Friday, 28 December 2007

a tea cozy of a different kind

I was looking for a small handmade gift for my friend, as all the others (sounds grand, but they are of the small kind:)) have been bought. one of them is a "sheepy" tea mug, so I decided that a tea cozy might be nice for this. I saw several designs, but the used mugs had very different shapes, so I decided to make my own. the mug is wider at the bottom and the top rim, so I had to take this into account. I have done quite a few things out of a lambswool single that I dyed with natural colours of all kinds. actually I think I must have dyed about 5-8 kg in 50 g hanks over 2 years or so, and there are lots of small amounts of different colours left (no wonder that I still have a fair-isle bag in knit-felt on my mind.....). the problem is that the natural colours do change a lot when felted with washing powder in the machine, but I didn't want to felt this tiny piece alone! so I tried to stay on the safe side - and chose light yellow (dyed with gorze flowers) and a slightly muted orange (dyed with dahlia flowers). I counted out an old knitfelted sample in the hope that it might fit after felting.

with hindsight I should have done the bottom part differently - maybe a circle done with short rows would have been a good idea, but I didn't want to take up stitches on the side. so I cast on 9 stitches on dpn and increased every 2nd row until I had the necessary 68 stitches - which sounds a lot, but as I said the pot is as wide on the bottom as it is on the top! I then knitted several rows of stocking stitch in a single colour to form a ridge. after 5 or 6 rows I picked up the stitches from the back of the knitting further down (the last row of 2 colour-knitting) and knitted the live stitches together with those - to form a "fold". then I continued knitting in rows with two colours until I had to do short rows for the area where the drinker's mouth will be during use. I finished it all off with an attached i-cord that I grafted together over the handle of the mug. it looks far too big to ever fit - a bit like a too large sweater on a child:))

after felting - the whole thing fits like a glove - lucky me, it worked on the first try:)) the light yellow didn't change at all during the felting, only the orange became more intense! now I am thinking "spring" and "flowers" - and I think I'll embroider a few simple flowers on to it. of course the warming effect won't be perfect as most of the heat of a cup of tea will probably escape through the open cup - but I figured that it might not be so nice to add a woollen lid - as fibres in the tea are a big put-off, at least for me!
after christmas means all presents are done - and I can finally start something new and (hopefully) exciting! well, I still have to do the next birthday present of course, but I am going to start a sample right now, a shawl pattern in lace, where I have to test if I should use the yarn single thread (very fine) or doubled up. just enough for an hour of knitting or so - no more "knit allnighters" for me for a little while at least!

Friday, 21 December 2007

surprise parcels are the best!

I received a nice parcel in the mail today! a fibre friend from germany had ordered some spindolyns in the US a while ago and one of them was for me, seen here in the middle (the brass hook at the top didn't fit the photo). I also knew that I'd receive a kilo of cotton top eventually, but the silk top, the fine silk yarn in skeins, the linen and the grey and white balls of "pre-draughted" top came as the surprise (as were all the sweets and lebkuchen:)). as I just finished all the christmas presents etc. I am quite happy to work on some of the materials during the xmas holidays (not that I'd suffer from boredom otherwise, but new fibres always beg to be tested?)
I could not resist testing the spindle and used some of the lovely silk - and it turned out that the blues and greens would be perfect for my hummingbird silk challenge! now I just have to find out which dyes were used on it....
the very fine (I am talking finer than sewing thread!) silk will be great for doing embroidery - I'll dye it with natural colours I think. I have no plans for the two balls on the right, but I am sure I'll find some good use for those. it is a commercial preparation for spinning machines, like very, very thin pencil rovings, which can be spun without further drafting as they are - or of course draughted out even finer for thinner yarns, to be plied most likely. I guess I could also use them as they come for knitting, as long as I give it a slight turn from time to time during the work.
back to the kitchen and the cookie tins - which still have to be filled!

Monday, 10 December 2007

not everything works out as planned....

when I came home from a visit to wales in october 06 I was very keen to start knitting with the three skeins of alpaca and alpaca/silk mixture I bought from Meadowsweet Alpacas. the yarn is lovely, soft and silky, about needle size 3,5 to 4. I wanted to make a dubbelmossa, a nordish hat that's very warm, for my DH. this is done by knitting a long "tube", which is later doubled up, i.e. one side is stuffed into the other; where the rim is folded over, there are really 4 layers of knitting. ideally suited to "cold heads"! I didn't have a proper pattern, but the basic instructions I found somewhere online were simple enough to translate into my own. so I knitted away until I came to the area of the upper layer, where I'd have to do the decreases - when I realised that the whole thing is probably too big, even when a second layer is put inside the first. I managed to come this far - but now I had to face it - frogging was imminent! I put the whole thing on long circulars and put it over my head (yep, I am a big-headed girl - not pig-headed though - well, most of the time at least:)) - far too large even for me and my Hagrid hair:( it nearly fell down over my head, so I can safely say that nothing else but taking it apart will help. the one good thing that came out of it: when looking at the photograph I realised that I didn't like the distribution of the three colours all that much! when doing it all over again, I'll use the colours differently - less dark brown in the upper part of the wide pattern, more below - and vice versa for the light colour! the lower border pattern can be quite wide as there are no decreases to work in this part. on the other hand it will be covered by the folded rim - so I might rethink the whole pattern after all..... who said knitting hats is easy and straight-forward?:)) well, it'll have to wait a little longer - I am still working on the other alpaca hat -black, grey and white and handspun. should be done today though - the scarf out of the same yarns will follow next.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

praise where praise is due....

... or handspun versus commercial yarns

ever since I learned how to spin I became more critical of commercially available knitting yarns. now, I am not saying that everyone who usually buys yarns in the lower price range or poly-yarns (or even cheaper mixes) should consider spinning their own. it does take some time and effort to do! but when compared with the high-priced yarns available (and let's face it, most nicer yarns are quite pricey) I do sometimes wonder if handspun wouldn't result in at least the same if not better quality. e.g. the noro quality of silk garden didn't convince me at all - esp. given the high prices those balls are leaving the shelves for!

so I was a bit reluctant to order some pure alpaca yarns recently - but I just didn't have the time to handspin them. I ordered Artesano hummingbird, in the colourways kingfisher and pheasant, 14 euro per 150 g. and to my delight they turned out absolutely gorgeous! the colours are strong and the yarn is soft and smooth - and I am very tempted not to knit the planned socks out of it - but something less hidden by pants and of course less stressed than socks. I don't know how durable the socks turn out to be, but I have to admit that I most likely won't be able to do a scarf or even larger projects with just the one skein each - so it has to be the socks....

I finished "Henry" - the woven-looking scarf from the last knitty issue. the cast-on was interesting, worked well as did the knitting. not difficult, as long as one checks the front every now and then - miscounting has to be tinked as every mistake is visible from a mile away. I wasn't happy with the tubular bind-off though as it doesn't look at all like the cast-on (as is claimed in the instructions), but more like a narrow, but normal rib! I did and undid it 5 times (quite a job as it isn't just frogged, you have to "unsew" the whole and very long row) - until I left it the best way I could. still not perfect, but the best I could do.

I also spun two of the three natural alpaca colours - the white is still on the bobbin for another day or two. the black was hard to photograph, but it is even nicer than the grey, lustrous and smooth - I'll definitely spin some more of this soon! I was thinking of maybe combining it with black mulberry silk, one single yarn done up as a two-ply. though I'll have to be careful with the knitted project, as the yarn will be quite heavy and probably prone to "hang out" a bit.

I have to be careful not to plan too many new projects for the time after christmas - the spring months are already filling up nicely - with one alpaca sleeveless vest and at least two lace shawls (never mind the small stuff like socks etc. that always comes in between...)