Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Look what I just did

One small step for entomological giant leap for little old me!

This is, with my camera skills, an amazing achievement. It might look like a grotty old bug to you (which it kinda is in truth) but it's an important grotty old bug. This is a shot of the face of the type specimen of Vates amazonicus (Westwood, 1889). That's a species of praying mantis for those that don't speak latin ;) and in real life it has a tiny head so getting a good shot of it is pretty difficult.
So yes, this is me just being chuffed and gloating but its taken me years to get my camera skills to this point and I just had to share.

Look what arrived today!

Yay! I swapped!
I put a ball of dark blue Rowan Calmer that I had on Ravelry hoping that someone might swap me for another one but in a funkier colour. I had bought a blue one to make myself another pair of Twinkletoes and had decided to be sensible and use a dark colour so that it would match with whatever clothes I was wearing at the time. But of course after I had bought it I then changed my mind and decided that that was a daft idea and actually I wanted to make bright coloured ones. I had already made myself a pair of green ones which didn't fit me (which made me very sad) but I loved the colour- and then a wonderful Ravelry person turns up and says that not only would they swap me but that the skein they had was in the same colourway as my first pair! Brilliant, just brilliant. I still have some of the first skein left so this way I know I've got a bit of extra yarn to fall back on if needs be when I size the pattern up.
Plus, and this only gets better, they also put a Ravelry badge (that's button to any Americans out there) in the parcel AND the note is written on real funky paper that has flower seeds embedded in it that I can plant in garden when the weather warms up. How utterly cool is that?
I love this person and I love Ravelry- where would I be without it? ~grin~

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

I'm only putting this here because it made me laugh says I'm a Dorky Sci-Fi / Comic Geek.  Click here to take the Nerd Test, get nerdy images and jokes, and write on the nerd forum!

TSG scarf #9

So here's the next installment for my traveling scarf. Well, I say mine but this is just one of the scarves that I'm working on. We are about half way through the group now I think though the scarves are a little out of order at the moment as I only just received scarf #10 after posting off #9 but it's no great shakes.
So here it is in all its glory:

I'm a big fan of this scarf- not sure exactly why other than its a really nice scarf to hold and its interesting visually without looking wrong or being over powerful in any one section. I think its going to be quite a nice one to wear as well. My section is the end one in black- here's a close up for you all:I just used a very simple basket-weave stitch and some 100% black wool yarn. I just felt when looking at the scarf for the first time, that it needed something simple yet textured to make sure my section fitted in and that there was not change in width of my section from the last. It was also fun and easy to knit and the reverse side is quite similar to the front which is a nice bonus. You can also see the stitch markers I made. I'm quite pleased with these ones as I used a new method for making them and it seems to have worked better than I thought it would. I didn't get the chance to research the person that I was sending them to though so I have just had to cross my fingers and hope that she likes them.

Friday, 23 January 2009

The Knitting Project Store

The store currently stocks:

Long-term projects:
* Pratghan- 1 square a month, every month for 36 months. I have done 3/36 for this project.
* SO traveling scarf- 1 scarf every 2 weeks for 13 scarves. I am on my 6th scarf for this.
* Red Sox traveling scarf- 1 scarf every 2 weeks for 5 scarves. I have done 2 scarves for this.

Swap gifts:
* Igor swap for the AM Knitter guild- I have plans to make a 'build your own Thcrapth' kit for my buddy. Parcel must arrive by the 14th of Feb.
* Secret present for my swap buddy has now been decided. Yes, I know I added yet another thing to the list!

Secret squirrel project:
* I have done half of this including writing up the pattern. I am now working on other half but it will be very, very slow.

Outstanding Christmas presents:
* 1/2 of a Spirogyra glove- I am making these for my best friend (I've already done the other glove in the pair).
*1 sock for my dad- I have already done the other one.

Current WIPS (other):
*Crocheted wrap- time being the only issue in getting this finished.

WIPS that are snoozing:
* Fugly purple tank top- this just needs seaming
* Fenway's cat bed- I have done half of this and just need to finish off the top
* Olympic jumper- I have done the back, front and half of one sleeve for this but I am no longer sure whether I like it or now.
* Falling in love socks- I have done but the bind off is way too tight and I can't find the end to unpick it. Some major reworking is required.
* Lacy bed socks- I am about half way through the first sock and the pattern is proving to be quite difficult. I just need some quiet time so I can concentrate on them for more than 2 minutes at a go
* Skull illusion scarf- I am about a 1/3 of the way through this and just need to get on and do it. I am immensely frustrated by my lack of progress on this.
* Jumper for the husband- do not ask me about this
* Knitted Winniethe Pooh- ditto above

Planned projects: (at least all of the ones that I can think of immediately)
* Entomological mittens
* Rainbow stripe socks
* Bumblebee socks
* Baby blanket

A much needed review

So, I was scooting around the internet looking at other peoples blogs today- just catching up with friends, seeing what people are up to and having a think about what makes a good blog good.
Some of my favourite blogs are of course, the ones that concentrate on knitting most of all, but when I thought about my own blog I realised that I just am not able to do this. As much as I would like to be able to have a massive list of all the fabulous projects that I'm working on I just don't have the time to do the work. I just can't knit as much as I would like to.
So what does that leave me with? Well, I like to let people know how my other projects are going such as my garden and fun things I get to do at work. But after I'd considered that I started getting increasingly worried about content. Questions such as 'what is it that I actually do with my time?' started floating to the surface, along with the age old one of 'so why do I write a blog?'

Now I'm not sure that I have any answers as yet. It's something that I'm going to have to think about for a bit but I do know that the main reason I write my blog is because I enjoy it. I enjoy the process of writing and of keeping a log of my projects but I haven't ever really written for a specific audience or with any kind of aim in mind. Which might be why I feel as though it is lacking direction. This has also been happening with my knitting. I seem to have lots of projects on the go but I don't feel as though I am achieving anything. There is no forward progress in my skills, I haven't started writing up any patterns and I get the feeling that I am falling into the trap of making things just for the sake of having something to do. Not that there is anything wrong with doing this every now and again but I like to feel as though my projects have some purpose to them, that they are valuable in some way and right now I'm not sure that I feel that way about any of them.

Just recently I seem to have gotten myself involved in a lot of long running term projects which might account for some of these feelings but before I start making any major changes or getting too bogged down in existential questions I thought it would be a good idea to do a stock take of the 'knitting project store'. Maybe this will help me to get a bit of perspective on things and let me prioritise my projects so that I can stimulate a feeling of forward movement. If there is one thing that I have learned about me is that I need to have something to work towards. My whole life has been about hopping from one goal to the next and I find that without a goal I feel as though I am stagnating or that things are going wrong. So, seeing as how I know this then maybe I should work with that idea rather than fight it. Today's plan therefore, is to think about what projects I have on needles, what I have planned and what the purpose of the projects is. I'll make some notes and try and keep an active blog list as I go to help get myself organised. With luck this will help me find some of those answers for all these darn questions!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Red Sox traveling scarf

The first of the traveling scarves from my Red Sox loving ladies has been and gone over the last week or so. I had to go out and find some special yarn for it as the first section was in a really lovely raspberry colour and the yarn I had bought ended up glowing neon red when put next to
it. In the end I invested in some Debbie Bliss cashmerino which had a lovely colour match and was beautifully soft to work with.
Each section needs to be 10" long and I managed that with yarn spare from one ball which I was really pleased with- right up until the point where Hoshi decided to play with it and bit the centre section of spare yarn out. Now I have three bits of slightly soggy spare yarn instead of a nice length for a small toy project. And there was me thinking that she would have grown out of it by now.

Anyway, here's some photos of the finished section:

I used the mock cable stitch again (from the Vogue Stitchonary) with the argument that it looks a bit like little baseballs. Kinda. A bit round anyway. You also get to see my new office carpet- though neither picture is actually a true representation of the colour. Now don't tell me that that is not thrilling for you ;)

I was quite pleased with how this scarf came out. The width was a little difficult to match as the first section hadn't been blocked but the stitch I picked is quite forgiving that way and will stretch A LOT so it should all be good.
What is really exciting about this all though is that it is going through the hands of fellow red sox fans- proper fans in a way, or at least that is how it feels to me as they get to go to games, get a ton more information and can immerse themselves in the whole thing rather than me who is kinda bouncing behind the fence trying to peek over and join in. It's also nice to get the chance to know other women who are into the Sox- everyone else I know that is into baseball is male and they all insist on talking geek speak the entire time.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Little Bluebird of Happiness

My newest FO-

This is my little bluebird of happiness which is based on the 'Sweet Little Bird' pattern by the lady at the Knitted Toy Box. It is supposed to sit flat on a surface but I fiddled with the pattern just a little bit to get it to look like it is flying. Actually all I did was stuff it slightly differently and put the wings and face on in different positions. All the bits that count pattern wise (such as stitch number etc) are all exactly the same. As a final added touch I put a loop on him so that I could hang him above my desk at work. That way, every time I look up I now get to see my little bluebird. He's quite tubby which makes me smile. And if I'm feeling put upon then I get to curse people with an old family saying- "and may the bluebird of happiness fly up your nose!"
As with all really good family sayings it is practically nonsensical but I think you can get the meaning. We normally use it when someone seems to be going out of their way to be a miserable whiny kill joy. I'm sure you'll have met that kind of person at one time or another. You tend to find them most often when pursuing free outdoor activities- such as puddle jumping. There's always someone who, when presented with the opportunity to jump in a puddle, will, no matter how much protective gear you give them, still complain that they might get splashed. At this point you may wish a bluebird to fly up their nose.

Monday, 12 January 2009

How can I make this clear?

I have the best swap buddy ever! Fact.
No argument. I don't care what anyone else says. They rock.
Look- here is proof. My January swap package turned up today- it is almost too much!

I got the DVD box set of Eddie Izzard's stand up shows. I'm not sure if I can even put into words how amazed I am with this. It's generosity in the extreme! This has been on my wish list for months now. Actually, you know what- I think words have failed me on this occasion. I just don't know what to say. I am absolutely blown away by this gift.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Check this out

Sometimes you get sent a link to a website that just blows your little socks off. Happily for me my best friend has gone and done just that. Look what she found! You can bet your bottom dollar that I will be making one of these soon. But then there are these spider socks as well! (sorry for those of you who don't have a Ravelry account). Wait a minute it gets better- for a grand finale she also sent me a link to a most fabulous pumpkin coloured hat that has little black cats all over. I also most fainted from hyperventilating over how great these are.

Pratghan Equal Rites

So here it is everyone- my next square for my Pratchett Afghan. This is Decembers offering and the book we were working from is Equal Rites.

The plan for this square was bit harder to come up with. Equal Rites is not one of my favourites books. It has scenes I like but there isn't one that really defines it for me. So once again I was forced to go with a collection of symbols and combine different elements from the book. It did turn out looking a bit like a giant eye however which is unfortunate, as its meant to be the staff lying in a pool of water surrounded by ice. I love the bit when Granny and the Arch Chancellor have to go out to fetch staff and they find it sulking in the Ankh. Granny has to give it the hard stare and a stern telling off.
Anyway, the ice is then surrounded by the grey sparkly sand of that in between place where the 'monsters' live. I had some lovely luxury Donagal Aran Tweed left over from a Christmas present that I used for this so its wonderfully soft and fun to knit with. Which acts as a good contrast to the metallic thread that I put through with it which is a bit crunchy but oh so twinkly. I put a border of darker grey in to try to help keep the focus central but I think this only added to eye effect.
Anyway, after that I had a near disaster. When tying in all the threads on the back of my rather naff intarsia I accidentally cut something that I shouldn't have. I had stranded across the back of the blue water which had puckered it a bit. When investigating and tying in ends I chopped through some of the stranding. Argh! Nearly had a hideous unravelling of intarsia nightmare. Luckily I was at my parents house which meant that I had access to an embellisher. So I felted the ends into the back of the knitting and then carefully proceeded to cut the rest of the threads and do the same with them. This meant that the blue bit stopped being puckered which was a lucky break on what could have been a complete and total disaster. I think it would have broken me- it took days to complete the intarsia.
But phew, all was okay. I took the opportunity to add in a little detail whilst I was there. I felted some octarine around the edge of the water. Not only because it covered up the edges but also to reference the strong magical discharge that was occurring at the time. Ahem. And I cut some monsters out of grey felt and embellished them on round the edges as well. I also had a quick run over the ice to make sure that I had tied in any loose ends. I was forced to add in quite a few sections of yarn when knitting the ice. I was using some left over bamboo yarn and it seemed to take a ton more of it than I had anticipated. It made good ice but the ends are really splity and have a horrible habit of popping out all over the place.
After that it was all detail. The staff I embroidered by hand. I raided my mums bead stash and picked out all the odd shapes to represent the worlds that Simon's makes for the blobby creatures. I stitched round the monsters to make them stand out- three tone grey just didn't work. As a final touch I added in Esk's necklace that she gets from the Chief Liar of the Zoons (the blue spiracle on a fine silver chain).
Something that I hadn't noticed I had done but someone on Ravelry pointed out to me was to include the star from Esk's wizard hat. So I ended up adding more stuff in than even I had realised. I had it finished at about 10:30 New Years eve so I got to start the new year on a positive which was nice.
Next book though is 'Mort' and whilst ideas are not a problem for this one, executing them in yarn format will be. I'm still waiting for the wheels to fall off of this whole project and I just know its going to be an early book that makes itself difficult. Hmm, probably best not to think about it right now. Have to work out how to not do crap intarsia and do good intarsia instead!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

I love my secret swap buddy

Okay, so I know that I have already posted about this in two different places on the TSG board but I want to make sure that everyone knows just how wonderful my secret swap buddy is but, more importantly, THEY know it too.
And what has bought about this display of affection? As if you didn't know- it's cos they sent me an extra gift for Christmas! And look what it had in it-

Yay! I get to try dying my own sock yarn!! Not only is it one of my most favourite brands of sock yarn (they have some real crazy colours) but I've got orange, green and purple to do it with. I have been bouncing around ever since receiving this. This coming weekend is the first chance I will have for trying this out so I'm going to give it a go then as the DH is going to be working hard. I'll be sure to post soon with the results but in the meantime could you all just marvel at how lovely my swap buddy is? It makes feel just a little bit lame- I'm not sure I have been half so good at matching gifts up.

Moth madness

Now I know I said that I would put this up yesterday but it was my first day back at work after the Christmas break and I got a bit bogged down in paperwork. I'm sure y'all can forgive a girl for that can't you?
Anyway, I promised to post further about my views on silk moths (as if they really mattered) so this is me fulfilling my obligations. For those of you who aren't here after following a thread on Ravelry then let me expand on the point.
There has been, over the last couple of days, some small debate about the issue of ethically produced silk*. This came up because I mentioned that I try not to buy yarn with silk in it. Now I know that there is an awful lot of rubbish that goes with a subject like this and I hastily remove myself from any 'rose-tinted' territory that skips alongside. I'm a practical biologist and I like to think, a scientist to boot. In fact, I trained as an ecologist and have done some small amount of animal behaviour study. I now work as an entomologist where I study insect behaviour and morphology. As a consequence I try very hard not to anthropomorphise animals unless I'm being silly and doing it deliberately. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that its wrong to kill the little moths because they are pretty or it hurts them. I don't assign to the belief that it is wrong to kill animals as long as there is a practical reason for doing so. And I think that this is the important point.
In my book a practical reason would be, e.g. to eat. I am a firm believer that we are meant to eat meat- our morphology and evolution lead me to come to this conclusion (along with a number of other more minor points). But I also know that it is possible to survive nowadays without eating meat. There are plenty of other options as far as protein and vitamin supplements that mean that you can get by without eating any meat at all. I also think that it lowers your quality of life and that it's not practical but the point is that is is possible. (The whole meat eating thing here is not the issue- that's a whole debate in itself and to be honest I think it is a purely personal choice so not really something that requires the debate but anyway...)
Okay, so given the conclusion that it is possible to get by without eating meat this then leads me to believe that if you are still going to go ahead and kill a cow for food then you have a moral obligation to make best use of its body. By 'best use' I mean use as much as possible of it- eat as much of the flesh as you can, use the bones to make glue, use the skin to make leather, use all the squishy bits left over to make dog food, whatever- just use as much as you possibly can. This is not because I feel obliged to the cow in any way. Yes, the cow would probably still like to be alive and doing cow things but for me its more about the efficiency of energy transfer. If I make the most out of this cow that I have killed today then I can put off killing another cow for another 'x' number of days. That way I use less cows overall and I have done my best to put in as much as I get out. I'm not sure its possible for a person to be 'carbon neutral' (shudders at use of jargon) without taking a few steps down in quality of life (i.e. ditch the electrics and grow your own veg- though I have to say, that does sound kinda nice to me) but you can be sympathetic to your environment.
So what's this got to do with moths? Well, it's about an attitude to life really. That and the fact that I am constantly annoyed by people who go 'Oooh, look at the furry animal' whilst stomping on bugs. So my attitude to life is to try and be sympathetic to my environment and lessen my impact on this world insofar as practically possible given my circumstances whilst my inner insect lover tells me that I should appreciate the value of ALL life, great or small, cute or ugly, furry or crunchy.
As for the moths, well, they are bred for the purposes of silk production in the same way that we breed herds of cows for beef. But silk for me whilst beautiful and wondrous is not a necessity. There are very few things in life that actually require the use of silk and it's quite possible that I could go my whole life without any need for it. So for me its an easy choice to make. The moths don't need to die so therefore they shouldn't on my account. It is also another small way in which I can wave the 'insects have rights too' flag.
However, this does eliminate practically all Noro for me which makes me sad. I did treat myself to a skein recently that had a little silk in it and I had a minor pang of guilt around the point but decided that just occasionally a little frivolity is allowed. This is because at the end of the day I remain practical. People can only do as much as they have time for. I'm in a position where I can set my house up around my needs- we have about 5 different bins to split rubbish up into and the time to do it as there is only myself and the DH to look after apart from a few small furry animals.
As a disclaimer to all this- I also believe that it's not my job to tell others how to live their lives or judge them for not putting their cardboard out for composting. I would like it if they could and I admit, I don't understand why more people don't seem to think the same way I do but at the end of the day these are my views and my reasoning and I appreciate that others may think something completely different. Our opinions are an amalgamation of experience, education and personality which probably goes a long way to explaining how we seem to have ended up with so many different ones in this world.
So anyway, that's my two pennies worth on this particular subject. I hope it all made sense. Now I'm going to return to the more familiar and safer territory of knitting. I have things to say about woolly goodness that also need airing :)

*If you are not sure what I mean by this then let me explain. To make silk you take silkmoth larvae (caterpillars) and wait until they have created their pupae (in which they will pupate and transform into rather handsome moths even if I do say so). You then take the pupae and (normally) chuck them into a big vat of boiling water. This kills the moth and loosens up the silk. The silk is produced as a big long chain that the moth winds around itself as a protective shell so that it can go through the delicate procedure of turning from a caterpillar to a moth. These long chains of silk are pulled from the vats, stretched out, dried, dyed, spun etc to make silk. Okay, so I simplified this a bit. Anyway, to make ethically produced silk you have the option of letting the moth pupate before claiming the silk. This does mean that the silk you make is of a lower quality though as the moth chews through the pupae (also known as a cocoon btw) to get out which breaks the long chains into smaller pieces. This makes it harder to spin and produces a rougher quality silk but moth does live to breed and make more moths.