Friday, 25 April 2008

In the Land of the Living...just about!

Well, I'm sitting here with a glass of red and it's the first night I've felt up to a little light blogging...Typical, blogger's getting cranky about adding pictures ! If they look a bit different, It's 'cos I'm grabbing them straight from Flickr 'cos Blogger's given up the ghost altogether now.

Considering I still feel like a used dishrag, I'm pretty confident in upgrading the "cold" to "flu" and it most certainly cramped my style when it came to speed knitting as I plain and simply could not put in the hours I needed. I also lost around 3-4 hours knitting time on the first day because I needed to go up a needle size and frogged a heartbreaking amount of knitting but to be honest was quite relieved when I figured out I was out of the game, there was no shame to have been beaten by someone who'se tagline is "Fast 'n' Furious Knitter!"

The nice thing about no longer being in the race was that as this sock had an afterthought heel, I could go straight ahead and try the cool dyeing technique as soon as I'd grafted the toes.

This was what I started with before I let loose with the paintbrush...

Chrispindles shadies in progress

...Plain, simple lovely Rowan 4ply Soft on 2.25mm needles; and this is what it looked like after I let loose with the paintbrush...

Chrispindle's something shady socks

...Or how about the back?...

Chrispindle's something shady socks 2

...Well, 2 hours later that's what they looked like anyway! A little micro-steaming to set the colours and an overnight drying led to the heels finally being reunited the following day when I could officially try them on for the first time, the foot length being a total gamble but fortuitously being just right...

Chrispindle's shady socks 1

...Or what about this angle?

shady socks 2

...Or this one?

shady socks 3

To say I am incredibly pleased with these socks would be an understatement even though they do have quite an insane quality about them! Quite whether they will get much actual use is another matter, I kind of feel like they need framing for posterity!

Voting has now opened for round 3 socks and my " Sox and the City" has got a mention, you should look at all the fab entries on the Sock Madness website and vote for your favourite, there's some fun pics!

Well, round 5 continues on Sunday and, braving the weather, I headed out to a local(ish) stitch fair today to stock up on extra supplies, more about that next time but suffice to say, a good time was had by all. I may be out of the running but I'll still get a kick out of knitting along.

Thanks to all the wellwishers for your words of support. Now, if I could just get rid of this pesky cough and get some energy back...

Sunday, 20 April 2008


Sorry folks, I'm just too whacked to post much today. The cold's got to my chest (as these things do) so it's a bit of a fight to breathe at the moment. Ah well, off to the doc's tomorrow and with a little luck I should start to feel more human by the end of the week.

Doesn't bode well for round 4 tomorrow! I'm sort of looking forward to the next pattern with its toe-uppedness, afterthought heel, possible japanese heel technique and dip dyeing after being knitted. However, I haven't had the energy to knit much at all today, a simple toe foxing me! These things are sent to try us....

Friday, 18 April 2008

I Habe a Code in by yet more sock pics

No, honestly, my nose is streaming right now, I've taken the usual paracetamol which lasted all of half an hour so I've just got to tough it out so excuse me if there's more than the usual typing errors, I was probably mid-sneeze!

I really wanted to post to express my undying gratitude to all of you who have left such fab comments on my blog; JO who I found thru the power of ravelry (and our joint love of all things Colinette!), Donna who I met thru a quirk of fate and recently visited her knitting group; Riggwelter whose progress I've followed for a wee while; the lovely Quilter Sal who's written such nice things about me recently and is a fellow Sock Madness competitor; not forgetting sweet Romelda who despite going through all kinds of trials, still finds the time to catch up every once in a while. Then there's Kath and Anne who helped me join the madness of blogland in the first place and plenty more people I've "met" thru swaps and competitions. Far too many to mention, but thank you, all for you for your fab words, it's great to know my humble little diary's being read and enjoyed when there are far greater and more interesting posters out there.

Anyway, I've been mulling over recent posting and decided that things have been getting a wee bit stale. It's all too easy to just nip upstairs to the bedroom, snap a few shots of works in progress and make do but I decided the last pair of socks really needed a location shoot.

You see, there's been a competition each round, not for the first past the post (not me!) but for creativity. It was originally intended I think to encourage those who didn't complete their socks in time to add their own twists on the design but has blossomed into something quite different. The winner of the first prize staged a zombie-inspired black and white pic. with 2 feet advancing towards a scared prone figure. I was sure that the lady snapped knitting whilst on a log flume ride would win round 2 so I gave up trying to find a floor-length mirror to try my idea but instead, another lady with a poem and a series of pictures won.

I hasten to add that my entry was composed before I found out that the poem-inspired entry had won based on my frustration of finding a truly innovative setting. Still, I used what I could find around me, may I present: Sox and the City:

"I may never win prizes for speed;
though I knit as fast as I can...."

"....I'll never be seen on a thrillride (I'm a wimp!);
or get snapped with a famous man...."

".....I just need to use what I have;
to create my official entry..."

"...So please look kindly and vote;
For my "Sox and the City"
(From the top, there's Sox in the Blossom; Sox on the Rox; Sox on the beach and Sox and the City and yes, they are meant to have a double-entendre!). You can vote from the Sock Madness site link once all the entries are listed so we shall see, at least I know I've tried.

See, I can stage them when I have the time!

Anyway, we had a bit of drama today; hubbie's taken a day off to have a long weekend (he needs it, poor love!) so we were slobbing in the front room (well, he was playing bowling on the nintendo Wii nad I was nursing my cold) when one of these rolled by:

I did take a number of shots but unfortunately Blogger's playing silly buggers but you get the idea, as hubbie said "They're stealing our road!!!"

Or to be more precise, a bit of our road, ready for where the speed hump will be placed. They've been carving up the roads nearby adding speed bumps to slow the traffic down so it looks like we're next. They've cut an awful long strip though, I'm sure they're not THAT big!

It was rather funny though, watching it roll by threading between the cars. It's parked there tonight so it's a good job it's not bro's turn to visit us this weekend.

In other knitterly news, I've cast on yet another new project, this time a pair of (UK) size 10 socks for a fella, a knitting commision that I'm fitting in amongst my otherwise crowded schedule. I'm not rushing to finish them though, I've got a month to complete them so little and often's the name of the game. the next round of Sock Madness begins for me on Monday afternoon, only half the current entrants can go through to the next round (6) and even if I do, the next one's bound to clash with the holidays so I can definitely see the end in sight. I will still knitalong to the end though, just in a little less frantic manner!

I'm a nadge away from completing the collar on the freedom sweater too...

...I got exactly halfway around the cast-off edge before the yarn ran out. I purchased another ball and even though it's a different dye lot, using it as the cast off edge and sewing up only won't make it look too different. I ended up doing only 2 repeats of the bobble pattern rather than the recommended 4 and I think this collar length suits the shorter style much better. Oh well, maybe you'll see a FO on Sunday...then again, maybe not, depends how much I want to sew up tomorrow!

I think Floppy's starting to pose for the camera....

...He spent a full minute stuck there with his foot in his ear waiting for me to grab the camera and take the photo then forgot to scratch and put it down again...dogs!

Monday, 14 April 2008

Sock Madness Update

As I was typing up my blog, the final positions have been filled for the next round...all 4 teams have their 12 competitors, phew that was fast! I know Jo had said it would get crazy but....
Roll on round 4 (after I've recovered from Round 3!)

Spiralling into Madness (and other fibrely pursuits)

This weekend has been exceptional...that's putting it mildly! After the anti-climactic ending of round 2 which had us all twiddling our thumbs waiting for the last player to finish when someone did a recount and found the final post had actually been filled 5 days earlier; round 3 started rather abruptly 3 days 1.30am...on a Friday when I was doing a weekend dyeing course...hmm, this was going to be a toughie!

I knew I had Friday free to get a head start but that I would be more than usually tied up on the weekend as I would be driving myself (and you can't knit AND drive!). Bizarrely, I woke around 3.30am and after trying to get to sleep, just had to fire up both computers to print off the latest pattern which I read the relevant first instructions in the light of the computer room then proceeded to knit in the dark of the bedroom to avoid waking the hubbie who was after all, working the next day.

Great plan, shame about the reality...don't get me wrong, I often knit simple stuff without looking at it BUT that green and that purple both look black in the dark! So, after casting on with the wrong yarn and knitting a row (luckily, I mucked that up enough to both wake the hubbie so I could temporarily shed a little light on the situation, realize my mistake and remedy it). Great, lost half an hour there, but never mind...cast on with the right yarn, but in doing so, I knocked my other circular needle on the floor so whilst I managed to knit (albeit slowly) one rib in the dark, there was no way I could cast on for the second sock until it was light.

So, head down for an hour and back awake at 6.15am when I could see the floor, see the circular and as hubbie was getting awake, rustle in the bag I'd put the second balls of yarn! I had a couple of hassle free hours doing the second rib and starting with the slip stitch pattern. Can I say that of the patterns so far, I found this the most intuitive and whilst the patterning became cumbersome in the final stages when I was on my knees with tiredness, on the whole I was far more able to watch rather than listen to a movie which was a godsend.

The progress pic was added around 2pm Friday, I was all sorted, I had lunch in the fridge, soup on the stove for tea and apart from a half hour skelp round the shops and a memory like a sieve (I'd turned up to a dentist's appointment that had been booked for 2 days previously), I worked like a trojan and by 9pm that evening, both socks were past the heel and on to the gusset decreases. A quick bath and a little extra knitting before bed took me a little further but I needed my sleep.

Now came the tricky part, I could manage a half hour in the morning and had got my stuff together for the workshop the night before. Hubbie bless him, offered to make the sandwiches (it was a buffet-style affair) but didn't know what he'd let himself in for what with beef and white rolls, ham salad baguettes and so on! Anyway, I got on my way deciding to try the motorway version avoiding the tunnel charges but as it was busy and there was a lot of spray from lorries, it definitely took longer. Still, I got myself there safely, explained to Debbie (who was running the weekend) my predicament and apologised if she caught me knitting in the lulls. There were a few lulls on the Saturday in in between dyeng batches of sample strands so I was well and truly on the foot and by putting in a herculean effort when I got home (and ordeing out for food!), I was a few rows off completing the toe by bedtime.

Sunday morning, the first thing I did was reach for the needles, finish the toe then attack the other sock. Hubbie, bless him once again agreed to take me and pick me up hence I got vital knitting time in there and back and whilst I spent an intensive few hours "playing" with natural dyes (I never thought I'd hear myself say that!), when my back finally gave out around 2pm, it was the perfect excuse to sit and pick up the needles and keep on going...which I did...even when everyone left at 3.30pm and I was left on my own in the hall until hubbie arrived. But I didn't mind, not really, I was too busy knitting!

These were completed at breakneck speed around 9pm that night, I'd snapped at hubbie, cursed a dozen times and we raced upstairs to take this shot...then realized the toe looked weird because of a crease in the throw so it was back upstairs again for another one.

I have realized that all my competition socks are full of dog hairs on the underside because the first thing I do is race upstairs with hubbie in tow for the pic then race back down in my newly clad feet to upload them on the laptop! I then tend to mooch around online waiting for the e-mail, posting my pic on Ravelry and end up walking back upstairs to bed in 'em. I do love the colours though, it's a mix of Knitpicks Shadow Vineyard heather (purple) and Posh Yarn Gloria "cobweb" cashmere in "Exotic". It was a weeny 40g skein left at the end of a sale 'cos nobody wanted a measly 500yds but as soon as I saw it I thought...perfect! Knowing my colour wheel, purple and green are complementary colours and can clash BUT the green had blue in it and so did the purple which was dark so the colours zing but don't sting!

I got in, ninth place and the twelfth person finished only 3 HOURS later! If I'd had extra sleep, rested, waited until Monday Morning I'd have been doomed!...But I'm not sure whether I'll be that dedicated next round, I'll wait and see the pattern first!

Anyway, this poor neglected dyeing weekend, what did we do (aside from knit of course!)?

Well, Saturday was spent putting bunches of strands of yarn into dyepots on the stoves then waiting for them to be ready in batches of four. In between times, there was a HUGE amount of mordanting going on (one of the reasons that I generally avoid natural dyeing like the plague!).

Having 15 different colours to get through, it took a while but even at that stage I realized that using the concentrated powders where all the effort of extracting the colour was already done and the colours were more consistent, I began to warm to the subject. Throughout the day, we collected our samples then towards the end, we modified the colours by placing a single strand in a chemical bath for a few minutes. Iron generally dulled and darkened the colours (technical term "saddened" which seems quite appropriate); citric acid affected some ore than others but sometimes brightened the colours and sodium carbonate, an alkaline affected the reds most.

It was a packed day to get everything in but the knowledge we learned was crucial to the following day when we were let loose to "play"!
I was particularly impressed by the fact that you can rainbow dye effectively and tried a few techniques that I hadn't thought of before. Being over-prepared (as usual!) I'd brought masses too much yarn and fibre to mordant so I still have a couple of skeins to dye at home. I DO think the colours are different and unusual enough to warrant the work, particularly with the dye preparation removed BUT I'll never fully convert to natural dyeing, not when acid dyeing is so much easier! It was great fun though!

Anyway, in order not to be accused of not finishing anything, here is the latest photo of the Freedom wool sweater.

Well, it was sewn up on Wednesday but as the collar proved too much for my mathematically challenged brain, it remains as written. I felt I couldn't give it my full attention so close to the next sock so it has been on hold 'till today and hopefully will be knitted in the next day or so. Watch out for a FO on Sunday then!

I also forewent the Tuesday evening knitting group to join a new group at Borders that meets once a month. Of course, that was on the day I'd just finished the sleeve and didn't a) fancy sewing it up and b) fancy picking up the collar and knitting it while chatting etc. so, I ...

...cast of for another project! Yup, this is how far I've got on the back of the freedom spirit cardi I showed you last time, so I won't need to worry once I've finished the first one...and it's good for easy knitting at the knitting groups!

There's a thread on the Sock Madness group over on Ravelry that goes " you know you've got Sock Madness when..."; well, I added a few points this time but this was the cruncher.. ...when you've bought yarn off ebay but you don't have the time to look at it!

Guess what I did this morning! It's mostly oddments of 4ply wool and silk yarns, some full 100g balls, lots of in-betweenies, a huge indulgence, I know but I have plans...they might not mature for a while though, so don't hold your breath!

The origin of Floppy:

People have often asked why Biscuit (being black) is so named, you'd not ask that if you saw her foodie abilities! Floppy's name however is somewhat harder to catch...but I got it!

His favourite position, if not slid down your leg and flopped on one of your feet is...
...on his back, legs in the air ...
...And particularly rolling around the floor! (now you know why all my competition socks have dog hairs on the feet!).

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Finding the Perfect Project for in between the Madness

It's been a busy weekend checking in at regular intervals to see how many more of the competitors have got through to the next round and as I type, 2 of the divisions have met their target of 20 and there is around 5 spaces (sorry, four!) left between the other 2 teams. This means that the next pattern is imminent within a week or so and I needed a new project to fit in between times when I don't have access to the computer or inclination to lace knit.

And yes, I know I said I wanted to trim my UFO's but there's a reason why most of them are UFO's! Either they're too difficult; I've altered the original pattern and not made notes so I have to guess what my original plan was; it was meant to be a simple project that backfired; it was one of the two eyelash projects that seemed like a good idea at the time but now...

So I'm left mulling over casting on something new BUT with the weight of reasons WHY the UFO's became UFO's I sure as heck don't want to add to the pile! On Friday, I bit the bullet, transported half a hundred weight of books in my backpack to my friend's house (even that has a tale attached!) and spent a couple of hours mulling through everything and narrowing down the choices.

This was one of the shortlist, I love the 2-colour approach and the loose kimono-like elements of it BUT I need to buy more of the red to complete it AND I'd be eating into a full pack of the blue when it could otherwise make a whole sweater. As the idea this time was to eat into existing stash, this one had to be put on the later pile.

I could use the pack of blue to knit one of these BUT I've just finished knitting with this stuff, I need a break!

This design is stunning, I picked up the book on holiday after seeing a knitted version in the window in a glorious red. Unfortunately, I began knitting it in Jaeger Matchmaker which was obvoiusly thicker and after around half a back, doomed it to be frogged. I have since bought the proper yarn for this project in a darker red so it's all ready to go...but it's not, not yet. The thing is, that fab cable is a 37 row pattern and whilst it's not complicated, it is very difficult to see what row you're on if you finish mid-way through. Plus, it's another longer term project and I don't need that right now.

Then there's this, prefect for the Noro Cash Iroha I picked up recently. The hank needs balling but aside from that it's all ready to go AND thicker than a DK. Still, I had to think of my hands and the intensive cabling might put me at a disadvantage for the next, if I hit a problem, would it be harder to pick up at a later point?

Well, I finalised on this pattern, possibly a wee bit wide but it's a rib so it'll pull in and I LOVE the colour blocks of Noro Silk Garden. Simple enough pattern but with plenty of entertainment to keep me knitting in between rounds...Perfect!...Apart from one thing...

You see, whan I pulled out my stash, I found a beautiful but muted shade of Silk garden and some truly vivid Kureyon. I wasn't happy that the colour definition would be good enough AND found another perfect pattern to highlight the subtlety...just not right now (it's the dreaded chevrons again and I need a break or I'll be seeing chevrons in my sleep!).

So, what DID I end up casting on? Something I'd already discounted as too much work BUT the green yarn just kept screaming at me to be knitted and when I found it was 9 and 10mm needles, things changed a bit. I casted on for the back on Friday evening and by lunchtime today I'm here...

...The back is complete, the front is not far off being completed and it has metamprphosised into the perfect project. I've knitted it smaller than my size hoping for a little negative ease and slightly shorter for a) my frame and b) I have one less ball than required for the whole project. It may end in an online purchase to complete the voluminous collar but so far so good. By the way, in the flesh, it's a beautiful olive green, quite vibrant, not the pale imitation you see.

This is the best pic I could get on the 'net, it appears rather difficult to photograph! At the speed it is knitting up, I shall probably have a new FO bevfore round 3 starts, yaay! But then I'll need to choose something else to knit, booo!

Anyway, I promised you an update on Secret of the Stole ii....

It's now mid-way through clue 6 (of 9) and the decreases have made rows a bit shorter but I need to work out exactly what row I finished on ('cos it's a bit obscure) before I continue. Still, slow and steady wins the race too! So far I've not yet used half of the existing ball of cobweb lace though I can see myself joining on the other half by the next clue.

Oh well, off to sort lunch. I've been so inspired by all the recipe ideas from the Sock Madness group that I'm going to be a little more adventurous once I've got to the supermarket. And I need to get the chocolate fudge pudding recipe from my mum, bad for the waistline but oh, so divine!

Thursday, 3 April 2008

April Fools Day Madness (...sock that is!)

Well I was trawling Ravelry on Monday you do..enjoying the luxury of a quite Monday as my usual engagement was busy and patting myself on the back that I'd completed clue 5 and started clue 6 of the Secret of the stole (pics to follow) and the stitch count was reducing when something happened. Well, I'd been elsewhere on the 'net and I came back to the Sock Madness group and there's a new thread called Round 2...Looked in vaguely interested to find that the pattern had been posted 44 mins previously! AAAAARGH!!!!

Race around room retrieving circulars (the lost one that I'd found was fine, the one I'd put in a "safe place" took a while); unearthing yarn bag from the mass of other yarn bags, scanning the pattern and discarding the original yarn idea for one a bit thinner. Start casting on and the phone rings...nononononono...It's all right though, it's only Mel telling me the pattern's here so can keep it short (she understands) and properly start knitting.

I felt so sorry for those poor souls working gnashing their teeth in frustration 'cos those cheeky organisers had released the pattern a day earlier just to freak us all out...which it did! That was the April Fools bit you see, hint that the pattern's coming out on Tuesday then throw a googly instead and watch as the carnage ensues.

Anyway, Monday was a late night, I put the needles down at 11.30pm and picked them up again at 7.30am the next day to get as much knitting time in between shopping and dog walks. At least Tuesdays are knitting heavy anyway with 2 groups at my LYS so you can guess what I brought to do!

I put in a very full day's knitting in on Wednesday drawing up the toes at 10.30pm that evening after knocking back so much Diet Coke that the combination of the elation of finishing the socks and caffeine meant I had very little sleep last night! So I am somewhat punch-drunk at this point and in a fair amount of pain but I can rest for a while now and let the others catch up. I figure that there will be maybe a week more before all 20 in each division go through, possibly longer so there's time to rest and relax before the rigours of the next round. The time in between will get shorter as each round progresses so I'll savour the time I have right now.

So, d'you want to see what I've been busting a gut over?

Meet Reversai socks, sorry the pic's a bit crummy though you can click on it to see it bigger...I will have a better one shortly but I will talk about that another time. As and when that's out of the way, it'll break my heart but I will need to frog both feet back to the heel and replace the garter sole with reverse stocking stitch and a different toe in order that I can truly wear and walk in them. The yarn is Posh yarn possibly Emily 4ply in colourway "Drama", quite appropriate given the dramatic nature of a) the release and b) the pattern!

Unusually, it has a 72 stitch pattern rather than the typical 60+ for my size foot and there were concerns as to how baggy they would be on smaller feet. Despite the width being considerably wider than any other knitted sock I own, the fit is still quite good but it's true selling point for anyone with longer/larger/wider feet is that it s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s quite considerably. One lady actually put both feet in one of hers! It it a bit baggy around the other side of the heel and the garter stitch sole was slow going but I am pleased with the final effect.

Ahead, we still have the delights of a 2 stranded lace sock with slip stitch patterns, an entrelac sock using odds and ends, a toe-up sock and a Japanese heel involving multiple safety pins to name but a few!

I managed a fourth place this round, third last. Of course, the true goal is to be fastest than (in this round) the 21st but I do like to explore how fast I can actually produce a sock. I'm not sure that I'll speed up much through the competition but I love the opportunity to try different techniques that I would otherwise be afraid to tackle.

And what do the poochies think of all this electric tension?

I got this one recently, I was so chuffed that I managed to get Biscuit mid-yawn, they're both too photogenic!