Odds and sods

It feels like a great many of my posts could be titled this at the moment, although I’m grateful to be feeling a bit more like my creative self again. Apparently the whack a mole I’ve been trying to play with the brain weasels is working, for the moment. I was pretty sure I’d been doing nothing at all, because I haven’t done anything especially exciting, but it adds up. I tell others, all the time, that everything counts (sorry for the Depeche Mode earworm), and apparently I don’t listen to myself very well.

So what HAVE I been doing while trying to get myself back on some sort of new normal ish? Let’s wander through the projects littering my house. (As a note, apparently having people over is what keeps the projects from Taking Over.. the spouse is lucky I haven’t taken over his spot on the couch yet, but it’s a near thing.)

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The scrappy side, full of ends.

There’s been some plain knitting, as best as I can manage on the plague shawl. It started out using up what looked like a failed warp in an inherited stash, and now has been just using up bits and pieces of whatever else is in the stash in about the right colours. I can’t work on it much, my arms hate every second of it, and it’s going to be CRAZY warm (I started it when my house was FREEZING to sit in all day), just in time for the weather to warm up. It is literally a triangle made by knit 1, yarn over, knit to the end of the row. Continue until you run out of yarn, or patience. Wait, no.. keep going when you run out of patience, you’ll run out of that early, cause damn it’s boring and those rows get super long by the end.

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There’s been some modern textile collage, which was something I did long ago with an embroidery mentor. Basically if Sharron was teaching at our modern needlecraft guild, I took her classes. She is an amazing artist, and I wish I had a 1/10th her skills with a sewing machine. (Not enough to practice.. I happily stick to hand stitching). A modern embroidery page is doing mini challenges every week, and one of them was a collage, and I couldn’t resist the nostalgia. I’m trying not to overthink it, it’s not a stunning masterpiece, but I appreciated the distraction working on it. I’ve only done week 2’s challenge, even if they are starting week 6, but I appreciate watching everyone else’s work.

I have been baking and cooking.. basically every day. Nothing overly exciting, mostly dinner every night, and lunch every day. Granola and yogurt and candied peel and bread, so much bread, another sourdough starter, more bread, cake and curries and pottage and muffins and and.. cooking and baking has been my standby for creative work when I didn’t have brain for string. I’d say I can bake in my sleep, but I over yeasted my bread this morning when putting the dough together before coffee, but somehow it all has survived and it is perfectly tasty bread.

The mending box is.. damn near empty. Apparently global pandemics make me want to darn socks and patch holes in skirts. The clothes that need major alterations, well they might sit for quite some time to come, but that’s besides the point.

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A wee tiny bit of knitted lace, to potentially end up on another textile collage that I can see in my head, which is generally a death knell to it actually looking anything like that, and destined to be disappointing, but we’ll see. It might end up just being another random bit of lace hanging out in stash.

I’m sure there’s been more, but those are the highlights that I can remember right now. What have you been up to?

How’re you doing?

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Well. Goodness. I think all the memes about ‘well that escalated quickly’ basically sum up the world right now, with the pandemic changing the world around us by the minute it feels like. The vast majority of us are now at home full time, some with work to keep us busy, some chasing children who are bored out of their minds, some with unending amounts of free time stretching out to infinity and beyond.

There’s no one right way to handle this, by the by. Some folks are diving into big creative projects they’ve always wanted to try. Attending classes every couple of hours, driving from the firehose of online information and fresh productivity that comes from having copious free time all of a sudden. Some folks are retreating back a bit, not quite as delighted by a whole slew of MORE new things and finding solace in familiar crafts and media while everything else is in chaos of new. Both of these, and somewhere in the middle, are totally reasonable. I’m in the second camp. I am a creature of routine, and lists and expectations and suddenly things are changing ALL THE TIME. I will find my new normal and find some concentration and creativity again, but for the moment, I’m settled in on the familiar. A bit of (terrible) weaving. Some mending. My journal has come back out of hibernation as an invaluable spot to settle all those many thoughts into a non judgemental location. I’ve started a new utterly basic dishcloth shawl out of scrappy yarn, my plague shawl. Garter stitch and cozy wool. I can literally knit this in my sleep, and it provides a familiar motion for my hands while my brain is overly full. My social schedule seems to be just as full of zoom / FB live / etc etc meetings with friends to chatter and craft together. It’s not quite the same, but it’s a welcome sense of connection.

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It’s okay if you don’t write the next great novel, or King Lear (the quip being that Shakespeare wrote it while in quarantine), or produce a pentathlon worth of perfectly researched A&S projects. (It’s awesome if you do, I wanna see the cool things!). Bake some cookies, watch a familiar movie and knit on your plague shawl. We will find equilibrium, and we will come together to hug each other close when we’re on the other side of this.

The Peacock

I’ve been teasing this project out on the book of faces and on instagram all through the progression of it, enough that I get surprised when I mention it as just ‘the peacock’ and someone is ‘uhh.. wtf are you /on/ about’. Social media, not always very social. But anyhow.

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So it begins.

This project is over 20 yrs in the making. Allow me, if you will, to ramble a bit about the Good Ole Days ™ on the internet, aka the late-90s. It was a time when finding anything was /hard/. Google wasn’t yet a thing, but putting up a webpage, if you were at all technical, was pretty easy. Running a mailing list was very much a thing, most of us were some form of academics (students, staff, faculty) and the world didn’t much care what the weirdos did with the university computers as long as it didn’t break anything. Usenet was a thing, and most of us knitters found ourselves, at one point or another on The Knit List. It was THE list. A listsrv that required just having faith in arcane directions to join. It was where all the knitters of the internet hung out, and there was everything from ‘how do I start?’ to ‘I am knitting guru, and here’s some of my latest design work’. I fell into that first camp on the knit list, just so we’re clear.

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Disaster dodged. (Spilled candle wax is bad for lace.)

Regular posters to the knit list became early internet superstars (very much like the ‘fame’ of costumers who are on YouTube these days. #Costube etc.) and I hung upon their every word and project. They were amazing, and one in particular was crazy. My sort of crazy. She knit tiny before knitting tiny was a thing, and I wanted to do that SO BAD. Not only did she knit tiny socks, and a tiny bag. She had knit doilies. A peacock doily. She noted that she’d used piano wire to make her needles and sewing thread for her yarn. I went out and found 0.3 mm piano wire (dutifully following her comments to the letter) and picked up a spool of navy blue thread from the stash to make a sample.

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Hey look, peacock!

This was, in a word, a nightmare. That blue thread? Faintly fuzzy polyester of the ‘3 spools for a dollar!’ variety. Navy blue. About as easy to see as finding a black cat on a new moon night in a mud puddle. I never did get nice points on those damn wires, and it caught with every other stitch. I am notorious, legendary even, for having bulletproof tension. I was no different then, and even for sewing thread, I probably should have been up in the 0.75 mm or 1mm needles.

I knit a wee thing about 2 inches by 2 inches, determined that it was 36 stitches to the inch, and when we were packing to move almost 10 yrs later? Threw it in the trash. (I have regrets now, but at the time? It felt cathartic.)

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But that peacock doily? I kept the pattern. Not only did I have the original pattern (found at a junk store back in those knit list days), but I had the reprint in one of my lace knitting books. And I was determined. The swatch may have been a hot mess of awful, but the doily.. that should be fine, right?

Reader, it was not fine. Terrible thread (at least I’d moved to a light colour!) and worse needles did not make a complex lace pattern easier than a swatch. I didn’t make it past half a dozen rows, ripped it all out and shoved the pattern back on the shelf.

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The original

Fast forward, and I join the SCA. And I discovered more people who are quite reasonable about tiny knitting. And by now, I have acquired more than 20 years worth of knitting experience, and knowledge about thread, and some rather lovely tiny needles, and find myself in need of a distraction project. Thus, the peacock got another crack. An ode, perhaps, to how far I’ve come since the days of that hideous thread and those poor little wire needles.

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Early in my bobbin lace learning, I bought myself a rather nice spool of cotton. (Brok 32/2 for those keeping track at home), and it’s been waiting for just the right project. This seemed like the time to break it out. I tried it with 0.75 mm needles (I know what tension is now!) and it was too tight, so 1.0 mm needles (5-0 for the Americans) and that was just about right. I am not going to say that this was the easiest pattern I’ve ever worked. There was language at a few spots and there’s a whole section that is just a mess of picked up tiny stitches and knit 3 togethers that is a nightmare at this size. I took off my glasses to get closer to see what was going on, and poked myself in the face with needles sort of miserable sections. The Interweave reprint has errata no longer easily available on the internet (thank you wayback machine) and even IT is wrong. Thank goodness for having the original available to refer to.

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Peacock!

Most who, back in the day, knit the peacock in tiny (it was a /thing/ amongst a few crazy folks), stopped after the peacock section, and called it good enough, but I rather liked the extra border to make it a square, so I decided to do the whole thing. I have no regrets. It’s just about exactly 8″ square, and ultimately it will be tacked down to fabric, framed and hung on the wall. I’m not wholly delighted with my blocking, I might yet block it again, but for the moment, it is done.

Tiny Stupid Project

So those who know my crafting predilections, know that my happy place is putting holes in things on purpose and playing with tiny string. Usually it’s thin cotton, or linen, sometimes wool or silk. Pre-SCA, I tended to kick back with knitting doilies and table clothes and now .. well.. now I try everything, and weaving seems to have taken over much of my time, but that’s besides the point.

It’s been a stressy few months, for a variety of not dire reasons, but that doesn’t make it any less gnngargh in the moment and with not a lot of brain for taking on new things. So I turned to my one true love. (It didn’t hurt that I was trying to come up with an ornament to make for a lace guild exchange, so I was happily surfing small knitting lace patterns.) I found a little doily chart that was super basic, but cute enough. (Promenade for those following along at home.) A variation on a very classic spiral piece, knit from the outside in, which is unusual. (Not sure I’m a fan, but that’s neither here nor there.)

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I decided that cotton was enh, fine, but enh, and then remembered that I had a small spool of copper wire that I’d acquired for wire weaving. Y’know, the stuff many in the SCA make lovely metal cords from, that I don’t love doing. I tried it, of course I did, but others love it more than I do (ditto with naalbinding for that matter) So clearly the only thing to be done was to knit a small doily out of copper wire. Because that’s what I apparently view as good stress knitting. (my tendonitis disagrees)

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There’s something very satisfying about knitting lace that doesn’t need blocking beyond yanking it into shape, and I did learn that apparently when your tension goes funky you /can/ snap copper wire doing a knit two together. But hey, it’s not going anywhere, just squish that busted stitch in and move on.

I did find a lace pattern for my ornament exchange, so hopefully I can have that for you soon, as well as more silly ornaments. Apparently November is for tiny bits and pieces sort of knitting.

Little diversions

In consultation with my loyal readership (okay.. so I chatted it out with the dear spouse.. he counts as loyal readership!), I decided to include the non SCA stuff that I work on, because well.. it’s part of what I do. It’s stuff I think people might be interested in. So if you’re here for a strict regimen of pent worthy pieces, I apologize. You may wanna close this update and come back when I get those damnned heddles done.

As I’ve lamented before, I struggle with ongoing tendonitis, which limits my ability to indulge in my best beloved handwork, knitting. I embraced the dumb, and went on a knitting binge this autumn, and am now paying for it, thanks for asking. But! I got some sooper seekrit knitting done, and I got hooked on knitting little leaves.

It started with a thought that I’d knit a wee laurel leaf for a friend who recently got elevated, but I didn’t care for it once I’d knit it. (Knitted leaves are so spectacularly not historically accurate it hurts, but that is a whole different conversation.) Clearly, the only thing to be done was to knit another, because it was my choice of yarn. That’s it.

Reader, that was not it. I still didn’t much care for it as a representation of a laurel leaf in a different yarn.

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I did, however, really enjoy the heck out of knitting leaves. So I started knitting more leaves. In other yarns. And other colours. And finding all the tiny (free) leaf patterns on Ravelry and knitting those. And then I had a windfall of little knitted leaves. A dozen or more, of various yarns and shapes.

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I debated on what to do with them. I mean, they’re darned cute, but not exactly functional. Christmas tree ornaments? A possibility, but they’re pretty solidly autumn themed, and while I love Christmas trees, I do not put one up in autumn. A wreath? Also possible, but I was aspiring not to go buy anything, and I’ve no wreath forms, nor a deep desire to wire one up from coat hangers that I don’t own. A garland, however, that is something I can do! And the wreath on the front door died quite some time ago, and there’s nothing there. Garland it is.

I am going to say that lengths of worsted weight yarn about a yard each, perhaps less, are terrible to make icord from, but it was the perfect colour, so there’s a lot of joins. A lot of joins. An inch of cord per strand of wool, but it worked just fine, if irritating, and more bits and pieces used up! I’m terribly pleased with the outcome, I don’t take commissions, but I’d gladly teach you how to knit.

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Tiny knitting

I am rather fond of my tiny knitting. I’m noted for working tiny, and I enjoy the heck out of it. Knitted lace out of size 30 crochet cotton is one of my happiest places. (Totally not SCA period, don’t even try. Think 19th and 20th centuries for that, and it doesn’t make it any less ❤ for me. )

What’s tiny? This differs for everyone, IMO, but pretty much if it’s more thread than yarn, it probably qualifies as tiny knitting. Certainly the article that’s been making the rounds about 80 stitches to the inch is tiny, but that’s an extreme. (I’ve never gotten much finer than about 32 stitches to the inch, but hey, perhaps it’s time for a virtual grudge match.)

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I get a lot of requests to teach classes in tiny knitting, but it’s hard to get across the details in a class setting. Instead, while I’m starting <cough> another tiny knitting swatch for another piece, I figured I’d hit the highlights in blog form.

This is not a beginner project

I mean, I hate telling beginners ‘oh you shouldnt do that thing you really want to, go knit a dishcloth’. I hate it a lot. I am a firm believer in learning on a project that makes you happy, because then you’re motivated to actually progress. That being said.. shove knitting XP into other things before you dig out the thread and sub 2 mm needles. Hell, you want to start small, start with a sock (or two or ten). Sock yarn is small but not tiny, it gets you in the right habits. (Also, home knitted socks are delightful. It’s a lovely way to shove XP in a skill)

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The first row(s) will suck.

This is a given for any project, but somehow it is felt so much more keenly when working in silk at (approx) 20 stitches to the inch. (A bazillion times more when you’ve got 8 stitches on 4 needles and they all want to fall out. Thank you doilies.) You get everything cast on, and you start knitting, probably in the round, and it sucks. The first row, or two.. sometimes even three.. suck. Always. Tension is weird, and stitches aren’t quite sliding right, and there’s nothing holding it together in the round and gnngh. It will get better. Keep knitting.

Starting over is not the end of the world

Sometimes, it doesn’t get better. Sometimes there’s a catastrophic dropped stitch and any efforts to catch it are just .. just no. Sometimes, there is less wailing and gnashing of teeth when you pull out the needles and reclaim the thread. This is not the end of the world. Look at all that xp you just put into this pattern! Win! (Still frustrating

as all hell, don’t get me wrong, but it happens. It’s okay.)

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Good light is not optional

This might be less of a concern for those knitters who are under 35, but certainly for those of us who creep ever higher in that age tally, good light is essential. Actual natural daylight is the gold standard of good lighting, but let’s be realistic about the approaching winter, and the fact that I’m indoors a lot. The lighting sucks. I swear by my Ott light, but any good bright light is a boon. Some people swear by a lighted magnifier, I find it really distractingly disorienting, but see what works for you. Save knitting in the movies for when you’re doing a plain vanilla dishcloth or something.

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This is not a weekend project

This seems to sneak up on people, and it should be obvious, but it is worth repeating. When you need to do 20 stitches (or more) to get an inch worth of stitches, there is a lot of knitting in a piece with tiny stitches. A few mm of progress is significant. This is not going to whip up in a weekend, so zen into the process. You’ll get there eventually. I find that crossing things off on the pattern really helps give me visual cues that progress is being made.

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Practice in cotton

Or in wool, if you prefer, but if your aim is to knit in silk, then practice in cotton. Wool has stretch, it’s more forgiving to colour work, it’s more forgiving in general. Silk, and cotton are both threads with not a bit of elasticity, and they will put you in your place and show you want they don’t like, even if wool is easy going about it. There is no shame at all in doing pieces in cotton. It’s cheap, it’s easy to find, comes in a variety of sizes and if you rip it out 10 times and it’s grotty, it’s cheap enough to throw out. Know that different cottons /do/ look and work differently. Cotton can be mercerized or not, which affects its hand and shine. (Mercerized is more shiny, non is not)

 

Crochet cotton usually starts at about size 5 and as the number goes up, the size goes down, which makes it very natural for progressing through sizes as you want to try smaller work. My tension is unusual (aka bullet proof tight usually) so suggestions on needle sizes vary wildly, but for solid fabric I’m usually about 1mm needles with size 20 yarn, and for ethereal lace, I’m usually 3 mm needles with size 30 cotton. There’s no firm answer on needle size, use what gives you a fabric you like, your tension is yours.

I love tiny knitting, I love the challenge, I love the complexity, I love the satisfaction. The reality of slow progress is one I can live with, but tiny knitting isn’t really something one can teach in an hour’s class. Knit, and knit lots. Find something you love, and knit it smaller than you usually would. Do that lots.

UFO sightings!

No, not flying objects (although Lake Huron did eat the frisbee on the weekend, whoops), but UnFinished Objects. Those projects that get started, often in a class, and then after a little or a lot of work on them, get put aside. Sometimes because you are wholly sick of them, sometimes because the next step is challenging and intimidating. Sometimes because you arsed it up and now it needs to sit in time out for an indeterminate amount of time to think about its wrongs. However it ends up there, it gets stuck in the UFO bin.

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Literally an overflowing bin.

A few folks decided it was time to face the bin, and a few more of us jumped on that bandwagon. No competition, and no judgement if things go awry, just support for facing old projects that either need to be finished, or passed on to someone else (or the bin. Some projects never emerge from the time out corner.) A great many of my projects in the UFO bin ended up there  because I took six months off from knitting and needlework, and even still shouldn’t do /that/ much at any one given time. I haven’t included any of the ‘wanna do!’ projects in my UFO list, although my warp weighted loom project is rapidly becoming a UFO, which might encourage me to work on it again. So many projects, so little time and energy. The story of everyone’s life.

So of course, June’s UFO projects were mostly knitting and sewing. Because /that/ was a good idea. </sarcasm> There’s spinning in there too! Forgive the modern knitting, the bin is more than half modern projects, so UFO posts are not going to wholly period crafts.

Side comment.. I’ve just walked into something I routinely tsk at others about when talking A&S. There’s nothing wrong with modern projects, and even more so when it’s a modern project of a period skill. You are still shoving XP into that skill! My knitting skill is still improving even though it’s a wholly modern sock, and that skill increase will translate beautifully when I next do a period knitting piece. Sewing myself a skirt to wear to work absolutely helps my confidence in using the sewing machine for my next piece of garb. Not every project you do needs to be pentathlon suitable. (Excuse me while I repeat that a few more times just to remind myself.)

June had modest goals for UFO progress. Turn the heel of the sock in progress, and get all the pieces of an under-tunic hemmed by hand. I did not consider, when making June’s goals, the reality of a 4 day gaming convention in the middle of June. So the reality looks like a tunic hemmed and assembled and just needing final finishing, and a finished sock. (Sorry, no tunic photos. Think of a white linen t-tunic. There ya go. Looks like that.) And then my arms had comments to make about spending 4 solid days doing things that tick off my tendonitis. Second sock goes back into the bin (I am wholly and utterly sick of the pattern anyhow, it needs a time out) and finishing of that tunic is going to have to wait for July.

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It’s a sock! It even fits!

UFO bonus round.. spinning! The Corriedale is almost done (and terrible. I will be glad to see the arse end of it. So nubby and fuzzy and grrargh), and the silk is eternal, because I never work on it. It is on tap as one of July’s UFO projects. I want to knit with that silk, dammit! (Yes, I have 1000 knitting projects in queue, but somehow this one is urgent. It’s really not, but forgive me my delusions about project queues).

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Wool and silk.

So what’s your UFOs? Or are you a mythical crafts type who finishes what you start?