Dry spell

The whole of June was dry. In terms of rains in Mumbai as well as words from me on this blog. The rains have finally arrived here with a vengeance and I decided to come back and talk.

My stash is in a garage, corrugated cardboard wrapped and clingfilmed. I spent one month working on the little I’d packed for that chimeric granny square bedspread, then I was one month haunting the Weavers’ Centre in Hyderabad and learning about floor looms. After returning to Mumbai and limbo-land, my fingers got itchy. So off I went to the LYS (there is actually one, more a Local Craft Store, and very near by this city’s standards) and picked up some thread to knit a doily. I forgot my half-formed resolution to use thicker fibre for lace, and got the usual #20 equivalent.

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Got a few rounds into it and then decided my daughter and I needed head gear for the sunny walk to and wait at the bus stop. So off I went and got some acrylic yarn and matching thread. That turned into this:

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But I realised my gauge is much looser than the LYS owner thinks, and I ought really to have bought a hook a couple of sizes smaller. So I quickly went off the second hat, but miraculously, perhaps because I was making sun hats, the monsoon settled in. Now I don’t need a hat anyway.

Then I forget how, but I got itchy to crochet a doily. This time I made sure to get a thinner hook, and double the thread. I’m happy now and have got about 33 rounds done of a Japanese pattern, despite having to undo several rounds and redo them. I’m thinking this might turn into another parasol, which would be about as much use as a doily in my house. Not that I have a house at this point.

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Not quite in the ditch

The sewing machine and I aren’t really friends, although we are on speaking terms. I’m happy if I can sew a straight seam most of the time. But I do prefer machine sewing to a needle and thread any day.

I have sewn some things for my daughter, and a few cushion covers etc. but it was a huge leap from those to quilting. The occasion of a friend having twin daughters seemed a good time to start, especially when someone pointed me to a shop in Chennai that sold jelly rolls, which I’ve been drooling over for ages but found too expensive to buy from abroad… In fact, I was so impatient to begin that while waiting for my order to be delivered, I went ahead and chopped up and sewed some fabric I had on hand.

Continue reading “Not quite in the ditch”

About slippery slopes…

…and good intentions.

I did intend to be a more frequent blogger, honest. That is, when I was not thinking of shutting down the blog altogether. But well. There’s work (March was hectic), some weaving, lots of reading (Simon Brett, an abortive Cecilia Ahern [I think I’m too old for her, I was quite bored and couldn’t finish the book], Dick Francis [I actually found one that apparently I hadn’t read], lots of comfort reads) and reading always beats most other things. And I think it always will.

So. Only a couple of posts in March.

Among the things I wove in March was this scarf, with some textured yarn I bought from Pony, that I would normally never have bought for crochet or knitting.

Continue reading “About slippery slopes…”

Hello there!

Yes, I know. I last posted here on the last day of the last year. And to be perfectly frank, I was considering whether to mark this blog as dead. I have too little to say which I haven’t already said on Ravelry.

However, this is by way of being a test post. A friend was asking why her blog posts aren’t showing up on the South Asian Crafters group page on Ravelry and I had to confess I hadn’t blogged this year at all. As moderator of said group, I thought I would post here and see if my post shows up.

One of the small projects I finished this year was a set for a friend with a new baby. I tested the frock pattern for the designer and then made the booties to match. Wool sock yarn, since the things were for a London baby. And the yarn (squooshy!) was from a sock yarn club I (bought? took? participated in?) as one of those “Try everything once” things.

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The dress happened to be the 300th project I’ve entered into Ravelry. The designer has cute girls of her own, so I get to try out lots of girly stuff when testing for her. They’re usually quick projects, plus she lets me use whatever yarn I have on hand.

The booties were in my queue for a long time. I’m always attracted to things with brioche stitch in them. I entirely forgot to send the leftover yarn to my friend, though. I’m told the baby liked them.

A toss-up

It was a toss-up whether I should use a lull in my schedule to blog or get back to knitting on the Summer Mystery Shawlette or a project I’m testing for someone on Ravelry. Blogging won narrowly, if only because I can finish and get back to knitting. But once I lose the impetus to blog, it’ll not come back for a while.

I was reassured that I still do have readers (thank you, you know who). I’m not surprised that in general the incentive to blog or read blogs has declined with the rise of Ravelry. One neat project page there gives you absolutely everything you’d want to know about a project. Which means that writing a blog post that is interesting of itself is a great challenge. Some manage to do it with sheer brilliance of writing, some add personal details or philosophy, and some floor you with amazing images. I cannot do any of those; my writing is technically fine but lacking sparkle, I have no philosophy I’d feel comfortable sharing, my personal life is humdrum and my photography barely passes muster. Much of this is due to laziness, of course, and therefore self-perpetuating. I do not, of course, speak of those creative people who actually make up patterns or techniques and therefore have their blogging raw material handy.

However! As a tribute to my readers that are, here are a couple more things I made a while ago and never blogged about. They were commissioned by a friend for her toddler son but arrived too late to catch the fag end of last winter. Both were made with acrylic available locally, as being easiest to find and care for.

The first was the popular Baby Sophisticate pattern, which I adapted slightly to suit my yarn (a heavy worsted weight) and the finished size I was aiming for (Ravelled here). The second was Ola’s Vest (project page here) which caught my eye because of the stitch pattern. The mostly stockinette patterns suited me, since the yarn was thick anyway. I didn’t want to end up with body armour.

I only used my brain in working out how many stitches to cast on for the Sophisticate (which seemed to have worked and anyway I had a lot of help from the projects of other Ravellers), and in trying a different decrease for the v-shaping of the neck ribbing on Ola’s. The latter wasn’t very successful, since I was aiming for a sort of “merging into one another” sort of look and ended up with, “oh dear, that looks a mess, so glad it’s a small bit”. Ah well.

Both went to their owner, but I suppose I’ll have to wait until winter for posed pictures. The ones I took were poor, since I wanted to get them mailed off quickly (I’d delayed the finishing of them quite a bit so my conscience was troubling me already), so you’ll pardon me if I show dark indoors photographs. They are as yet my only mementos. The second one first.

Ola's vest

I must add, though, that I was fairly happy with how the ribbing ended up on the sleeves and neck. It looks as it ought to. I’m never comfortable with picking up stitches “evenly”. The thing grew, though, in the wash and now I wonder if I will have to wait until not this winter but the next to see it worn! That’s if the world hasn’t ended from a variety of causes in the meantime. The other thing to note is that my new (then) bamboo circular needle did not give me much pleasure. It was far too grippy for the acrylic (as I found on another more recent project) and I had to change to Denise plastic, which then worked swimmingly. Except that due to my hate of cutting yarn, I left ends dangling and purled instead of knitting, which made picking up the long slipped stitches a bit of a challenge. You want to solve one problem so you cut corners and create another!

And here’s the first sweater.

Trying for an artsy shot but failing

The blue-grey of this one means you get no idea of the actual colour from my photograph. Tough.

I didn’t weigh the sweaters, so I don’t know how much yarn they used. Yarn here is sold by weight and not length, which usually isn’t a problem if you are the creative sort of knitter and make up your own patterns or can just look at a finished piece and guess how to make it. You then generally have the knowledge to ask the guy in the shop for exact amounts of yarn. If you aren’t on the other hand that sort of knitter but rely heavily on being spoonfed by someone else’s hand, then you just walk into the shop and tell him the size of person the sweater is for and they can generally tell you how many grammes of the yarn you’ve chosen you will need to a nice degree of accuracy. Your problem then comes if you are using several different colours for a specific pattern and have to estimate how much of each you might need. Then you just buy and hope for the best. It’s a toss-up.

It was not to be.

I fell in love with this pattern when it first appeared on Ravelry, so you can imagine my joy when it came up for testing. No matter that I’d never done stranded colour work before or duplicate stitching, I jumped to volunteer for testing. I sent up a desperate appeal for India’s only cotton yarn (we’ve never heard of any other than threads) and a friend kindly volunteered to send me some. Which she duly did to me in Hyderabad and I set out to make the dress.

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As you can see, the idea was a good one. Only, in the execution, user error crept in and the project was a fail. For several reasons, including: my first colour work, and it shows; it ended up too small even though I made it 6-months and Chandra was around 5 months old then and she is a small baby; I’m mortal afraid the red/maroon will run, so I’ve not even washed it; I don’t like the long floats from the duplicate stitch.

Pattern: Paisley Baby Dress by Mimi Kezer of Pastiche Knitwear (a Ravelry shop). There’s a matching hat. In addition to colour work and stranding and duplicate stitching, I also did my first picot edge hem.

Needles: 3.5mm

Yarn: Laura (the only cotton yarn sold in India for handknitting, as opposed to thread). It’s DK-ish. It’s fine, but not a luxury cotton, while not quite a dishcloth one either.

Time: About eight days, so it’s fairly easy, considering I’d never done a colourwork pattern before.

Size: Too small for Chandra

I have this now and don’t quite know what to do with it. For one, it’s small, for two, the colour might run (I know I should have tested for fastness before I used it, but I needed it in a hurry and was getting it from another city sight unseen, plus I needed it in a hurry!), for three I don’t like the long floats and finish of my duplicate stitching on the bodice and for four the stranding and the cotton make it a dense thing. I’m half tempted to sew up the bottom and turn it into a bag. Or maybe when my doll has a doll of her own she will use it for her wardrobe.

I’m thinking I might make it in acrylic, which would make it lighter and the elasticity of the yarn would make better looking stranding.

I knit both colours with my right hand for this project, but have since started using the left for one strand and knitting it continental, scooping the yarn with the RH needle in a motion which is very similar to crochet and therefore quite quick. I haven’t purled with it yet, so I cannot say how fast I’d be that way. I do not appear to have tension issues either. Much happier with the two strands kept apart than forever having to detangle (disentangle?) them.

A false Fall

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I’ve never seen Fall (Autumn) myself, though we are supposed to have, in Indian tradition, 6 seasons (Vasant, Grishm, Varsha, Sharad, Hemant and Sisir), it’s usually only, mild, hot and hotter. Or damp, damper and dampest if you live in Kerala.

However, I do believe the colours I just chose for two projects are Fall colours, the colours of the foliage as it prepares to drop. I’ve wanted to break out of my comfort zone of inoffensive pastels and typical choices, so when I decided to make a couple of covers for the new TV at my parents’ home and the DVD player, I took my courage in my hands and chose these. I wasn’t sure how they’d work, but I think they do fine. (My mother did tease me though, “Would you wear a saree in these colours?” The answer to that I think would still be NO.)

I also took the opportunity to try two patterns I’ve had my eyes on for a while. The first of those was the diagonal box stitch (also called crazy stitch, I think). I found a good tutorial at Crochet Cabana here. Then there was the popular Wooleater blanket from Sarah London (who always has such gorgeous colours on her blog).

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Yarn: Unnamed acrylic in sport weight, 5 different colours, about a hank each. The whole batch cost me Rs 88/-. Cheap!

Patterns: The Diagonal Box Stitch for the TV cover (above) and the Wooleater pattern for the smaller DVD player cover. I can now tick both of them off my list of crochet-to-do. Both are easier than they look and once you ‘get’ them, you don’t have to look at the instructions again.

Hook: 4.00mm

Time: The pieces themselves were quick, but the ends, oh my. There were around a 100 ends on the TV cover which I finally wove in while watching the Winter Olympic coverage. The DVD player cover had a few less, mainly because I used less yarn (the leftovers from the TV cover). The DVD cover ended up scrappy since I focused on using up the yarn rather than making sure the rows had only one colour. No problem, I wanted to use up all the yarn anyway. Great value for money.

Size: Didn’t really measure, but they are good for the purposes they were meant to serve.

Extra: Had teeny amounts of yarn left, some of which ended up in this:

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It’s a hairband I made up in an hour, and it is adjustable. And yes, the baby is wearing a handknit, more of which later. Let me leave you with a link to Rima’s blog. Her use of colour inspires and amazes me.

Orange covers