Monday, October 30, 2006

Monday Musings

Was Pythagoras a Knitter?

Often during my school years I got strange looks from people as I chatted about my studies "you're majoring in what - maths?!?" It seemed inexplicable to many people that I could be really into the humanities - music, languages, English literature, - with mathematics on the side. Now I am vindicated. Hehe.

I started my first garment design project last week. A shrug with a basic eyelet stitch and lace edging worked afterwards.

*Bows low to all past maths teachers*

Knit a swatch in stocking stitch. Calculate guage. Calculate gauge again in imperial. Repeat for lace pattern. Measure body parts. Find a friend to measure body parts impossible to reach by oneself. Convert to imperial. Divide measurements by gauge. Round up/down. Adjust to fit stitch pattern repeats BUT NOT BY TOO MUCH. Calculate lower back shaping. Knit a bit. Calculate sleeve shaping. Spend ages trying to figure out how to increase 72 stitches evenly over 54 rows - how much is too much anyway???. Make sure pattern is centred. Check measurements in case copious amount of chocolate consumption has affected fit. Knit a bit. Eat more chocolate. Check measurements again.

Sometime I'm going to have to figure out how to fit the lace pattern to the cuff and edging stitch count. Potentially before I have knitted that part of the shrug.

I think I need some more chocolate...

Last week's Monday Musings


Thursday, October 19, 2006


Is it just me or is my "Works in Progress" list growing at an alarming rate...

Yes I do have four pairs of socks on the needles at the moment *blushes a fiery red to match the latest lace scarf* and the only thing stopping me from casting on more is the lack of a ball winder.

I soooooo want to start a shrug as well - I have the pattern all figured out in my head and have my eye on some yarn at work. An empty purse and some few shreds of a sense of reality are just managing to hold me back.

Did I mention that working in a yarn shop is VERY dangerous...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

My Apologies

Yes, I know it's Tuesday.

Yesterday I was halfway into researching Monday Musings when I got called up to teach. I have been working on the assumption that if I haven't heard anything by about 8:45 it's safe to start proper writing, the kind that has you open several internet windows and spread papers and swatches all over the couch. How wrong I was. It was 10:55 when Protocol rang and said 'just get there as soon as you can'.

I dashed around, made lunch, closed internet windows, saved the one sentence I'd written for MM and left the house. Upon my return I had three glasses of wine and went to bed. 4-year-olds can have that effect.

So, I apologise to those of you who seek out Monday Musings on a Monday, I claim 'natural disaster' as an excuse (that was the being dribbled on bit). The drunk Ukrainian on the train coming home, who obviously wanted to share a lot more than his life story, didn't help either.

Half term next week so I promise I'll be on time :-)

Monday Musings

Yarn: The New Prozac?

Those who read widely about crafts on the internet through blogs, forums and online magazines will no doubt have noticed the regularly appearing motif of meditation and calm being induced by handcrafts. Ask a knitter or a spinner why they enjoy their chosen hobby and they’ll almost certainly include ‘I find it very relaxing’ on their list.

Last week megali started a thread on the AY forum commenting on how knitting often sends her to sleep. Many people replied saying that knitting helped them relax, drowse and even fall sound asleep (not always with optimal results!) When I took up spinning again this year I discovered an amazing sense of fulfilment in the creation of yarn. Working with your hands helps to centre and focus your mind and can have a very therapeutic effect on the body.

One article I read on the subject takes the idea further, claiming that spinning can be like taking Prozac "It transports me to another place. It's a little like Gregorian chant” says one spinner interviewed in Boston. She goes on to say that she believes there was an increase in people spinning after September 11 as people searched for something “comforting and productive to do at home”.

Another knitter, this time from Northern Ireland, claims that her craft helps her in her battle with depression; “It is the only thing that picks me up off the ground”. A young boy from Detroit found that methodical counting and hand manipulations helped him focus on breathing and staying calm during bad asthma attacks.

The more you browse, the more stories are discovered of people who applaud knitting, spinning and other crafts as a means to discovering peace, comfort and calm. Still not convinced? Harvard Professor Herbert Benson, MD says knitting tops many doctors’ ‘calming activity’ lists. Allowing for the passive release of stray thoughts, knitting resembles a “calming mantra”.

So next time someone comes along with comments about knitting being ‘old-fashioned’, just for ‘grannies’ or ‘far cheaper to buy one in M&S’ give them a lecture on the health benefits of wielding the pointy sticks. Then give them some yarn and needles (or a spindle and fluff) and a five-minute lesson and watch them get hooked themselves on the peace and relaxation that is the gift of handcrafts.

Last week's Monday Musings


Friday, October 13, 2006

Ally Pally

What a great way to spend the day :-) I was very good and didn't go over my budget but did bring home a little bit of interesting stash. The best part was catching up with the Badger crowd who I've been online pals with for a while but never met in the flesh! It's funny when you have picture in your mind of what someone might look like and then find they're completely different. I had great fun gals, hope to see you again soon :-D

I was too busy fondling yarn to take any pictures at the show, so here's a very boring picture of the outside (lol)
And here's the stash. One pair of Cherry Tree Hill socks, a skinny scarf from Habu, some beads, lace from Touch yarns (the red skein) the new new Yarn Forward mag and knitting book signed by the author. And my Badger Badge :-) I bought one other thing but it is a present for mum so won't post it here ;-).
364 days till Ally Pally 2007...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Socktoberfest Questionnaire

When did you start making socks? Did you teach yourself or were you taught by a friend or relative? or in a class?
I made my first pair a bit over a year ago. My mum had knitted socks but she used DK yarn and I didn't like the chunkiness for everyday wear. Then I found a cute ankle sock pattern at The Blue Blog and it inspired me!

What was your first pair? How have they "held up" over time?
My first pair were Alison's ankle socks and I knitted them with Opal Lollipop yarn which had just appeared in Australia at the time. They are as good as new but I haven't worn them a great deal as I'm not over-fussed about the colour. I have later pairs which I like much better.

What would you have done differently?
I would have put more ribbing on, there are only four rows and it's not really enough.

What yarns have you particularly enjoyed?
I really love the superwash wool from Live 2 Knit, it is lovely to knit with and wear but it felts a lot. Lorna's Laces is my favourite at the moment but I've only knitted one pair with it.

Do you like to crochet your socks? or knit them on DPNs, 2 circulars, or using the Magic Loop method?
I always use two circulars. Mum taught me this method which I first used to knit hats before I discovered socks.

Which kind of heel do you prefer? (flap? or short-row?)
I've never done a heel flap, I don't really like the way they look. I prefer toe-up socks and I have small feet so short rows fit me well. I know I'll have to bite the bullet if I have to knit for someone with a high instep though.

How many pairs have you made?
About 7-8 pairs for myself, 2 pairs for my sister-in-law, 1 pair for a swap and countless baby socks.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sock-Sized Knitting Bag Pattern

This little bag is the perfect size for a sock-on-the-go. Make it a bit bigger if you like for larger projects.

30cm – 50cm main fabric, or assorted scraps for bag and handles
30cm – 50cm fabric for lining
Interfacing or thin batting recommended for larger sizes

Cut Fabric:
¼” seam allowance included throughout
(Measurements given for sock bag, refer to table below for larger sizes.)
From main fabric:
Two 8” squares for front and back, incorporating patchwork or embroidered design if desired.
One 5” x 3 ½” rectangle for base
Two 12” x 2” strips for handles
From lining fabric:
Two 8” squares for front and back
One 5” x 3 ½” rectangle for base
(If using batting or interfacing cut as for lining and attach to lining before sewing up)

1. With right sides facing, stitch outer base to outer front and back centring at lower edge. Stitch side seams.

2. Fold bag so side seam aligns with base and stitch diagonal seams to make bag corners.

3. Repeat for lining leaving a 3” gap in one side seam to turn through later.

4. Stitch handles into two tubes, turn through and press flat.

5. Turn bag right side out, pin handles in position on sides of bag, matching raw edges and being careful not to twist.

6. With lining inside out, place bag inside lining and stitch top edge seam, securing handles as part of seam.

7. Turn through gap in lining side seam, slipstitch closed and press top edge seam, topstitch if desired (recommended for bags with interfacing or batting).

Fabric measurements for larger sizes (¼” seam allowance included):

Size/Sides/Base/Handles/Finished height
Sock/8” x 8”/5” x 3 ½” /12” x 2”/7 ½ inches
Medium/10” x 10”/6” x 4 ½” /15” x 3” /9 ½ inches
Large/12” x 12”/7” x 5 ½” /18” x 4”/11 ½ inches


Monday, October 09, 2006

Monday Musings

You get what you pay for .... and sometimes a lot more!

There is always a lot of discussion going around about the value of a good bargain. Is it better to buy cheap? Shop till you drop for that perfect discount (and spend more on petrol in the process) Buy the bargain brand because it's such a great saving? This article isn't really about whether you should buy on the cheap - my thoughts on that can be summed up very briefly: If it's good and on sale, grab it. If it's just cheap, turn around and walk out the door: you will always regret it.

But what about things you don't actually have to pay for. What are they worth? Are they worth less because there is no fixed price asked? Should you pay what someone else in the same market would ask or give yourself a discount or even a freebie?

About three weeks ago I discovered podcasts and Cast-On. In the first episode I listened to Brenda mentioned the difficulty of making a fair quid at what she does. Luckily, she is able to apply for grants which cover costs and maybe pay some of her bills. But there is also a donation button - available for those who would like to contribute to the continued efforts of Cast-On.

... Before you click away - I am NOT having a go at people who are unable to donate or choose not to. I just want to explore the idea of how we place a value on something without a price tag. Please hear me out ...

This dilemma made me think a bit of those street performers you see sometimes. You know, the ones with the great unicycle/flaming torches/sword swallowing/houdini tricks. They draw a huge crowd, everyone cheers and says ooooooohhhh then as soon as the hat comes out the crowd melts away like snow in Sydney. I would pay £5 for a magazine and get about the same amount of enjoyment out of it as I do from Cast-On. The last theatre tickets we bought were £7 (which I thought was a bargain).

Should we do a direct comparison and say 'Ok, Cast-On is worth £5 an episode, where's the donation button!' I don't think it's quite that simple. A podcast or street performance does not have the same overheads attached and who knows, the artist in question may prefer to be on the street (so to speak) and poohpooh the idea of a fixed rate.

I think it is important that we recognise and encourage writers and artists who have chosen the alternative route to fame. If that is through a donation then all well and good, but you can show support simply by saying hello or telling a friend. Creativity from street artists, bloggers and podcasters improves our world and gives us access to ideas and entertainment we may never have been able to reach or afford. A bargain, yes, but definitely not cheap.

Ciao, Diane

Last week's Monday Musings


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Greetings From London!

Whoopeee, we're here! actually, we arrived three days ago but we've been running around like (jetlagged) headless chooks and this is the first chance I've had to relax and catch up on my blogging. For all the news, pop over to mulhollandwanderings.

The survive-27-hours-on-the-plane-without-knitting-by-listening-to-Cast-On plan had a serious flaw: Listening to Brenda chat about knitting when I couldn't knit myself...NOT FUN!! My hands were twitching with the feeling of the absent needles :-( But it did help really. And I LOVE my ipod :-) I think I had it on for about 8-9 hours all up and it was only on about 2/3 battery when we started.

Now I am busily knitting away at my swap socks, I've realised that there's not.much.time until they're due! No photos of anything sorry as I'm still not on my own computer. We hope to be settled soon though.

Ciao, :-)