Things handmade. About making things.
Is music a thing?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lynn, Lucy & Ataturk

If my friend Lynn had survived her bout with cancer she would have been 46 today.
And it's funny, because in Turkey it marks a very sombre event, the passing of the modern republic's founder Mustafa Kemal Pasa Ataturk.

Lynn was staying at my apartment in Istanbul some years ago. It was a typical morning and Lynn being the sort of person that she was, wasn't making a fuss about her birthday and was happily reading the Guardian and drinking tea. Suddenly we heard several great blasts from the ferry boats and ships that ply the Bosforus, echoing from shore to shore and lasting about a minute. It shook the tea glasses! The ships were signalling 9:05 am, the time of the leader's passing. We chuckled at the irony of it.

Lynn was an amazing person, one of the smartest and kindest people I have had the privilege of knowing. Even as she grew more and more ill, she was sharp and alert. Some years ago, she had passed onto me a pair of wonderful Ojibwa slippers and she told me at the time the name of the person who made them. Lynn herself had had these slippers for a number of years. I, of course, didn't write it down, and soon forgot. When I was visiting her in hospice I asked her if she remembered them. "Oh yeah," she said, "Why?"
"Well do you remember who made them?"
"Lucy Knot. You can't forget a name like Lucy Knot. I always remember it because you must have had to tie a lot of knots to make those slippers"
That's how I remember it now, too.

Here's to you, Red! Wherever you are!
Lynn Macfie
November 10, 1962 - September 27, 2007

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

me and my chapeaux - 1

Hey - this post got caught in the "drafts". Here it is February, with still a good six weeks of cold weather ahead, so maybe this idea from November will still be of use to someone. Here goes....

The wind blows chilly, the leaves are swirling in the gutter...
Hat making season is upon me as I'm sure it is upon those of you who also like making & wearing hats. And while I do try to vary my repertoire from time to time - I find I go back to my tried and true short row hats because they are fun, easy, look good on a lot of people and it seems that no two are ever exactly alike. Also, for me, they fall into the happily mindless category. Easy to pick up, minimal counting, minimal finishing, loads of instant gratification. Not to mention the stash busting potential and, after some incidents of weakness involving yarn stores on foreign shores the past few months, I do have a lot of that to do!!!

So how do you start?
Care to roll back a bit and read through the entry "when does a hat become a tea cozy" ?
The basic idea and beginning is really the same.
You need to have an decent idea of your gauge, an idea of the measurement of the head you are making it for, and some idea of the basic properties of the yarn you are using.

I am going to use my head and some Kureyon for this because I have both of them. Well my head does look like it is attached to my shoulders and I made coffee this morning, so something is working. I do want this hat to fit under my bike helmet, and Kureyon is a decent weight for that.
Slightly heavier weights work beautifully and knit up quickly but it can get tight under the hood there, so I am going to use Kureyon. Also I have given all my hats away!

These three photos show the same hat worn by two different people, my brother and his girlfriend. You can see that the same hat, looks different, the brim stretches and the effect is altered.
If you are making for a larger head, in addition to making it a little wider, you also may or may not want to add a few extra rows when you get to the brim. Ultimately it depends on who you are making the hat for, and what they want. Make the first one for yourself - I need one too so let's get started....

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mindless Pleasantries

You know when every thing around you is going too fast?
Too much? Too many deadlines?
Been like that a lot lately for me. And lots of traveling.
So for the most part my knitting has reflected that. Or rather been an attempt to balance the hectic with the simple. Soothing, easy and satisfying.
A Feather and Fan Comfort Shawl from the directions by Sarah Bradley - so I don't have to think!
A bias scarf in recycled sari silk and some straw coloured rayon. Just cast on and go! (Modeled by the recipient, Emily)

Oh, I managed to finally finish the second Debbie Bliss classic cardigan for my wee niece....

and I did start a "Mitten of Insanity" which the cool and wet weather that is settling in is sure to encourage me to finish. But earlier this evening, when I had a moment, I picked up more colourful, soothing yarn and cast on for another bias scarf.

Mindless, pleasant.
There are enough challenges in the real world for the moment.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

When does a hat become a tea cozy?

When does a hat become a tea cozy?
...and vice versa

One day I got an “emergency” phone call from my sister who was working as a prop and wardrobe assistant for a TV show. “We need a tea cozy - do you have any patterns for one in your old knitting book collection?” I got a chuckle out of imagining what it would be like on the set when the need for a vintage tea cozy dawned suddenly and the flurry of phone calls that would ensue...but I told my sister that I’d had have a look as soon as I got home, that I was pretty sure I did have some and that basically she could tell her costume and wardrobe people that in a way, a tea cozy was just a hat with a couple of slits in the right places. All dependent on the style of tea cozy, of course. Some tea cozies have been known to double as hats and hats have been pressed into the duty of keeping the tea hot and a lot of things will do for that besides. But here I share my formula for a tea cozy that is also the basis for a favorite mindless hat....wedges formed by short rows in garter stitch.

Garter stitch has a lot of interesting features. When I first started knitting I couldn’t wait to do stocking stitch but over the years I have come to love and appreciate garter stitch for its simplicity, mindless ease, predictable stretchiness, flatness and squareness. Relatively speaking, of course. And some yarns look darn fabulous knit up in garter stitch. I think Noro Kureyon is one of those yarns so, let’s start with a ball (give or take) of Kureyon (or whatever you like along those lines).

Next we need the tea pot in need of a cozy. Have a look at that tea pot and take a few measurements. What is that charming little tea pot’s girth? And what is it’s cup size? How big is it from lid to base? Where is its handle and where is its spout?

For this cozy we need some needles (indeed) and as it is knit flat and seamed (seemingly seamlessly later) any needle of the correct size will do. The correct size is whatever needle you need to knit your yarn just a bit firmer than the recommended gauge. In my case I use 3.75 mm bamboos. I have noticed that Kureyon, unless felted, tends to relax over time so you can often knit it a little firmer than you think.

If you’ve used Kureyon a lot you will probably have a pretty good idea of how it knits up - but if you haven’t do a quick gauge swatch. How quick? How about 15 stitches and 6 rows (or 3 ridges). Right about now I can hear the champions of the gauge swatch murmuring and the thunder clouds roiling. For this task, this is enough to give you an idea. Figure out how many stitches per centimeter or inch you are working at. Take that number and multiply it by your tea pot's top to bottom measurement. Now destroy the evidence of your shoddy gauge swatch.

My teapot top to bottom was 6 1/2 inches and my gauge is 5 stitches to the inch which means I need to cast on 32.5 stitches, which is hard to do, so I cast on 33 stitches. I tend to cast on by knitting in between the two stitches. Leave 6 - 8 inches of a tail for the hanging loop later.
Knit across your cast on row. Now you have 33 stitches on one needle; your “tail” is at the top of the cozy. Slip the first stitch of the next row and knit across until one stitch is left. Bring the yarn to the front of the work, slip the last stitch and turn. Next row, you will knit into the back of the first stitch, then continue on as normal. This way of slipping and knitting creates a neat chain stitch edge. See?

Knit along until you are 2 stitches from the end of the row (the tail is there to tell you it's the top). Slip the next stitch as if to purl, bring the yarn to the front and transfer the stitch BACK to the left hand needle. There are 2 stitches on the left hand needle and 31 on the right. Turn the work around. The yarn should be in the back now, ready to go. Knit until you are one stitch from the end, yarn to the front, slip, turn (for your chain stitch edge). Start the next row by knitting into the back of the first stitch, knit along as usual to 3 stitches to the end. At the third stitch, slip stitch purl-wise, yarn to front, slip stitch back to the needle. Turn and knit to the end, do your chain stitch hem.

This is how to do short rows; the transfer of the stitch back and forth to the left hand needle without knitting it is called wrapping. It is very helpful for when we go to knit those stitches later as it prevent holes from appearing at the turning points.
Now just keep going, each time turning a stitch further from the end, so 4, 5, 6, etc. and keeping up your chain stitch hem.

We are going to go until we make a wedge. How big a wedge?
Well, take your little teapot’s girth and divide it by 6. My teapot was 18 inches around, so divided by 6 that makes 3, multiply that by my gauge and I get 15. I could do 15 turns and get a wedge that had 15 ridges on it. This will be just fine, but just because I yam what I yam, I do 14 ridges. I know this yarn is going to stretch a bit over time. So that means I will keep wrapping and turning until I have done it 14 times. It looks something like this:

After a while you will be able to see and feel which stitches have been wrapped and which ones haven’t. Do work with good light or lighter shades of yarn at first if this technique is new to you. It helps to see what it going on.

Now we have a wedge and we need to make more. 6 more to be exact.
Starting from your chain stitch hem knit along until you get to the last stitch you wrapped, in my case, #14. Have a look at that stitch and notice how the little yarn that was wrapped around the base of the stitch is lying there. I take my right hand needle and scoop up the wrapped yarn from the bottom then twist the needle and knit into the wrapped stitch. This seems like a lot of words to describe a little movement. Check around online or in your knitting how to books for diagrams. There is more than one way to turn a row. Also some people say with garter stitch you don’t have to pick up the wrap, but I beg to differ. Give it a try at least, it might be a good trick to have in your knitting repertoire later.

Okay, back to the wedge.
Once you’ve knit to the top again picking up your wrapped (or not) stitches, turn, slip the first stitch, knit to the end, do your chain stitch hem, turn work, knit to 2 stitches to the end, slip, wrap, slip, turn, etcetera until you have another wedge. 2 wedges down, 4 to go!
Complete your third wedge, but stop when you get to your chain stitch edge, don’t pick up your wrapped stitches, we need to make an opening for the spout. My spout was 2 inches high and 2 inches wide and it was just shy of an inch from the ground. Using my gauge, I know that the opening should be 10 stitches but me being me, I am going to make that 12. I need about an inch below the spout so I knit the first 5 stitches, then I am going to cast off the next 12 stitches and continue knitting to the top, picking up the wrapped stitches as I go. Phew.

Next wedge we are going to have to put those stitches back on so. Slip the first stitch at the top, and when you get to the hole, use backward loops to add the 12 stitches to close the gap and continue knitting to the end of the row. It is sort of a giant buttonhole. As you come across those new stitches on the next row, they may need a little coaxing but it should all even out. Now just knit your next 3 wedges the same, and when you get to the end of the last wedge, stay at the chain stitch edging. This is where things can get a little tricky. If you want to try the graft, read on. If not, bind off loosely grabbing your wraps as you go. Sew up leaving an appropriate opening for the handle.

Okay for the graft...
Dig out another knitting needle, finer than the one you are using and, starting from the top, pick up 33 stitches from the cast on edge. Try to be consistent about how you pick up the stitches. Here’s what we are going to do next. We are going to “graft” the live stitches to the cast on edge, except where we need to leave an opening for the handle.
And we may be picking up those wrapped stitches as we go (I like to try). If you end up with 32 picked up stitches, you can fudge it when you get to the top, just make sure you have a stitch picked up from close to the chain stitch edge. If you are more than 1 stitch short, try again. Break your yarn leaving a tail about 4 times the length of the seam. Grab your darning needle. If you’ve never grafted before I suggest trolling about online or consulting your knitting how to books for a description. It is also called Kitchener stitch . For this graft you do the same stitch on both needles. Have your live stitches in front and your picked up stitches at the back.

Take the yarn and pass it through the first stitch on the front needle as if to purl, leave the stitch on the needle.
Take the yarn to the first stitch on the back needle and pass it through as if to purl & leave it on the needle. This is just for the set up.
Go back to the front needle, slip the yarn through as if to knit, lift the stitch off the needle, go into the next stitch on the same needle as if to purl and leave it on the needle.
Now go to the back needle, slip the yarn through as if to knit, lift the stitch off the needle, go into the next stitch on the same needle as if to purl and leave it on the needle. To fit my handle, I did this 5 times. That is, I removed 5 stitches from both the front and back needle. Ah, at the 5th stitch on each needle, I ended with a knit and slip off, no following purl. Then I picked up my other 3.75 mm needle and loosely cast off the next 15 stitches from the front needle. I missed the first wrapped stitch actually, and by not grabbing the wrap I did leave a little hole, which I didn’t notice until much later.
Now drop the corresponding number of stitches from the back needle, in my case 15.
Reattach your darning needles and start the grafting again. Try to catch your wraps. This isn’t easy, I usually do a noodle-y thing and get the wrap with the “purl” part of the sequence. I have tried it by ignoring the wrap on the purl part and picking it up on the knit part. It doesn’t look too bad, actually. As long as you are consistent it will be fine. And remember, if you keep repeating something - it can become a design element!!
At the top you will now have two threads. Do with them as you will. I like to braid, twist or otherwise knot them into a loop. Great if you hang your cozy when not in use.

There you have it.

If this is completely incomprehensible, please ask.And this cozy took 40 grams of Kureyon, what am I going to do with the leftover???

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Going Gracefully

Amidst these busy summer days of visits and concerts and guests and events there remains the odd quiet moment to reflect, to pick up the knitting or mending, and let the mind focus in peace while a button gets reattached, a bead gets strung and a few rows of stocking stitch get added to a sleeve. One such moment was thrust upon me the day before yesterday as I waited outside a hospital room while my boyfriend paid his last respects to one of his oldest friends. Oli died quite suddenly, though not unexpectedly as he had been through the wringer to treat his leukemia and the sad reality that there was not going to be a cure was known to all. As I waited I thought and the little stitches hopped from one needle to the next, sometimes with very little help, like sand running through an hourglass.

Oli has done many amazing things in his creative life, and has inspired creativity and a sense of musical adventure in the lives of many others. He has nurtured an incredible next generation of musicians already. Knowing that his days where few, he was seized with the desire to do one last show before an audience. In less than 6 weeks the whole event was organized. On June 5th 2008, fighting fatigue that was imperceptible to the audience he gave an absolutely brilliant show with some closest of his musical collaborators. The program had as much new material as familiar and every person in the hall hung on to every note. The joy of the event, the beauty of the music and the intense awareness of all in the room that this concert, this performance was a gift from Oli was palpable. It was a gift from us to Oli, too. The show rapidly sold out the 80o seat hall and the love and appreciation he was showered with I am sure helped to give him an incredible sense of peace, of goodness, of knowing that he is loved and that he has living legacy. That is something few people get to experience - few people in his state of life are able to rise up to the inevitable and continue to create and give and be given. I think Oli recognized that gift to him.

He left in a way that was like some of his tunes. At concerts and even on recordings, I often wished he'd repeat the melody - "That was too short, Oli," I'd say in my mind, "Play it again from the top!" While he still had many projects and visions, while much was left undone and while he left us much, much, much too soon, he somehow managed to go like a note hanging off his violin, the strings vibrating after the last powerful draw of the bow. Rather than the cancer take him - small piece by small piece - he went all at once due to a complication. How odd, that a complication in a way simplified the end.

But it was his commitment to his creativity, to what gave him joy in life - music - and how his joy became the joy of others that has been the great shining beacon for me and the many around him who were lucky enough to know him. Life goes on until the last moment if we can let ourselves see it that way. I did not feel the least bit morbid or dark, sitting there knitting quietly by the door. Sad, yes indeed, but there I was making a sleeve for my little niece, a kind of commitment to the future, to life, if you will.

If you enjoy music that springs from tradition and wanders artfully and playfully in many directions, seek out Oli's recordings. I adore Camino. I have listened to it over and over without tiring of it. All his music is good but that one has a special place in my heart. It is beautiful music to just close your eyes to and let your ears paint pictures for you. It is lovely music to inspire you while you fill row after row with stitches and your mind wanders. Thanks, Oli. Godspeed.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Double Deutsche Diaper Duty..

Since last Friday, it's been pretty well all babies, all the time.
My little nieces are gorgeous. Of course every auntie is going to think that, but the little imp & pixie are generally so adorable you can forgive them their complaints about tummy gas, teething pain, soggy diapers, hunger, tiredness and just general baby krankiness because they are so cute.
Here they are:
Clara Olive....
Josephine Rose.

Here are the girls modeling their new bibs Aunt Bee brought them from Helsinki...

What a sense of style they have already at the tender age of 6 months!

Aunt Bee has hardly had time to finish the Dreaded Debbie Bliss Cardigan #13 because there is just so much burping and dandling and carrying and cuddling to do.

But some progress has been made.
Still unblocked but taking shape. I am going to make a little facing at the chin to make the inside tidy as it tends to turn down and show all the joins. Ugly. I remember why I used to call Vogue Knitting VAGUE Knitting. Some of the directions are a little cryptic. Like "tack down the collar". To what? The pick up line at the neck back?? That makes sense, but what about the front points. We tried it on little Josie because she was awake at the time and with my seamstress sister we were able to figure out where the collar ought to be tacked. But you know, sewing patterns usually have things like the seam allowance, pocket placement and tacking points marked on them, built into the diagrams and numbered. At least knitting patterns could be a little more specific or include clearer diagrams or more photos of salient garment details. If we hadn't tried this on the baby, I don't think we would have figured it out so well.

The turned hems at the sleeves were especially popular with my sister. The sweater is the 1-year size and is currently swimming on them. It will be a couple of months before it is really wearable. So now comes the issue of the second sweater. Turned hem at the sleeves - yes. But along the bottom? I'm not sure & I still don't like the button band either. The collar seemed like an awful lot of yarn but then my sister pointed out the with the neck relatively high, it would really keep the baby warm. And it looks awfully cute. So sometime between bottles and bibs and poopy pants, I'll cast on sweater number two.

Time for a walk in the park!!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Little Things

My thinking exactly. And you can take that statement many ways.
There are so many little things in Helsinki.

There is a lot of symmetry. Often based on threes, or triangles as well as mirror images. In the old town, what they call the Design District, there are wonderful layers of Art Nouveau, Art Deco and things Nordic & Runic.....

All adding up to a bigger picture.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

It's after Midnight in Helsinki

But only just past 5 in the evening back home. I keep finding myself wide awake when I ought to be falling asleep.

I thought compulsively correcting the ghastly hem (gruesome photographic evidence to follow) on the darned ermm I mean DElightful baby sweater that I still need to make TWO of by the end of May, would make me sleepy but it has not.

Helsinki is a lovely city. The cast of actors I'm working with at the Svenska Teatern are terrific. They are going to sound wonderful. I've had some really nice walks after the rehearsals.

These guys really made me miss my gang (Cats & Boyfriend) (not necessarily in that order).
And what did I discover? That a really nice yarn shop (Menita) is less than a block from my apartment.
And there is another interesting shop full of Finnish Handicrafts (Taito Shop) that, little did I know, also stocks Finnish wool....
Oh Finnish Handicrafts are beautiful. I think our mum, who is a fan of Marimekko fabrics, instilled a love of this sort of thing into me and all my siblings at a very young age. It is going to be hard not let my inner magpie override my bank account......

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Bouquet

It's the 1st of May!
I turned the page on my calendar and this is what it wrote:
All the flowers
of all the tomorrows
are in the seeds of today.
Indian Proverb.

Under the influence of spring,
which is a pleasant thing to be delirious about,
here's the sort of yarn and colours I brought home from the fair last Saturday.

I have to start with this.
I love to smell this yarn. It smells like clean sheep. I would put in next to me at night so I could inhale it in my sleep but I don't think it would go over that well with the Cats & Boyfriend.
It was only $3 a skein. I bought 2. True, it is not fancy and full of silk or merino but look at it!
Good honest wool.
One of the ladies sheared it from her brother's sheep though she didn't spin the fleece herself.
It was from the Roving Spinners.

Next up is Diana Latvian yarn from Headwater Wools.
This is another good solid yarn. Affordable. Not super soft, but soft enough. Chunky weight. I have a bit of this already. It knits up nicely and wears well. More to add to the collection. I think I might have enough to try a Wooly Thoughts Blanket.

A little purple silk from Fiddlesticks. It was reduced in price a bit. Perhaps I should have got more than one ball, but my intention with this is to strand it with the some silk/mohair blends I already have and do some more wristlets...

I actually won a raffle prize this year. Some Fleece Artist "Marina". With a pattern for it. "Coco". Not sure if I will go with the pattern, I rarely do. But I like the colours. The blues are wonderful. It is machine washable. I feel a hat coming on.

Linda and I strolled around, loosing track of time. Linda had actually brought some patterns she was planning on making up. She had a plan! What a concept. So some of our browsing was focused on particular types and weights. Then we hit the "GoodBuy" yarn stall. They have all sorts of yarns, ends of lines, discontinued, overstock, last year's shades etc etc. at least25 - 50 % off the original price. And this year they organized their stall by colour. We had too much fun. Linda declared that it was better than Winners. (If you're not near a Winners store, it is an emporium of mostly new clothing, some of it designer, some of it really rather nice and usually half the regular price.)
Here's what I dug out of the GoodBuy bins:
This lovely shade of blue Rowan Cotton Tape for making some Scribble Lace scarves and shawls with more of that mohair/silk stuff I've accumulated in my collection.

How's this. A skein of Noro Iro. I don't care what I do with this eventually. I just like looking at it.

I don't think you can really go wrong with Noro yarn. If I ever get to Japan again, I am going to try really hard to visit the workshop. I must see Mr. Noro in action. How do they do it?

One ball of Noro Aurora. Yes LuLu, that's right is does pick up the blue in your eye.

A skein of Cotton Fleece. Terracotta. Just right to highlight some greens and turquoise that I have of the same yarn...

The variegated green yarn is called Joy, from Needful Yarn. It is pure Merino and looks like it will be good for felting. Actually it looks like it was made for felting.

As we were paying for our finds, the young lady told us that GoodBuy does a big yarn sale every Thursday in July and August at Village Yarns.
I have a sneaking suspicion I know what Linda & I are going to be doing on the odd Thursday in the heat of the summer. We will drag new knitters on tight budgets and let them have a go at all this great stuff. Well, maybe we'll make sure to tell them to come about an hour after we get there....
This lovely heather fingering has been in my collection for too long. I have 10 skeins of it. I got them all for 10 dollars at a second hand store in Beacon Hill , Boston. 15 Years ago. Never knew what to do with it until I saw this:And I think they are rather nice together.
Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift from Camilla Valley Farm. Gee, looks like a nice place to take a drive to or better yet, bicycle to.... hmmm...
I have to get over my sweater-phobia one day and do a fair isle type garment. But I think some hats or mitts might be quite nice with this. Or a shawl.
Anyway now the purple yarn has some friends and it seems happy. I hope it doesn't have to wait another 15 years before it is knit up. I wonder how old it really is....

One final purchase (well there is one more but I'm not ready to expose it yet).
A skein of good honest yarn, Cascade 220. Part of which was destined to become my first attempt at a Klein Bottle hat as taught by Debbie New.

Which so far only looks like this
and is big enough to make a smashing egg warmer. Debbie New is on a different plane. Multi-dimensional.

...What's that LuLu? You think I'm spending too much time out here playing with yarn instead of you? Yes, I suppose the clouds are rolling in, it does look like rain, doesn't it. Fine, we'll go in. Yes, I'll wait until you've finished nibbling your grass...
I'll admire my bouquet.