasks, is that not everything is lace. I love blocking lace so much, pulling it out as far as it will stretch until the foam mats are bowing slightly with the tension.

This is not how to block these swatches. On my first time around I blocked them much too fiercely and ended up with loose floppy swatches. I’ve tried to be more careful this time around, allowing the swatch to be the size it wants to be and just pinning the edges straight and flat. Having the towel underneath rather than the smooth mats seems to have helped. I’m not sure if it’s the different texture or just breaking my brain of the habit, but it seems to be working!

Tomorrow I unpin and make a list of all the things I don’t like. Yaaay flaws!