Monday, 27 November 2006

Blue sky in the morning, knitter's warning

This morning I can see some pale, misty blue in the sky. After last week this is cause for leaping out the door singing 'The Sun Has Got His Hat On', which I will be doing as soon as I've dealt with this very important business, the uploading of fuzzy knitting pictures. The weather has been so dull around here that I don't want to emphasise 'dull' by italicizing it or putting it in bold because that would be too exhilarating. I don't mind storms and lashing rain for weeks on end: that's fun to walk in and leads to all indoor spaces smelling of wet tent, the ultimate childhood smell for me. What I really hate is the feeling of spending your life inside a gigantic upended Tupperware box, with the sky about six inches above your head and dusky at noon. This meteorological rant is not just my way of howling at the gods, it's also my way of explaining my recent knitting exploits. I am craving colour even more than, in our freezing flat, I am craving heat. So it's a pity that my camera is not as keen on the eye-poppingly orange cardigan I am knitting as I am, though I don't blame it. In real life, this thing is so orange I don't know if I'll be able to wear it without first alerting my local fire station.

It's in a shade of the sadly discontinued (why?) Rowan Cotton Tape called Sun Burst, and already small nearby items are being pulled into its orbit.

I used a cable rib design, with two of the cables continuing up the middle to become the button band. The buttonholes are hidden within the twists of one of the cables. I am so impressed with myself for figuring out how to do this (I know it's probably well documented somewhere but I love working stuff out for myself) that I don't even mind that I suspect I put the buttonholes on the wrong - ok, unconventional - side.

I finished the purple scarf to go with the paws, and though it's not exactly photogenic I love it. It's about the easiest, fastest thing you could knit but it's something I use and enjoy every day. The reason it's so hard to photograph is that it's massive, hugely stretchy and uncontrollably bouncy. This makes it an excellent scarf/shawl/blanket/pillow, and I'm sure I'll find more uses for it in time. It's very soft and very, very purple.

Purse stitch: p1 * yf, p2tog, rep from * to last st, p1

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Purple Paws

It's proper winter at last, after an unnaturally warm couple of months that used to be autumn. Greenhouse gases are go! Now that it is finally cold, our heating is so ineffectual that we can see our breath in most of the flat, so I've been knitting warm things from Artesano Alpaca, in the damson colour. I love this yarn. It's slightly fluffy without being tickly, it keeps your extremities from freezing up, and it's really, really bouncy. There's probably a technical term for a yarn's ability to boing back into place, but whatever it is, it results in extra coziness in winter accessories.

First, I did these things (Wristlets? gauntlets? mitts? armwarmwers? So many names out there, I think I'll call them mittlets). I used ten repeats of a stitch pattern called Large Eyelet Rib from one of the Harmony Guides (450 knitting stitches, volume 2) and 3.5mm dpns. This made a really springy, quite dense fabric. I had strung a load of small metallic beads onto the wool before I started, using a loop of thread to pull the fuzzy wool through the tiny holes (a quicker process than you'd think). After some experimentation I placed the beads in a single row up towards my middle finger, with one bead above each eyelet hole, and knitted one plain round with a bead in each stitch before casting off. The thumb was made up as I went along, with two repeats separated from the hand stitches and a rudimentary gusset knitted between the thumb and hand. They fit well and are great for working at the computer for long, chilly periods.

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

NI Spinning Moan

Over the last few months I have come to believe I need to learn to spin. During this time I've learnt quite a bit about spinning, thanks to the wonders of the internet and some excellent books. I've even made a wee bit of fairly knittable yarn on a basic handspindle. However, all my research and reading and messing about has just served to make it all the more frustrating that I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYONE SPIN. No matter how good the illustrations (even with the few short video clips available on the web), there is no substitute for seeing how all the bits of the process are meant to go together. This does not seem to be possible in Northern Ireland.

I had a particularly discouraging experience when my bemused parents gave me the weekend spinning course I had requested for my birthday. I turned up, containing my fibre-frenzied excitement, only to wander round the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum (which is open-air and takes a while to cover on foot)for an hour and a half before any member of staff was able to confirm my hunch that the class had been cancelled. I later learned that only one other person had booked a place, and the teacher had no record of my application (Dodgy post? Muddled mother? Who can tell) so hadn't contacted me. I haven't been able to find any other classes, which isn't too surprising if only two people in this part of the world want to learn to spin. There is a spinning and weaving guild, which meets in the aforementioned museum, but this is a) not a class and b) populated, in my mind at any rate, by posh ladies from Cultraw of a certain respectably artsy bent that sends me running for philistine squalor. This may be unfair and untrue, but I would not be able to flee politely if it wasn't.

Northern Ireland is not a great place to be a knitter unless you specialise in pastel baby clothes. The entire fibre arts revolution seemed to leapfrog us as it rolled across the Atlantic to Britain, depositing only an apparently endless hunger for furry acrylic scarves. Pish. I'm going to extend my spinning search across the border - it's cheaper than getting to England.