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I must have been good

13 Jan

Christmas 2013 was the Christmas I was absolutely spoiled with crafty gifts.

It’s rare for me to afford a sweater quantity of yarn, for instance, but with a giftcard I could treat myself to that luxury, in the form of this superwash merino yarn. And one person had tucked this gorgeous merino and silk blend ball in a beautiful shade of orange inside another gift – how thoughtful and adorable!

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Those near and dear might sometimes feel like, say, a giftcard to a local yarn store is unimaginative or impersonal somehow, but to me, it’s always so much fun. For instance, I had given up on the hopes of ever finding blocking wire sets in any local yarn stores, but when I went into one to spend my giftcard, there it was, sitting quietly in a corner, kind of collecting dust. So now I’m the happy owner of blocking wires, and  cannot wait for my next shawl project to bust those babies out.

I was also generously gifted a Prym i-cord mill – the very same I had been eyeing earlier in the fall and had deemed too expensive for me. It was a fun gadget but not strictly speaking necessary so I couldn’t justify the cost. My SO had been paying attention, however, and picked it up for me in all secrecy. I cranked out a couple of yards of i-cord the other day and it worked  like a charm flawlessly. Not wanting to waste the yarn, I looked for ideas for i-cord, and finally tied it into a Turk’s head knot to fit around my wrist

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This broadened my horizons for uses for i-cord. Suddenly the mill doesn’t seem like a one-use gadget at all.

And last but not least, my brother gave me an absolutely gorgeous book of crochet patterns: Virkkuri by Molla Mills (that’s a tumblr link). This book is different from all the rest I’ve seen in style and layout. It’s sleek and graphic all the way through.

Virkkuri by Molla Mills

Virkkuri by Molla Mills

The patterns are un-apologetically striking and time consuming. Nearly all of them have been done in black and white, and I find myself loving this solution because it highlights the end product as it will be for the book’s end-user, and not the project as it is in the book.

Normally, when I look at patterns, I find myself drawn to things that are already pictured in colors I like, and quickly disregard other patterns purely based on the color of the sample project. I lack the kind of imagination that can switch up the colors and not be constrained by what has already been thought of. So the black and white style works for me.

For some reason I was especially delighted by the gloriously red and vampy manicure of the hands in the step-by-step technique pictures, of which there are many, btw.

I had to make something out of the book straight away, and there was one project in there that I had the materials for on hand: chain earrings.

These are right up my alley like you wouldn’t believe. *grin*

I actually made three pairs, one for my mom in blue and one for a little girl in coral. They were a big hit. The book also has a pattern for a shark tooth patterned round bag with a lining and draw-string closing – perfect for a project bag. Even though it was made with lace-weight yarn and a tiny hook, I must possess this object, and some day I will.

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All the Pot-Holders

9 Dec

I have a new book that I’m ridiculously excited about: Patalappuja á la Carte, by Jaana Vehkasalo (Ravelry link).

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It’s all pot-holders. And nothing but pot-holders. Of course it is.

 The book was published by an organization that strives to uphold traditional Finnish handcrafts. They asked people to send in their designs  or designs passed down in the family, and received 250 distinctive pot-holders. Out of these, 27 were chosen for the book. The book also includes a short history of pot-holders which was surprisingly interesting, and a few recipes which seems apropos. 

There are so many my fingers are just itching to make. Whenever I leaf through the book, I can’t help but think of a box of chocolates. It’s all in the pictures: colorful, clear, just the right amount of detail versus overview. Who knew pot-holders could be photographed so brilliantly.

The pictures sell the whole concept to me, because mediocre photography of the subject matter would’ve made me glance through the book and conclude that it’s silly to dedicate an entire book to pot-holders of all things. Now I can’t wait to try all these techniques, and crochet these little beauties.

Amassing Giftmas Yarn

28 Nov

Three days ago I ordered some yarn online (at this store: Titityy). The season is the reason for secret yarn purchases, and I figured the postage would be cheaper than taking a bus downtown to buy the yarn, which it is. I was surprised and pleased when an hour later, the status of the purchase had changed from “received” to “mailed”. That is some seriously good customer service!

(It’s another issue entirely that it had only been an hour since I placed the order, and I was already refreshing the tracking page.)

It was only later in the day that something else finally settled into my consciousness: the postal workers are striking. I’ve been paying attention to the news, but since I hardly ever mail anything, I didn’t think the postal strike had anything to do with me. They’re trying to wrangle themselves more job security because of impending layoffs, and I wish them all the best. It still made for some interesting times, as I tried to figure out whether or not my package was likely to get stuck in a sorting facility somewhere as the rolling strikes changed place from day to day.

By figuring out the pattern the strikes were following (by reading about it online, like the Sherlock that I am) and figuring out where the package was sent from, I reached reasonable certainty that I was safe and would get my package in the 2-3 days the online store promised. And sure enough, today I got a little notice slip in the mail saying I could pick it up at the post office.

And I got myself some goodies…

Baby merino silk in colorway Straw

Rowan Baby merino silk in colorway Straw

Cascade yarns Heritage Silk Paints in colorway Forest glen

Cascade yarns Heritage Silk Paints in colorway Forest glen

Clearly merino wool and silk blends have made an impression on me since I accidentally ordered two kinds of it. The baby merino silk dk (I have no idea which bit of that is the yarn’s name) is 34% tussah silk, and is markedly rougher than the other yarn (though still very soft indeed). I hope it will have decent stitch definition for a shawl I’m planning.

I’m slightly nervous about knitting white yarn. There’s a reason I don’t own any white clothing – it doesn’t stay white for long. I’ll just have to be careful, and treat the WIP with a bit more respect than I normally do with my knitting projects.

The really sleek and soft Heritage yarn is for a pair of mostly very simple mitts. The pattern I’ve chosen should let the colors shine through.

The unfortunate thing is that I never get yarns this nice for myself. I have a tendency to give away or knit and then give away all my really nice yarns. Not being made of money I can’t justify buying them for myself. But hey, at least I get to work with them if I’m making a gift for someone else. That’s part of the fun of knitting for Christmas 🙂

I can’t wait to start these projects! (Apart from being excited, I literally cannot wait because time is running out. I will make it, though, make no mistake ;)).

Better than Ever, I’m Back

15 Oct

So I realize I just broke my arm and then went away for, like, two months. But I forgive myself, because, you know, the broken arm turned out to be both a more and less dramatic experience than I had expected. Then I went to London for three weeks, alone, and that was something. When I came home, I and the boy packed up and moved house. Then I started writing a graduate thesis.

I am also the type of person for whom something like finding a secondhand couch on the local equivalent of Craigslist (except less seedy), arranging for transportation for said couch and then going to get it is a whole-day affair requiring all of my energy and concentration. And since moving house entails many such a stressful occasion, overly complicated by yours truly with fun things like being afraid of talking to people over the phone, I’ve had my hands kind of full.

This doesn’t mean I haven’t done any crafts, no sirree bob. I have my priorities straight.

Admittedly the three weeks in London went by without a moment for knitting or crochet – oops, no, I tell a lie: I did cast on for a pair of socks from the Socktopus books while sitting in a cafe waiting for my  silver ring making course to start (I’ll get to that). I guess those ten minutes spent knitting ribbing totally justified three weeks of carrying needles and yarn with me all around London.

I was crafty and cunning, and packed two easily portable projects for my trip. I decided to pick things that would be interesting enough to keep me entertained for a whole three weeks while still being easy enough not to require total devotion. I think I failed on that a little bit.

The sock pattern was fine. It’s a crossed stitches type of cabled sock pattern called Farmer McGregor from the Socktopus book I’m knitting through (that’s a great book o ‘ socks, btw).  I just had other things to do while I was there. I’ve since finished one sock of the pair (apart from grafting the toe), one weekend when nothing much else was on.

We can blame the wonky rib stitches on Pret getting me over-caffeinated at that point. (Honestly it’s fine.)

The bigger fail was the crochet shawl pattern I chose because it was gorgeous: Venus. When I read the pattern, I noticed that it would require I learn a completely new crochet technique, but instead of putting off doing the pattern (perhaps appreciating the extra challenge I was already facing crocheting with lace weight yarn) I congratulated myself on noticing this before I actually left on my trip. So I kind of learned the new thing (Tunisian crochet I believe it’s called, maybe).

There was a clear need to get a wooden crochet hook just so I could crochet on the plane, so in my pre-trip shopping frenzy I bought a pretty one disregarding both the price tag and the fact that I had a plastic one that would be just as acceptable to the airline. This was before I admitted that leaving at the damned crack of dawn would probably mean I wouldn’t have the energy to even think about crochet for the whole duration of my flight, anyway.

Turns out I was too busy fearing for my life on the first flight and then running through the whole Helsinki-Vantaa airport to catch my next flight to give too much thought to crochet. When I was safely seated on the next plane, I was barely able to keep awake until a nice lady brought me the best sandwich and cup of coffee I had ever eaten in my life (until I found the sandwiches at Eat – we Finns really don’t know anything about proper sandwiches), and then I slept until the plane was nearing Heathrow.

When I got there I was promptly so completely freaked out and overwhelmed by a city, which has a population of 1,5 times that of my entire friggin country, that I spent my first afternoon not acknowledging what lay outside my window, and also not feeling up to facing Tunisian crochet. It only got worse for the shawl from then on, but for very pleasant reasons. No regrets!

Later on I saw that the four rows I had crocheted at the airport here were entirely wrong anyway, ripped back and forgot about the whole thing for a few weeks.

I’ve since then gone back to it, but my results aren’t all that fantastic. Still, I’ll probably get this done at some point. Maybe.

So that’s me, back with a bang.

First Real Spindle and Fiber

17 May

The postman brought my package. Fortunately I happened to be home and heard him ring the doorbell, and was just fast enough in getting to the door to catch him going down the stairs. Success!

Bluefaced Leicester fiber in oatmeal (100 g) and Schacht Hi-Lo spindle (62,4 g)

And the wool… The wool. I’m seriously far more giddy and happy than I expected, I’m all-out grinning here, I feel like laughing out loud out of sheer happiness 😀 Because the wool… It just feels so nice. I’ve been spinning this Finnish sheep wool that’s fantastic of course, but it hasn’t been processed as far so it’s far closer to its natural state than this top of Bluefaced Leicester I now got. There are some bits of hay in it, and lots of lanolin, and it just feels scratchier and not as nice as this BFL.

When I turn the spindle (a Schacht Hi-Lo) in my hands it feels like it wants to spin. I’m very happy that it promises to be both top and bottom whorl, so I can try both ways of spinning. Although of course I have no way of knowing whether it’s actually any good for either technique. But I have faith 😀

I wonder how many things I’ll have to relearn once I get to using this. I’m thinking I probably should spin the rest of the Finnish sheep wool using my DIY spindle so it’ll stay consistent. But delaying gratification makes it all the more sweeter, right?

I also realized that I have been neglecting making mom’s mother’s day gift because I’ve been spinning 😦 It’s already late, but that’s just more reason to get it done post-haste. Things have been crazy with work and my seminar thesis and finishing up my Bachelor’s degree and what not, but I still feel a bit bad now about using any energy I had left over for crafting on spinning rather than the gift. I just think she deserves to be pampered.

One last thing: my third batch of the Finnish sheep wool is again better than the last one: I have the same amount of inconsistencies in the thicknesses of the singles, but now the singles are much more defined. It feels much harder (still not scratchy or anything, just not completely fluffy anymore).

I’m dreaming of knitting a Baktus with my very first handspun, just because you can decide exactly how much yarn you want that pattern to use up. And I’m starting to dream of gifting people with my handspun 😛 Once I’m sufficiently good at it. Oh my. I like this stuff.

Score!

29 Apr

I went to a craft fair at Rovaniemi, and the haul was pretty good! 🙂

I got five bamboo circular needles for 1 € each. For that price, they seem pretty awesome. The cables are very soft and bendy and the joins are very smooth. Of course I fully expect them to snap into pieces the moment I try to knit with them, but if not, then  I call this a win. They’re sizes 2; 2,25; 2,75; 3,25 and 3,5 and 40 cm long.

I had a few goals in mind when I went to the fair, and I achieved one of them: beads I think should be ok for knitting. So purty. They’re glass beads with a metal center. 

In the impulse buy category, I got me some buttons that might work for the alpaca cardigan I’m planning on knitting. If not, no biggie. Some day, I’ll find a way to use these… 

and these. The polka dot ones are plastic, but these are wood and seem kind of nice, actually.

And last, but not least, I got me some Finnish sheep wool that’s been prepared and is ready to be spun. I’m not feeling like I’ll get ’round to that any time soon, but it feels nice to have the fiber at hand. I also don’t have a spindle, though. A while back I made some myself but honestly, they’re more trouble than fun. I’d rather just wait until I can afford to buy one.

In all, it was a successful outing 🙂

Also, earlier I saw a leather pencil scroll thing in a cute little boutique and thought it would be perfect for taking a small stash of needles on the go. I don’t like the idea of taking my entire needle stash with me all at once (what if they got lost… the horror…) so often when I’m out of town, I’ll end up with only one set of needles and no project to work on because of that.

Problem solved. Besides, it’s yellow on the outside and pink inside – d’awww how cute is that 🙂 There are four compartments and they just happen to be the perfect length for dpn’s and wide enough for circulars.

 

Socktopus

17 Apr

My birthday present to me was a new pattern book ( Socktopus: 17 pairs of socks worth showing off by Alice Yu) – ok fine, it was late at night on a Friday, I was up too late on the internet, I got it in my head that a sock pattern book is simply what I need right now, and look, how convenient, it’s my birthday-ish.

Buying knitting books is not like it used to be for me. Used to be, I went to the bookstore and flipped through the half a dozen of books they had and if something looked half nice and I could afford it (I swear English books cost so much less back then) I got it. That’s how I ended up with several books I haven’t knitted anything out of.

Now I can’t justify getting a book unless I at first look through the patterns on Ravelry and love most of them (their absence there is in itself a bad sign for a book, unless it was just published and even then… meh). And then I read user reviews. In short, I now have to research this stuff.

xkcd has it right

Maybe that’s part of growing up, at least with the internet.

Well anyway, the good thing is this means that with more frequency than before, I now end up with The Perfect Book, like Socktopus.

Admittedly I only got my greedy paws on it earlier today, but having read through the general sections and eyed some of the patterns, I’m completely in love with this book.

I enjoyed the section on types of yarn and fiber in sock knitting, although failed to see the point of pages devoted to pictures of swatches.

However, I like that this book is clearly and bravely not aimed at someone who doesn’t yet know how to knit. Too often books for “advanced” knitters still have a tiny section about the basics of knitting, which always strikes me as odd. It seems like the authors or editors or someone doesn’t realize or believe that there is no such thing as hard knitting. I believe that just as soon as you know how to knit and purl, and maybe read your knitting, you can knit anything. But when they write a book for “advanced” knitters, they first market it as “a masterclass” or some such, but then add the technique section on knitting and purling in a feeble attempt to not scare off the more timid knitters.

I don’t think that works. That short an explanation is just useless if you don’t know how to knit at all, seems to take up room from other things which can frustrate those who didn’t want a technique book, and probably fails to convince the new or scared knitters to actually give the patterns a go if up until that point all they saw was “this is scary hard knitting but you, my superstar knitter, can do it!!1”. Seems to me to be useless, or worse, for everyone. So I’m glad this book skipped that entirely, and also doesn’t try to woo experienced knitters by choice of words. It does that by containing cool patterns that use (at least to me) new techniques.

The pictures are, on the whole, beautifully done. There were one or two patterns where I wished there were close up pictures of details like heels and toes, but then I figure, this sock may not have anything special going on in those sections. I guess I’ll find that out once I get ’round to knitting those patterns. Other than that, both the photography and the technique illustrations (for the new and/or rarer techniques that is) were clear and very helpful.

The weird thing about this book is that it’s apparently been published twice: I got this edition, published by Guild of Master Craftsman, while for some reason, this other edition, published a few weeks later, has all the reviews on Amazon. Maybe one was for the UK, one for the US, or it was first self-published and then picked up by a publishing company or whatever – the important bit is that as far as I can tell, the patterns are the same.

I look forward to learning many new techniques while getting to knit all these beautiful socks!

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