Friday, July 24, 2015

It fits!

Daelyn is finally dry after nearly a week on the racks.  

I haven’t been home much this week so the heater hasn’t been on a lot, and this combined with the cold front Melbourne has been experiencing meant it was a slower blocking process than normal but worth it.

The alpaca/wool blend has behaved itself beautifully, and I’m pleased to report my calculations and mods have worked just as anticipated.   The sleeves are possibly still a little short, but I want to wear it for a day to see if they grow with wear (thanks to Casual Corporate Friday, I was able to wear it to work today so this will be a good test!).  It’s an easy fix if they do need a little extra length, as they are knit top-down and I have about a ¼ of a skein left over.  Actually, I have 1 and ¼ skeins left over.  I can’t believe I managed to get this whole jumper out of less than 4 skeins of the Berroco Ultra Alpaca worsted? 

As a design, this jumper is a bit over-sized for a lovely slouchy fit and carries a little longer length than I normally choose.  I knit the M2 size, which has a finished bust measurement of 41” and gives me 3” of positive ease. Although there’s ease in the chest, there is some very clever use of short rows shaping on the neckline and raglan shaping that ensure the shoulders fit beautifully.  Short rows are also used again at the hem to accommodate the different row gauge of the garter stitch detail on the back which is a clever touch.

Isabell Kraemer is a favourite designer of mine.  She has a simple aesthetic but often adds subtle textural details or clever construction elements that really make her patterns very wearable and stylish. 

The yarn is lovely and soft against the skin and I’m still in love with the colour and texture of it.  I’m wearing it with just a singlet underneath today and not only am I toasty warm, there’s no prickly or irritation.  I love woolly wool, but I am prone to eczema and often find straight wool too prickly to wear next to skin.  I wear it, but I have to make sure there’s cotton layer in-between me and it and sometimes in a worsted weight jumper that’s a bit too warm so this was a welcome discovery this morning as I dressed for work.

This is just a quick lot of photos from my lunch break today, but I'll try to do a proper photoshoot on the weekend so I can show you some of the lovely details of this pattern.  I'm still trying to capture the colour, as you can see.  I will get there, I swear. 

So overall, I’m calling this project a totally success.  Now to plan my next sweater…

Monday, July 20, 2015

with bated breath..

I'm always nervous about the first blocking of a garment, but never more so that when there is alpaca involved.

Alpaca fleece makes a beautiful, luscious yarn with lovely drape and a buttery handle.  It also lacks the "memory" of wool, and is well-known for it's tendency to stretch and sag...not ideal when knitting a garment and unless you're aware and make allowances, you're more likely to end up with a knitted dress than a jumper.

My Daelyn came off the needles this afternoon and has just come out of it's first bath.  I used Berocco Ultra Alpaca worsted for this project which is a 50/50 wool-alpaca blend, hence my nerves. I was as careful as I could be during the whole process and it now is carefully laid flat to dry. 

It fit beautifully across the shoulders and chest when I tried it on before dunking it.  The sleeves and body were a little on the short side, which was deliberate on my behalf to accommodate for the drop of the alpaca.  I'm remaining ever hopeful that the combination of shortening the length and the inclusion of 50% wool in the yarn will be enough to balance the finished proportions.

Until it dries though, I will just have to hold my breath and hope. 

(and I think this is the closest to accurate colour as I'm ever going to get with this jumper!)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

so close redux

So, you may have been expecting some sunny, picturesque holiday shots, hey?  

I was *this close* to making it to Bali, but unfortunately Mt Ruang had other ideas.  The volcanic ash cloud that had grounded flights the week before shifted closer to Denpasar airport and on Thursday, it shut down the airport altogether.

You may have seen on the news stories of all the stranded people who's holidays have extended not in the best way; sleeping at the airport, running out of money, medication, annual leave...

As I was packing on Friday (for a 9am Saturday flight) and trying to remain optimistic, the email I'd been dreading came through.  The organisers of the yoga retreat I was going to were stuck in Melbourne after their flights were cancelled and with no way of getting on another flight.  They advised they had made the tough decision to cancel the retreat.

I just closed my suitcase and stared at it, numb.  This trip was the first one I'd ever made solo and it was my "take-a-risk" trip, planned with the intent of trying to shake me out of my comfort zone and reclaim my independence, self-confidence and positivity after what has been a tough 9 months.

Once the initial shock passed I actually surprised myself with how well I took it.  Yes, there was disappointment - of course.  Who wouldn't be disappointed when at the eleventh hour a trip you've planned for, saved for, and finally got excited for, is cancelled?  I had already begun to feel the warm tropical air on my skin and was looking forward to meeting new people and being immersed for a short time in another world.

The thought did pass through my mind "Why me?  Why can't I get something good for once, for something to just go right?"

But I had an epiphany that came through so strong and clear, it actually floored me.

This didn't happen to me, it happened,  There's a difference.  This wasn't the Universe trying to punish me, it was just an incident of nature and in that instant; I was at peace with it.  I immediately began to see all the other things that could open up for me by not going to Bali.

Thankfully, I have good insurance and it does cover natural disasters.  I've been in touch with them and apart from a $250 excess, I think I'm covered.  The retreat organiser have been amazing and helpful too.  They immediately let us know they'd be refunding the workshop costs, but initially they didn't think they were going to be able to get the accommodation costs refunded and were advising us to add it to our insurance claim, however later in the day they sent another email advising they had been able to negotiate a nearly-full refund from the resort. Legends!

Garuda are giving full refunds on flights cancelled due to the ash cloud, so that's covered, and my return flight with Jetstar will be covered by insurance.   So all in all, I really won't be out of pocket significantly, and the way I look at it I now have a healthy looking holiday fund, ready for the next trip.

Which I've decided will be Byron Bay in October, to help a dear friend celebrate her 40th.  A week of hanging with a few women I simply adore, surfing, eating, drinking and relaxing.  I might even squeeze in a bit of yoga.

Life.  It ain't all bad.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

so close

Just dropping in here for a quick post today, before I head overseas.  I'm off to Bali this week for a yoga retreat, and a bit of much needed R&R.  It's going to be so lovely to warm up the bones.  

Since my last post, I have been taking my Daelyn jumper as my train knitting each day.  It's not really all that portable anymore, but It is so close to being finished and I can't wait to get it off the needles and be able to wear it, especially with the weather we've been having in Melbourne - brr!   5 degrees Celsius this morning as I walked from the train station to work.  
I've been reading accounts from Northern Hemisphere bloggers about the current heatwave they are experiencing, as I wrap another blanket around me and tuck my toes in to stay warm and count down the sleeps to my holiday.

But before I go, I would love to have this jumper finished.  Half a sleeve and the neckband to go, then I can block it and leave it to dry while I'm away.  It's totally a plan.

I'm still loving this colour, even if it is a right PITA to photograph accurately.  Not even natural light and a mid-grey background helped today.  My foot was there to try and get a different light-meter reading, to see if that would help but no such luck.

Here's hoping I can get a better shot of the finished piece.  I may have to employ a professional, I think...

Aside from Daelyn, I've not got much else in the way of knitting that I can share at the moment. If you follow me on Instagram (@kgirlknits) you may have seen a recent sneak peak of a project I've been working on though.  I'm hoping that shortly after I get back from Bali I will be able to reveal a little more of this goodness.   It's all so very exciting and I can't wait to share!

So, until then -  hope you all stay warm in the Southern Hemisphere and for those in the North - I hope the heat breaks soon.

(I'll try not to flood Instagram with sunny Bali photos but I make no real promises)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Nothing new under the sun

Recently I knit a pair of socks for myself, without the aid of any pattern other than my own understanding and acquired knowledge of how a sock is knit.  This is nothing ground-breaking or particularly clever of course. It's just simply a by-product, an accumulation, of the construction of the hundreds of patterns I have knit over the years and held within my mind and hands. Regardless of all that, it does still give one a pleasant sense of achievement, knowing it can be done.

The motivation came as I unexpectedly finished the project I'd brought into work that morning, so at lunchtime I grabbed a skein of Colinette Jitterbug in Vatican Pie (oh, that saturated red!) and some needles and cast on ready for the train commute home.

Granny's Lucky Red Longjohns
Colinette Jitterbug - colourway: Vatican Pie
To alleviate boredom I added a 1x1 garter stitch rib, which pleasantly formed a lovely snug sock that fits my foot beautifully.  It's also rather warm as garter stitch rib has a waffle-y texture similar to that used in thermal underwear amongst other things.  

I took a calculated risk and cast on many less stitches than I would normally for socks - 54 on 2.5mm needles, instead of my usual 64.  This decision was influenced by my experience of Jitterbug as a "hefty" sock yarn and the anticipation of stretch in the ribbed stitch pattern.  Turns out it was a great decision - go me!  

As I finished the first sock and started the second, I thought to myself "these are such great socks, how could it be possible that nobody else has ever written it up before?"  They are simple enough to knit whilst other things are happening like conversations, meetings, TV-watching, and I discovered they are also an excellent choice for gift knitting as the rib pattern is very accommodating when you are working with unknown foot and leg dimensions.  

Knowing that there was an excellent chance there probably was this very pattern out there, I had what I thought was quite a thorough look on Ravelry and was surprised that I couldn't find one that was quite the same. There are many patterns utilising this stitch pattern, socks included, but none in the specific combination of 1x1, gauge and yarn weight that I could see. 

a gift pair, for Mum (photo credit: Mum!)
Colinette Jitterbug - colourway: Caramel
So I got excited to share. I wrote down my notes into a more coherent format, made a couple more pairs, and was just about to upload them as a free pattern....when I started reading my copy of Sock Architecture which was given to me by a friend recently.

And lo and behold; there they were!  Strie socks, by Lara Neel.

Photo credit: Lara Neel

Reading through the patterns they are not exactly the same, but close enough to make me laugh out loud right then and there. 

As the saying goes - there's nothing new under the sun! 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

For the love of Faux-isle

Arne and Carlos for Regia; colourway "Summer Night" 
If you follow knit-bloggers or are active on Instagram, you'll probably be feeling like these Arne and Carlos sock yarns are just everywhere at the moment.  I've seen dozens of posts featuring the beautiful self-patterning fair-isle in gorgeous Scandy-colourways and was pretty keen to get my hands on some to try for myself.  

Although not normally a fan of faux-isle yarn, I must admit I adore everything about this yarn for a number of reasons. Regia has always been a favourite sock yarn of mine.  It's got a sturdy fibre content with the inclusion of 25% nylon, knits to a decent mid-size gauge, and is good on price point too.

The self-patterning yarns do give you maximum impact for minimum effort too.  I had many converations on the train with people fascinated by how the pattern was emerging, and almost disbelief when I told them it was no knitting magic skill but just the yarn.  The most I did towards the patterning was to wind a bit off before starting the second sock so I could manage to get them matchy-matchy.  Still, impressive apparently so who am I to argue?

I worked them toe-up, starting with a Turkish cast-on and then following on from my pledge to keep trying new things, I decided to try the Fish Lips Kiss Heel.   I had been wondering about this heel method for sometime, as it had been mentioned of several of the podcasts I follow and people were singing it's praises.  

It is very simple to work - don't let the 16 pages of pattern notes put you off - and it fits my heel rather well.  I have rather skinny heels and ankles (as can be seen in the first photo!) and to date I haven't had good results with the fit of short row heels in the way I find a heel flap fits me.  This heel still struggles a little to address this, however the detailed instruction within the pattern notes on how to determine when to place the heel has resulted in a more accurate foot measurement, and that has definitely helped in this instance.

I will be interested to see how these wear in comparison to a slipped stitch heel flap, as my feeling is the stocking stitch heels may not be as sturdy along the "seam"?  As mentioned the yarn is true sock yarn, so I think it has been given the best chance possible and I remain hopeful. This is a limited edition colourway, so I am keen to have these socks last.

The sock drawer is looking decidedly healthy again now, but they are such good projects for the train so I think I'm just going to keep knitting them and start a little stockpile for gifts.  There is no shortage of sock yarn in the stash, and there are only so many socks and shawls one person needs, right? 

Do you ever have a quandary of the need for knits and the need to knit?  I'd love to hear all your methods of managing it, if you do?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Jitterbug Perfume

Way back when I was in my early 20's, I was handed a copy of "Jitterbug Perfume" by a housemate who was moving on and told "here, take this.  you'll love it".  Thus was my introduction to Tom Robbins and his body of work.

At that stage I'd never read anything like his style of writing and I was completely entranced. I subsequently read all his available work in fast succession.  However as they say in the classics, you never forget your first and JP has remained a sentimental favourite, re-read and re-pondered more than once in the 20+ years since the initial encounter.

Fast forward to 2009 at the Bendigo Sheep and Wool Show. It was my second trip to the Show, and I'd spent a good two days wandering around and adding to my stash with glee.  I had all but spent my budget but was doing that one-last-look-around before leaving to head back to Melbourne and I came across the Stranded in Oz stall.  The majority of the skeins were laceweight, which wasn't on my list at all, but one in particular jumped out at me with such force I had to pick it up for a closer look.

A symphony in shades of mandarin and lavender; it was just gorgeous.  But it was expensive and my budget was almost gone.  I went to put it back down when suddenly I noticed the colourway name.  

Jitterbug Perfume.  

I think I gasped, because the stall owner Melissa came over quickly and then we both had a fandom moment exclaiming how much we loved that book, and that was that.  I knew it was coming home with me.

For nearly 6 years, I have safely stored this precious yarn.  I've aired it each year, making sure it's protected from moths and any damp.  I've pondered all the possibilities of what it might become (other than a precious skein).  At one point, I actually decided it would never be knit; that it was perfect just the way it was intact in the skein.

But of course, that was not what it was purchased for and this year during the Summer of the Single Skein I pulled it out again with the firm intent of Finding The Project.

Thus the Jitterbug Perfume Cowl.

I had decided the intensity of the colours needed to be tempered somehow, and so went looking at the wonderful palette of Isager for inspiration.  As luck would have it, not only was this plummy purple a good foil for the oranges, the Isager Spinni (another laceweight single) was also a good match in both fibre content, ply and weight.

I could not be happier with this colour combo if I tried.  The Spinni just knocks the edge off the Jitterbug in such a perfect way while simultaneously allowing the variegated to really shine.

I worked this up on my knitting machine, which in itself was a bit of a steep learning curve.  There were multiple attempts at casting on, and much frustration at getting the colourwork to flow but we got there in the end. This simple diamond pattern wasn't my first choice, but again - I think it's right.  I had been trying to replicate the Jasmine perfume bottles in the book, but it was just too fussy overall. 

I worked half the cowl with the solid colour as the base and half with the variegated as the base, then handstitched the two panels together to form a long reversible cowl.  It's not the prettiest construction, but it does the job and once on you really can't see any of the flaws anyway.

I still can't decide my favourite side!