Sunday, 10 May 2015

Smoked camp pi

You may have realised in my day job I'm a mild mannered semi-nerdy mathematician/ statistician. Yes, I have the glasses and calculator collection and academic university day job to prove it. It means that I get somewhat excited about some things that the rest of the world thinks are slightly weird. Take Pi day (14th March) for example. This year was a very special Pi day. A once in 100 years Pi day. We had the first 5 digits of pi as the date (American style dates of course). Cue an amazing Pi party.

I got invited to the the most amazing online Pi Party in existence with over 100 types of virtual pie and knitting goodness galore hosted by the amazing PJ. Luckily it was a Saturday so all day my inner nerd was eating as much virtual pie as I liked (there was pizza pie, apple pie, lemon meringue pie, cheesecake.... and all calorie / kilojoule free and no crumbs in the knitting). And all the while I was singing internally "It’s pi day. It’s pi day. You’ve got to cast on on pi day…."

(What for, a pi shawl of course). I wanted to make a lacy pi and settled on the 100 anniversary pi shawl design - Camping. I’m a sucker for lace leaves and it has a beautiful scalloped border. I made this fairly large and at large gauge so it can double as a pi blanket.

I began with Emily Ocker’s circular cast on using a crochet hook. This is so cool. I always love when I get to learn an awesomely practical new technique and this so neat and useful for my future knitting.
I used the first 12 rounds of the Heliotaxis pi shawl pattern (up to the 72 st increase round) as the beginning of my shawl. I did however chase up a copy of the 100th Anniversary edition of Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitter’s Almanac to look at how the original beginning went. I devoured the July chapter - a shawl …

Have you seen the well known geometric theory behind what you have been doing? …. It’s Pi, the geometry of a circle hinging on the mysterious relationship of the circumference of a circle to it’s radius. A circle will double its circumference in infinitely themselves - doubling distances” (Zimmerman, Knitters Almanac). I do have to take issue with EZ about her comment about women forgetting such mathematical theory the minute we finish high school in order to fit in more practical knowledge. Clearly that’s not the case for all such women. Who says Pi is not practical anyway? It after all is applicable to knitting! (Plus I get to teach the awesome usefulness of pi to science students).
Drive by pi
I worked on dpns until I had enough stitches to transfer over to a 80 cm long circular.
This was awesomely addictive knitting - along the lines of just one row more…. Because the patterns were relatively short repeats, the lace was quick and simple to execute. It didn’t lose it’s charm even when the rows were 592 stitches long (or nearly 900 in the last row!) It only took about three weeks to knit too - very quick for nearly a jumper’s worth of wool.

I have to agree with EZ that a circular shawl is perfect travel knitting. The knitting creates its own bag shape as it grows and you can store the yarn inside it. You can knit on public transport without losing the ball under seats. It scrunches up small enough to transport easily even when close to the end.
It blocked out huge - 52 inches or around 134 cm in diameter. We decided this is about the largest circular shawl I can actually practically block. It took nearly the whole alphabet - 25 of my 26 alphabet jigsaw blocking mats (and most of the lounge room floor).

This may be my first pi shawl but it won’t be my last one. This is coming to my next maths conference so it can hang out with the other mathematicians who truly appreciated the blend of geometry, maths and gorgeous lace this is.

Pattern: EZ 100th Aniversary Pi shawl: Camping  by Mwaa Knit Obsession incorporating the middle of Heliotaxis Pi Shawl by Nata's Knots - both are free patterns.
Yarn: Blue grey wool blend? Recycled yarn bought from Lifeline op shop - thin 8ply weight.
Cost: $5 for a jumper lot. I have 2 balls left over
Needles:  4.5mm (dpns and an 80cm and 100 cm circular)

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

The great Scarf-ghan unveiling....

In January 2014 my needles and I started on a journey of discovery. In March 2015 after thousands of stitches, miles of seaming, many adventures and delicious knitting experiences along the way, we called a halt. The great scarf / strip afghan experiment is finished and officially in use. Anyone got cable! is a finished object and a much loved family member. There are arguments about who gets to snuggle under in on the couch on in the recliner. It's actually rarely me (and I did knit it for myself...)
The lovely ladies in the Unofficial Women's Weekly Group on Ravelry are owed a giant hug for providing the motivation to create this beauty. We were encouraging each other to complete the various knitted afghans we were making. Many of us were doing variations on the classic, knit a square - make an afghan. However the sheer horror of the concept of all that sewing was a giant hurdle many were baulking at. So I thought, why not make strips instead of squares. Essentially I knit all my favourite cable and cable and lace scarves that caught my eye recently and sewed them up into a lap blanket for me. The genesis of the idea, the inspiration and the early stages of construction are described in more detail in this blog post (Anyone got cable! - A scarf-ghan).
This was a great strategy. There was a constant variety of patterns and yarn in little do-able chunks at a time. I didn't get bored in the middle of the process. Each scarf got a chance to tell its own story along the way. See also a series of scarves = afghan for the details of each scarf strip - e.g. patterns used. As a bonus most of them are free patterns.
On Good Friday we convinced the afghan to come and play in the Sunflowers and have its final beauty shots taken. The town I live in has two giant public art installations designed to brighten up some depressed and unused industrial areas of town. These photos were taken in a field that is a giant spiral maze of sunflowers. (You can read more about the project here - #getsunflowered).

I admit, I did wimp out of this without strictly finishing it completely. I haven't added a separate knitted edging. I toyed with both a sideways knitted garter stitch and an i-cord border (and had a go at both) but felt it didn't really need it enough to make me feel justified knitting it.
Here's the boy demonstrated how you can wrap yourself head to toe in the awesome snugness. He make the blanket look like a butterfly chrysalis.

I'd like to thank my children for frolicking in the sunflowers with me. I'm off to plan the next afghan adventure now. I don't think I quite have it out of my system. I might just snuggle here under my blanket while I knit the next one.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Butterfly Kisses for the Doctor

It comes as no great surprise to those who know me that I'm a Dr Who fan. My favorite doctor is the tenth Doctor - David Tennant. I could write an essay on why he's the coolest, sexiest, most interesting Doctor with the best story arcs but this is a knitting blog after all. I'll just post a photo of the most awesome Doctor for you to contemplate (There is a point to this, I promise you).
After last year and all the shawl stuff I still hadn't quite got it all out of the system. I may have wanted to make yet another lace shawl and after much deliberation and hours of time spent squirreling through the Ravelry pattern database, I decided that Nymphadelia was the next lace shawl for the needles. Blue tweed and brown variegated sock yarn together should be cool. (This has the added benefit of using up the stash as is my goal for 2015).
I was right. It is cool!
I was a little dubious about these two yarns together in the ball - variegated yarns often knit up so much differently to how they present as a ball and so I was hopeful it would work like I pictured it in my head. Why this colour combination? I love blue and brown together. It quite frequently features in my wardrobe. This particular blue and brown colour combination is my tribute to the 10th Doctor.  These colours evoke his costume: blue and brown pinstripe suits, a long brown overcoat and converse sneakers (See photo above).
I may have temporarily yarn bombed another statue. It was just the right shade of blue. How could I resist?
And that is part of the inspiration for the name too. The shawl pattern (a free one from Knitty magazine) is called Nymphalidea (the Latin name for one of the largest butterfly families). The colours are 10th doctor inspired. Hence Butterfly Kisses for The Doctor.
I cast on as Day 1 project for Feburary COM over in Village Hopelessly Overcommitted (VHOC). Must say I love the simplicity of the lace and purl ridges and the effect of the variegated yarn. Easy to remember pattern and it’s flying along. I managed 18 repeats of the Wedge D and welt combination in the first day.
The next day I got to 21 repeats and then 24 repeats on Day 3. Day 4 was a day of long train journeys. Prime knitting time. So I finished all 27 repeats. (And I ended up with the correct stitch count as given in pattern! Bonus). The shawl was now in need of aggressive blocking to show off in its full glory! Lace is so messy just off the needles before blocking works its magic.
Pattern: Nymphalidea by Melinda Vermeer - a free pattern from Knitty Deep Fall, 2013
Needles: 4mm
Yarn: Bendigo Woolen Mills 5 ply Colonial in Berry twist - donated stash from my Aunty and Moda Vera Noir sock yarn in Coffee Mix. (I have enough yarn left over to make another one...)

Saturday, 28 March 2015

I do still love you blog...

I hate it when I come in here and have to push my way through the massive spiderweb someone's built blocking the doorway. (Where did that come from? I'm sure I've never knit any spiders). Pardon me while I spit out some spiderwebs and brush them out of my hair and off my glasses. There may well be some dust bunnies breeding in the dark corners too but I get that. Bunnies do breed like bunnies and I've certainly knit enough of them over the years to have a substantial breeding colony of the things.

It looks like I may have been neglecting my little corner of cyberspace just a little. A tiny, incy weeny tad (or something). Let's just get a broom and a mop and bucket and clean up a little in here, why don't we? There, all neatly spick and span again.

Now, I really did come in here to show you things. (Actually I got pushed in...) I have been creating lots and lots and lots. I have one, no two, three, four (and possibly some more) new knitted finished objects to share with you. I've been so busy knitting and crocheting away (and working flat out, but let's not mention that) that I've forgot to give each happy little knitted object a chance to recount its journey and shine. They may have got a little bolshi on me demanding little creatures. So here I am to do their bidding.

Remember how back on New Year's Day my daughter and I dyed some beautiful yarn? With food colouring and tea and coffee and microwave?
She commissioned some elbow length cabled gauntlets. She settled on Lady Jane Grey's Gloves by Sarah Lady. These are elbow length with a plaited cable on the the top and shaped to fit the arm.

These were one of my first projects for February COM (Cast on Month). The idea is to cast on something new for every day of the month of February. I didn't quite make it but it was an awesome ride along the way. The first glove wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. I had to use 3.75 mm rather 3.5 mm as suggested in the pattern. (3.5 mm is not a standard size in Australia). The I misinterpreted the instructions for the placement of the thumb gusset and got to the top of the gusset before realizing I had to frog back about 18 rows and move it over to where the thumb is actually anatomically situated on the hand. I successfully completed to top of glove but then frogged back and re-knit the edging on 3.25 mm needles to make it fit tightly enough around Mel’s palm.
This is a free pattern and not for the faint-hearted novice. It is a little primitive in its writing style only detailing the cable section and describing where to place it. It requires some intuitive decisions that only come from years of experience. (That said, it is a lovely design).

I love how the colours spiral around this. It makes me happy just to look at it.
 The second mitt took only two days with no fuss and drama attached! I need to dye more yarn! it’s eleventy times more fun to knit with your own hand dyed yarn!
Pattern: Lady Jane Grey's Gloves by Sarah Lady
Needles: 3.25 and 3.75mm dpns
Yarn: Hand dyed aran weight machinewash wool.

The children staged a photo shoot for this in a local cafe complete with decadent iced coffee / chocolate beverage. Mel created a personalized unique manicure to highlight her gloves. (Some of my North American virtual knitting friends suggested that these are just the ultimate cosy mitts for winter coffee runs. The kids did the best to recreate this scenario in the middle of an Australian summer).

Saturday, 28 February 2015


My eldest daughter has always been a dancer. Until she finished school, it was ballet and jazz. Then she moved to the big smoke for University and had to reluctantly give it up. Two years ago, she sort of stumbled into the dance side of cheer-leading. A cheer gym near where she was living advertised an open day with free dance classes. So along she went, eager to stretch out those under used dance muscles and got asked to audition for an Open Pom team. Why not, she thought? She made it through the audition and onto the team. Being somewhat of a novice to the world of cheer she had no idea at the rarefied levels the team she had joined was playing in initially. In her first year, she found herself at State and Australian championships and at the end of year being part of a team that had won a bid to compete in the World Cheer and Dance Championships  at Disney World in Florida in America in 2015.
Australian All Star Cheer Championships 2014: She's the one on the left.
Her University recognized her as an elite athlete. She currently juggling 4 or 5 days of training a week with hospital placements. (She's in her last year of Med school). She and her fellow Swifts are on the final countdown to #20swifteen - their giant World Championship adventure.

But of course a team off to the other side of the world needs a mascot to take on their adventures.So I got one of those bizarre knitting challenges I thrive on from my daughter and her squad of fellow cheerleaders. Could I make a slightly gangsta knitted swift mascot for her team?

I got some guidance in the form of this lovely photograph of a sketch from my daughter. (She's incredibly talented at lots of things but she'd be the first to tell you drawing is not one of  her strongest points).
And here's what I came up with. I've made little knitted birdies before. There's a little knitted parrot I made years ago kicking around my house that's just the right size to fit on a child's shoulder. It's played parrot to many an imaginary pirate. The knitted Harry Potter doll has it's own owl companion, Hedwig. I used the same basic body shape.
You can see the swift's little birdy feet here. They're made from bent paperclips wrapped in yarn and secured with hot glue.
The final finished swift is about 15 cm tall and 22 cm across from wing tip to wing tip.
This was just the prototype. It's hard creating something to exactly fit the brief when all the conversations around what is wanted take place by phone, email, and Facebook chat. The swift is a little small. Now I'm scaling up to about 40cm tall with a slightly less outspread wing arrangement. It will also be wearing baby size high-tops and a peaked cap and dog-tags... This little swift has gone off to live with my daughter in the meantime.
So "Go Swifts!" (You need to imagine this said in a cheer type way - complete with pom pom waving and a kick line).

Friday, 13 February 2015

Randomly on a Wednesday

Every so often you get the gift a day to stop and smell the metaphorical roses. I spent a pleasant Wednesday morning idly wandering the streets of Melbourne camera in hand with no plan and no agenda except to appreciate our beautiful city (and take some photos of the latest finished objects).

The city square was a riotous bloom of colours - all the trees were wearing sweaters. (Clearly the trees had figured out the only way to deal with Melbourne's non existent 2015 summer was to rug up). It was a grey and overcast day.

This is a bare sprinkling of the trees. All the ones along the footpath have also been done - must be about 20 to 25 trees in all.
This one is my favourite. All the texture and pattern.
This is the work of Yarn Corner who advertise themselves as one of the largest yarn-bombing groups in the world. They left their little business cards tied to the trees. It's not an unsanctioned installation but fully endorsed by the Melbourne City Council. I love that I live in a place where people allow you to cheer the world up like this. I went and hunted up Yarn Corner on the internet and may have just joined up to play in their next epic yarn-bomb madness. I also discovered that a couple of the people I know in real life contributed to this massive effort. For those of you wondering how you dress a very large tree in a sweater, there are cherry pickers involved apparently.

I just may have also hugged a tree or two....

I did take my camera and the most recent finished shawl and scarf to specifically take some finished object photos.I may have done my own little subversive bit to brighten people's days by temporarily yarn-bombing statues. After all Chinese Lions wear shawls and cute little punk dogs need a scarf to ward off the summer chill.

This was my favourite. This is on one of the busiest corners in the city. There are a trio of statues here - depicting typical commuters in the everyday rush. I wrapped this guy in a shawl, took my photos and patted him on the head and went on my way - all to the smiles of the passing city crowd.

Melbourne has amazing street art everywhere you turn. This is outside the State Library - a giant chunk that just looks like its randomly fallen off the building. I hope it liked its transient scarf  embellishment.
(And because I know there are those of you who are wondering. (Because I know my mother did). I didn't leave the scarf and shawl behind. It was temporary adornment for the purposes of photo taking only. There are too many knitting hours in these to just abandon them to fate. The scarf in particular in the last bit of of my giant scarf-ghan. It's sort of needed).

The highlight of my random Wednesday was the last bit. I was in the city with my youngest sister. She had to work for the morning but the afternoon we spent at the John Paul Gaultier exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. I was truthfully blown away. I had a little idea of what to expect - fantastic outfits on dummies of course. Maybe a cone bra or two - corsetry and costumes made for stage. But the sheer scope and scale of the imagination of Gaultier as a designer was eye opening and humbling.

The crafter in me marveled at the hours of handwork involved in bringing the genius vision to life (1600 hours for a life like hand beaded leopard skin anyone?) Photography was encouraged with signs everywhere urging patrons to snap and share on social media. I left the snapping to my sister except for a few garments to sang to my knitter's heart. (Try searching the hashtag #jpgngv on instagram for a taste of the 160+ garments in the exhibition)

My relevation of the day was that Jean Paul Gauliter is really a freeformer.

And he can take a classic fisherman's rib and aran and twist it so it dances across a catwalk.
We'll finish this with a little peak into one of Melbourne's ubiquitous laneways. This is Amplett lane named in honour of Chrissy Amplett from the Divinyls. The official street sign may still be in chalk but the artwork is striking.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Dealing with Knitting ADHD

I suffer a little bit from Knitter ADHD - also know as the Ooh, Shinny new thing! Syndrome. Now I know this about myself and so I know I need to restrain my impulses or I end up with no needles left to use, a million new cast-ons, piles of WIPs and UFOs cluttering up the house and nothing actually ever getting finished. For me, I find I need to periodically drop the needles, back off from the actual knitting and stock-take and plan. The beginning of a new year is a great time for this.

I did make some New Years Resolutions for 2015. (But they are mostly about my knitting and they are more in the light of challenges I have set myself. On a more personal reinvention to a healthier me note, I also gave up sugar in my tea. That's a real challenge!) I'm sharing them here with you as a form of self motivation and type of self shaming.... If I proclaim it to the world, I'm more likely to follow through aren't I?
All good efforts start with good planning…. I want 2015 to be as awesome a knitting year as 2014 was!
  1. Knit up the four jumper lots of yarn that are yelling to be done this year.
  2. Find and queue patterns for said jumper lots - One cable for me, one classic cardigan for the boy, a self designed kimono with an asymmetric front, and a self designed garter stitch jumper in a chunky boucle.
  3. Apply my free forming skills to the swatch collection - I’m thinking they become a basket.
  4. At least one pair of socks this year.
  5. Charity knitting that actually gets donated to charity - I tend to need to knit toys on a regular basis - also hats but hoard them.
  6. Put the practical bits of the stash on Ravelry - garment and accessory sized batches that are labelled.
  7. Buy and knit at least one dream pattern from the queue.
  8. Seriously cull the magazine collection - this is my current January summer holiday project… (I also like idea of a long term plan to knit a project from each book/ magazine I own!) Once done stick more of the library on Ravelry.
  9. Play along in the useful Rav activities that make me knit productively - COM (Cast on Month in Village Hopelessly Overcommitted) and regular WIP wrestling bouts as well as NaKniSweMo.
  10. Try to keep the ratio of Cast ons to WIPs completed at less than 1:1. Finish at least three long term WIPs in 2015.
This looks like a lot but I knit every day so a need a decently ambitious plan.

And I signed up to Cold Sheep (go a whole year without buying any yarn) after a small final fling in early January -  8 mixed balls of browns and greys to have enough to finish Granny wants a latte macchiato and one ball of variegated red for a charity project. And I walked past my favorite op-shop and a sweater weight quantity of delicious dark blue grey sport weight just asked me for a new home at a ridiculous price.
I really, really do have enough yarn to knit from for a whole year and not run out. I do!

I gave myself the following loopholes:
  1. Yarn to finish already started projects.
  2. Yarn for commissioned projects. (Though the other person can supply this).
  3. A free pass for Craft Shows and road trip yarns - but a serious budget limit to be applied here.
  4. Shopping my mother’s stash is always allowed.

I seriously did a list of the current UFOs and WIPs. Lists are good. I like lists:
I'm only including the stuff on Ravelry - There are a couple of very old UFOs that haven’t made it to Ravelry yet but they are not on the radar this year.

UFOs (I have to really go digging to unearth these. They are in deep storage. There are only eight though).
AK Traditions Doll
Dead Fox
Dickensian Mouse
Domino Shawl - has a chance at life soon - I know where it is at least….
Gentlemans sampler afghan - next long term knit afghan project - plan devised as part of January 2015 stocktake process.
Longitudinal - damn second sock syndrome.
Of mice and mushrooms - self designed cardigan suffering for a lack of yarn to completely execute plan. A lovely fellow Raveller is sending me 4 balls of yarn so I can execute the original plan….
Order of the Garter - what project? - this is yarn with a plan.
Welcome to the UFO cave

WIPs (Have received recent love. Not in the rotation at the moment though. Only five of these).
A headless bear - needs clothes
Fungus among us - Want to make more fungi and lichen. Have patterns ready.
Monochrome - freeform exploration piece. Being added too as inspiration strikes.
Pallina di natale - one down - lots more to make. Christmas baubles for my daughter’s tree. Little diversions that only take a day or so. The Christmas goat is next.
To tag an owl - Little crocheted owl tags /ornaments - want to make a few more out of the oddments. Planned small diversions.

Current WIPs (I’m not a monongamous knitter. Four at a time is pretty standard).
Anyone got Cable! - the scarf afghan - one scarf to go. Pattern and yarn picked - will be next new project on the needles this month.
Granny wants a latte macchiato - long term granny rug that has just been assembled so far and the crochet hook is out and I am making new squares. About 1/3 finished. It will be queen bed sized….
Pitted Olive - the current knitting project
Swatch buster - free form C/KAL for Jan / Feb 2015. Theme: Polar opposites. Aim: To cover my work tub with all those pesky swatches.

Queue (Burning a hole in my knitting basket waiting its turn)
Sunrise / sunset - We hand dyed the yarn, we have a plan. Next to the needles.

This is typical me. It's nearly the end of January and we're only just letting the plans out in public. The good thing about the delay is that I can report on the progress as well!

So far, I have:
  1. Added all the magazines and knitting books that I located to my Ravelry library. (And earmarked about 6 or 7 magazines for sale / trade) (Serious Progress on Resolution #8).
  2. Logged all the identifiable stash into Ravelry. (I took lots of photos of yarn...) (Resolution #6 done and dusted!!!)
  3. Joined a couple of new Stash busting / Finish a thing and Cold sheep groups on Ravelry. You need your support mechanisms and these types of groups are wonderful.
  4. Tried to fit plans to yarn - queued a few patterns, swatched a bit, etc... (This is the subject of next blogpost). (Resolution #2 seriously underway).
  5. Decided on a hastag for the year #Stashtosweater.
  6. Began wrestling those swatches into a recognizable project form. (Resolution #3 is source of great current enjoyment and knitting challenge).
Oh, and of course I have picked up the needles again I've been knitting up a storm.... (I love holidays)...