Tuesday, February 28, 2006


The other day I came across this gorgeous creature: Interweave Knit's Corset Pullover. It is bee-youtiful. Admittedly not very corset-y, but lovely in a mediaeval way. I spent a lot of yesterday searching blogs about it, to see if I could pick up any hints and tips, especially about which yarn to use. Well, I dicovered that the actual pattern yarn is for sale on a US website - it's really cheap too (for 'proper' yarn)! Until you factor in postage... Also, as the yarn is discontinued, the remaining colours are pretty bleh.

So the question was: do I want to buy the proper yarn from America, but have it in a colour I don't really like, or do I try and find a substitute? Well, duh! So, I went back to all the blogs to see who made it in what. I noticed that Rowan's Calmer was mentioned: Rowan is British, I am in Britain. Aha! I searched online, the average price is £6 a ball, and I'd need about 6 balls. £36... it's still a lot. It's a lot when you have no income and usually buy your clothes in charity shops! If I normally shopped in TopShop then £36 would be great, but I don't.

However, it is a beautiful pattern. Hmmm.

I had a chiro appointment this morning, so I headed into town. I decided to support my LYS and see if they had the Rowan (you know, just to see. *Twitch*), and to pick up some cheapy acrylic to finish off the Alien Illusion. Now there are 3 places that sell yarn in this town. Two are general craft shops, and one is a regular yarn-only place. None of them sell any Rowan at all! It's all Sirdar and Wendy.

I did get more yarn for the scarf though - I can't match the green so I'm switching to a vibrant purple, and continuing with white. I got two small 25g balls for 49p each. I was worried I'd have to get huge 100g balls that would last for ever! I think the 25g ones will be fine.

So anyway, no Rowan. I don't seem overly upset do I? That's because I had a trawl round the charity shops, ostensibly looking for balls of yarn (ever hopeful I'll find a 10 pack of some amazing wool for 50p or something ;) Never going to happen...), when I realised I could look for jumpers.

Ta daa!!!

It's huge, a size 16, so there should certainly be enough. It's 100% cotton, like the original yarn, and the gauge it currently has (I got my tape measure out in the shop) is 21 stitches and 28 rows - not far off! It's a nice olive green as well, which will suit the pattern. It's from Marks and Spencers, so it should be good quality (there's a small amount of pilling going on, but should be fine), and it's wrong enough that I won't be tempted to wear it rather than frog it ;) Oh, and it was £3.50 :D

Of course, it may be completely impractical. I'd like to undo part of one sleeve first to swatch with, as I could always knit it back and give it back to the charity shop if necessary. First I need to wash it though...

Well, FIRST, I need to finish Tempting. That is the goal. And I can't continue with Tempting until I have finished the slipper-presents, so we're talking next week at the earliest.

I hope it works out! :)

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Monday, February 27, 2006


I've just joined the Stashbusters blog! It seems like a cool way of forcing myself to use up my stash (she says about to place another order for more fibre). In a way I half wish I had a huge stash so I could make random exciting projects - instead, while I have lots of balls of yarn, they are all small balls of crappy yarn in random colours. Hey ho.

I restarted the slippers in a different yarn, but didn't unravel what I'd already done. I'll have to see where they take me!

I practiced spinning again last night, both on the spindle and the wheel. I've got the hang of drafting a bit more, but I think I need to fiddle about with my tension (on the wheel). I think I also have a slow whorl for thick yarns, which might explain why I'm struggling to get consistent thin yarn! I think I'll follow the advice in the Mabel Ross book and completely skew the tension, so that I know what it's like definitely wrong! My main problem on the spindle is joining more fibre; I have that problem on the wheel too, but I have other wheel-issues ;)

I have no idea what I'll do with all this practice wool I'm spinning... hopefully it will felt!

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Starting yet another new project!

I've added yet another WIP to my status bar. I'm rather proud of this piccie - and you should see the gloves one (better I never use that ;) )!

Anyway. I'm making these Mary Jane slippers, as gifts for my sister Sunday and Mr Bee's sister. They both have birthdays next week - let's see if I get them finished in time! I'm using random balls of yarn in my stash, but I'll probably have to frog the little I've done soon, as I don't think I have enough. If that happens I'll restart with stripes. Or maybe I should restart with stripes while I still only have 5% done? ;)

I'm really struggling with writing stuff for my thesis. I really tried this evening but it just wasn't happening. At 11pm I gave up and went back to knitting. When I was looking for the MJ pattern on Craftster - it's the one Figg used for my beautiful slippers you can see early on in my blog - I came across a link to an article with Debbie Stoller, author of Stitch'n'Bitch. It's from The Guardian Weekend - which is my favourite part of The Guardian! The article is from last January, so I guess I must've missed it...

But fantastically - other than being a really interesting article - it has a pdf of the Alien Illusion chart! Hoorah! Now I don't need to carry the book around with me to finish it off!

OK - I think I'm done for today. Off to bed...

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

On the Needles

Eagle-eyed viewers will have noticed a heap of pretty pictures on my sidebar - my progress pictures! I've been considering a status bar for my works-in-progress for a while, and when I came across these neat little pictures I was sold! They come courtesy of Indigirl, and you can check out the Knitting Tracker here.

I've added some extra pictures for items which I'm making which aren't covered in the 6 designs provided. Mine are the crappy ones with a thin outline ;) Hopefully you can make out what they are though!

I have to say that I did struggle a bit with the coding. OK, a lot. But luckily Mr Bee was on hand to rescue me before I screwed up any further. Thank you lovely :)

So at the moment I have 5 Ws-i-P. I'm counting Sonnet given that it still isn't finished because I'm sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo lazy - I only need to sew on one frog. The Alien Illusion scarf is half done, but I've run out of yarn. Same goes for my handspun project - I'm literally 10grams short of fibre, and am going to have to buy 100g to finish it: doh! The Leaf Motif is a scarf I'm knitting for my mum, it was supposed to be for Yule but my RSI put paid to that, so now I'm getting this Yule's presents sorted early ;) I started it last night as we went round to a friend's to watch TV and I needed some knitting that I hadn't run out of yarn to take with me. And finally there's Tempting. I didn't want to take that last night as I need to attach the sleeves before I can get started on the yoke (need to finish one sleeve first) and I just wanted something mindless. I'll probably work on that later while watching TV, but it's nice to work on the Leaf Motif since that isn't knit on small needles.

So, my procrastination for the day has been going very well. I think I had better go write some of thesis...

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Eeek! Crawly things...

The other day I sat down to read a book I'd just got out from the library. It had been in my study for a few days. I put the book on my desk and went to find a jumper as it was a bit chilly.

I decided to look out my Cozy Web, as I hadn't seen it since we moved - back in September! I eventually found it screwed up in a heap with a load of old clothes under the bed. Doh! I put on the CW and went back to my book...

After a while I noticed there were tiny little mites crawling on the desk, near the book and my jumper-clad elbow - yikes!

I started catching them under bits of tape. They were really really tiny - some even more tiny than others - and white. They tended to squish under the tape so I couldn't save a specimen.

They did appear to be radiating out from the book - but then my elbow was on the book.

After a while, when I appeared to have caught them all, I put the book in a plastic tub and the jumper in the bath. I washed the other clothes I was wearing and the ones which had been under the bed. I hoovered around my desk, but can't get under the bed with the vaccuum. I haven't seen any since.

I have searched online and I *think* they were 'book lice' or 'book mites'. I hope my book collection is OK! I was concerned they could be wool mites - I have been kicking myself, wishing I'd either worn the jumper or read the book, and then I'd know for sure!

The book is now taped up in two bags and in the freezer - it will be going back to the library! I handwashed the jumper twice, and had it soaking overnight. Unfortunately it then smelt of mildew, so I stuck it in the washer on the 'wool' cycle. It still smells a tad, so I'll prolly wash it again.

I started a Knitty Coffeeshop thread about it here, and the consensus there is 'ewwwwwwwww' and 'booklice', so I'm guessing the fibre stash is safe. I worry for my precious books though! Luckily Mr Bee's seriously-precious-£££ book collection is in another room. I think the mites were probably just in the book until I opened it so I should be OK, plus they like humidity, and I don't think it's humid here. I'll let the library staff know about it though. Maybe I need to check all my other library books :-/

Eeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww *itchy*

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

More spinning

The other week I placed an order with Wingham Wool Work for some spinnin' stuff. The order took about a week to arrive, but it was so worth it! Check out my stash:

I ordered 100g each of 3 different types of wool, to practise on; 100g of fibre from recycled plastic bottles!; a sample of angora; a drop-spindle; some 'Surina' DPNs; and 'The Essentials of Handspinning' by Mabel Ross.

Well, I still suck at drafting, but I think I think it's meant to be harder than it is, if that makes any sense. I'm better at getting consistent yarn on the drop-spindle, but then that's stop-start, rather than the go-go-go you get with the wheel.

Real wool is itchy though. And the staple length (I think I'm talking about the right thing) is so short that fluff flies everywhere! I had almost no excess fluff with the merino - I think I was spoilt.

I will certainly be buying more merino. I ordered the colour sample set from WWW - I have to return it by next week (otherwise I get charged £14!!!), but I've been taking photos in all kinds of lights to try and get an accurate representation of it. I'll probably place another order when I send back the sampler, 'cos, you know, I'm just made of money ;)

I'm still knitting, don't worry! I'm taking it easy as I've developed an interesting new RSI on the underside of my wrist, which I believe is due to typing (*sigh*). I'm seeing my chiropractor next week. This week I showed two people how to knit. The first gave me back the needles and yarn and said she'd buy her own, but the second took them away to practise with. I hope it clicks for her soon!

Must go and work on my thesis...

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My first ball of handspun!

MMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmm - lovely blue!

This is 100g, approximately 125 yards of 'Ultramarine' merino singles, spun on my Lewis.

I actually finished it over a week ago, and have over half finished the project I'm making with it! Here's a swatch, where I was practising my cabling: I wanted to do a plait, and it looks so pretty.

Unfortunately the colour just doesn't come out properly. This is probably the closest-to-actual colour:

The merino was such a dream to spin, even if there are slubs. I'm certainly going to be spinning more of it in future (maybe more Ultramarine as I think I may be a teeny bit short!).

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Blackberry is finished!

I actually finished it almost a week ago, but just haven't had time to write about it.

I finished casting off on the train to a friend's house, and got to wear it on my visit! I looooooooooooooooooooove the sleeves. The sleeves were the reason why I wanted to make it - they are just perfect. I'm already planning other cardies based around the sleeves!

I decided to make the ribbing the same length as the cuff - 16 rows. I knitted it up to 25 rows, but it looked wrong so I frogged it back to 16. It does fit a little strangely around the front, but I think that's mainly due to the pieces being too small. I have had no 'pouch' problem, partly because I used a special stretchy cast off method (knit 2 stiches, then place them back on the left needle and k2g 1 stitch left on right needle. Knit 1 stich (2 stiches now in right needle), put them back on the left needle and k2g; repeat), and also because I used size 15US needles, rather than the 11US I'd knit the rest on.

It is loverly and warm too!

So, some 'stats':
Needles: Denise 11US (Denise 15US for casting off)
Yarn: 'James C. Brett Top Value', 100% acrylic; less than 5 100g balls, holding 2 strands together (I'm so glad I didn't buy 12 balls of it!).

And I like these two pics, even though they came out crappy, as they look kinda Victorian:


Friday, February 10, 2006

Spinning Wheel - technical issues

I contacted Haldanes about my spinning wheel - which is why there are loads of random photos of the wheel in the previous post (I sent them the link).

I was told that my wheel is a 'Lewis'! It's good to know what it actually is. Lewis wheels were started in about 1980 and stopped production in 1994, so I have a vague date to my wheel.

A Lewis has a plastic connector from the footman to treadle, and also runs in ball bearings. That threw me a little, which is why I took all the photos of the wheel axle. After seeing the photos the Haldanes man also said I was missing a 'spring pin', so I ordered one from them, and also a drive band. They were really lovely to order from!

I think I'll stick to string for the time being as my drive band, as I'm still ironing out issues with it, but it's good to have a 'proper' one to hand. Although the instructions are for a single drive wheel (not a problem as I know how to thread up a double drive) and make reference to some 'grooved wooden block' which I don't have (but can improvise). As for the spring pin... I have no idea what to do with it!

This is what the email said:
"The crank (which goes through the wheel hub) should have a pin through it which goes through the hub and through the drilled hole in the crank. They are called spring pins."

Now to me that suggests that this pin is going to go through the hub of the wheel AND through the hole in the crank. Obviously with a straight pin that is impossible. There is no gap in the hub, and the hole in the crank is too small:

I'm stumped! However, the wheel is running well (other than the occasional slipping drive band) - I've spun about 100yds of the blue merino. I've got a small safety pin through the hole in the crank holding the footman on instead. I guess this spring pin is to go in place of the safety pin, but it's a good 2inches long, and I don't want that sticking out of the crank ready to get caught on things - a small safety pin is much better.

But if anyone has any better ideas please do let me know!


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Pictures of the spinning wheel

A full-length shot of the wheel (before I attached a drive band):

A picture of the logo from the underneath:

A picture from the front:

A close-up shot of the connector between the footman and the pedal:

A close-up shot of the wheel axle. I had to take one of the wheel-shafts off as the wheel kept slipping out of its socket. In the end, once I removed the wheel shaft I was able to push the axle (the cam-shaft) through a bit more so that it caught into the socket better.

Because a picture paints a thousand words, here's a pic as I was pushing the axle through the wheel. This shows me pushing more of the axle through the wheel-shaft. After I took this picture I pushed the wheel back on the axle so that more protruded through the other side. I was then able to refit the other wheel-shaft and the wheel fit into both sockets:


Friday, February 03, 2006

My first spinnings!

Well, I had my Latin reading class yesterday, and my Latin Latin class today, and then... Free to look at the spinning wheel :D

I apparently have a 'Saxony' style double drive wheel. A very nice forumite sent me this link about how to put a drive band on a double drive wheel, and it was pretty straightforward! I've used a length of thin string as it's all I had.

However, the main problem has been that the wheel axle isn't quite long enough to fit properly into the shaft. Once it really got spinning it would come out of its socket on one side.

Eventually - after taking it apart! - I appear to have got it going :)

And. And! My fibre came! So I got to try it out :D

It took it a while to get the wheel going round smoothly, and then it took ages to get to the point where I could make the fibre wind onto the bobbin rather than just twisting up. However, once it clicked it all just seemed so simple! I can't believe how quick it is as well. Unfortunately, though the wheel was staying in place, the drive band (OK, string) kept coming off. This meant I had to keep stopping and starting again.

So here we go...

This is my first try. For this I cut about 6-8 inches off the end of the roving, and separated it out into thin sections. I then spliced all these together, but the splicing joins are very dodgy. This one has spun rather thickly (yeah, and lumpily!)

My second try. For this one I used the whole roving length, thinned out. This meant there were hardly any joins to deal with (only the ones where it thinned out so much it broke in two ;) ). This one has spun much more evenly and thinly - but maybe that's an optical illusion as it's still on the bobbin ;)

These pictures just don't show the actual colour of the fibre - it's a much more royal blue. Here's one without a flash, but it still doesn't do the colour justice:

I need to get a better drive band, and I need to practise (especially my splicing)! I still have a lot of roving left, but it would take less than an hour to spin it all. Need to find a cheap fleece source. I wonder what I could use to practise with? Maybe multiple strands of cheapy acrylic yarn?

And I also need to find something to knit with 100g of lumpily, unevenly spun merino ;)


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Squeeeeee Squeeeeeee Squeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!

Look what I just bought:

On Monday I walked into town. On my way back I walked past 'The Edinburgh Woollen Mill', which - despite its name - doesn't sell wool at all, but rather old lady clothes (presumably made out of wool). And in the window was a spinning wheel... A spinning wheel with 'Props sale: £50' on it!!! £50 for a spinning wheel?! Obviously I must buy it! I've always wanted a spinning wheel, and even looked into drop spinning with a spindle a couple of years back.

But alas, the shop had just closed :( The lights were on and there were staff inside, but the doors wouldn't open. I was sad :(

However, on the walk home I convinced myself that I don't need another excuse to further my RSI, and it was probably just a prop and didn't work, and it was probably a miniature, and £50 is a lot, etc etc etc. Besides, if it were fate for me to buy it, the shop would've been open, right?

Then we get to today when I cycle to town for my chiropractic appointment. On the way back I decided to see if it was still there, expecting it to have gone since it was nearly 2 days ago I last saw it.

Again, fate appeared to intervene: I totally missed the shop and had to double back. But when I did... the wheel was still there! I went in, asked if it worked: the staff said they thought it did, and it was bigger than I remembered. So I decided to just go for it, £50 is an amazing bargain!

I had a slightly hairy moment walking to the bus stop where one of the legs fell off, as did part of the treadle. However, I gathered it up, checked there were no other bits, and got it home. I've now put it back together and it appears to work fine! (Well, it spins: I have no idea how it actually works). I checked the underneath and it was made by 'Haldane' in Scotland. Haldanes' website doesn't have any of their own brand wheels on it, but I might contact them about it.

Anyway! I need to go back to town to pick up my poor old bike!

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