Friday, 24 January 2014

Technology fail

So there I was, minding my own beeswax, having my lunch on Tuesday, watching podcasts and I nearly choked on my lettuce leaf (sigh! I long for empty calories!). There was Mel telling all and sundry that I have a podcast. Now, it's some thing I've been thinking about for a while. I've enjoyed doing the odd video to embed in the blog, but I'm not sure I've got the time or the editing knowhow to do a video podcast with any regularity. But the thought of an audio podcast has been running around my brain, Mel just gave me a push to do something about it.

So Tuesday night on the way back from knit night I recorded a little message and then spent the next 3 hours trying to embed it in the blog and also set up a feed for iTunes. Now, at this point I feel I must declare that I don't class myself as a technophobe. I can usually muddle my way through pretty much anything; but on this I'm stumped. I've managed to embed YouTube videos with no problems and you can stream them from the blog. No matter how I fettle, I can't get my head around this. So, for now, I hope you guys can download the podcast file from the blog. I'm trawling through the techno speak to find how to make an RSS and how to submit it to iTunes. Until then. Bear with!

Week in review - 

This week I have mostly been dieting. I've been following the Atkins plan and it's made me feel atrocious. I mean just truly abismal. I've had headaches and migraines all week again! I've done this diet before and I can't remember it making me feel this bad, maybe I'm being too strict with myself. I've only eaten protein and a bit of salad for each meal. And the least said about the effects of so little fibre in my diet the better! ;-(

Feeling the love - 

Last week I told you I cast on a pair of Gansey socks. Well, I ripped them back out. Honestly! Me and Gansey just don't get on! Well........ My current concentration levels and Gansey don't get on at any rate. The yarn I'm using is a gently variegated yarn of dusty lilacs, vivid cerise and deep purple. The colours hid the purl bumps in the Gansey pattern, making it difficult to track where I was up to. So the yarn got wound back onto the cake and I started again. 

I do love a bit of lacework. I love a good YO!  When put together with a K2tog, or an SSK I'm ecstatic. So I had a trail through my old stitch dictionaries. I have 2 dictionaries I bought from eBay they're both 30 years old and I love them. I get so inspired to design when I flick through their pages. I'm always looking for old stitch dictionaries. I'd love to find one from the 40's. I wonder if they even printed them then.

Any hoo, I found a pretty, simple pattern which I thought would be great and set about putting it into a sock. The upshot of this is I've mostly been working on this new sock. As I sit writing to you this morning I'm a hair's breadth off finishing the toe of the first sock and I'm really pleased with it. I've been writing up the pattern as I knit, and I'll test it when I knit the second sock. With some good luck and a following wind it will be up on Ravelry by the end of January. 

The consequence of this is that pretty much all my good intentions for progress on my other projects went to the wall. 

I did try to spin though! I say try, but when I got the wheel out my son made puppy eyes at me and he spun instead. Ah, well maybe next week!

I did get some dying done though this weekend. 

I signed up to a knitting class last week. Mel of SingleHandedKnits fame is running an online class called Swatch Like You Mean It. The clue is in the name. Mel is an avid swatcher. She loves to play with her yarn and get to know it. That's probably why her patterns turn out so well she knows exactly how the yarn will behave before she puts pen to paper. Me? I have a violent allergy to swatching. It brings me out in hives! I HATE the idea. To me it's a waste of time and yarn.
 I told you, I'm tight! There's a vicious rumour going around that I invented copper wire by fighting with someone over a penny!  
This chronic aversion to swatching probably explains my equally powerful loathing of knitting garments for myself! If you don't swatch the likelihood of you project turning out as you hope is slim. I know this, but I just can't get past the waste of yarn thing. Yes, yes, I know! I can hear you shouting at me! It's a vicious circle. 


I bought Mel's Halele'a pattern. Wow!!! Now THAT'S what I call a swatch! It's basically a trial run at the pattern. You practice all techniques you need to knit the full garment. The cast on, the decrease, the pick up for the button band, the button holes - everything. 
This is a revelation. A lightbulb moment. If I read the pattern I want to knit through properly before I start, if I practice the techniques on my swatch I might prevent major disaster on the real project. It's more than checking tension and picking needles, it's getting it right first time. 

Who knew?!

Mel has sent out a list of things to gather ready for the class starting. One item needed is 600 yards of dishcloth cotton. Now, I don't do dishcloths. The idea of washing dishes with my beautiful knits makes my blood run cold. I'm not a huge fan of working with cotton either. It makes my hands hurt.

So I had to go shopping for cotton. I found 6 balls of a generic cheap and cheerful dishcloth cotton online in a rather dull ecru colour. Not very inspiring. So I decided to dye them. Here's what happened: 

I knew from checking online I had to approach this differently to my previous forays into dying with wool. My acid dyes wouldn't work. So I went to town and looked for Dylon cold dyes. I was looking for the solid disks of dye but came home with three packets of powdered dye. I bought a jeans blue, a navy blue and a dark green. 

When I read the packet it said that one packet will dye 250g of fabric with the intensity of the colour on the packaging. Hummmmmmm........ I thought. I have 600g of yarn. Therefore if I use all three colours I should be ok. Right? Erm, not exactly!

So the first task was to skein up each of the six balls. Turns out each one was 170 yards in length so I've more than enough (maybe I'll knit dishcloths with the remainder!). I twisted them up really tightly. My plan was to dye one colour, untwist the skein and re-twist it in a different way to expose different areas of the skein each time. After that I left them to soak in a bath of warm water with salt added while I walked the dog. Soaking allows the dye to penetrate the skein easier and also allows my poor right arm to recover from skeining 6 balls of cotton with my homemade, very heavy, niddy noddy!

Next I drained the yarn and refilled the pot with more warm water and salt. I then added the whole packet of jeans blue dye. One packet does 250g of fabric and there's 600g in there so I should get a light shade of blue, right?

At this point my heart sank! That's a dark blue; really solid, dark blue!! I waited the hour advised on the packet and came back to find the dye bath as full of colour as I left it. 
With a heavy heart I tipped out the pot

Can you see? My heat lifted as I caught the smallest glimpse of cream. Top right of the photo! Can you see? I unravelled the skeins

Whoop whoop! Happy days! 

I reskeined the yarn which was no easy feat with wet cotton I can tell you! As I twisted I thought. 

When I used the whole packet I threw most of the dye away. After all most of that 600g of yarn is unavailable to the dye because it's twisted so tightly. So I'll only use half of the packet this time. Dark green is next

After the second hour I still threw most of the dye away, but I was happy with the colour. I unravelled the skeins for the last time 

As I was unraveling I thought again. Originally I'd considered stopping at 2 colours. But because the first 2 were so dark and intense I thought that the natural colour was too much of a contrast. So I went with the final navy blue colour. This time I only used a quarter of the packet. 

Still a very saturated dye bath! I was slightly concerned that the last dye would ruin the previous 2. I didn't retwist the skeins this time so that all the yarn would be in contact with dye

Ta da!! 

I'm really pleased!  Now I REALLY can't wait to start swatching like I mean it! 

Oh, and next on my dying hit list is the yarn I bought for Halele'a. It's Sirdar Countrystyle 4ply. It's too blue, I wanted a more grey/blue. I think I'll take it to my dying lesson in a fortnight. 
Didn't I tell you?
Oh, I'm having a dying lesson. I'm so excited! My friend Marion, who is a member of Woolclip, co-organiser of Woolfest, design guru, dying queen and all round good egg is going to show me how it's done! Properly I mean. I hope to be able to dye with intent at the end. Rather than hoping for the best and having to endure those buttock clenching moments when you think you've ruined 600g of cotton! 

On the horizon -
Will I get to grips with iTunes? Hopefully
Will I get my second sock design finished? Pretty please
Will I get some spinning done? Fingers crossed
Will I get some progress made on the Peacock shaw? Possibly ;-)

Have a great week guys. 

Ellen x 

Episode 2