Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Book: After Dark - Haruki Murakami

I was inspired to read his books quite suddenly. Tora FrØseth was right into a Murakami craze as I discovered her blog (at the time I discovered the pattern for the Little Sister's Dress) and her jumping-up-and-down excitement just seemed to transfer almost directly to me.

I first read 'What I talk about when I talk about running' because the library coughed it up first. It's a kind of memoir with a specific theme, and I enjoyed it, being a bit of a runner, not like Murakami though who runs a marathon every year and has done an ultramarathon once. But of course it was the fiction I was really after.

After Dark is a very short novel, taking place over the course of one long night. I loved the surreal elements which made me think of a David Lynch film. In spite of these bits, however, it's actually overall a fairly simply told story. Not a lot happens, but I think it does capture a turning point in three people's lives. I enjoyed it and am still keen to read more of his books.

It's recommended, if you don't mind a bit of surreality. If you've read it I'd love to hear what you think.

Monday, June 22, 2009

cooler than the street

I did finish my cowl neck top. That 'hopeful, getting it done mode' actually got me through the majority of the reknitting quickly. Then something more urgent distracted me and it sat around again with just a few rows to go. It didn't seem to matter any more as it was getting colder and I was originally hoping this would work as a summer top, though I always knew it might need a layer underneath.

I have worn it out in the world once - like this, with the grey 3/4 sleeved t shirt underneath. I'm not sure I will be able to wear it without a top underneath - freshly washed it's ok with the right bra, but the fabric stretches pretty quickly with wear and I think ends up sagging too much under the arms.

I don't love how high it sits on the neck at the sides/back - it feels a little tight there and I would prefer for it to overlap the t-shirt rather than leaving that gap.

coach back

So, I have some thoughts on the pattern. It's an unusual design - it's actually almost a straight tube with two holes in the back.

When you put it on the extra fabric from the back of the tube falls forward and adds to what's at the front, making the cowl. I suspect this simple formula works on some bodies better than others, and perhaps relies on certain ratios of body dimensions. I made a small size (adjusted for the different gauge) based on my small bust, and I think the cowl worked out quite well - though I really couldn't have it drooping any lower. However, further down the body I had to do some short rows across the back, as it was clearly coming out much shorter than the front (and it still is, a little, though it's hitched up slightly on my belt in the above picture).

As I described in the previous post, it never needed any waist shaping and I had to increase madly to avoid it being too clingy. I put this down to having a small bust relative to the rest of me, my chest and shoulders are not especially narrow, which might also explain the back riding up.

Another modification (this one planned from the start) was to make the back t-strap a few stitches wider, partly because I thought it would look better and also for better bra coverage.

Oh yeah, and what about the flashing (ziz zag patterns) that the variegated Cleckheaton bamboo is doing? I don't mind it. I wouldn't have thought I would go for that on a top, but I think in these muted colours it looks ok and the photo might exaggerate the effect a bit.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Perhaps this will be remembered as my blue period?

Another project that's been around a long time. Probably longer than the blanket, which was started last winter.
tofutsies 3
This is the Tofutsies sock yarn Donna Lee sent me in 2007. I can't remember when I started these socks but for various reasons, they have taken a long time. I know it's not because I didn't enjoy knitting them. I loved watching the colours emerge. They just tended to be the simple carry-around project which kept getting put on the backburner by more urgent things.
tofutsies 2
I finished the first sock last summer. So now when I put them on they feel a bit short - it's cold and I want a bit more ankle coverage. That's fine though. Even though this yarn has quite a bit of wool in it, along with cotton, soysilk, and chitin, it feels primarily cottony to me, so I was hoping I would be able to wear these in the in-between seasons. I seem to only be able to wear wool socks when it's quite cold. My feet certainly feel the cold but also heat up very rapidly sometimes.
I love the way these turned out, especially the stripes and the way they widened on the upper part of the sock (due to the instep increases, I suspect). They have a sort of speckly look which is hard to capture in the photos. It's due, I think - just a guess - to some of the fibres taking up the dye more than others, so with all the colours there's a pale version plied with the stronger version.

These were done the way all my socks are: toe up, short row heel, no particular numbers, just made to fit.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Not such a yarn snob

buster blanket-3
I made a blanket and I am ridiculously pleased by it. OK, it's a lap blanket.
buster blanket-2
It's a bit daggy and was always going to be that way. I had this fuzzy blue stuff (Lang Arté, picked out of a specials bin at Lincraft several years ago) that I originally thought could be a quick spidery shawl. When I finally tried it I didn't like it knit alone, as it was somewhat fragile and stretchy. So I combined it with leftovers of a nice cottony-feeling acrylic (Elle Pure Gold) which I originally bought for a baby blanket for a no-wool family. Then I incorporated sections of some Euro-novelty stuff - also from Lincraft years ago - they had these bags with about eight different 'luxury' novelty yarns. This was before Lincraft had so many of its own branded product and they sold a lot of European imports. And there is a narrow purple stripe which is Cleckheaton Taboo, I think.

I should have separated the two different coloured sections in the middle, I think. But given that this was made with no planning and no counting of rows, generally brought out between projects or on those particularly brain-fried nights, I think it looks all right. If I had had enough of the Arté and the dark blue Pure Gold to do the whole thing with just those, it would actually look a bit like the type of bouclé throw rug you can buy for your couch.
buster blanket
In any case it is very warm and cosy, and doesn't show dog hair.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Some things about grandma.

scarf better
1. She would ask years after the fact if you were still using that jumper she knitted once upon a time. And if you weren't, just send it back and she would use it for something or someone else.

2. She was always willing to learn something new. After she married Grandpa she found someone to teach her to speak Polish, and she became pretty fluent. She didn't want to be left out when he talked with his friends. Also, her father was Polish and she connected strongly with the culture.

3. She would read my blog every now and then. There were a few times when something there seemed to really intrigue or amuse her, and she would mention it on the phone to me or I would hear about it through Mum. Those are the best examples I remember of genuine communication between us, when she recognised something I was saying and connected with it.

4. She really wanted us to gather around the piano and have singalongs. We usually disappointed her in this, especially as we got older.

5. She loved art and music. She was constantly reading novels, just like me. Unlike me she vetoed novels with anything too nasty in them.
scarf leaf

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Handspun scarf

If you've been reading this blog for some time you might remember Grandma did some spinning for me.

This started as 200g of merino from Ewe Give Me The Knits in the spectacular 'Moroccan Nights' colourway.


I wish I had done this earlier so Grandma could have seen what I made from it. I enjoyed every moment of knitting this simple 'mistake rib' scarf (cast on a multiple of 5 sts, and k3 p2 every row, slipping the first stitch). I love the way it has come out in subtle stripes. It's a little shorter than I intended, because the fourth ball was coming out as a just noticeably thicker fabric, so I stopped short and kept that ball to do something else with. Maybe something felted.

The yarn varied a lot in thickness, and I took the advice I have seen so many times about knitting handspun - use bigger needles than you would normally for the apparent thickness of the yarn. I tried that for a while, suspected the fabric was still a bit chunky, and went up a needle size (5.5mm, I just went and checked, and realised that by chance I happened to use one of the many circular needles I collected from Grandma's place after the funeral. Those things were springing out of every other drawer and cupboard). I wanted to keep it really soft and light. And it has turned out to be the perfect lighter weight scarf I have been wanting over the last few weeks, when this one has seemed a bit too heavy.

Of course, since the weekend the weather has turned the corner into winter, with a snowy feeling in the air. I'll probably get the blue one out tomorrow. It's going down to minus 3 degrees celcius tonight.


Grandma* featured a few times here over the years. I suspect this might not be the last time either, and I like that. I still have more wool she spun for me.

*not to be confused with my other grandmother - I have a little collaborative project with her that I'll show you sometime soon.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

You tried to steal my truck but that's not what this is about

What is it about my scarves and my sisters? About two years ago, a lace scarf I knitted for sister D went missing at a party. And although I had plenty of the wool and was strangely keen to knit the same scarf again to replace it, she just felt too sad about it to have the same one again. We've only recently settled on a replacement project, a lacy tam/beret, pattern yet to be picked. Any suggestions? I have some 4ply Polwarth from Tarndwarncoort put aside for it, but that's not locked in.

A couple of weeks ago, sister E accidentally left her little neckwarmer scarf in the change rooms at Target on a Friday night. She realised pretty quickly, and left several messages about it with staff and answering machines over the course of the weekend. She was so upset and annoyed at herself, and nearly gave me a heart attack with a solemn phone call of the "I have bad news" variety. I was worried it was something awful about one of the kids, so I actually laughed with relief when I heard what the problem was.

We were both surprised it didn't show up at Target, given that more or less the entire staff must have been aware of it. (Apparently when she went to the service desk and started to say, "I left something behind in the change rooms last week" the person there didn't even ask her name, she just said "I know, I got your messages!") So we can only conclude that someone took a liking to that one, too.

The replacement will probably be knit in an evening or two, and I've been able to find enough of the discontinued Cleckheaton Merino Spun floating around in my felting stash. Then I'll just need to find the perfect buttons.