Friday, December 28, 2007

Mistah Death and the Aran Blankie

A while back I mentioned a rush job for Halloween, and then totally forgot to post about it.

Here it is! Based on Knitty's Jackyll & Hide pattern.

Hubby's workplace does a lot of charity work - in fact they're set up as a non-profit-making charity. He's done a 30-mile walk for charity with workmates, including the CEO who lent him suitable socks; once a fortnight he spends an afternoon of worktime helping in the Birmingham Children's Hospital school, and was their Santa this year; and he participates regularly and enthusiastically in their fancy dress / dress-down charity Fridays, as you can see to the right.

The cloak is borrowed, and the plastic scythe came from a charity shop. I didn't bother with the mouth as a) I had no time, b) it involves ~shudder~ embroidery, and c) hubby promised to do it then wimped out.
The yarn used (Ben Nevis Aran 25% Wool) is a bit rubbish* - very furry with no density to it - so I used it doubled on 6mm dpns and circulars. I had it in with the idea of making an heirloom Aran bedspread, over a long period, using 12in x12in 'swatches' whereon I would practice various Aran stitches that took my fancy - swatch 1, to the right, is a rather dense honeycomb pattern from a stitch dictionary which doesn't exist according to its ISBN. I reckon it would take about 42 such swatches - 6' wide x 7' long - for our double bed, maybe 63 or 72 for a more luxuriant look. Though a major part of the appeal of this is that it should be machine-washable, so I may have to sacrifice opulence for being able to fit it in the machine...

'* - Cheap, and available in VAST quantities.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A quickie!

Ickle Baby Cthulhu won't wear gloves. Whereas he has the wit to come in from the cold at home, travelling in the cold weather* can be a problem, notably the childminder run. As I don't drive (yet), this involves a trip across a straight-from-the-Urals windswept quarter-mile twice a day. It doesn't take long, 10mins or so at speed, but sometimes his normally toasty little hands freeze. Need I mention that he won't tolerate a Cozy-Toez(TM) or similar? Only his 'Bilanket' will do, a manky old third-hand ripped-up crib duvet with the stuffing hanging out to which he's taken a fancy simply because his little girlfriend at the childminder's has a blankie too (for the same reason, he also has to travel with Mooly Cow or Sleepy Hippo, and all attempts to separate him from his dummy are doomed. Peer pressure is a terrible thing. They even swap dummies from sheer lurve. And pink dummies can cause all sorts of misunderstandings).

I've bought numerous mittens, even attached them with string through his coats, to no avail. He cunningly manages to lose at least one in the 10-min journey. Now with the tantrums, getting them on him involves holding him down as he's howling No! No! No! and the ringlets slap into my face and the beefy little fists flail and the boots land in painfully intimate areas - let's just say I'm not winning this particular battle.

Daddy, on the other hand (no pun intended. Well, maybe), has his Purple Pirate gloves from a few posts back, and Daddy Can Do No Wrong. Not like boring old Mommy and her stupid mitts! He will happily wear one of Daddy's gloves for some considerable time, admiring the 'Piwate' and shouting "Yarrrh!" intermittently. So cunning old boring Mommy had an idea. A psychology PhD has some uses after all!

So Christmas Day evening, I cast on a pair of purple mitts for him, and finished them last night - two days! Based on a vintage pattern, with some mods. Okay, a lot. The cuff is shorter, the thumb is longer, and the top isn't decreased to a rounded cap. Instead, it is a 'finger muff', a portion of loose ribbing made with the larger size dpns used for the stocking stitch. This muff can be folded back for a fingerless mitt, or rolled up for warmth. The link to the free pattern with these modifications is available on the right, under Knitzsche's Patterns - please note the copyright notice is a bit stricter than the one for the Hair Scrunchies.

They're too small for the skull and crossbones motif on Daddy's gloves and I was in too much of a rush to modify. I had hoped instead to put in an intarsia Makka Pakka (face only!), but wouldn't you know it, I'm permanently low on boring browns in my stash. So I decided to Swiss darn the image using some chenille I have in cream, nutmeg, and black - not the taupe/beige/snoooooore needed, but close enough for a 2-year-old. Sadly I am piss-poor at eye-needlework. The darning did not work, possibly because the chenille was just too different to the DK - flat, ribbony and downright uncooperative - but more likely due to my sewing crapulescence.

So instead I was forced to ~shudder~ For-Real embroider the image on, backstitching 3 times across each stitch in the pattern. I would like to record that each stitch was lovingly crafted with a mother's blessings for her beloved only child, but it would be an infamous lie. Rather, each was filled with blood and cusswords the like of which would shame a sailor as I yelped and stabbed my way through the 47 piddling knit stitches of the design. The imprecations and involuntary donations continued through the simple 2-st smile and french-knot eyes. HOW do you stab yourself with a tapestry needle, I ask you? Once on the going in, once on the way out is how. Grrraaah!

So Makka Pakka only appears on one mitt. Tiny husband did me the good service of removing the tapestry needle from my self-inflicted stigmata and taking me to bed before I could put out an eye or circumcise something.

His little nibs was quite pleased. He even wore them for a long period, exclaiming over Makka Makka (as he calls it), and enquiring in hushed and worried tones as to Makka Makka's absence on the second glove... Ooops. I told him that that Makka Pakka had gone to bed (as it does! end of every episode) and that seemed to satisfy him.

While doing this I was reminded of how much I love working with dpns. Straight needles don't inspire this love. I need 30cm+ needles for most projects, but my forearms are so short I get little bruises on my biceps where the ends dig in. I've never found a comfortable, natural way of knitting that avoids this. Dpns are different. they're short, barely longer than my big man-hands. And I simply adore the juggling of the needles and the speed I can build up, way faster than straights. I feel the same about cable needles. I love 'em. I LOOOOOVE them. I have all sorts, shapes, colours, compositions, but sometimes I use toothpicks, broken dpns, matches, just to live dangerously. Sometimes I store the cable needle in a piercing. Sometimes I light the match. I know two (or 3-ish) ways to do cables without cable needles, all of which feel uncomfortable and inappropriate, and deprive me of the joy of cable-needle juggling. Hurrah for cable needles!

That is all.


* FYI, while we don't get the spectacular snowfalls of some parts of the world, winter night temperatures of -10degC (14degF) to -20degC (-4degF) are getting to be normal here in Brum. People die walking home from work because public transport shuts down.
** I never bother about rows per inch, preferring instead to measure and/or fit.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

This WILL have HAS pics...

Eventually... The pics are taken and awaiting upload from my phone.

The scarf is finished, ends woven in, washed and blocked. The rather stringy, fine mohair bloomed nicely - the resulting fabric appears solid until you look closely, allowing the lace flowers stand out well. The pics don't really do justice - I was hoping to hang it by a window so you could see the light coming through, but had to settle for laying it on white paper. I shall hand it over on Thursday rather than Friday as she has a do to go to and might like to wear it.

My sister's bag is boarded, lined and sewn up, and lacks only the fastening. The specs cases for Mum and MIL are finished too, including the label inside. These won't be in time for Christmas unfortunately. I won't even get them off until Saturday.

I'm also well into Libby's amigurumi unicorn - head and body completed to the start of the bum, and stuffed as far as possible. I still have a little time to work on it, as I won't see them until after Christmas Day anyway. I'm not entirely thrilled with the shape, as the head and neck extend more or less straight out from the body making it look more like a goose than a horse. Before I started, I did think it needed some short-rowing where the lower neck reaches the body - i.e., no building up of the back until the chest is in place. That would mean turning the work and working backwards. I can't see an amigurumi way of doing it, except maybe by making the pieces separately and sewing them together in the right configuration. There's a lot of shaping involved and correct stuffing is crucial.

ION, the deputy head was most distressed to see me knitting during break. Apparently I should be planning lessons. It has been pointed out that I am not in fact a qualified teacher, have no regular classes and therefore do not have PPA time, and am in possession of a contract that specifically forbids me from planning lessons (even though I DO, because there's usually no coverwork). So he gave it as his opinion that I should be doing anything but knitting. Possibly helping out in the canteen, or cleaning the toilets then.

No scarf for him!

If he had any sense, he'd be begging me to run an after-school club for the tards...


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Three weeks till Christmas...

And progress is... progressing.

I managed to get the lining and a fancy button for my sister's bag, though I really need to pick up some board to stiffen it (Yes I'm going with the button closure. Musing is what this blog is for too). The lining is quite lovely - heavy, turquoise with a pale gold sheen from a primrose weft (or warp. Not too sure of my fabric orientation). Although I haven't had time to inspect it closely, I would not be surprised if it was silk, or at least a good quality fake. Only £2 in the Bullring for about 2m of 60" width. Well chuffed. There may even be enough to line a skirt for myself, a little something I've been planning ever since I got the eau de Nil chenille, using crocheted squares from an old tablecloth pattern.

The covers for both specs cases are complete, all I need is to find the craft glue.

The childminder's scarf is almost complete, another 3 repeats to go. IBC has utterly charmed her and her husband by calling them by name, and demanding kisses. I suppose I ought to think of some wee thing to give his playmates there... I've swapped the scarf to my in-school project, and taken the Trellis cardi for Liz's youngest home where I have more time to complete it.

I still need to make a start on the unicorn for Lisa's daughter - in fact I need to get the chenille out and wind my pullcakes.

Santa went to Rackham's on Saturday and picked up IBC's tractor and trailer, wrecking shoulders, back and bum.

We've decided not to send cards this year. Instead we're sending ducks to Bangladesh, or possibly midwife kits to Burkina Faso - haven't decided. We may also substitute something like this for presents for the adults in the family, as it is SO difficult to buy gifts for most of them, in part because we just don't have the time.

Only 3 weeks!