Getting technical

Considering I've been knitting obsessively for years, it's surprising how few stitches and techniques are solidly, reliably in my memory and ready to go. The list is pretty short: just the basic stitches (knit, purl, yarn-over, k2tog, ssk), the cable cast-on, the long-tail cast-on, a plain bind-off, and weaving in ends properly. Using these and no more, I could make a huge array of knitted stuff. But I'm a nerd and a perfectionist, so I'm always on the look out for new tricks that can add refinement or something cool or special. And that's where the internet and the library come in. :)

This afternoon I was finishing off the top of a knitted mitten, and as always, I had to look up a tutorial on grafting to remember the moves. Looking through my browser bookmarks, I was struck by just how many techniques I use somewhat regularly but never seem to remember the details from last time.

Grafting the top of a stranded mitten (pattern forthcoming!)

Some of the techniques I've used several times, and still need to look up each time are grafting (aka Kitchener stitch), fancy cast-ons like tubular & twisted German, the wrap-and-turn trick for short rows, bobbles, and Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off. I have a few favourite sites that I look up when I need to learn a new technique or remind myself of one. If it's not there or if I still don't 'get' it, I try searching on Youtube, or the Ravelry forums, or Google.

My favourite knitting instruction sites:
And in book form:
  • Little Red in the City by Ysolda Teague (jersey and cardigan patterns, plus how to get a good fit and other tricks)

I'm much less adventurous with crochet than I am with knitting, so I don't need to look up techniques as often (I mostly stick with basic stitches and granny squares). Continuing my round-up of favourite reference sites and books, here are my crochet handy-helpers:
  • The Attic24 blog ('Patterns and Tutorials' links in the left sidebar)

Lastly, here are my favourite spinning how-tos (I'm still learning the basics):

I'm sure having these all in one place will save me time next time I need to find that one particular video or photo-tutorial. I hope you find some of these helpful! If I've missed any great sites or books, please do share. :)

Handmade: Day 2

This morning I had choir as usual at St Mary's, but with a couple of incidents that weren't entirely usual. During Mass, Olivia and I sang the Monteverdi duet we'd been working on (a 'Salve Regina' setting), and it went really well. We'd had a good run-through before Mass, which helped our confidence a lot. I'm even getting more used to leading now. But alas, Olivia is departing to Berlin to pursue her art career. The choir had a farewell lunch (bring-a-plate style), and it was all a bit sad. But she has promised to return after a year or so, and keep us up-to-date with her adventures via email.

Afterwards, I headed over to Te Papa for more crafting at the knit lounge. I hadn't signed up for any classes for today, so I just hung out and did some spinning and knitting and chatting. A couple of people had brought their spinning wheels, which was cool to watch. I started spinning some rainbow merino on my wee turkish spindle (both recently acquired).

When I got sick of spinning, I switched to working on the little knitted bag that I started at yesterday's two-handed knitting class. Happily, I still remembered how to do it! Still awkward, but I shall keep practising. Eventually I started making mistakes and dropping needles, so I took a hint and called it a day. Time to curl up with a pot of tea and my kindle... :)

Handmade: Day 1

First up, Willie accompanied me to a lecture about the history of knitting: "Proud Knitters: A History of Communities of Strangers". It was really fascinating! I didn't know people used to write in to magazines and answer each other's crafting questions, much like we now do online. Or that paper shortages during the war affected how detailed patterns in magazines instructions could be - that explains the extreme brevity of many older patterns, which are so hard for us to figure out today. We're used to being given much more detail!

After the lecture, Willie headed out to a family lunch and I went to the 'knit lounge' to hang out before my afternoon class. I tried out some GIANT knitting needles, which were rather hard on one's arms (bloody cool though)...

I had brought a knitting project to work on, but I noticed no-one was spinning, so I decided to get out my spindle and represent. ;) I got a few curious folks watching and asking questions, and one little boy tested my fibre for softness by rubbing it on his nose (eww). The Holland Road Yarn Co folks had lots of yarn and fibre and needles and things for sale, and I fell in love with this merino spinning fibre:

I'm a sucker for pretty colours.

My afternoon class was over in the town hall, so some of us trooped over there together. I'm glad I booked early for "Two-Handed Stranded Knitting", because it sold out. It was definitely worth seeing the technique in person rather that from a book, because it was a bit tricky to get my head around. We started making our little bags by knitting 'normally', and then learned to knit with our other hand. In my case this meant holding the yarn in my left hand and scooping it off my left index finger to make each stitch.

Once we'd mostly got the hang of that, the teacher (Morag of Vintage Purls) showed us how to alternate stitches with the two strands of yarn held in one-in-each-hand. It actually wasn't too awkward after the practice I'd had knitting with my left hand, although I was knitting tighter than usual. After the alternating stripes, we started on a charted picture of two birds, learning how to secure the long floats at the back as we went. I didn't get very far on the birds, but it'll be good to keep practising so I don't forget what I've learned.


I've been working on my Chickadee cardie in fits and starts, and the sleeves are now complete! It's starting to look recognisably cardie-shaped at last:

I inserted a 'lifeline' (some scrap cotton yarn) through the row just before the garter stitch cuffs at the end of each sleeve, in case I need to backtrack and alter the sleeve length when it's finished. Once I've knit more of the body I'll be able to try it on and check the fit. I'm now onto a section of plain old stockingette until the waist decreases start. Good dvd-time knitting.

I've also been playing with my new turkish spindle. Learning to use a bottom-whorl type was a bit tricky at first, and I had to look up how to even start! But I now have a few metres of 'singles' that I'm going to wash, and see how they come out. I love the way the singles wrap around the blades of the spindle. It looks cool while spinning too, like a little helicopter...

My new cabled hat design is also getting closer to fruition. I've finished swatching and drafting out my charts, and I'm finally ready to start knitting. Some nice cables will be a good contrast to all the plain stockingette in the cardie - I like having projects on the go with different attention requirements, so there's pretty much always something that I can pick up and work on.
Here is my yarn for hat sample #1, all wound and ready to go. :)

Market Day Madness

This morning Willie and I went along to the Wellington Underground Market, which was having its annual 'Wonders of Wool' themed day. Willie was there in his capacity as second-opinion-giver, sanity-checker, and lunch buddy, and we had a blast!

First up, I located Frances' stall because I was keen to buy another spindle. It turns out she went to primary school with Willie briefly! Small world...

I tried a couple of different spindles, and ended up deciding on a little 'turkish' spindle, because it's a completely different type to my top-whorl. Should be interesting to learn how this one behaves, and how it affects my spinning. I also got a wooden wraps-per-inch gauge, which will be useful for measuring the thickness of my finished yarn (which I need to know for deciding what to knit from it). And the rainbow merino fibre totally had my name on it. ;)

Frances' online shop is Spindles By Sourkraut on Etsy - but you have to be quick to snap up a spindle, they always sell out fast.

Next, I found the Little Wool Co. corner, and picked up the two cones of 'Walnut' 4ply I've been hankering after for a Stasis Pullover, plus two skeins of 'Lime' for a Cria cardie. The skein of 'Amethyst' had to come home with me too - it's a really intense pink/purple that will be great for a scarf or shawl or little cardie...

Then it was time to sit down and have a cuppa and a bite to eat, before having a browse at the Holland Road Yarn Company's stand, which had lots of lovely imported brands I'd never seen before. I snagged a squishy skein of Three Irish Girls merino for the cabled hat I'm working on the design for, and I completely failed to resist a skein of Fyberspates silk/merino laceweight (the colour is 'Treacle Toffee', yum)! I think it might become a Barley Sugar cowl...

Tash also wrote out directions for getting to the HRYC's knit night via bus, but alas, it falls on Thursdays, which is choir night. But she's trying to get a Saturday morning group going too, which would suit me much better. I shall have to make an effort and head out there, to the wilds of Petone!